Matthew 6:26

Nest Full of Birds

Very recently, someone wrote a really scathing blog posting about me. This person is not only a Christian, but an ordained Pastor’s wife. Everything she said about me was true. As I read the blog posting, it was all I could do to sit upright and not fall over as if in deep, deep pain. What she wrote exposed me. It exposed the ugliest side of me. I’ve moved on and I’m no longer that woman, but in her eyes, I still was. She never saw past that. It hurt so deeply. It still hurts, being compared to Jenny from Forrest Gump, but…that’s who I was for a season in my life. I was a mess. A terrible, ugly, ragged mess.

I smiled anyway. I laughed anyway. I danced in the rain and I shot arrows at the moon, hoping to catch a star anyway.

Unlike Jenny from Forrest Gump, I was smart enough to marry the right guy. I was smart enough to find God before I sat in the Judgement seat. I was smart enough to look in the mirror.

But I wasn’t smart enough not to hurt people.

I understand completely why she wrote what she did, and I sincerely hope it edified other’s faith. I’m glad she learned something from our exchange. I’m glad I learned something! Something I’ve been learning to do lately is to find things about myself that I really like and then focus on developing those areas. I like that I have a teachable spirit, and I like that I’m strong and willing to challenge myself and reach out beyond my comfort zone. I’m learning Hmong (slowly) which is incredibly difficult and scary for me, but I’m doing it! (Check out my YouTube video here of my first words!) I’m doing it because my Pastor and his family are Hmong and I’m learning that there is a huge population here in Southern Oregon and California that are Hmong and are losing a bit of their culture, as they’re expected to (or perhaps even desire to) adapt to North American ways. They’re my Brothers and Sisters. I want to meet them where they are, not expect them to come to where I am.

Something else that I am learning is that it is very difficult to be a Christian. As time passes and I meet new people, have new experiences, I begin to understand the importance of Jesus’ telling us to love our neighbors as ourselves. It’s so easy to love ourselves more – to do things that benefit ourselves, rather than reach outside of our comfort zone. It’s easier to take care of four or five people, than to reach out and lend a hand to someone outside of our family. Reaching out may cause us to become burned. I’ve already been there, why would I subject myself to that again? Because we’re all birds, being raised up in the same nest, so to speak. We may sing a different song, but we are all from the same Father. He feeds us variations of the same food, but we are all fed each day without fail. We simply have to choose whether or not we will allow ourselves to be fed. I’ve found that it’s more fun to eat with friends than to eat alone. God help me, I never want to go back to eating alone again.

I’m not Jenny anymore. I don’t wear the same tattered dress, but make no mistake – I carry many scars. Scars I am proud of and will boast in Christ about. He sewed them up! He held me and carried me and changed me. He gave me Life, showed me the Truth, and lit the Way. He sent His people to scar me, to speak His Word, to hold me, to dine with me, to dance with me, to celebrate with me, and to cry with me. Each little bird He’s sent has sung a different tune, but they’re all beautiful and I’m glad to be in the same nest with them.

Romans 12:2a, Psalm 27:10

wpid-2012-06-11-19.08.59.jpg

Precious girls, sharing God’s love

 

It is likely that the world will tell us that we are trash to be discarded. We will be told that we are worthless, and we are despicable to look at, but as God’s children, we need to remember that this is not true! To Christ, we are Treasure worth dying for!

Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 

Romans 12:2a

There are so many of us who have had rough lives, hard childhoods we are still recovering from and parents who have abused and discarded us. We must remember that God is our Father and He will never leave us.

I have a second verse for you, Brothers and Sisters. This verse has carried me through life for more than ten years, and it’s been an immense blessing to me. I share with you, in the hopes that God will use it to touch your soul and bring you nearer to Him as you read it.

For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.

Psalm 27:10

Brothers and Sisters, you are not alone. You have a purpose. A painful childhood can and will be redeemed by the powerful God that created you. You are not trash, but Treasure! You are already won! I love you. God loves you. Dry your tears and pray now. You are not alone. You are never, even in your darkest moments, alone.

Heavenly Father, I lift up hurting souls to You tonight. You are the great Physician and Healer, and You are also the Great Comforter and Father to all, especially the Fatherless and Motherless. You see our tears, You hear our cries, You know our pain. We are not alone. We thank You for Your infinite love and wisdom, that even when we do not understand what it is that You are doing, You still lead us, in our doubts, in our pain, in our stumbles. You love us even when it seems no one else does. You raise us up and care for us. Thank You, God. Thank You. In Jesus Name we pray and Praise Your Holy Name. Amen.

 

 

Clean Your Vacuum {Frugal Tip}

I know this probably seems a bit silly, but this is something that I don’t think a lot of people tend to do on a regular basis anymore. Our culture is very much into replacing items when they’re dusty or old. I say just deep clean your cleaning tools on a regular basis and keep them running long after the warranty is up.

The first step is to purchase a quality vacuum in the first place. We’ve struggled with money a lot, so the best we could do several years ago was a Wal-Mart special on a $79 Bissell Wind Tunnel Vacuum. It’s worked out very well for us. We’ve used it to vacuum our car, furniture and our house. We vacuum daily, and we have two pets who shed a lot!

The second step is to plan on deep cleaning your vacuum at least once a year. Ideally, you should be cleaning out the filters monthly and washing out the bag-less dirt holding section every time you empty it. I have kids that I home school and a life, so I only do this about every two months. Whoops!

Unscrew

You’ll want a shorter screwdriver for those annoyingly tight spaces. Most vacuums require a Phillips screwdriver.

Anyway, to deep clean, you’re going to turn your vacuum upside down and unscrew the bottom, removing the bar that holds the belt. You’ll want to remove every part that you possibly can, especially the hoses, the bar that holds the belt, and the bag-less dirt holding tanks.

Nasty hose

This is seriously disgusting! I know this isn’t able to clean allergens out of my house when it looks like this!

dirty vacuum

I would advise taking your vacuum apart on either a tile floor or outside, so you can sweep away the mess. It’s a very messy ordeal!

As you can see, this vacuum is incredibly gross! It’s actually been longer than a year since I’ve cleaned it out properly.

OK. So your next step is going to be cutting the strings off the bar that holds the belt. You’ll want to pull all the fuzz and whatnot out of the bristles as well. cut strings

As soon as every part of the vacuum is taken apart, and your screws are collected, you’ll want to take all the parts to the sink to rinse off.

rinse parts

Make sure the area around your sink is empty. The water can splash and reach areas up to 3 feet away every time you wash anything in your sink.

cleaning hoses

You’ll want to use an old bottle brush to thoroughly clean the smaller hoses

flush hose

You’ll want to flush out your larger hose with the hottest water possible.

Once your vacuum is rinsed and taken apart, load the parts into an empty dishwasher.

Put the smaller pieces into your cutlery basket so they don't travel around the dishwasher as they're being cleaned.

Put the smaller pieces into your cutlery basket so they don’t travel around the dishwasher as they’re being cleaned.

I chose to wash my screws as well this time because they were completely dusty and covered in grime. I just placed them in a dish of hot soapy water while the rest of the vacuum cycled through the dishwasher on “light wash”.

While the parts of the vacuum were in the dishwasher, I used a damp rag to wipe down the rest of the vacuum that couldn’t be placed in the dishwasher.

naked vacuum

My poor, funny looking naked vacuum!

When the dishwasher was done, I was towel dried the pieces and put them all back together. I’ve done this quite a few times with various vacuums, so it came a little easier to me this time. I’d advise taking a lot of pictures your first time doing this, so that you remember where everything goes, including the screws. When I first started cleaning my vacuum this way, we had some funny moments with “extra parts”. (I’m so grateful for my husband’s sense of humor and his engineering degrees!) Now I’m quite proficient in taking apart and putting back together vacuum cleaners.

And the finished bottom looks something like this!

Clean vacuum

Yay for clean vacuums!!

 

I’m hoping to extend my vacuum beyond it’s 5-6 year life expectancy. I’m half-way there and knocking on wood! I have a Shark Steam Mop that I’m in love with, that has lasted me almost 6 years, and I’ve heard from a lot of people that there’s only lasted 3-4 years. Routine maintenance seems to make a really big difference in a frugal household.

What have you done to improve the life of your cleaning tools? Please share in the comments section below.

Bolo Levedo

Bolo Levedo {Recipe} Portugese Muffins

Image   These are more amazing than any english muffins I’ve ever had. They’re sweeter, more dense and healthier since they don’t contain insane amounts of preservatives and strange additives. I’m hooked and so are my husband and kids. I found the initial recipe from allrecipes.com, but if you know me at all, you know that I’ve heavily altered the directions to suit my needs. I read the reviews and saw that pan frying the bolo levedo left the sides sticky and undercooked. I like to multi-task, so baking them seemed the best option for me. I was right! They turned out beautifully. So, without further ado, here is my adaptation from the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • pinch of sugar (not necessary, though I do find it feeds the yeast quicker. If omitted, simply let the yeast mixture sit an extra 5 minutes)
  • 6 cups flour (I prefer spelt, an ancient grain)
  • 2/3 cup raw honey
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled
  • 1/2 teaspoon iodized salt
  • 1-1/4 cups milk

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 250º F. Once it pre-heats, turn it off, and turn on oven light. You will use this warm oven in step 4 to allow your dough to rise.
  2. In stand mixer with dough hooks attached, combine yeast, pinch of sugar* and water. Let ferment for about 10 minutes.
  3. Measure and pour all dry ingredients into stand mixer and make a hole in the center of the mixture. Measure and pour milk, honey, butter and eggs into the center of this mixture and knead for ten minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Make sure to scrape sides if some of the flour is not mixing in well.
  4.  Remove bowl from mixer, cover bowl with a clean, damp tea towel and place in oven to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. (I actually allowed mine to rise for nearly 2 hours because we took the dog to the dog park and stayed a long time! It turned out fine!)
  5. Divide dough into 15-20 pieces, roll into balls and flatten out. (Some ladies said they did this with rolling pins. I just covered a large cutting board with flour and pressed my clean hands down on them. Worked great.)
  6. Allow the dough circles to set for an additional 30 minutes.
  7. Pre-heat oven to 325º F. On a lightly greased cookie sheet, place the cookies about an inch apart, baking on the center rack for about 16 minutes or until both sides are golden brown, flipping after 8 minutes to cook both sides evenly.
  8. Cool on a baker’s rack. You can eat them now (they’re completely delicious!) or you can cut them in half and toast them, as you would english muffins. Store any extras in an air-tight container. I like to make huge batches and freeze them. They defrost well.

You can mix in flavors if you want to. I’d like to try a savory batch with some minced garlic, homemade rosemary and basil and some olive oil instead of butter. I’d cut the sugar down to about 1/4 cup and increase the salt to 1-1/2 teaspoons salt if I did that, though. I’d also like to try a batch with some lemon zest and cranberries. How would you make these?

Mustard Rosemary Chicken

Mustard Rosemary Chicken

Mustard Rosemary Chicken

This chicken is delicious and full of flavor! My family loves it and so do I. It takes about 5 minutes to prep for baking.

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken (this recipe coated my 5-1/2 lb chicken perfectly)
  • 1/3 cup mustard
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Fresh Rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1-2 cups water and 2 teaspoons olive oil for bottom of roasting pan

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400º F and pull out your roasting pan
  2. Remove your chicken from its packaging and rinse well with cool water, making sure to remove neck and any goodies from the inside of chicken. Pat dry with a paper towel, then set chicken in your roasting pan.
  3. Combine the mustard, garlic, olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper in a small bowl
  4. Either with a pastry brush or clean hands, rub mustard/herb mixture all over chicken, making sure to lightly coat inside of chicken as well.
  5. Pour water and extra oil into the bottom of your roasting pan and set pan (lid on) in oven.
  6. Bake at 400º F for 30 minutes, then lower heat to 350º F for another 20-60 minutes of baking time. Remove the lid for the final 15 minutes of baking time for best results. (You want to be sure to bake your chicken 12-15 minutes per pound, or until the temperature of the thighs and breast are 170º F and all juices run clear.)

We love to make grilled asparagus and baked potatoes with this chicken. If your kids like to dip their chicken chunks in something tasty, try mixing equal parts honey and mustard together in small ramekins for them to dip into. My girls love it and so does my husband.

 

Psalm 73

3For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. 5 They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. 13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. 14All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments. 15 If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children. 16 When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply 17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.

Lord, thank You for never leaving us in hard times and in good. Grant us the strength and wisdom to live into Your will all the days of our lives.