Saturday, October 21, 2017

In Search of Peace

beneath the Jacksonville pier a couple of days ago
The daily news is so troubling that I find it hard to consistently write as though I am unaware of what is really going on. 

I love to share recipes, funny stories, and some of my better cell phone camera photos with my readers. It's a form of creativity and relaxation for me. 

But my primary purpose for blogging is not entertainment but edification. I want to give my readers words to encourage and strengthen as they face the harsh realities of life. The fun blog posts serve that purpose to a degree but they don't necessarily lead to soul contentment.

The bad news is hitting us more frequently and getting more personal.  It's not so much 'out there', away from us, as it used to be. Our personal safety is at greater risk in this country as a whole than probably ever before.

I find myself seeking mental and emotional sanctuary more often, a place where I feel safe, where the unsettling noise of the world is shut out (or at the least, dimmed considerably). 

Just sitting quietly in a small room is a help, but then the disturbing thoughts seek to take over. Our most frightening battlefield is the mind; that is where the enemy of our soul works the hardest to bring us down. I will be honest and tell you that at times he has had success with me, as he has with all of us.

But that is not what God wants for His children. He is peace and He created us to be at peace. How do we get that peace?

First of all, we have to be at peace with God Himself. There is no lasting peace without a relationship with our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. What does that mean?

It means that at some point in our life we admit to God that we are a sinner and in our own strength we can never make up for the ways we have fallen short. 

It means that after this admission, we thank God for sending His son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price (to take on the punishment we deserve) for our sin. That's what Jesus did on the cross when He was crucified.

We accept that Jesus took care of our debt for us, humbling as it is. We ask Him to come live in our heart and teach us to live from this time forth for His glory. 

Just that in itself is HUGE. When this transaction with God is done in complete sincerity, peace will come. The Holy Spirit will come to live inside of you with a resulting joy and peace such as you've never known before. The Holy Spirit is God in you and God is peace.

That's it. You don't have to do any good works to appease God. His salvation is by grace, it's a free gift that we accept with humility.

As we begin this new relationship with God, great comfort will increase with Bible reading. Here are some verses I read and quote to myself when my peace is threatened:

Peace I leave with you;
my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

You will keep in perfect peace those
whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3

Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation,
by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God,
which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds
in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

As we look at the troubled events all around us, I keep in mind something else Jesus told His disciples. It's instruction and encouragement about the last days before He calls His people to be with Him in heaven:

Learn the parable from the fig tree:
when its branch has already become tender 
and puts forth its leaves,
you know that summer is near. Even so, too, 
when you see these things happening, 
recognize that He is near, 
right at the door.
Mark 13:28-29

Today is the right time to seek real and lasting peace with God. Then no matter what happens, we will have the assurance that He will bring us through to the other side where all will be well.

Sea Oats, sand, Jacksonville Pier

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Dessert Quesadillas: Gluten, Dairy, and Egg-Free

Barb's Dessert Quesadillas with So Delicious Dairy Free Coconut Milk

It's been nearly four years since I began the gluten and dairy-free adventure, with the elimination of eggs about a year later. The transition has had its ups and downs for me, but the rewards of greatly improved health and state of mind have been well worth the hassles. (i.e. the gut is healthy!)

While avoiding gluten started out as a bother and getting used to fake cheeses took some, well, getting used to, the avoidance of eggs has been the hardest adjustment of all.

But even that is improving, although I have to say that the product I use to replace eggs in meatloaf just isn't doin' it (just sayin!).

Anyway, here is a product that has opened up more fun culinary possibilities for me:

gluten free rice flour tortillas

Corn tortillas and I have been bumping along but frankly, I don't care for the way they smell (am I strange to say that?). Earlier this year Beloved came across these Mission Gluten Free tortillas and things got better for me. I use them for sandwich wraps, pizza crust,  as thinly sliced tortilla strips in salads, for quesadillas, and now, for making dessert! I find them at Publix and Walmart on the same shelf with the regular tortillas.

quesadilla maker appliance from Kohl's
To make quesadillas, we've been using this cute lil' red appliance for about six years. However, you can make them easily with a skillet on top of the stove. You choose. I'm not selling an appliance with this blog post.

assembling my dessert quesadilla
To make this new recipe of mine, I placed the smallest size of marshmallows, almond slices, and chocolate chips in one half of a gluten-free tortilla.

Oh by the way, for those who need to avoid dairy, there are dairy-free chocolate chips:

Enjoy Life (brand name) dark chocolate morsels
Now admittedly, these chips don't melt as readily as milk chocolate but for me, it's these or nothing at all. They will do. Find them at health food stores (including Whole Foods, or if you're in my former home state of Colorado, go to Sprouts). I have also bought them at Hy-Vee grocery stores in Iowa, and Publix here in Florida.

ready to cook in the quesadilla maker
Fold the tortilla over carefully and transfer to the appliance or skillet where  you will cook it. 

set a timer and also keep watch on the cooking process
I set my kitchen timer for 2 minutes. The point is to get the marshmallows and chocolate melted enough to hold the whole thing together, just like cheese does with the savory quesadillas. You also want the tortilla to crisp up a bit.

cooked! The quesadilla maker makes indentations so cutting is not always necessary
Yes, you could use two tortillas to make six wedges of quesadillas, but that was going to be more than I could eat. Remove the quesadilla to a cutting board and use a sharp knife or a rolling pizza cutter to slice it into individual wedges for serving.

a serving suggestion 
I tucked the wedges into a bowl of dairy free ice cream. 

Internet photo

This is the brand of dairy free, egg free and gluten free ice cream that I love. It comes in more flavors than just Vanilla Bean, but this one goes with any dessert I pair it with.

Of course you can make these dessert quesadillas with milk chocolate chips and regular flour tortillas, and serve them with your favorite Blue Bell ice cream. Beloved made his and I made mine. Then we snuggled on the love seat with our desserts to watch a Hallmark movies and mysteries show.

It was an allergy-free dessert with clean entertainment -- that's the way I like it!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Steadfast Love

Bible study work book

This past week I completed the study of Psalm 107 with a book titled Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler. The study was with a group of about twenty women at my church on Wednesday evenings.

Over seven weekly sessions the student reads Psalm 107 nearly every day to examine different seasons of our lives and to reveal what we depend upon to anchor our sense of security.

What we discover is that most of us are counting on false anchors to give us happiness and security (such as education, money, relationships, our health). But happiness and security are desires not assured to anyone in this earthly life. So where do we turn? How do we weather the storms that threaten to undo us? 

A careful examination of Psalm 107 and other related scriptures reveals Holy God as the only dependable anchor for the soul and to bring us through the storms of life.

I recommend this book for small Bible study groups, where discussion can flow more easily and with less intimidation than what comes with a larger number of people. There is a 10 - 15 minute video accompanying each week's lesson for viewing with the group. 

The homework is not overwhelming: 5 days each week, taking about 30 minutes for each lesson. You can skim through the study without the homework but the experience is made richer and rewarding when the student spends that one-on-one time with God in His Word.

The author, Lauren Chandler, is a wife and mother of three children. Her husband is the lead teaching pastor at The Village Church in Dallas, Texas. In addition to writing, Lauren leads music and worship in her church and across the country with traveling groups.

Lauren's story accompanies the workbook
(sold separately)

In addition to the workbook, Lauren has a quick-read hard cover book telling more specifically her story of how God has demonstrated His steadfast love through her life thus far. This book tells how she was inspired to write the Bible study.

I recommend both the study and the hard cover book if you want to bring to the surface your false anchors and learn to depend on God's steadfast love to sustain your life.

While a person can feel a bit 'undone' to realize she is depending on a false anchor, she can learn to rely on God to be her true source of happiness and security.

Both books are available through Lifeway, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Fun Way to Give

shoe box for Operation Christmas Child

It's that time of year when shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child are filled to the rim with gifts for underprivileged children all over the world. 

I strongly suspect that the majority of my readers know all about this humanitarian aid opportunity sponsored by Samaritan's Purse, but just in case you don't know, I'll tell you about it today. It's fun and you might want to join in!

We are provided with shoe boxes and a list of things to put into them for a boy or a girl that are in one of three age categories: 2 - 4 years; 5 - 9 years; and 10 - 14 years.

box for a 10 - 14 year old girl
T-shirt, beads, toothbrush, ponytail bands, hair brush,
stickers, paper, colored pens, crochet kit with 2 skeins of yarn, scissors
This box was prepared for a 10 - 14 year old girl. We are encouraged to start out with a "wow" toy such as a doll, soccer ball with a pump, or a stuffed animal.

Then we fill the rest of the box with other fun toys, hygiene items, and school supplies. (no candy, toothpaste, used or damaged items, nothing war-related such as toy guns, knives or military figures, no seeds, chocolate or food, liquids or lotions, medications or vitamins; no breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers or aerosol cans)

box for a 5 - 9 year old boy
T-shirt, pants, tooth brush, socks, hand spinner toy, writing pens,
 toy ball, post-it notes, 3x5 cards, bars of soap
After the box is filled, we tape a pre-printed label to the outside of the lid indicating if the box is for a boy or a girl, and the age group.

Inside the box we include $9 (or more) to help with shipping and other expenses.

information brochure with labels and donation envelope
Many evangelical churches all across America have been participating in Operation Christmas Child since 1993. The process begins in early October and culminates during National Collection Week (November 14-21). Samaritan's Purse collects the gift-filled shoeboxes at more than 4,000 drop-off sites in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. 

These boxes will go to some of the hardest-to-reach countries around the world. They are prepared for overseas shipment at 8 major processing centers across the USA -- Atlanta, Baltimore, Boone North Caroline, Charlotte North Carolina, Dallas, Denver, Minneapolis and Orange County California.

The gifts are distributed by Samaritan's Purse and its partners to children in more than 100 countries. Participants even have the opportunity to follow the boxes they packed via the Internet.

If  you are interested in knowing more about this very fulfilling way to bring Christmas to a needy child, you can check out the website for Samaritan's Purse here:

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Light House

Light house at St. Augustine 
We visited the light house on a sunny afternoon when the sky was relatively clear and the temperature comfortably warm.

Keeper's house at the base of the lighthouse
It towers tall above trees, an elementary school, and older homes, visible from the highway.

black winding stairs inside the light house
We paid about $12 each to climb 219 steep, thigh-burning steps to the top.

looking at the stairs above us as we climbed
It was an exercise not for the faint of heart, and yet if one held onto the rails and made steady progress, it was doable. 

Stair-climbing etiquette is not a universal language, we discovered, but needful.

The rails were a great help when the continual turning threatened a haze of dizziness.

looking down at the ground floor near the start of the climb
I gave brief thought to not going all the way to the top, but chose to continue and let people pass if need be.

my vanity popped up when we reached this sign
Small signs acknowledging various people dotted the white-washed brick wall as we made our ascent.

boats in the intracoastal waterway with the Atlantic ocean on the horizon
The climb was worth the effort because the view was perfect.

bridge over Matanzas Bay in St. Augustine
I love to see things from high above. The views are always an interesting study, to note the activities of man, to observe mini-stories unfold as people walk, cars move, boats sail. It's a reminder of how God sees us...

For the eyes of the LORD
range throughout the earth
to strengthen those whose hearts
are fully committed to him.
II Chronicles 16:9

from Beloved's camera

* * * * *
Comments closed for the weekend.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

A Homily from the Beach

Thoughts inspired by today's trip to watch the full moon rise over the Atlantic Ocean ...

Atlantic Beach, Florida about 90 minutes before high tide, 25 minutes before moon rise
Life ebbs and flows, ebbs and flows.
sand dunes keep the waves from surging into the hotels and homes
Some of our days are more pretty than others.

rough seas and dangerous conditions for swimmers and surfers
What is a great challenge and fun to some 
is terrifying to others.

dirty seam foam blows in the wind
One person's dream-come-true can be messy 
for their companions.

helpful information

We do well to not throw caution to the wind
but to heed the wisdom of experience.

beached palm tree from Hurricane Irma
Some pay dearly for careless choices.

Beloved's photo of the full moon rising over the Atlantic
When times grow dark
discipline, self-control, and heeding wise instruction
provide comforting protection.

the full moon reflecting on the ocean water

The eternal God is your refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.
Deuteronomy 33:27

Monday, October 2, 2017

Camping at The Lodge

The Lodge
So very much has happened since I last wrote a serious  update from Grammys Place B and B that I don't even remember when it was posted, nor if it was before or after our relocation from the mountain town of Whistlestop to The Land of Flip Flops. Life is so intensely serious these days that it's hard for me to make the time to write whimsey and not feel a little guilty for being silly.

However, so much has transpired that I really do need to address the comings and goings here, so that's my plan for today. 

By way of a review and to introduce my newer readers, you need to be acquainted with my staff. Grandad Bear and I run the place. Then we have Spud (our handyman) and Rowdy, the neighbor boy who is usually underfoot, Mandy Sue my home-maker-in-training (wearing the pink apron), Lily my research assistant, Mrs Berniece Mertz sporting the tidy grey hair bun is our chef, Rent-a-Nurse is always on-call, and Eaves Dropping (wearing the stylish newspaper hat) is the new Home and Garden Editor for the Gecko Gazette. (She was with the Whistlestop Weekly but chose to transfer with the rest of us to this tropical climate and was hired by the local paper.)

a guest runs up the stairs
Now that we have the introductions out of the way, I need to address what we are calling our place here. I have vacillated between several names but none of them have seemed a real good fit for what we are doing here. My dear husband (and business partner) prefers an informal theme for sake of the comfort of our guests, so the question has been settled and the signs have been made. It's Camp Grandad and Camp Grammy at The Lodge.

the boys' cabin
I still struggle with letting go of the mountain theme, but nobody seems to mind that.

the girls' cabin
As long as the accommodations are comfortable, people are okay with whatever we call the place. 

parents of our campers are given camp counselor duties
We have plenty of rooms, beds, and bathrooms for both campers and counselors.

This division of labor frees up Grandad Bear to keep the books and allows me to oversee the kitchen and housekeeping staff.

cleaning staff prepares for a big weekend
We have had a lot of guests since setting up the business here in The Land of Flip Flops, so our staff seldom has a dull moment.

kitchen staff puts the finishing touches on another gourmet dish
We have a variety of camp experiences to offer our guests, including beautiful grounds for leisurely strolls,

guests walking their dogs

a pond that is home to hungry turtles, huge fish, and a big splashy fountain,

feeding the turtles with carrot slices
and family-style dining with something to tantalize every taste bud.

donuts, sausage links, mandarin oranges, and apple juice
There are opportunities for contact sports in the carpeted gymnasium,

tackling the mommy
and entertaining floor shows from experienced performers.

song and dance demonstration from Vacation Bible School earlier in the summer
We do our best to be a light in the darkness with fun and laughter. The efforts are paying off.

The Lodge at night