Into the Light

sunrise

Do you feel like the things you have loved most in this life have been stolen from you?

Do you feel like parts of your soul have died from abuse and neglect?

Do you feel like there is destruction all around you?

Stolen happiness.  Dead dreams.  Destroyed relationships.

Yeah…I’ve felt like that, too.

Guess what, though?  There’s Hope.

There’s Life–full, abundant, Life.

In Jesus.

He doesn’t ask much.  He just wants you.  All of you.  Broken, battered, incomplete you.

That’s seriously all He wants.

In return, He will breathe His perfection into your weakness and His joy into your heartache.  He will shine His Light through the cracks in your heart.  He will bring healing.  Restoration.  Full, abundant life.

It’s time to move on, dear one.  The promise is there.  You’ve just got to claim it.  One step at a time:  Walk out of the darkness and into the Light.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  –Jesus, Book of John, 10:10

 

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3-Hour French Bread

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I don’t know where this recipe originated, but it was passed along to me by my friend, Tiffany.  My son and I were able to have some delightful first, second and third experiences with this tasty bread during a recent visit with Tif and her family.  Let’s just say that we enjoyed it…a lot.  So, we brought home the recipe.

Tiffany and I met in college some twenty years ago.  We have a lot of similar interests–baking, gardening, reading and loving on our families.  She and I do some of the same weird things–homeschool, drive really old vehicles whose “check engine” lights are almost always on and re-use storage bags and parchment paper.  We appreciate one another’s differences, too.  We don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, and we’re okay with that.  Really, Tif’s greatest flaw is that she thinks Double-Stuf Oreos are disgusting.  Obviously, she’s wrong…but I can overlook that.

One of the things that I love most about Tiffany is that I can count on her to tell me the truth in love.  For the better part of a year, I went through a rough patch of adulthood.  I’m not sure exactly what all was the problem, but I felt a desperation and an isolation that was mostly new to me.  I felt out of control and lost and so very, very lonely.  It was awful.  My perspective was so emotion-driven that it was skewed.  I knew that it was skewed, but I had a hard time keeping myself together.

My friend heard my heart.  She did not trivialize my pain.  She did not condescend to my choices.  She just repeatedly pointed me to Christ.  She reminded me that my standard can be found in Him and that He is a safe place for my aching heart.  She encouraged me to set aside time to just praise Him–to bask in His love and goodness.  I knew all of these things already, but my soul was struggling to act on these truths.  She was one of the friends whose loving counsel provided me with both motivation and accountability.  I needed both.

Friends, love one another.  Whether it’s an encouraging email, a listening ear or a warm loaf of bread, love the folks around you.  There’s no time like the present.

So, back to the bread…

This is super easy to make and yields consistent results.  And, any leftovers make killer French toast.

3-4 c. flour
2 t. salt
2 t. yeast
1 t. sugar
1 1/2 c. water

Mix 3 c. flour with remaining ingredients.  Knead, adding in approximately 1 c. more of flour.

Cover and let rise in oiled bowl for 1 1/2 hours.

Make two long loaves.  Let rise 1 hour on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

After rising time, make four evenly-placed horizontal slashes on top of loaves.  I’ve found that a serrated knife works well for this.

In preheated 450-degree oven, bake for 20-25 minutes, or until internal temperature is between 190 and 210 degrees.  (To create a traditional French bread crust, preheat an oven-safe pan on the lowest rack.  After placing the unbaked bread in the oven, throw a 1/2-cup of water in the hot dish and quickly close the door.)

Brush with butter while still warm, if desired.  (And why wouldn’t you desire it?)

Hold the Dam!

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“Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”

Early in my marriage, I underlined this gem from Proverbs 17 and wrote “TRISTA!!” out in the margin.  I confess that I was often more interested in making myself heard than in truly resolving conflict.  As a matter of fact, I often created conflict just to make my point.  Looking back now, I wonder what in the world I was thinking.

To be honest, I wasn’t thinking at all.  I was feeling.  I was feeling unheard, unjustified and unloved.  My emotions railroaded what my mind knew to be true.  My husband loved me.  He did not think I was a moron.  His most fervent wish was not to ruin my life.  In truth, he was not my enemy.

But, boy!  It sure felt like it at times!

Recently, that same husband (the most patient man in the world) and I were walking through a nearby high school to attend a seminar.  As is often the case, the halls were lined with encouraging pep talk-type signs for the athletic and academic teams.  One of them said, “Don’t Think.  Just Feel.”

Wow.  Really?

Is this what we’re teaching the next generation?  Don’t use your reasoning powers.  Don’t think through the situation.  Don’t examine your options and make an informed decision.

Just let your emotions call the shots.  If you’re mad, act on it.  If you’re hurt, act on it.  If you don’t get your way and life feels unfair, act on it.  Immediately.  Forget the consequences and act like a three-year-old.  Totally go with your feelings.

Like I said before:  Wow.

The fact of the matter is that feelings can be incredibly deceiving.  We all know this…if we actually think about it.  Healthy emotions can be a thermometer in our lives, but they can never be a thermostat.  In other words, emotions may reveal how the experiences of our lives are affecting us, but how we respond to said experiences should never be predominantly determined by our emotions.

People often say that, out of all of the things they could wish for in this life, they wish their kids to be happy.  It may sound strange, but I guess I don’t really want that for my crew.  I personally can be up and down from happy thirteen times in any given day.  I want my kids to have something much deeper and more lasting than happiness–the joy and peace that come from living for Jesus Christ in spite of our circumstances.  I want them to respond to their emotions with thoughtfulness and wisdom.  I want them to be able to discern what is true and what is not.  I want them to think more than feel.

When I relied so heavily on my emotions all those years ago, I essentially nullified my own voice.  My husband, who reasons better than he emotes, was so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of my feelings that he eventually kind of shut down.  I breached so many dams on the soapbox of my emotions that, no matter how valid some of my points were, he learned to tune me out.  Looking back, I think I probably sounded a lot like Charlie Brown’s teacher, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wa-wah”.  Yeah, not what I had in mind.

When I finally started to reign it in and rule over my emotions, focusing on what was true and right, I had a steep hill to climb.  Not only did I have to re-train myself,  I had to re-train my husband.  It was my turn to be patient as I worked on re-building his trust in what I communicated to him.  It was a rough road.  And, the re-building took much, much longer than the breaching.  Yuck.  Maybe some of you have been there, too.

That same chapter in Proverbs tells us that he who covers over an offense promotes love.  In this life, I don’t want to be remembered as a dam-breacher.  As we’ve seen in the footage from hurricanes, a breached dam is a horrible tragedy with far-reaching consequences.  Instead, even if it means that I don’t feel like I’m heard, I want to leave the legacy of love.

 

 

Turkey Trouble

Ahhh…a new day.  So far, so good.

Don’t get me wrong.  Yesterday was a good day, too.  It just did not go as planned.  Let me give you a re-cap.

My son and I had just come back from Kentucky, where we’d visited one of my dearest friends and her family.  We had a wonderful time catching up, and we got home Tuesday evening, thankful to be back with Dave and the girls.

I got up yesterday morning, took the puppy out and had my time with Jesus.  I made a list of things I needed to do to catch up from my time away, the first being a quick run to a bulk foods store to pick up a meat order a friend and I were splitting.  Easy enough.

Before I got out the door, I went to check on a young turkey which had apparently sustained an injury while I was gone.  Bad news.  Its leg was broken and it was not in good shape.  (For its own protection, it had been placed in our “clinic” for assessment and recovery.  When this happens, animals tend to thrive…or dive.  This one had clearly done the latter.)  Blah.  I really, really, really dislike dying things.  I don’t especially despise them once they’re fully dead, but animals that are in the process of dying are tough for me.  I now had one of those on my hands.

I made the poor guy as comfortable as possible, informed the kids and headed to pick up my bulk order in order to meet my time deadline.  I would take care of the turkey when I got home.

On the way home, I saw that it looked like we might get rain.  Hallelujah!  We had gotten so dry in the past couple of weeks that we really needed some water.  So thankful for what looked like an answer to prayer on the way.

I got home and began to clean and bag the meat for the freezer.  It was in a huge box, and I didn’t have enough space in the fridge to stash it while I dealt with the turkey, so I was trying to work as quickly as possible.  My son had put the turkey out of its misery, so I felt no major rush to get it dressed out.

Then I heard thunder.  Change of plans.

I passed off the meat preparation to my oldest daughter, whom had been patiently waiting for me to give her a test.  With a small sigh, she graciously took over.  I grabbed my knives and a hatchet and headed outside.

Let me just say that I don’t love butchering things.  I have done it, and I can do it, but I don’t love it.  I truly have to mind-over-matter my way through the processing, thanking God for this sacrifice of life and for the opportunity to grow and eat much of our own food.  I understand that all meat packaged and sold at grocery stores came from living, breathing creatures that had to go through the butchering process before winding up in sanitary-looking, plastic-wrapped packages in supermarket coolers.  I truly do get it.  I actually find great peace in the fact that our animals lived happy, healthy lives up until the point of processing.  But.  I still don’t love butchering things.  To complicate matters, though I had processed many chickens, I had never dressed out a turkey…and I had conveniently avoided dressing out anything for the better part of two years.

I confess that I had toyed with the idea of taking the carcass back into the woods and leaving it for the coyotes.  This would not only get me out of an undesirable task, but it would get me back to what I really needed to be doing–catching up from my trip.  Unfortunately for me, I had recently spent a few hours talking with and listening to the world-renowned Joel Salatin, Farmer Extraordinaire, and had committed to being more responsible with the resources God has given me.  Here I had a young turkey with healthy meat and bones (well, aside from that broken leg) and the knowledge and ability to turn him into food for me family.  It totally seemed like the responsible thing to do.

Bummer for me.

Interestingly, I had just had this conversation with my Kentucky friend:  I like having my hand held when I do something for the first time.  Unlike my remarkably independent and fiercely fearless friend, I like to have someone right beside me to provide guidance, moral support and courage (should courage fail).  This is why I have asked another one of my remarkably independent and fiercely fearless friends to help me butcher a full-grown tom turkey next week.  The bottom line is that I’m a bit of a chicken when it comes to this things, and I greatly value the cheerleaders in my life.  Yesterday, however, I was on my own.

So, with tools and turkey in hand, I headed to the woodpile to get ‘er done.

That’s when it started to rain.

Thank You, Lord, for this rain.  (I said over and over and over in my head as it soaked me from head to toe.)

Longer story short, I guessed and fumbled and “oopsed” my way through preparing this young turkey to feed my family.  It wasn’t really pleasant, but it wasn’t really horrible, either.  And, to be honest, I’m pleased and somewhat proud of that 4.24-lb. young turkey resting in our basement fridge.

After the turkey tangent was resolved, I redirected my attention to the day’s activities and got almost everything done.  I even worked in a bit of an afternoon nap, thanks to my kids pitching in to help and being patient with their own to do lists.  The day didn’t look like I thought it would, and it was not as comfortable as I’d hoped, but I did what needed to be done.

The rain moved back in this morning, and (so far) all of the animals seem happy and healthy.  The kids have all taken their tests, and one has even finished her school for the week.  While catching up on laundry and housework, I may even be able to squeeze in a batch of noodles to go with that turkey.

 

September Babies

September isn’t usually a month in which we welcome babies to our little farm.  As a matter of fact, we are usually winding down our commitments this time of year.  2017 is proving to be a bit different in this regard.

A few weeks ago, Farmer Dave and I went to meet Rue, a young heifer who needed a new home.  Since Sir Loin was making his transition from our pasture to our freezer, Red Rose needed a new companion.  One early Saturday morning, I poured my coffee in a travel mug, joined Dave in the old truck and went to look at one of our options.

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We kind of went out on a limb with a local farmer (whom we had not previously known) and told him that we are relatively ignorant on what makes a good calf…and would trust him to be honest with us.  (Yeah, I know.)  He kind of looked at us for a moment and then proceeded to recommended a young heifer from his herd.  This man’s teenage son was listening to the entire exchange, and we took comfort in that the cow looked very healthy AND the son was in on the discussion.  Surely the man was modeling integrity to this boy and not teaching him to be a con artist, right?  So far, so good on Miss Rue.  She has a sweet disposition, and she and Rose are already sharing food and swatting at one another’s flies.

Last weekend, Dave and I planned a little getaway for the two of us that involved a few opportunities to hear Joel Salatin, from Polyface Farms, speak in the Indianapolis area.  I have appreciated much of Salatin’s platform for some time, and I was eager to get Dave’s take on his perspective.  Plus, we had been graciously included in an invitation for a farm-to-table dinner and roundtable discussion with Joel and other local growers and interested parties.  Little did I know that Dave and I would get to have dinner at the same table as special friends AND Joel Salatin!  During our meal, we enjoyed much laughter…and really good food!  (Thank you, Griggsby’s Station and Tyner Pond Farms!)

Anyway, unbeknownst to me, Dave was planning to use our weekend away as an opportunity to pick up another newbie for Country Haven.

Meet Liberty Belle.

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She is an 8-week-old goldendoodle puppy whom we hope to breed.  Over the past 15 months, Dave and the kids have co-invested in two females and a male in the hopes of generating income for school, farm and home expenses.  Miss Libby, as we call her, is adjusting very nicely to life at Country Haven.  We all love her.

One of the things I like least about life on our little farm is that things don’t always go the way we’d like for them to go.  We experienced this a couple of weeks ago with the loss of a couple of dozen broilers (meat chickens) ready for butchering.  It was a sad (and expensive) day, but we learned a valuable lesson in the process.  Since we had planned to tuck that meat away for the winter months, our freezer is a little light on chicken.  To fill in the gap a bit, Dave brought home 20 chicks last night.  They are a mix between amberlinks and buff orpingtons.  We will keep the hens to lay eggs and process the cockerels for our table.  Dave found them for a great price at a nearby farm store, so we felt good about the financial investment.

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There are always so many things to learn in this life, and I am thankful for the opportunities we have to learn them in a safe, peaceful environment.  Seasons come and go, but there are sorrows and gifts in every situation.

Distractification

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Distractification.  This pretty much sums up my life these days.  My mind has been in overdrive, and I am continually trying to redirect my thoughts to whatever I actually need to be thinking about.  It’s been a losing battle.

(By the way, did you know that Charles Dickens made up words to more accurately convey his thoughts?  He also lived long enough to experience celebrity status from his writing.  Definite perk for him.)

I digress.  The point is that my mind has been so easily inundated with the mundane that I’ve had a tough time focusing on my true priorities.  I’ll be working outside in the yard, and a blog idea comes to mind.  I’ll basically be writing it in my head, re-working the language in my mind, kind of getting excited about it…until I notice that my zinnias are on their way out for the summer and I decide to cut one last beautiful bouquet to enjoy indoors.  By the time I make it into the house, bouquet in hand, I’ve lost the flow of whatever I was so looking forward to writing!

(If you want to save seeds from zinnias, all you need to do is cut off the blooms and allow them to fully dry.  Then, over a paper bag, gently rub the heads between your fingers until the seeds separate.  Label the bag so you don’t forget what’s in it and plant the seeds next June.)

Anyway, my focus is all wonky.  My mind is just too busy.

It occurs to me that I need to re-train my brain.  It feels like, at almost 43 years of age, I shouldn’t need a whole lot of re-training, but I am finding that this is just not the case.  I am regularly finding myself in need of re-training on skills and behaviors that should already be tucked safely in my life’s tool belt.

(I went to work on crocheting an unfinished granny square the other day and realized that I needed to get my directions out again.  I’d already crocheted a few dozen of those goofy things, yet, here I was, in need of a refresher.  Ugh!)

Anywho, I’m distracted.  Desperately.

During my quiet time this morning, I realized that I can’t really blame my crazy mental state on anyone but myself.  It is up to me to claim peace in my mind.  I read Colossians 3:2, which says, set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  This verse kind of makes what I think about seem like a choice, doesn’t it.  It almost sounds like I can choose what I noodle.  Huh.

I knew immediately what “earthly things” were, because they rule the roost in my noggin.  It’s all the stuff of life–commitments, concerns, calendars; the unchecked chaos of these things is what has been crowding my brain.  But, what were the “things above”?

In the quiet of the morning, I considered this question.  The first word that came to my mind was peace.

Peace.

I let it play over and over in my mind, actually feeling its presence, basking in its truth.

I then heard the word hope.  Thank You, Jesus, for hope.

Hope was followed by joy.  And joy was followed by mercy.

With the thought of mercy, my eyes filled with tears, and I thanked God for His mercy–the mercy that brings freedom to my life.  The mercy that allows my mind to bask in His peace, hope and joy.

The mercy that allows me to choose.

 

Evident Gentleness

I am not a gentle person by nature.  Many of my high school peers and even my youth sponsors from that season of life can attest to this.  I tend to be a bit of a bulldozer–both physically as well as verbally.  I wish that weren’t the case, but it is.  The last 20 years of yielding to the Holy Spirit in this area has definitely helped, but let’s just say it’s still not a sure bet.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t usually beat up on people any more.  (Although I did let loose on an unsuspecting man last Friday.  I think he’s fully recovered, though.)  I just say things in a not-so-gentle way.  And, if those words don’t actually come out of my mouth, they kind of come out in my attitude, which I think might be just as bad.  I once had a preacher tell me that he could tell what I was thinking from the pulpit.  This is very inconvenient at times…especially when I’m thinking about lunch.

I have a precious friend in the same boat.  She and I work really hard to not always say what we think…or to at least to say what we think in a kind, productive way IF it needs to be said at all.  She has remarked on more than one occasion that, after her husband (one of those naturally gentle types) or someone else kind of scolds her for not speaking gently–especially if she’s been practically biting her tongue until it bleeds–she wants to defend herself with, “If only you knew all of the things that I thought and did NOT say!!”.  I feel the say way.  If I’m gonna get dinged for not speaking gently, I want to get points for all of the times I edit my words for gentleness before they come out of my mouth!  This same friend also lamented that, even when she successfully filters her words, her expression gives her thoughts away.  She says she and I need face filters.  Too true.

Anyway, one of the easy ways I have learned to be gentler with my words is to just not speak them right away.  I had to walk away from my email last week before I responded to something someone said.  I went through my morning as usual, occasionally formulating a reply in my mind, until I came up with one that was respectful and true.  There are times I don’t do that and I wish I had.

Social media is the worst for this.  It is amazing how emotionally-charged some of those threads are.  I learned this the hard way in my first couple years of Facebook-dom.  The fact is that not many people really care about my opinion on social media, and I am not doing them any favors by posting it–especially on their thread.  It would almost be like a friend inviting me into her home and offering me a cup of coffee…and me pouring my coffee on her floor and leaving.

Facebook offers us a remarkable trust–a look into the thoughts and feelings of the people we call friends.  It gives us opportunity to pray specifically for them, reach out to them when we wouldn’t otherwise know they’re hurting and to better understand their perspective.  We don’t have to agree with them (and it’s sometimes best if we un-follow them), but we can still stand on common ground with them.  Whether they’re grade school friends, high school teammates, extended family, past co-workers or whoever, they’re people who have had a place in our lives and deserve our respect.

(Yes, there are those people who are toxic and crazy and who would love to drain the very lifeblood from our limbs.  These are the folks whom we can feel free to un-friend in order to be healthier.  However, we can still do so respectfully.)

Let your gentleness be evident to all.  This is what the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:5.  Paul was not a gentle man.  He spoke harshly and sometimes acted harshly.  I bet he could’ve even used a face filter.  His gentleness came from knowing Jesus and submitting his natural tendencies to the Power of the Holy Spirit.

Many of us Christians are not very good at being gentle.  We’re either “gentle” to the point of weak-minded (which isn’t at all what Paul is talking about here) or we scream the Truth of Jesus Christ in such a harsh, abrasive and judgmental way that we turn people off to Who Jesus really was on this earth.  Jesus was gentle.  He was meek.  He had tremendous power/authority/integrity, and His very life proved it.  He lived in humility and meekness, serving the under-served.  He didn’t scream His point-of-view on the street corners.  He lived His point-of-view for decades before beginning to speak out.

I wonder what Jesus would’ve posted on Facebook.

As a Christian, my job is to be a light that draws others to Jesus–a warm, inviting light that represents safety and security.  My job is not to be a spotlight–harsh and painful and repelling.  Once people give their lives to Christ, He can shine the spotlight of His Holy Spirit on their sins as He is compelled to do.  Our job is to gently speak the Truth in love.  His job is change people’s lives.

It’s time to focus more on showing how God has changed us and less on what needs changed in others.