Friday, July 28, 2017

July in Numbers

It's Friday - and the another month is drawing to a close.  July was quintessential summer - hot with plenty of lazy days and fun times to remember.  Here is a look back at the numbers!

FOUR - the number of doors down we were from "ground zero" during the Fourth of July celebration!  We celebrated the evening with friends (celebrated a birthday - surprise style - at the same time) who live in one of the quaint historic Old Townes in our area.  The fireworks are set off at the local high school and our friends live four houses down from the school.  It was loud and it was powerful!  The windows in the house would shake and, although I've never been shot, I'm pretty sure several times that night, I felt just like I'd been hit!

SIXTY - the number of years of celebrating for my sweet friend. We were so happy to be included in this special evening.  It was a great time with her family, too cute grandbabies, friends, yes fireworks, and even homemade ice cream!  Here's to a great year ahead, my friend.

FOURTEEN - the number of Sunday School members who were able to meet for dinner - and soft serve ice cream afterward - for our class "outing" this month.  The restaurant was very accommodating and the food was uh-mazing!

TWO - the number of Saturdays and moving trucks that it took to move our daughter to her new place.  Why two?  Poor planning on the first trip.  Yes, we actually had to finish up - renting another truck - the next weekend.  Never again.

FIVE THOUSAND, FOUR HUNDRED AND TWELVE - the number of calories I burned loading and then unloading boxes from the above-mentioned moving trucks.  Ok.  I can't say that for positive - but, honestly, it was hot, both houses have multiple floors and that girl has a lot of boxes!  It might have even been more.

THREE - the number of lunch afternoons I have had with friends.  Most of my friends are teachers and/or some type of staff at our church and school - and they have the summer off!  That means lots of extra time for great chats over a long lunch!

FIVE - the number of weeks I have had a nagging and relentless cough.  Ugh.  I went to the doctor once.  She said both of my ears were infected.  Really?  Do middle aged women get ear infections? Not to mention, I was there for my cough.  The antibiotics did nothing.  And, so I cough.

FOUR HUNDRED AND EIGHTEEN - the number of times I cough in a day.  Again, I might be guessing and/or slightly exaggerating here - but, just ask my family and it really does seem like that many!  Thank you to all those who have covertly passed me cough drops during church services - and there are more than a few.

TWELVE - the number of notes I have mastered on my clarinet!  Not many...but it is a start.

TWO - the number of trips to the vet it took in order for our sweet pup to have some surgery.  The first time was a bust.  Apparently, all those rules about no food after midnight before surgery apply to dogs as well.  If only they would have told us.  As soon as I (quite innocently) acknowledged that she had eaten breakfast that morning - the entire, super simple fifteen-minute procedure was quickly canceled and postponed.  Who knew?

FOUR - the number of attempts it took before two technicians could manage to draw blood for the aforementioned puppy surgery.  I don't suppose she was in a tremendous amount of pain but she is our baby.  She loves to go for a ride in the car.  And then she looks at me with those eyes that say, "I really thought we were just going to PetSmart!??!"  Well, I feel like such a traitor.

ONE - the number of day trips to Lancaster!  AND, the number of fun house projects currently underway.  Both of those are entire posts by seems like a good place to pause - until next month!  Here's to a blessed August!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

An Attitude Check

Whitney, at Come Home for Comfort, recently blogged about all the wonderful things she loves about living in the South.  She and several commenters mentioned all the sweet things (including the tea!!) that they love about the South and about their home town.  My heart has longed for the South for many years and I oohed and aahed over each special thing they mentioned.   (If you have a heart for the South, you can read her post here.)

And then I thought perhaps I should list some of the things that I love about this place I call home. Virginia - is it really in the South? or in the North? (don't even say it!) or is it neutrally right in the middle?  No doubt, depending on where you inquire, folks would argue for both sides. Even Virginia accents don't agree.  I happen to live in the northern part of Virginia.  There is, I am told, much to love about this part of the state.

** We fully experience/enjoy all four seasons.  But.  I cannot really include this in my list because, well, I hate winter.  Hate is a strong word but there really is nothing, at all, that I enjoy about winter.

** We are surrounded by history.  Rich, Civil War history is literally everywhere and within minutes of my home.  But. I really don't enjoy history.  I do not visit the battlefields and, sadly, I do not appreciate all the history that is preserved here.  It's sad but true.

** I have lived here all my life.  It is "home."  For me, that was one more reason to want to be somewhere else.  Again, sad but true.

Actually, my whole thought process was sad.  The more I thought about where I live and where I wish I could live...the more discontent I became with exactly where God has placed me.  I have asked God - begged God! - more times than I should admit to send us somewhere new.  Some place with no snow. Some place with a sense of community.  Some place that.....and my list would continue.  Not once has He showed us some place else to be. The children of Israel once had the same problem. They were discontent.  Their discontentment led to complaining and, was so strong, it even caused a desire to return to bondage.  How twisted our thoughts can become when discontentment burrows deep!  The Lord did not take their complaining lightly nor did He overlook their dissatisfaction with all He had provided.  I am confident that He is just as disappointed with my attitude.

It is time for a change of attitude.  I will be content with this small corner of the country that is my home.  I will not simply resign myself to living here but will embrace it as my Jerusalem - the place where God has me now - a place to be busy reaching for Him.

"ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."  Acts 1:8b

And I will still consider ice tea the most refreshing beverage ever poured over ice.  But make mine unsweet.  Please.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Five Things to Love: Summer 2017

Summer is at its high point right now.....humidity, sun-drenched days, long evenings of extra daylight, cold drinks in sweaty glasses, farmer's markets -  and produce departments piled with fresh fruits and vegetables. Blooming crepe myrtles, flower beds that need watering.  And impromptu trips to the seasonal ice cream stand. Oh, summer, I love you!

Here are a just a few things I am loving this summer - in no particular order:)

1 - Mornings!  I really do not need any new reason to love mornings.  I am, and always have been, a morning person!  And then, in the summer, morning comes so much earlier...and it is glorious!  We have a window directly above our bed.  From a decorating point of view, it is a bit of a nuisance but when the morning sun streams through that window and wakes up the room with light, I am so tickled to have that window there!

2- Netflix.  Although I have had Netflix for awhile, there never was a show that I was "just hooked" on - until this summer.  Then I discovered Call the Midwife.  I've heard others talk so highly about this show but never thought it would interest me, so I decided to see for myself.  I'll admit, it took about three episodes before I was absolutely hooked.  But I was definitely hooked.  As with books, I had to watch the series in order and I watch about two episodes a week but I think I'm actually nearing the end - nooo.  I really look forward to each new episode.  I know.  Totally late to the game - but I do like it.

3 - Light dinners.  The comfort foods and crock-pot dinners that cook all day are great during the cooler seasons, but during the summer, dinner is much simpler.  We have much lighter appetites and, admittedly, I have much less motivation to prepare full meals.  We have been enjoying lots of veggies, pasta salads and even more sandwiches that don't require a hot kitchen to prepare.

4 - Coconut and essential oil.  For washing my face.  I never dreamed I would wash my face with oil, but it is wonderful.  A few drops of essential oil (I use tea tree oil) in a small scoop of coconut oil - smells wonderful, removes every bit of my makeup, makes my skin feel so smooth and has noticeably improved the look of my skin.  It is the best.

5 - Devotionals on my Kindle. Not sure if it is the extra hours of morning or just the more relaxed schedule of summer, but I have more time for my Bible reading/study these days.  I have been adding some devotionals/suggested readings to my time and really enjoying them.  Often, I start a devotional and then find I don't use it or enjoy it (one reason I don't ever buy them) but this summer, I have come across several that have been great.  I am also slow to embracing my e-reader but it is almost a constant companion these days!  These early summer mornings spent in the word have been extra sweet this year.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Learning to Choose Joy

If you want to learn to swim, you have to get in the water.  You can sit by the pool and dream about can even flop on your bed and practice your breaststroke to perfection, but unless you get in the water - it's not swimming.

We've all heard the saying, "don't pray for patience!"  Why?  Because we can read, study and have all the head knowledge we want about patience but until we go through situations or circumstances that demand patience, we will never truly develop that wonderful fruit of the spirit known as patience.

So, I suppose the past few days that I have had all began when I asked the Lord to teach me more about joy.  More about choosing joy - even when circumstances are less than joyful.  The Bible tells us to "count it all joy" and I believe that Christians can choose joy - even on difficult days, during heart heavy and weary days.  But I also know that, more often than not, I choose to live defeated by my emotions.  So, I asked the Lord to help me.

Much like learning swim skills in the safety of the bedroom, I am not going to learn to make the deliberate choice to have joy - on nothing by "bright blue sky" days!  Surprisingly, these past few days have been anything but sunny and blue.  What a week!  But God is teaching, refining and helping.  He is so very faithful to teach us when we ask.  I hope to share some of what I have learned in some upcoming posts.

In the meantime, I will press on - and choose joy!!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Letters from Home

I'm joining the Five Minute Friday again today.  Writing for five minutes - unedited and, largely, rehearsed. (I do have to collect my thoughts!)  It's a challenge but it's fun, and the prompt for today is: Comfort.


As I read my devotions this morning, there it is was...comfort.  Ephesians 6:22 - Paul promised to send his beloved brother and co-laborer to the church gathered in Ephesus that "he might comfort" their hearts. Comfort:  to strengthen the mind; to give vigor to the spirit; to cheer."  Paul, even in his distress and deep trial, wanted to comfort those he cared for so deeply and that loved him as well.

There are so many ways we can come alongside and be a comforter to others.  Definitely longer than a five-minute post but one way, in particular, stands out to me this morning - keeping in touch with missionaries on the field.  Emails, real letters, care packages and even texts....that simple connection from home....all do so much to emotionally encourage, mentally strengthen, to refresh and to cheer. To comfort.

TIME'S UP  (so soon???)  Let me wrap this up:

Last year, while discussing ways to support foreign missionaries, a missions director, who oversees hundreds of full-time missionaries, told me the number one reason for missionaries leaving the field, other than for health reasons, is the discouragement of the wife.  It's hard.  It's lonely.  It can be emotionally and spiritually depleting.  I suppose, unless you've actually been on the field, it is impossible to appreciate all that a missionary wife experiences.  Having someone become a Tychicus could make just the difference a discouraged wife needs.

Ephesians 6: 21-22  "But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things:  Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts." 

What a privilege it would be to be a comforter - an encourager -  to someone on the mission field! Some thoughts:

* Keep in touch and up to date with what is going on - in her home and in the ministry.  When you write, you can talk specifically about family celebrations, events happening in the ministry and even struggles taking place.  Asking something like "How was the VBS?  Was Johnny's friend from school able to come?"  connects much more than "Hope all is going well this month."

*Help her stay up to date with what is happening back "home" even if she is not from your home church.  Knowing things that are going on helps alleviate some of the feelings of isolation.

*Whether a single lady or married, remember she is a gal just like you.  Yes, she is in full-time service, and I do greatly admire missionaries, but she gets her feelings hurt, she has crummy (less than spiritual) days and can feel just as inadequate as the rest of us.  Her kids misbehave and, no doubt, she and her husband do not always agree.  Don't expect her to be super-woman.

*And don't get discouraged yourself if she is not able to immediately correspond back to you.  Of course, she might be super busy but it could be she has to make a trip into town just to have internet access.  However she may or may not respond, just continue to be a friend.  That is where the blessing will be for you!!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Grandma's Recipe Box

While I will never be a food blogger or even have too many recipes to share, after writing Friday's post and reminiscing about my mother and grandmother's cooking....I remembered my treasure.  I'm not a saver and do not have too many keepsakes from days gone by; however, I do have this special wooden box.  It is my grandmother's recipe file.  Just a simple wooden box with a flip top - very practical - yet stuffed to overflowing with recipes clipped from ladies' magazines that date before I was born and, as well, many recipes handwritten by either my grandmother or my mother.  I love seeing their handwriting as much as do the memories that come from reading the recipes!!

Pound cake was a favorite dessert for our families.  My grandmother made her pound cake from scratch.  I even remember cold-oven pound cake.  Always sounded intriguing to me.  My mom had no problem serving Sara Lee pound cake - cut into perfect rectangles out of the signature aluminum pan.  But she always made homemade sauce - a custard, really - that, truly is better than anything I could describe!  Whenever given a choice for dessert, pound cake and custard was a hands-down favorite!

The recipe is as easy as it gets. I can never get mine exactly like hers (her love made all the difference!) but it is still well worth it!!

Sauce for Pound Cake
  2 cups milk
  2-3 eggs, beaten
  4 T sugar
  1 dash salt
  1 t. cornstarch
  1 t. vanilla
Cook over low heat until thick.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Taste to Know

I come from a long line of good cooks.  Great cooks, actually.  My mother.  Her mother.  Aunts and even cousins.  These women regularly put wonderful meals on the table – full of delicious main dishes, abundant side dishes, and always some type of sweet yumminess to finish the meal.  They are Southern cooks and all their dishes are full of flavor and well-seasoned.  It’s this whole seasoning thing, I think, that sets them apart from…well, from cooks like myself.  They can taste and sample as they go and then add just the right pinch of this or a dash more of that to make any recipe just that much better.  I can follow a recipe but when it comes to tweaking and improving, I am just not a natural.  Mom, Grandma and the rest are naturals in the kitchen.  How often I have wished for their gift!

As they taste a dish in the making, all good cooks get excited just anticipating when the meal will be served.  The aromas, the tastes, even the look confirms that everyone gathered around the table is going to enjoy the meal! 

Psalm 34:8  “O taste and see that the LORD is good….”

As sure as a good cook knows everyone is going to enjoy her meal, the Christian who walks in fellowship with the Lord should know His goodness and His faithfulness need to be experienced by others.  There is a hurting, lonely and lost people all around us that simply need us to entice them “to just taste this!” and know that God is so good!!  If they will taste, they too will know.

My life has to be that which makes them hungry for something more than this world has to offer.  More than the bland, tasteless, empty promises that seem to be everywhere.  Just as my mom was confident about her dishes and then excited to serve a meal, I need to be bold to share about my savior because I am confident of His promises and His faithfulness.  My love for Him will be seen as excitement as I love Him and serve others.  How does your life encourage others to taste and see that the LORD is good??

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

My Hometown: the Fourth of July

Happy Fourth of July!!  Such an exciting, fun and, meaningful holiday!  I love everything about today's holiday....except, perhaps, for how pitiful the dog is when the dreaded fireworks just seem to last for hours!  She hates them.  Simply hates them.  I enjoy them - for a bit - but, apparently, folks in my neck of the woods really enjoy their noisemakers.  They have been practicing for days now and, no doubt, they will continue long into the night.

I read a blog post this week about someone's recent family vacation - to the Nation's Capital. She was excited over the museums, the tours (the White House one is pretty cool!), the restaurants....all of it. She really made it sound wonderful.  She even said, given the chance, she would move here in a minute.  Now, that caught my attention.  Washington, DC.....that IS my neck of the woods. I suppose I know folks come here all the time - from all over the world...but I guess I just never think about people wanting to come here.  On vacation.  And, believe me, there might be some here who are just hoping to be here forever.  But, they are far outnumbered by those who are simply counting down the months until they can move.

However - they do know how to put on a rather spectacular Independence Day celebration.  If you live here, you probably do not join the crowds (and the Fourth of July crowd is huge!) - just like you don't often go to the museums or avail yourself to the government tours.  Except when family visits. Then, of course, you can be a tourist with the best of them.  Its funny how much we take for granted many of the things "right outside" our door.  But when "right outside" your door is about 35 miles away and can take almost two hours to get to - unless you time it "just right" - well, the fun just loses its allure.

A few years ago, some friends took us to one of the neighboring military bases for the Fourth.  We set up a picnic on a hill overlooking the city with the absolute best view of the fireworks!  It was such a great afternoon and evening.  We are not military - which makes us part of the minority.  (I've also lived here my entire life which puts me in an even smaller minority.  Lots of military and lots and lots of transplants!)  Getting onto the base for that holiday was a real treat for us!

This year, we plan to spend the afternoon with some friends and watch some local fireworks.  The local governments do a great job, as well, with their displays.  It will be fun just enjoying the summer night with friends.  Grilling.  Eating on paper plates.  Super cold iced tea - unsweet, please.  The always needed bug spray.  I love it all!!  However you plan to celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful holiday!!  God bless America.

Just for the record, the afore-mentioned blogger also said the Nation's Capital was one of the safest places ever to be..and she was told (by an uber-driver!) that you could run at three in the morning and be perfectly safe.  I don't know about that.

Definitely would not advise it.