Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Shepherd Leads Me

Last night one of my best friends in high school went to be with Jesus, shortly after giving birth to her baby boy who is also with Jesus now. When she was in the hospital and they were fighting for her life, I was pleading with God, praying Psalm 30 for her.

To you, O Lord, I cry,
    and to the Lord I plead for mercy: 
 “What profit is there in my death,
    if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
    Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
    O Lord, be my helper!”

Why would God take a young, strong woman away from the husband she was a helpmeet for and the two young children she nurtured? It doesn't make sense. God, surely there is more for her to do here! Surely her little ones need her more than you do! 

Death feels strong. In the old Disney movie Darby O'Gill, the Grim Reaper is coming and as Darby tries to keep him from his daughter, you feel this foreboding, this terror. Death comes and it can't be stopped. 

But I'm reminded of Jesus' words in Matthew 10: And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 

It's not death that is strongest. It is God. And it wasn't death that took Lona away. It was the Lord Jesus taking her by the hand and leading her home to be with him. She has so much peace and joy in his presence that for a moment, I envy her, which is blessedly relieving after the fear I felt last night as I mourned, thinking, "That could be me. What if God took me away from my little boy?" 

And as we went grocery shopping this morning, Laura Story's voice came over the radio, 
When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home
It's not our home.

Death terrifies me - more than it should, especially as one who dearly loves and follows the Lord Jesus. I think it's because it is the ultimate example that life is not in my control. I have no power over life or death, even though I sometimes pretend I have control over other things. Every time someone I love dies, the dam breaks again and every question I have about the sovereignty of God rushes out. Questions I know in my heart are naive to ask.

Last night the Lord turned on a light in my head. My first reaction is to doubt the goodness of God in taking a young wife and mother from her family. I know it's wrong, but the temptation blindsides me and too often I yield to it. But my dear friend now in heaven will never doubt God's goodness again - even though it is she that was taken from her precious loves ones. I think, "Leaving my Charlie motherless would be torture so that I couldn't even enjoy heaven!" But what a selfish, distrusting thought that is. Of course it would never have been Lona's choice to leave, but she understands now, so well, how good God is and how very much she can trust him with everything.

Lona has always been an example of loving Jesus and trusting the Lord. But she's experiencing both of those things in a deeper, fuller way, even now. And her heart would be for us to lay our questions and hurt and fears at the feet of Jesus and trust him fully, as well.

Today I reread Psalm 30. And these words spoke to my soul
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    you have loosed my sackcloth
    and clothed me with gladness, 
 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

This is what the Lord has done for Lona. May he turn our mourning to dancing as well, as we thank him and trust in his goodness. 

Our prayers go upward for you, dear loved ones of Lona's. May the Lord hold your heart as you grieve and take steps away from this loss.  

Monday, June 17, 2013

Strength for a Tired Soul

Oh Paul, Paul. What a statement.

I opened my Bible after putting two tired monkeys down to nap and the first thing that leaps from the page I was looking for is this:

"I must go on boasting."

I've been thinking about strength in weakness. The power of Christ resting on me. I've been in a rut and realized this morning that I can't dig my way out. I feel so inadequate to everything in my life, and that I have so much to learn. I've started to realize that it doesn't matter "how much I have to learn," as much as the state of my relationship with Christ. Am I resting in his strength? Am I quietly enjoying him? Am I hiding behind his shield of truth when the evil one sprays his darts at me?

He is my Victor after all. My Refuge. My Confidant and Friend.

Why then, if I'm seeking to believe these things, do I struggle and fear and wallow in self-pity?

"I must go on boasting."

Paul was just listing to the Corinthians all he had endured for Christ's and the church's sake. "Boasting" to them of the trials he'd endured. But he couldn't stop there. So he said, "I must go on boasting."

But this continuation was not more about himself. No...all he had left to say about himself was an admission of his weakness. He could have continued talking about himself - and have been justified doing so - as he points out. I think sometimes I could do the same, in a tiny little way.

"I mean, I do this every week, and love this person unconditionally, and take care of these people. I'm bone weary every night. Even my weekends are the opposite of relaxing. Etc. Etc. Etc." Elsewhere Paul would say, "I count everything as loss so that I may gain Christ." My flesh certainly gets a rush from my "sacrifices" being recognized, but anything I do is ultimately only an outpouring of my thankfulness to my Savior and the flesh needs to go back where it came from - the grave. 

No. I have nothing to boast in.

I am weak. Tired. A little slap-happy some nights (you should have seen me laughing over antics with Siri last night). My kitchen is piled with dishes. I'm grumpy. All I want to do is sit on the couch and watch Covert Affairs and eat sweet potato chips and frozen yogurt. I ran the stroller into the curb this morning, bruising both my shins, and I may or may not have said something that the 2-yr-old in the stroller shouldn't have repeated.

But I can't just say, "Oh well, I'm weak. I guess Christ's strength will have to be here for me today."

Actually, although Christ will outpour his strength and grace on my life today, I must "go on boasting." I must claim the gift of strength from him.

Paul said, "I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." Not "because the power of Christ rests upon me," but "so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." There's something about the boasting in Christ that frees me to walk in his power. It's the confidence that I can get up and fill the dishwasher and sweep the floor and make the chex mix and he will carry me through it all. And what's more, that he will teach me contentment and give me joy through it.

Today I tell you that I am weak, but Christ is strong. I am unable to serve anyone or care for anyone without his power resting on me - driving me, carrying me. He is with me. Every moment. He is the abundant-life-giver. The Shepherd who leads me my refreshing water and restful places where my soul can be restored. Only he.

Today I will go on boasting in Jesus. I must.

~ All references are from 2 Corinthians 11-12 ~

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Food for her Household Part 3 - Whole Grain Flour

The area of cooking with a variety of flours has been one of my most fun experiments...and has produced some of my worst cooking disasters - ha! It's also an area that I have and haven't researched much of the science behind for health issues.

There are a lot of concerns today with GMOs - Genetically Modified Organisms. Our advances in science have made it possible to grow grain (and other foods, but grain is the primary concern) to be more resistant to pests and disease, more hardy etc, by genetically modifying the seeds. This is great for farmers - I being a farmer's daughter would know! - but harmful to our bodies in many ways. I have not researched it very much, but enough to know that I want to cook for our family with as few GMOs as possible (none at all if I can help it!).

The second issue with grain and flour is that when our bodies process refined flours, the results can be identical to sugars. When you eat anything from white flour (wheat), your body responds in the same way as if you'd eaten white sugar. Refined wheat flour has almost all nutrients removed. Whole grains have good carbohydrates your body needs and nutrients like fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Again there is incredible amounts of research regarding this that I'm not touching. I'm speaking as a normal American mom whose family has no known gluten or other allergies. The changes I've made with our grain intake are by no means perfect (which bugs me to no end sometimes!) but they are beneficial.

When I think about how far our food has come from the natural state God gave it to us, I start to understand our many health issues today, particularly cancers and autoimmune issues that are linked to, among other things, the altered foods we're eating. It motivates me to get back to eating more wholesome foods and providing those for our family! 

So I have completely converted to whole grain flours in my baking. Walmart has a wonderful product from the company Prairie Gold - whole wheat flour from soft white wheat that is non-GMO and more similar to white flour than many whole wheat flours. That saves a lot of hassle for me. But I also love using oat and brown rice flour as well as flaxseed meal in my cooking. My wonderful husband bought me a grain mill for our anniversary, so I'm starting to use that, but before I had it, I would make oat flour out of old-fashioned oats and flax meal out of whole flax seed in my food processor. Once I tried rice flour in it, but that took forever, so I've only just begun making my own rice flour with the grain mill. You can also buy any of these flours (among others!) at the grocery store now. Bob's Red Mill is the most common company. They're not cheap, however, to buy already ground.

Here's a chart with basic equivalents.
1 Cup all-purpose flour
= 1 cup oat flour
= 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
= 1 cup brown rice flour
= 1 cup flaxseed meal

However, ratios are important when baking with other whole grain flours. For instance, in most recipes you only want to substitute 1/4 of the flour as a different grain. Otherwise your baked good can become too crumbly or doughy. When my muffins call for 2 cups of white flour, for instance, here are some of the substitutions I might make.

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup oat flour
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal


3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour

Flaxseed meal can be used as a substitute for oil in a recipe as well as flour! Check out this link for more info about that seed's usage.

More recently I've begun experimenting with buckwheat and I just got some millet to try as well. Honestly, this is just plain fun. Adds something new to cooking and baking, you know? Oats are incredibly versatile. They can be used for breading on chicken or fish - one of my favorite usages. I've been reading different books from the library about grains and flour. I especially enjoyed Good to the Grain. This blog by Gluten Free Goddess was informative as well. 

Have fun baking!
I'm a muffin and quick bread lady, and I've loved the extra heartiness and wholesomeness using these new flours has brought to my creations.