End of the Month Money

It’s nearly the end of the month. Budgeted money for groceries has long since been spent. Can you relate? But I’m not stressed about it. Between tips Mom gave me and things learned in classes here and there, I’m excited. It’s the end of the month when you look at what’s left in the refrigerator and figure out how to turn it into something appealing. Why do this? Besides loving having money for weekly dates, and not having debt, you mean? A wise woman in a class I took long ago suggested I examine what’s in my trash. Take a look, she said, because that’s where your extra money is getting put.

I realized we don’t often have a ton of choice regarding how much we’ll pay for rent/mortgage, and we CAN get our utility bills down by wearing the right amount of clothes, turning off lights and water, etc., and those things do help, but the biggest savings I can exercise my own decision-making over is in the area of food, groceries and/or eating out. My trash doesn’t have fastfood bags in it very often. Trash like that doesn’t satisfy like good cooking of healthy foods and I’ve learned to be a pretty fast cook most of the time. It also doesn’t have food waste in it. If you have a roof over your head, a little food in the refrigerator and some change on a dresser somewhere, you are wealthier than 90% of the world’s peoples. So I guess we figure we can waste 14% (on average) of our food purchases? That’s the national total: 41 billion pounds of food waste annually. What’s 14% of YOUR food budget? For me that’s over $40 a month, or a really nice meal eaten out. So here I go, evaluating the ‘back of the refrigerator’… time to cook and clean.

Cranberries, unbelievably still fresh, half a bag. One apple a little ‘squishy’ but not rotted, and half a jar of plum syrup from our backyard tree. I pureed it in the food processor, add the 1/4c cream of coconut (stuff has way too much sugar. I meant to buy coconut milk, this was on sale….I won’t throw it out, but that sugar is NOT going into our body in any large form…), and cook on the stovetop until it resumes a ‘translucent’ appearance, then into jars in the refrigerator and we now have a yummy jam. My husband is a huge peanut butter and jelly fan, and now his jam has more fiber and less sugar and three ‘wouldn’t get used’ ingredients are now something delicious. What else? Thinly sliced sale sweet potatoes I hadn’t touched combine with thinly sliced butternut squash in a pan and over the top I used up an old 1/2 c parmesan cheese, a pureed cauliflower single serving size vegetable left-over, a partial tube of basil that was near the end of its shelf-life, some outdated milk, and some melted butter… voila! A yummy sweet-potato gratin that cleared out quite a few ‘hm, am I ever going to use this?’ ingredients. Dinner served, once we added a salad.

So, what’s ‘in the back of your refrigerator’? Get creative. Try things. You might be surprised. The best chili I’ve ever made actually had a partial jar of watermelon sweet cinnamon pickles that I was worried wouldn’t get eaten. What could you do with 14% more of your grocery budget that you weren’t putting into the garbage can?

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When It’s Less Than Easy, It’s Easier Than the Less We See

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I’ve been reading a ‘joy’ word study, one set of scriptures about joy daily, for a month. Today, Habakkuk 3:8-19…. let’s do a ‘Brook paraphrase’..: When the buds on the spring crop get destroyed (our job prospects?) and the spring harvest fails(paycheck doesn’t begin to cover unexpected bills) and whats left of our savings/storage/backup plan is gone and something has robbed any bigger hopes…. ‘I’M SINGING JOYFUL PRAISE TO GOD’..  Wait.  What? I sat there pondering. I know the passage, but me having that response to the level of pain and destruction being described isn’t as familiar. Which is why I chose this study. I wanted to grow joy. What did the author know that I haven’t walked in as fully in my life as I could? I sat back, pondering, listening in my heart for an answer from God as the question in my heart hung between us.

The Lord reminded me of two recent YouTube’s I’d watched, one titled ‘What Is A Renewed Mind’ by Pastor Bill Johnson, and one , a TED talk by Robert Grant titled ‘Beautiful Minds are Free From Fear’. He called to mind a Bible passage from Daily Audio Bible out of Genesis that had really ‘popped out at me’ this week, He reminded me of a Bible story of Elijah, and he called to mind one of the Bible verses I’ve spent time memorizing. (I’m not super-Christian here. What you are seeing is January-goals combined with having more time than usual on my hands combined with an awareness of some need for strengthening inside me lately. As a further disclaimer, I WISH I heard from God as often and quickly as this, but my busyness and I don’t know what all else has stood between my hearing and maybe, between God’s response to me and me. Nonetheless, these are what I’ve been doing, and its what God used to speak to me. They comprise the foundation of my revelation, recorded here.)

“We walk by what we believe, not by what we see.” 2 Cor 5:7. That’s how Elijah, surrounded by an army could confidently not panic, but instead ask God to ‘open the eyes of my servant‘. He didn’t ask to see. He already knew what God would show the servant. Elijah was practiced in the art of walking in the unseen. He deliberately walked in the unseen realm in his daily life interactions. I wish I knew more. What an idea! And this is what Pastor Bill Johnson was also saying… that a mind renewed in the new life that Christ offers lives deliberately pursuing the kingdom realms, the heavenly realities that, apparently, Elijah was intimately acquainted with. A renewed mind practices, daily, living not out of what is obvious, but out of the knowledge of who God is and how God thinks and behaves. The passage in Genesis that blew my mind, as though I’d heard it for the first time, was hearing Jacob recount how God blessed him: “I had a dream, God pointed out the spotted and speckled…”. Suddenly, in my mind it clicked. I’ve ALWAYS wondered why he put those peeled sticks into the water in front of the sheep and goats. I had wondered why God allowed that to be used. Suddenly, I got it. Jacob had a dream of a promise of blessing. Jacob got up and acted on the dream. Now, I know there are those who stepped out in the same way, and it did NOT go well. I can’t answer that. But I know that God spoke, in a dream, and Jacob…. responded. I wish I was that quick to step into the unseen things, to walk more fully in what I believe rather than what I see, to be practiced in… knowing who God is.

See, that is at the heart of it. It isn’t so much about us ‘stepping out in faith’. There’s truth in that, and there can be presumption. It’s about us knowing God, grasping God’s intentions and purposes, and partnering with them by action on our parts, and not just waiting for God to wave some ‘magic wand’ over our lives when God waits for us to get up and act on what we know of Him and what He already has told or shown us. It was Habakkuk’s practiced knowledge of the God of the unseen, His mercy, and His rule and knowing that in the very long run of history, God’s rule would prevail. With this knowledge, like those facing Nebuchadnezzar, he could and we can say ‘though He slay me, yet will I trust Him’. We can sing for joy. This. This was God’s gentle reminder to me.

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The Privilege of Pain

via The Privilege of Pain

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The Privilege of Pain

 

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“A sword will pierce your own soul…” Simeon pronounced that Jesus would be a sign spoken against, so that the thoughts of hearts would be revealed and he told Mary ‘a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ I rarely consider that being asked to birth the messiah came with its own unique promise: the promise of pain. God told Jeremiah “you will call to them, but they will not answer you”. Jeremiah’s call from God? The message was: to not trust in deception, to deal with others fairly, to not oppress foreigners, the fatherless, widows, to not shed innocent blood. You’d think folks would run to this message, but God promised they would not. Gods call to Jeremiah was such a privilege, but God also promised pain. I woke thinking these things this morning, and could scarcely wait to share them with you. A feeling of awe came with these thoughts. Why be in awe

at pain? I’m not. I dislike any pain or discomfort. It’s something greater than the pain that captures my attention, actually,  something that puts me in stunned awe.

Do you ever consider the first Adam? That God knew he’d fall? Do you consider that the fall, when impacted by God’s so-great-a-salvation of Jesus, allowed we, the creation, to participate in a greater relationship than walking together with God in the garden allowed? We in the godhead, together in unity was what Jesus accomplished.  I am not saying God made us some sort of demi-gods, please don’t misunderstand me in this era of ripping each other apart without good listening skills. Hear what my heart is speaking: that God’s purpose was to invite us in, to glorify Himself through us, ‘Christ in us, the hope of glory’. This invitation to me is

shocking. I don’t know about you, but I’m not the stuff glory is made of.  The invitation is not about me, but to let the Stuff Glory is Made Of consume our week and day, our hearts, our schedules, our bodies. The shock is God, birthed of a virgin, God voiced through a weeping man that no one would listen to. God invites us into His plans and purposes. We expect, in answering God’s invitation, to encounter a sort of Disneyland, the part people who buy tickets see. God, though, God invites us to the plough. He invites us not only to sit with him on the seat, but to ‘help’ in the barn work on the engine. We get dirty. We get tired. A sword pierces our souls. The thoughts of many are exposed. God comes, through us. He comes to bring Himself glory and we are allowed the privilege of pain, of truly sharing in His tears and in His joys. This invitation is the ultimate invitation. Our risk is that we might despise the pain. Yesterday, in my Sunday morning class, I heard the narrator on the Voice of the Martyrs film say the Wurmbrands prayed for a cross to bear. I’ve heard often that chinese believers in small groups don’t trust until the person wanting to join them has been to prison, which they refer to as God’s college, or something like that. I am certain that if you or I choose to step into God’s invitation to His plans, the pain will come sooner or later, but the pain
isn’t the focus or what we should despise. We are being invited into His purposes, and very likely will have the privilege of sharing His tears. What an honor. It only will cost us.

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New. Years Resolutions. Vs. Goals and Dreams

4B7DAB12-3B52-4996-8559-1289F19EF344Guilt seems part of us, celebration… not so much. That’s why goals have become so important to me. Ever been the kid whose parents noted your growth on a wall or doorframe? Ever been shocked when you haven’t seen someone in awhile and then, upon seeing them, realised how they had grown/shifted/changed? In much the same way, I’ve learned that giving attention to what has captured my desire, … in effect ‘marking my height on a doorframe internally’, enables my clarity through repetition and eventually, enables my growth.

I don’t do New Years resolutions. But I do set annual goals. Sometimes I know what God wants to do in me. I also write my daydreams into lists, which felt weird but now has empowered them into possibilities. When I was younger I had resolutions because I thought we were supposed to have them. Then, like the weary world, I started bragging about not making resolutions when faced with my own undisciplined self.

What surprised me, with the advent of my smart phone, was that my favorite app is the ‘notes’… and that I could find last years goals, (which I’d been unable to restrain myself from noting.). More often than not, I didn’t complete my goals. Except that it’s important to note, some things did get done. Celebratory elation would pump through me at what did get done. Initially also, guilt came at what did not happen. But then I couldn’t resist writing another list, as the year went on.

The years piled up, as did both items to celebrate and items that didn’t quite happen. I got less guilty and more curious as to ‘why’ a goal consistently didn’t get achieved. As a result, I got more patient with me and after self-examination, shifted focuses. So, instead of wanting to lose 10 or 20 pounds, for example, my focus shifted to loving eating healthy and to paying attention to how I felt when I don’t eat healthy. The repetition of my set goal and subsequent failure year after year allowed me to examine myself mindfully, and to reevaluate both my approaches and my priorities. Shift did and does happen. Successes and living in ways that both bring peace and new growth challenges increased. Recent goal lists include fun thing like learning a joke to tell my grandkids regularly, and defining a reading challenge in genres I don’t often read.

I also began separating goals from daydreams. I dream of visiting Reykjavik but as much as I long to go, the self I know well thinks visiting my grown kids and extended family is essential, so knowing what is possible has become the goal, knowing what would be fun, etc., ….that remains a daydream. Having locally a group of godly deep friendships is a daydream. But making time to spend with godly women I admire, a new one to be noted into my calendar consistently … that is a goal that moves me toward my daydream. This took frustration off my emotional interior table and instead, enabled me to build toward something important to me that, with me being more new to the area I live, isn’t yet within my realm of possibility.

I write hoping you challenge yourself to record your interior desires. All of them. Pray through them. Ponder them. Shift them into goals. Write down daydreams. Then when things do and do not occur, once again, come back before the Lord, empty the content of your heart again. Let Him help you sift and sort. I hope they expand to a world aware focus and hope-filled understandings that each moment is valuable … and yet life takes time.

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he said, He says: standing in a war zone

author note…Breath of Dragon will be referred to here only as bd. he gets no more. Except as a foil for He who is known as Breath of God, referred to as BG.

bd snickered out the accusations..’she is…’ and fills in the blanks to dis. As in ‘defective’, to give disrespect, to wish to make her disappear, to disregard.. as in demean, diminish,…defeat. As in destroy however possible no matter what.

But BG. Now BG, His Words to me clothe, cover, stays with, protect, and encourage to stand and keep going. BG acknowledges. As in ‘she is…’ and fills in the blanks with words like ‘loved’, ‘my daughter’, ‘delighted in’.

bd said I am bad, evil, here to hurt, not to be trusted.. bd gathered agreement. But BG? BG shows me even after this how to swing His Word like a sword, how to shelter under the shield, how to lay down in safety under wings….all while bd suggests quitting, retreat, surrender.

Here’s the deal:

Either voice can come through ANY mouth, and there is the catch, because even those who are supposed to stand by, fight for and with me or you can sound like bd, can be infected with his ‘wisdom-that-dis’s’…

But BG heals. How? How do we not only get healing when it’s not offered well or much? How do we heal AND pass on health through the ranks in this unholy war we find ourselves in? When WE take on the sound of BG. When OUR voice is used to lift, comfort, heal and .. to speak truth. I can be seduced to surrender… and will die. Or, I can die to me, take up the sword and shield and stand for the very ones who may have sounded like bd but whose biggest desire is to live for BG. Trolls and talkers are tools… but inside those humans are loved creations of BG. The challenge is to heal, and give health… this is part of ‘to Him be glory and honor forever’. Amen.

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Keeping Things In Order

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My list is there. It helps me keep order in this house.

For one, the cancer isn’t going away. Our smiles and prayers connect us,  & we wait hopefully, for healing.

I’ve washed the linens, rehung the towels, made the beds.

For another, the pain is exquisite. Walking or the simplest task, painful. Their surgery: denied.

Dishes are done and dried pans and plates put away.

For yet another, one who just chose to walk closer to God is crying over the unexpected death of a close family member.

Vacuums have been used and restored to their hidden closets. Carpets clean, once again.

This report has come in. Its unknown whether their heart will make it.

Mopping and waxing has left the floors gleaming.

I’m worried about the still another in the doctor’s care, the remaining child alive to the heart of a concerned mother.

I spent the morning in the company of a friend, praying, wrestling with private pain and lives with new twists.

I try reaching across distance created by the worst loss to another by bringing the simplest of gifts.

This world and my house. Will.Never.Be.Truly.In.Order. Both are the transit stations where we touch briefly, and are gone again. I admire the sun where it reflects, because it also touches, and is gone again.

I long for the ability to carry many to a place where we are not gone again.

 

 

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