Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Keeping Up a Merry Heart

my assistant at the embroidery table

I'm not making this up. 

Last week the repair service came to our house twice for problems regarding our dishwasher, including the yearly maintenance check-up and the replacement of the motor. The appliance is only one year old (we had it installed a week after we moved into this house). 

Just hours after the repair truck disappeared down the street, I discovered another problem, so we made an appointment for yet another service call for another day. The man finally showed up at late afternoon (this, after Beloved called to ask if he was indeed coming at all). 

The diagnosis was a need to replace the circuit board which, of course, had to be ordered. The new part will be sent directly to our house and after it arrives, somebody will come out to install it. I am hopeful after that fourth trip, we won't need to deal with our appliance service for a while. 

We are very glad we paid for the maintenance agreement because otherwise this would be a very costly experience. Appliances aren't made as well anymore  so it behooves the buyer to pay the extra for the maintenance agreement. This is just a sad statement on how things are today.

Anyway, with that out of the way for the day, I had more unhappy news for Beloved when I shared with him that my Barbie doll needed shoes. She's not had any for a very long time. He suggested we go to Ruby Tuesday's for supper and then visit the toy store at the same mall as the restaurant.  #whataguy!

But the toy store had nothing in the way of Barbie dolls, let alone accessories.  I couldn't believe it. There were many other dolls, but no Barbies. #Walmart-to-the-rescue  #again

While I can't say the Walmart selection compares with DSW, we did find a package containing an assortment of five pair of shoes.  As we all know, a gal can't have too many.

About ten years ago I made the red dress she is wearing.  The Walmart Barbie doll clothes were sparse. Maybe there will be more closer to Christmas,  although I can tell you right now, the workmanship will be shoddy. Readymade doll clothes give heartburn to those of us who know how to sew. Anyway, my assistant now has shoes and that beats going barefoot. 

Here  she is with her new shoes and her personal photographer:

The day ended on a pleasant note  with a simple but delightful dessert. 

Beloved doesn't like to eat peach skin, so he has perfected the art of blanching the fruit to remove the skin. During the summer months we often have peaches sometime between supper and going to bed. This is how we brought a trying day to a close.

All the days of the afflicted are evil:
but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.
Proverbs 15:15

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Lessons from a Detour

coffee mug, a gift from Mary
We are waking to another beautiful day in northeast Florida where last night's temperature dipped into the lower 70s. Already (at 7:30am) we are at 78 degrees with 95% humidity and sunshine. We expect rain this afternoon and for the next several days but the mornings are dry (relatively speaking, you understand, with our high humidity). I thank the Lord for central air conditioning. How the early settlers of Florida survived this climate in all of their heavy clothing is beyond me.

But even with the benefits of indoor climate control, I will be frank with you in saying I am feeling well today for the first time in weeks a long time. No achey muscles or vague headache. My hands, though getting progressively more gnarled due to arthritis, feel limber and flexible. That blue state of mind is not threatening. 

Ah, it feels so good to feel so good!!

It's been a year since we moved to the deep South. Over these past twelve months I gradually let go of allergy-related eating habits I had developed in the previous four years. I also found a powerful pro-biotic that seemed to have improved my gut-health to the point that the offending foods were not bothering me as much (or so I thought).

Although in the past I had benefitted from avoiding the trigger foods that exacerbated my allergies, I guess I fell into thinking, "I feel good now. I can loosen up a little."

What that thought pattern overlooks is that we feel better because we are doing the right things and to stop doing them usually means we will regress.  

sign in my kitchen
I also just wanted the fun of embracing the foodie culture of the deep South. My new friends here have noticed that I almost always order a dinner-type salad at restaurants, so I didn't lose my sensibilities entirely. But apparently the number of deviations I did make have built up, over time, to bring down my state of health.

The change from feeling great to kinda lousy most of the time crept up on me subtly. It is my opinion many people live this way all the time and just accept it as aging, or blame it on a myriad of other influences they don't think they can change.

Finally one morning earlier this week I suggested to Beloved that my continual slide into ill-feeling might be due to the leniences I've made with my diet.

Beloved, whose body doesn't seem to be as sensitive as mine to gluten, dairy, eggs, and sugar, surprised me by agreeing!  That very day I pulled out my healthy nutritional books and began re-reading the mantras of eating that I used to embrace before our arrival in the South.

I also stopped eating most meats, gluten, dairy, eggs, white sugar, and  the powdered creamer that mellows out the bitter in my daily cup of light-roasted coffee.

That was four days ago. The change was not instantaneous, but with the first meal after that decision, I did not feel at all bloated or stuffed, just comfortably filled. My weight appears to be slowly dropping, and this morning I woke up feeling truly rested and well. I am so encouraged!

This is my story. This is what works for me. People have to find out what will help them get to where they want to be in their health. What benefits me may not be the exact answer for you. 

Sometimes we 'fall off the wagon' and get a little lost. I think I did that but I'm not going to beat myself up about it because I look at this past year of variant nutrition as an educational experiment that has confirmed my research. I am learning from it.

This morning's breakfast was great:

grapefruit, mandarin orange, banana, Medjool date, toasted almond slices, chia seeds, and a light drizzle of agave syrup

All of the ingredients met in a salad bowl and then were (after the picture was taken) combined well with a spoon. The flavor and nutrients were all there. That, combined with plenty of chewing, made for a very satisfying breakfast. 

I am thankful my problem is decreasing as easily as a change in diet. 

Then God said, 
"I give you every seed-being plant
on the face of the whole earth and
every tree that has fruit with seed in it.
They will be yours for food."
Genesis 1:29 NIV

Friday, July 13, 2018

Zip Lines and Ferry Boats

Sister and Former Farmer left our house last Saturday morning at o' dark early (a term coined by my eldest son years ago). After their departure, we got back into our usual routines. 

I made a trip to Publix to restock the pantry. Workmen were in the parking lot busily trimming the huge Live Oak trees, getting ready for any hurricanes that might come our way this year (no, thank you, by the way. We don't need any more storms like that).

Sorry, but this is the best picture I could take of the tree trimming without getting myself in their way. The branches were being hauled into this giant dumpster. I took the picture so I can remember this rite of passage in our new homeland.

While they were here, our guests said they were having a good time, but I fear our entertainment ideas were a little tame. Since leaving our home they found a water park with a Lazy River they enjoyed. (If you don't know, that's a gentle man-made river where you float in a huge circle on inner tubes. VERY relaxing)

They also rode zip lines. This is Sister in the picture above. Since my traumatic fall and resulting injury nine years ago (from a kitchen counter, no less),  anything that has the potential of a fall leaves me cold. I had no idea she was such a daring gal. (but she is younger than me, which may explain it)

Mayport ferry with cars; Beloved beside our car on the ferry
My idea of a thrill is a little different. I proposed to Beloved that we drive over to Mayport, put our car on the ferry and cross the St. Johns River. Beloved has been a little apprehensive of this since he's never done it before. He did not fear for our safety but wasn't sure just how this works out for the cars. 

He quickly realized this was pretty tame entertainment, and for only $6 per car for a 5-10 minute ride, it was a lot of fun.

road to Kingsley Plantation on Fort George Island

On the other side of the river we were on Fort George Island heading toward the Kingsley Plantation on a very narrow, shady road. I don't think we will ever tire of lovely scenes like this with the huge Live Oak trees, festooned with Spanish Moss, creating a tunnel-like experience as we progress in our car. It's just so, so 'southern'!!

Kingsley Plantation
The plantation house itself was not as large as I expected, but it had a separate building for the kitchen, and that was a good size. We didn't get to poke around a lot due to having to share the area with two school bus loads of students on a field trip.  Admission was free, so we can always go back another time. The kitchen building was open for visitors but the plantation house was locked up tight.

We never did see the cotton fields that brought income for the plantation. Perhaps they have become overgrown since that time.

the shallows of the Fort George River
When I was reading Eugenia Price's Lighthouse Trilogy, she spoke favorably of the salt marshes on the western side of Georgia's St. Simons Island. When we visited there, the marshes didn't especially impress me, but now that I've been exposed to more of the vast marsh areas of northeast Florida, I am intrigued. In this picture (above)  a couple of people are in their boat while one person is standing just  outside the boat in knee-deep water. We saw a lot of that. 

I do worry some about gators gliding out of the grassy areas... as we have seen on the local news as recently as the past week. (they can handle salt water as well as fresh)

the Sandollar Restaurant has a good reputation in Jacksonville

Of course (for me, anyway) no trip to a body of water is complete without a stop at a seafood restaurant -- one of the delights to living along coastal Florida!  I have found another favorite place to enjoy shrimp, crab, and scallops, which is what was served atop my salad:

Seafood Salad
Beloved tried out their hamburger and was just as satisfied as I was with my entree. But the food could have been tasteless and I might not have realized it because I was fascinated with all the boat traffic within easy view of all the tables both inside and out of this place. 

the view from our table
The location is pretty close to where the St. Johns River empties into the Atlantic, so you can imagine the number and size of sea vessels we saw gliding by. 

While this appears to be (and is) just a simple glass of ice water, what intrigued us was that the waitress sprinkled salt out of the shaker onto the napkin before placing the glass. This is another thing we are adjusting to after living so many years in the high, dry altitude of Colorado: condensation on beverage containers (as well as moisture inside the refrigerator, more rust and corrosion around faucets and such). The salt on the napkin was to prevent the glass from sticking. It worked, too.

By the way, we have learned to add some grains of uncooked rice to our home salt shakers to keep the salt from clumping together.

deck of Sandollar Restaurant overlooking St. Johns River
Our adventures don't include zip lines, but we manage to find fun here in our new homeland and we absolutely love it!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Palm Tree Cathedral

When my words cannot say it as well as others...

Palms at Kingsley Plantation overlooking the Fort George River, Florida

O God, Praise ... for thee... is my noblest exercise... 

The sea, dry land, winter cold, summer heat, morning light, evening shade are full of thee, and thou gives me them richly to enjoy.

All thy works praise thee and thy saints bless thee ...

Excerpts from "God Honoured" in The Valley of Vision, A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions by edited by Arthur Bennett

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Sister's Visit

Sister and Former Farmer arrived at our house on the afternoon of July 4th. Beloved fired up the grill.

Beloved grills burger patties while Sister watches 
This was their first visit to see us since our move from Colorado to Florida last summer. 

fireworks in Washington DC on TV
We didn't eat supper on the back porch due to the blazing sun poking between the forest trees. After darkness fell, we enjoyed a dessert of Cherry Crisp in front of the TV, which to us oldsters, was more comfortable than sitting outside with mosquitos, muggy heat, and waiting lines at port-a-potties.

Former Farmer and Sister at Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
The next day we took our guests to Saint Augustine, which has become one of two routine destinations we show off to all of our out-of-town house guests.

Beloved and me overlooking the St. Augustine Inlet
No trip to St. Augustine is complete without photos of ourselves beside a canon.

lunch with family
We chose to run back to the house for lunch so we could meet Surfer Girl and Surfer Boy with the kids. Happily the hot dog menu was met with approval by the younger set (avoiding the standard macaroni and cheese with chicken nuggets -- this time -- smile).

visiting a local park
Figuring out how to entertain multi-generations is not always easy. We have been successful when we take our guests to a local park that has a great playground for the kids and a beautiful dock with boat marina for the adults.

Jacksonville Beach
The next day we took our midwesterners to the beach, opting to wear street clothes instead of swimsuits.

thunderstorms brewing over the city
The afternoon thunderstorms, which you can almost use for setting your watch, were boiling over immediately to the west of the beach but they were heading farther west, so we were safe from our perspective. The sight of the building clouds and the sound of the thunder were dramatic.

Jacksonville Pier - photo taken by Sister
This pier was severely damaged in 2016 by Hurricane Matthew, and I'm sure Hurricane Irma the following year (September 2017) did it no good, either. At least half of the repairs have been made, so this is another place we like to take our guests.

caught a baby shark
One of the fun aspects of walking the pier is to be a part of the impromptu support group when somebody catches a fish. Strangers quickly gather around to see and to praise the fisher-person for their catch. On this day, a man caught a baby shark. He held it up for all to see, confirming that this was indeed a shark. Then, per the law, he tossed the little guy back into the ocean.

Sister 'n me: people have thought we were twins, but we're not
Sister and I spent eight of our growing up years on the Pacific Ocean. It was fun to be together again at an "ocean's door " (to take a phrase from The Beach Boys' song, Surfer Girl). Neither one of us were surfer girls, just so you know, but my daughter was before the grandchildren came along.

Beloved and Joe shake hands
Those storm clouds kept building, and although we did not feel threatened by them, the thunder rumbling sounded like our stomachs, so we proceeded to have lunch at our fav place on the beach. 

Joe's Crab Shack at Jax Beach should give me a commission for the number of times I've mentioned them in my blog posts. But truth be told, as much as I enjoy the Coconut Shrimp with a Pineapple Plum sauce, most of the appeal for me is getting to watch the ocean waves while we dine. I probably wouldn't go to the other locations if they're not sitting smack on the beach like this one is. This Rocky Mountain girl just can't get enough of the ocean views!

On this visit, we ate inside at a window instead of on the deck, just in case the rain would move overhead and necessitate a mad dash indoors.

another view of the beach from the pier
After lunch the rain had moved far enough away that we felt safe to venture out onto the sand.

Beloved, Sister, and Former Farmer
As stated earlier, we're not the beach-bunny type, so we wore our street clothes and carried sandals-in-hand while sampling the ocean water. We may have looked fuddy-duddy, but we're old enough to not care!

Our visitors had to leave us the next morning before dawn to continue on the next leg of their trip. We had a good time and look forward to more happy visits with them here, there, and anywhere in-between!!

Post Script:  I took this snapshot of a sign at the beach with the prices to rent equipment. It's a good FYI for us and for any of you who may be planning a beachie vacation, giving you an idea of what expenses to expect.

beach equipment rental pricing

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
for [sisters!] to dwell together in unity!
Psalm 133:1

Monday, July 2, 2018

Food for the Soul

While I love this graphic and thank our military for their service, what is frightening to me is how we have become, in some respects, our own worst enemy. 

Our military is dealing with our enemies on foreign shores, but we have shut God out of our schools and so many other places in American life, here on our own home soil. The legislation that took God out of public life has significantly decreased safety here in our own homeland. 

People need to see the connection between blocking God and the increase of violence.

God has created us with free will, the ability to choose Him or reject Him. When we refuse Him in our lives, He does not need to punish us -- He just steps back (as we indicated we wanted Him to) and the result is a lack of His protection. When disasters hit, people then have the audacity to cry out, "Where is God?!"  

On this birthday of our nation, we should be on our knees asking God to come back into our lives, both on a personal and national level.  If we don't, we will continue to experience what life is like without God. It's not good.

America needs more brave people on home soil who will stand up for the godly principles upon which this nation began. We have opportunities every day to embrace the example of Jesus Christ with how we live our lives, how we relate to others, with the decisions we make. 

This summer there are primaries in many states -- opportunities to vote to turn the tide of our nation. People may think their one vote won't make any difference, but in God's economy, that one vote is huge. 

We need to humble ourselves before mighty God, pray, and then follow His lead in how to live.

If My people who are called by My name
will humble themselves, 
and pray and seek My face,
and turn from their wicked ways, 
then I will hear from heaven, 
and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
II Chronicles 7:14

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Game On!

logo for  Lifeway's Vacation Bible School curriculum for 2018

This Sunday my church culminates our past week of Vacation Bible School with recognition of the students and staff in the morning worship service. 

the front of our worship center has been transformed to the sports theme of the Bible school
In keeping with the request that we not take pictures of the children, I am sharing snapshots I took throughout the week that illustrate much of what was happening to the casual observer.

Of course, I can't begin to tell you what happened in the hearts of the children, but we can say with certainty that nearly 500 children heard about God's love for them every day of the school. That's why we do this.

modeling the official T-shirt
Last Sunday afternoon we had the last-minute meetings with specific instructions and the distribution of the T-shirts, lanyards and name tags. 

Although I was not sporting my best look in the lime green color, I dressed for practicality with comfy, closed-toe, supportive shoes. My assignment would take me to three Pre-K classrooms on all five days, so fashion took a back seat to good sense.

more VBS fashion
But I wasn't the only one on staff who departed from the norm. We had themes every day. Mid-week was Wacky Wednesday, so a well-known church member addressed the students in this intriguing attire that morning.

sports tunnel blow-up

Vacation Bible School is a very different animal from what I experienced as a child during the last century. Just inside the doors to the educational portion of our church campus we got to walk through a blow-up tunnel.

my schedule
All the fun began at 9am. While the kids went to their classes, those of us on the 'crafts rotation' went to our Home Room to hear the day's Bible story and learn the craft projects for that day. After that we attended part of the worship rally in the sanctuary with the children, and then we left a little early to get in our break.

Staff break room 
The staff break room was set up in the same room where Beloved and I attend Sunday School, but believe-you-me, on Sunday mornings we don't have this wonderful spread of food!

one of the many halls of class rooms
This break time was our last good chance to hit the rest rooms before taking a deep breath, grabbing our supplies, and heading to our first rotation (class room).

JOY flags
I wish I had been able to take pictures of all of the craft projects we provided for the preschool-Kindergarten (Pre-K) children, but I was just too busy!! We kept up a very fast pace with twenty minutes in each class before moving on to the next one. 

This first project was a card stock flag painted with the help of a golf ball! After they dried, a wood paint stir stick was glued onto the flag.

finger puppet
On another day the children colored finger puppets and then used their fingers through the holes to "kick" the puff ball "soccer ball."

orange curling ribbon, before and after
At the end of each morning, we met back in our Home Room to assess what we had done and to take care of any preparations for the next day's crafts. We curled every color of ribbon there is. This orange was one of my favorites.

Founders Hall

One of the questions I had when I was asked to help with VBS was where the children would have their recreation time. I couldn't imagine standing outside for twenty minutes in the heat and humidity of Florida. 

I was greatly relieved to learn my responsibilities were limited to doing crafts with the children. Young people from our church youth group headed up the recreation activities.

Bounce thing #1
Most of the recreation was taken care of indoors, and with the help of these huge blow-ups.

Bounce thing #2

And of course, all of this is air-conditioned.

Bounce thing #3

... except for a couple more that were outside under the huge shade trees (on the last day only).

After serving in much smaller Southern Baptist churches in Colorado, South Dakota, and Washington state, we were eager to see how the big, Bible Belt churches do things. Now I know. It was fun.

But no matter the size of the church and the amount of money available for supplies and decorations, the real heart of Vacation Bible School is to give children an opportunity to hear and see demonstrated the love of God for them through the stories of Jesus.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me,
and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.
Matthew 19:14