The Chariot of Victory


Streams in the Desert has been a God-send in my life. I would like to quote a passage from today’s lesson, which is incredibly timely, this, the day before Easter:

“This is the prayer we need to pray for ourselves and one another: Lord, open our eyes so we may see. We are surrounded, just like the prophet Elisha was, by God’s horses and chariots of fire…[E]ven the smallest trial may become an object crushing everything in its path into misery and despair if we allow it. The difference then becomes a choice we make. It all depends not on the events themselves but on how we view them.”

If, today, you are in the right frame of mind – the place – to hear these words; to let these words speak to your heart and your very soul – then they convey a powerful message. It’s a two-pronged offense.

1. We are surrounded by God’s horses and chariots of fire! Forget a sleeping, peaceful angel – we are surrounded by power. There isn’t a sniper in the world who can compare to God’s protection. Even former Cleveland Browns fullback Jim Brown can’t provide the victory in the place of Christ. Imagine what Satan thinks and feels when he sees a godly person stand his or her ground, surrounded by God’s vengeful horses and chariots blazing.

It’s comforting and peaceful to think lovely thoughts about God. But we don’t need that facet of God when we are facing down Satan; facing down circumstances that threaten to plunge us into deep despair. We need a vengeful, avenging God, and we have it at our disposal every moment.

2. We have a choice. When we can only hit our knees in prayer, we have a choice in how things go forward. The baby we didn’t believe we were prepared to have until we lost it; the wife we took for granted until she left; the husband who was unfaithful and isn’t repentant; the child who broke our heart when she became addicted to drugs in high school; the job we lived for until we were fired; the loss of the parent who was our best friend; the day we can’t stand being beaten another moment; when we watched the Twin Towers fall and knew our wife was trapped inside – the possibilities are absolutely endless.

Not only that – the myriad ways they could play out are mind-blowing. I have figured out that this is one of many instances in life where the advice is simple and practically impossible to follow. At first. We have to choose to lay that baby at Christ’s feet and thank Him for it – and then for days and days and weeks and months we have to do it again and again, and thank Him for the doing of it! We have to choose to face that husband and either accept his leaving or offer forgiveness, day in and day out, for as long as it takes, and thank the Lord for His love and mercy and grace, and remember that time we were tempted to cheat on that man and didn’t – which doesn’t make us better than him – it only makes us understand how he got there in the first place. We have to choose to move forward despite the loss of our livelihood and we have to thank God for giving us the job and have hope that we will gain another just as great or better. And when money gets tight and the nightly glass of wine turns into two or three, or that lonely neighbor starts to pique your interest – in those moments, you have to choose to hit your knees, raise your eyes to heaven, rent your garments – but choose to believe in the hope of Christ.

There truly is nothing new under heaven. Human beings have been facing crises after crises just like these since the beginning of time. It doesn’t even have to be something monumental – it could just be the growing desire to do more with your life that has you down in the dumps. Maybe you’re bored with your spouse, or your job, or your friends, or your church, or just your life in general, and you know you need a change, and you feel so stuck. Maybe that just starts to eat away at you, day by day, until you have totally lost the person you once were. Little things, we know, can snowball awful quick.

It’s the choosing that’s so hard. Because it isn’t one choice – it’s choice after choice after choice, day after day after day, and no one can tell you how long you will have to do it! But if we do not choose to allow God to take us under His wing behind that blazing chariot, and consent to follow His will regardless of what our flesh is positively screaming to have or do, we have no hope.

That’s not true for you, is it? Oh no – because you have implemented control mechanisms into your life so that whenever something falls out of balance or goes sideways, you have something to hold on to. But guess what? That is the very thing God will take away from you if you persist. He will rip it painfully out of your life and leave you with nothing.

Right? Wrong! Oh, so wrong – because you will be in the position I was in, five years ago, as I knelt on the floor of my apartment with my two-year-old sleeping soundly in the next room. I was devastated. I was a single parent, didn’t have a job or way to support my child, and had never felt so alone in my entire life. I had no family there, few friends, and literally did not know what to do. So I made a choice –  to stay there on my knees until I was able to rise with hope and faith to overcome my fear.

It was in that moment that my “nothing” became something greater than I’d ever known – when that sense of nothing became a sense of purpose and peace and calm. Yes, of course – it had become God’s love and hope. That fear is still here, and I fight against it most of the time. Meaning, there are few moments in my life ever since that time when I feel at peace without having to work at it. I am married, have all I need, and have a great life. I have another beautiful child. I have a church home and have been working hard at mending some seriously dinged fences. But that fear surfaces often, and I have been hoping and believing God for a long, long time. It is a choice I make, and every time I have left that decision to choose up to chance, I have experienced extremely painful times of loneliness, despair, and anger.

Gracious, by the Lord picks me right back and up and sets me on those shaky feet! I look so forward to having no suffering, only perfect peace. Right now I have the peace that passes all understanding, and it is more than enough. Blessings to you and your loved ones this Easter season. Sunday’s coming! Be ready!

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How to Recreate a Childhood Summer!


Photo courtesy of thedigeratilife.com.

Just about everybody has their favorite memories of their childhood summers. While I have learned to relax when my body needs it (most of the time), that’s a really hard thing to do. Between our jobs, our families, our obligations to our churches, friends, and activities, our lives are often overly busy and that elusive “fulfillment” seems to really mean days full of stuff we have to do, not necessarily things we want to do.

Everyone says that summer is the season to slow down, but in reality our bodies internally and naturally do that in winter as well. Spring and fall are the times of year when the instincts inside us speed up; it’s not too hot and not too cold and we are instrically programmed with more energy.

The things we all love about summers growing up aren’t the jobs we hated doing. Theyr’e things that were FUN! So why not add a little of that to our adult lives when we can? Don’t say you’re too busy. You aren’t. You just have to prioritize. Get up earlier to mow the lawn so you can enjoy afternoon pursuits. Or why not leave it for the week? Just take a Saturday once a month to have a day strictly for activities that inspire you.

Here are some of the ways I like to recreate my childhood summers:

PHOTO COURTESY OF officialanneofgreengables.wikia.com. Don’t forget – that’s Anne spelled with an E!!!

1. Anne of Green Gables on rainy afternoons;

2. Frozen yogurt;

3. Watching the sunshine play through the leaves of a tree;

4. Sitting under a tree while summer rain falls;

5. Reading without fear of reprisal;

 

Photo courtesy of growfoodeasily.com.

6. Attending the Saturday-morning farmer’s market in lieu of picking vegetables in my cousin’s garden really early in the morning before the heat sets in;

7. I have to add this an adult – escaping the heat of the kitchen to have dinner out!

What about you? Please share your tips of having a great summer in the comments box! Enjoy the rest of this time of year!

Is it Ever Ok to Use Food as a Weapon?


One of the things I love about life are the weird and crazy stories you hear. If you’re a news junkie like me, you get the privilege of hearing them every day! Whoo-hoo!

Photo courtesy of cardifffoodchain.wordpress.com.

Today, it’s the…unintelligent man who wielded sausages to perform his attack. Now, to be fair, he also used a wrench, and that’s troubling because he could have seriously injured the poor bicyclist he tried to maul.

Luckily, I think the victim will be ok. But this story gave me pause to wonder: is it ever ok to use food as a weapon? Furthermore, how much damage could you possibly inflict?

 

Pros:

  1. If you don’t like your dinner, throwing it at a would-be assailant is completely ok. Bonus points if it’s cooked to within an inch of its life and could be called a hockey puck, in which case you could inflict damage.
  2. Throwing food at a possible intruder or robber or mugger could deter him or her long enough that you can get away. If it’s really good or smells fantastic you might throw the person off balance just long enough.
  3. If the food in question is saucy, you might create such a mess that, like #2 above, you’ve given yourself time to get away. Bonus if it’s also really spicy – it could cause damage to the attacker’s eyes, giving you time for a kick before you sprint for safety.

Cons:

  1. Throwing food in your attacker’s face might just anger him or her more, making the attacker more likely to inflict serious injury.
  2. Being laughed at by an assailant will just make you feel stupid, so put it down.

Either way, in a dangerous situation, you have to use whatever you’ve got on hand. So although you might be laughed at for the rest of your life, it might be worth it. Just take it with a sense of humor and I think you’ll come out unscathed, as long as your attacker is really idiotic, like the man who tried to mug a cyclist with frozen sausage links.

Comparing and Contrasting Between Women


Here’s how the nicest version of comparison goes. The first is what you say to your girlfriend; the second is the thoughts that run through your mind directly after you speak.

“She has better hair.” It’s long and shiny, and mine is too short. I hate my haircut.

“Look at her! She is so skinny.” How does she do that????? She’s pushing a double stroller!!!!

“Can you imagine all the work she does? It must be really hard getting it all done.” Dadgummit. She has three kids under the age of five, works full time, and she serves on three committees at church. With her husband traveling like he does! How does she look so perfectly coiffed all the time????

Here’s how the normal version of comparison goes. (These thoughts may be accompanied by a bit of a snarl).

“Good Lord, somebody give that poor girl a cheeseburger! STAT!” I just hate it when other women are skinnier than me. I deserve to be thin. I work out six days a week and it just doesn’t seem to change! She looks like a refugee.

“Well, you know she doesn’t spend as much time with her children as I do, but then, I’m not your poster child for mothering…” How come she works and I stay at home and her kids are more successful than mine??

Photo courtesy of curlyhair.org.

“Who? Oh, her? She’s just a bottle blond.” Blonds look like they do have more fun. How come nobody seems to find me attractive anymore?

Compare and contrast. We, as women, all do it. Some of us just keep our thoughts from coming out of our mouths.

Why do we do it? Ya’ll know the answer. Whatever you complain about most is what is bothering you. So when you compare yourselves to other women when it comes to your body, you obviously have a problem with yourself in that area. If you compare yourself to other women when it comes to raising your children, you have insecurity in that area.

But what if you compare yourself to other women in just about every area you possibly could? I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one out there who does it!

I have a sister who would blow Martha Stewart out the window if she had her own tv show and magazine. She can make homemade gift wrap from construction paper and a potato stamp. She makes her own pita chips (and they are absolutely scrumptious). She has the interior decorating genes of…well, I don’t know any universally-acknowledged decorator, but if I did, I would insert his/her name. Her fashion sense is classic and elegant. In short, everything she touches is like gold; it has an enchanting quality that many women envy.

I, on the other hand, buy my gift wrap and wrap my gifts like a fourth grader. At Christmas, I don’t have to put my name on gift tags; everyone laughs and says, “Well, that one definitely came from ___!” I buy pita chips. Chips of any kind. They’re nowhere near as delicious as hers. And my home? It’s…eclectic. Some would say tacky. When I decorate I don’t know where to stop. And my fashion sense? Interesting. Certainly not elegant or classic.

When she gets ready to go to the grocery store or out on the town, it takes her about an hour and a half to finish. Every hair is perfectly placed; every clothing item is tended carefully and pressed to perfection. Lipstick is chosen and applied expertly. Shoes are trendy, hip and selected to match her clothes. She wears pearl earring studs to work out in.

When I get ready to go to the grocery store, I put on yoga pants and a t-shirt. I might apply mascara and lipstick – if I remember. When I work out, I sweat and look a mess!

Photo courtesy of scoopon.com.au. Did I mention that presentation is EVERYTHING, dahling? And my sis is superb at that too!

For those of you with comparison issues (hello, every woman in the world!) you can probably tell that my sister makes me feel incredibly inferior without saying a word! I don’t think she means to do it. After all, she’s just being who she is. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I would challenge any woman who says, “So what? So she’s a control freak, a type-A personality? You don’t have to be perfect all the time. Your way is better.” I would say that this opinion of my sister, and other extremely well-put- together women, stems from jealousy and not fact!

I love to watch movies with beautiful women who wear great clothes because it inspires me. (Movies with well-dressed men give me clues as to how to buy clothes for my husband). My sister inspires me, even though I feel inferior, and when I leave her I have a renewed sense of style and beauty, just like when I watch a great movie.

Joyce Meyer wrote a book called The Confidant Woman and I read it a short time ago. She believes that the secret to confidant women is that they don’t compare themselves to others. I used to be an extremely confidant person but I was faking it; eventually it became habit, but even then I was constantly comparing myself with other women.

When I see a woman who is prettier, more put together, smarter, etc. – I feel bad about myself. I don’t have feelings of dislike for the other person – I used to – but I am intimidated by her.

Lately, though, I have found myself thinking different thoughts. Like, “Wow, I love her hair! It’s so beautiful and long and curly. Mine is a chopped-up mess.” Then, “Wait a minute! My hair’s just fine! First of all, I can grow it out as long as I want. Second, would I ever grow mine out as long as that?? How would I have the time to fix it? Would I even want to? Nope. I can admire her hair without feeling awful about mine. That’s freakin awesome!”

So when you find yourself thinking negatively about your own characteristics, remind yourself that you can change what you want about yourself in most cases, and if you can’t, you just have to live with it. Even though you like how so-and-so appears, maybe that look wouldn’t work for you anyway. God gave you what He gave you. Appreciate it more!

 

 

How This Country Girl Makes Ham


Kitchen-Sink Ham

This ham can last us for several days, not even counting the portion I freeze!

A dear friend of mine is coming over for dinner tonight, and I thought I’d cook a ham for her and my husband as a treat. It’s not hard, despite its size, so don’t get all intimidated, girls. It’s actually a simple thing – at least my way it is.

Set your oven at 325. Place your ham on what I call a broiler rack. Using half of

one stick of melted butter, pour it evenly over the entire ham (I place mine with the flat side down or on its side – doesn’t matter). The next step is to lightly salt the ham with a shaker. Then pour your concoction over it.

What is a concoction, you might ask? Well, it’s called Kitchen-Sink Ham for a reason! A lot of people use brown sugar as a base for theirs, but you don’t have to. I didn’t happen to have any today, so I just used my Dixie sugar – a little less than a fourth of a cup, I guess. To that, I added blueberry jam (a tablespoon plus a little extra!), some pancake syrup, some juice (whatever we had in the fridge), some mustard, some orange blossom honey (whatever kind you have works fine) and some salt.  Pour that evenly over the ha

m.

Follow that up with the second half of the butter, poured evenly, and tent the ham with tinfoil. I let that cook for about three hours and then took it out. What you see above is the ham right out of the oven, but I only did that for the sake of a photograph. Let it sit, still tented, till it cools completely. Then you can dish it up or store it in the refrigerator or freezer. Just remember: when freezing cooked food, it must be at room temperature; that’s also a good rule of thumb if your refrigerator is full because the heat from improperly cooled food can get the whole temperature of the fridge outta whack.

 

Great Dinner & Fantastic Book


 

Photo courtesy of chow.com.

No single post I’ve written since starting this blog has gone over so well as Some of My Favorite Things so I’m attempting to let ya’ll in both a recipe I’ve tried and a great read I just started. You can get the original recipe from The Food Network (Rachel Ray) for Garlic Fish in Parchment by clicking on the link, but here’s how I make mine:

Serves 3

Pre-heat oven to 375.

Take out one sheet of parchment paper and put a light layer of squash or onions (or both), and cover with one filet of tilapia. Cover that with more onions and fresh garlic, chopped.Wrap it loosely and place on a baking sheet. Do this three times.

Bake for about half an hour and remove from oven; carefully open packet – if fish flakes easily with a fork, it’s done.

You can also add lemon, as you see in the photo above – a common ingredient when cooking fish – or whatever suits your fancy – experiment! Kids like more mild flavors but you can go crazy by adding some peppers!

Also, you don’t have to use tilapia; grouper has a mild flavor as well. I’m not a fan of fishy-fish but if you like a bolder pungency, give it a try!

Side note: one of my children ate this for the first time – his first time eating fish, by the way – and decided that I was going to cook it every night for dinner. LOL. Once a week is more like it. It is easy, though,and delicious. Experiment with the type of onion you use. I have found all sorts to be great!

Photo courtesy of life-love-laughter.tumblr.com.

Now, for a fantastic read…Ya’ll know, by my use of the word “Ya’ll,” that I’m a Southern gal. And PROUD of it! So, how apropos that I’m suggesting all you belles out there to read The GRITS Guide to Life if you haven’t already. This website is a great place to find the book, although I picked mine up at Sundog Books in Seaside, and I’m sure other retailers carry it or will order for you.

 

Some of My Favorite Things…


Food, that is. I’m no foodie. And if you’re looking for an original contribution here, you are out of luck. I don’t create things on my own – I borrow from people I love, be that my Mama, my sister or some lovely ladies on The Food Network. After all, come five o’clock we all shout, “It’s Paula, ya’ll!” at my house.

Below is a little recipe I’d like to share with you, but don’t stop reading once you’ve gotten down to the end – there is one other thing I’d like you to see.

Giada De Laurentis’ Fig &Almond Tart (Photo Courtesy of The Food Network)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons ice water
  • 3 1/2 ounces almond paste, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 6 large or 12 small fresh figs, sliced, stems removed or 20 dried figs, reconstituted *see Cook’s Note
  • 1/4 cup apricot jam

Directions

Combine the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, lemon zest, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until blended. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. With the machine running, gradually add the water until moist clumps form. Turn the mixture out onto a work surface and form into a ball. Flatten the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for 1 hour.

In a clean food processor bowl, combine remaining sugar, almond paste, mascarpone cheese, vanilla extract, and honey. Blend until smooth.

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll out the dough into an 11-inch circle. Transfer the dough to a large, heavy baking sheet. Spread the almond filling over the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Arrange the figs on top of the almond filling. Spoon the jam over the figs. Fold the dough border over the filling to form an 8-inch round, pleating the crust loosely and pinching to seal any cracks in the dough.

Bake the tart until the crust is golden, about 40 minutes. Place the baking sheet on a rack to cool for 10 minutes, then slide a metal spatula under the crust to free

the tart from the parchment. Transfer the tart to a platter and serve.

Cook’s Note: To reconstitute dried figs, simmer in water for 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool completely. Strain before using.

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