Milking It

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Milk is such a part of most people’s diets that it stars in quite a few adages. From not crying over spilled milk to milking something for all it is worth, this white beverage is also mentioned in the Bible multiple times.

My family has always been a 2% family. Whole milk is simply too thick and skim milk is colored water. We can survive on 1%, but give us 2% and we’ll celebrate your milk of human kindness.

When we first moved to Brazil, milk didn’t grace the dairy shelves in the grocery store. Instead, we found it sitting in boxes on an unrefrigerated shelf. These cartons looked like juice boxes but had no hole to make opening easier. box-305088_640Instead, one had to cut one’s way inside the foil-lined box by prying up the folded down flaps and cutting a bigger hole on one side and a smaller hole on the other.

A too small hole made pouring milk a marathon adventure, and a too large hole left your carton erupting into a fountain. The worst thing about opening a new box of this shelf-stable milk was pouring out the room temperature beverage. There is something disturbing about lukewarm milk on one’s cereal.

And pouring a tall glass of milk for enjoyment or to dunk one’s cookies didn’t really cross our minds.

After we moved to the northern part of Brazil, we lived on a cattle ranch. The owners kindly gave us  buckets of milk. We said thank you and made cheese since the milk tasted so different than what we were used to.

Eventually, my mother came up with the beverage that most closely resembled American milk — by using powdered milk.

cereal-1262202_640Now, people might scoff at the idea that powdered milk could create a taste of home, but they have probably never been exposed to the delight that is lukewarm, boxed milk. By combining two different levels of fat content, blending well, and chilling in the refrigerator, we were once again able to enjoy milk on our cereal — which we also had to make since cereal was rare and expensive.

I now live where “normal” milk is easy to come by, but sometimes, I remind myself to pause and be grateful.

And then enjoy my glass of cold milk.

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.”  I Peter 2:2

Do you enjoy milk?

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The Magic in Mothers

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When a woman becomes a mother, something changes in her DNA. Where once she might have looked askance on macaroni necklaces and bouquets of dandelions, suddenly these childish offerings become beautiful in her eyes.

My mother received many such gifts. What I lacked in artistic abilities, I made up in quantity. Drawings of “roses” made of interlocked squiggles, creations made of wooden pieces glued together by unskilled hands, and flowers picked from the yard were greeted with equal delight. 20190510_191018

Somewhere around the age of eight or nine, my creativity turned to the written word. I pumped out stories featuring my family as detectives (yes, I was enamored with Nancy Drew at the time). While sorting through the garage recently, I discovered one of these “masterpieces.” My internal editor cringed, but my mother had always received my stories with excitement.

Recently I was on the phone with my sister when she received a precious gift from her son. This lovely, um, thing had been created with toilet paper and hand soap. No word on the actual purpose of the what’s-it, but my sister feigned delight and counted down the seconds before she could safely dispose of the gift.

My nephew is also the king of concoctions (see below). He recently created a “surprise” by floating chips in a bowl of water with orange segments and bananas. Another creation mixed applesauce, lettuce, ranch dressing, and oranges. His aunt’s stomach is churning, yet when a gift is offered in love, magic happens. The bizarre and peculiar transforms into beautiful and precious in mommy’s eyes.

I no longer give my mother creations of glitter and construction paper. Now, I buy her hanging plants for her front porch for Mother’s Day. But she is still the first person to read my books and now receives scribbled drawings and strange gifts from her grandchildren — with exclamations of delight.

So thank you, Lord, for mothers.

After all, someone has to wear those macaroni necklaces.

What’s the strangest gift you gave your mother or received from your child?

 

Face to Face with A Bible Character

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Lately, I have been having a difference of opinion with ants. With the advent of spring, they seem to think it is their turn to live in my room. I have been discouraging this notion with counseling, warnings, and the gentle application of a blowtorch.

Ants are not a new problem for me. On the contrary, Brazil is a hotbed of ant activity. While there, this transplanted Oregonian learned that ants are not small delicate creatures.

Three ants made the biggest impact.

Ant number one destroyed all my preconceived notions of the size an ant could be. The creature measured at least two or three inches long.  One could observe them and contemplate the verses in the Bible about working ants without straining one’s eyes, since they were large enough to be seen from a helicopter.

The second ant, which made a biting impression, was the fire ant.  These nasty little things were small, shiny, and homicidal. fire-ants-2783019_640

If you accidentally stepped into the midst of a swarm of fire ants, you quickly became aware of your mistake.  This happened quite often since fire ants were everywhere, doing who knows what, while they waited for unsuspecting humans to fall into their trap.   I often imagined the little ant general insanely yelling for his troops to attack and bring down the giant.  They followed his lead with gusto and the ensuing pain sent us running for the nearest water faucet to wash them off and cool the burning bites.

I have never been the type to kill a bug with my finger, but in the absence of a faucet I would grab the nasty insects off me and roll them into tiny squished balls.  Take that you nasty ant general!

The last ant to make my top three is the invader ant.

Invader ants, like their brethren I am currently battling, do not conform to the most basic of the rules laid down for ants. Mainly, that the house is for humans.

For reasons known only to their tiny insectoid minds, these ants would take it upon themselves to invade our porch, or a corner of our house, or our whole house.  Friends told us to welcome the invasion because the ants would carry away any other unwanted guests with them such as spiders or centipedes.

We weren’t too keen on having our house invaded, even if their tiny antish brains thought they were doing us a favor.  I’m sorry, but there is something about the thought of ants cutting a swath through my bed while I’m in it that cures me of seeing anything altruistic in their invasion. I can only be grateful that the ants I battle now prefer to send a few scouts rather than a full scale invasion.

The Bible commends these creatures.

“Four things on earth are small,
    yet they are extremely wise:
 Ants are creatures of little strength,
    yet they store up their food in the summer;
 hyraxes are creatures of little power,
    yet they make their home in the crags;
 locusts have no king,
    yet they advance together in ranks;
 a lizard can be caught with the hand,
    yet it is found in kings’ palaces.”

And while I take their example to heart, I much prefer to avoid contemplating their industrious attitude face to face in my bedroom. stack-2129070_640

Are you an ant fan?

 

 

Tiger Stripes and Other Random Stuff

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Freelance writing is never boring. I have learned many things completing jobs for clients. Knowing about real estate investments in Australia might not seem useful, but it could be. If I’m ever trapped on an elevator I can say, “How about those investment opportunities in Sydney?” rather than asking about the Yankees.

I might receive some strange looks, but I don’t follow sports.

animal-2923186_640One of the more interesting subjects I recently wrote about was tigers. I learned that every tiger’s stripes are as unique as fingerprints and are visible on their skin. My favorite fact is that tigers are true gentlemen. Whereas male lions will fight off the women and children to be first at the, um, dinner table, tigers will allow the women and children to eat first. Since I have a weak stomach, I tend to block out the picture of the food on this imaginary dining room table and focus on the gentlemen tigers in their striped fur coats.

Speaking of dinner, I researched dangerous Chinese foods and discovered there is a region in China where pufferfish is popular. Since failing to prepare a fish correctly will kill the diners, guests were asked to hand over a coin before sitting down to eat. If the guest died, they had “bought” the fish, and their host would be absolved of culpability in their death.puffer-36006_640

While the jobs are often interesting, perhaps the most fun experiences are the jobs I have opted not to take. Multiples requests for entire books. This might be a dream come true — only the clients want all the rights to and credit for the perfect book one writes in two weeks — and they offer the grand price of thirty dollars.

I discovered my favorite job offer a month ago. This client requested a letter to tell their co-worker just how badly they stunk. The thought behind the letter was kind, I believe, since they would be including a basket of personal hygiene items. “Roses are red, violets are blue, garbage stinks, and so do you!” In spite of this brilliant piece of poetry, I opted out of the job.rose-1642970_640

Without my freelance jobs, extensive knowledge of small farm equipment might not have ever appeared on my horizon. I would not have had the privilege to be employed writing children’s Bible lessons and stories. I wouldn’t have fought to keep my mouth closed while researching the weird objects sold on eBay or rejected jobs offering $20 for a million words (no joke).

With all this random trivia stuck in my head, I might even appear on lists of top ten people to be stuck on an elevator with.

If only I wasn’t mildly claustrophobic.

If you were stuck on an elevator, what random trivia would you share?

 

 

The Problem I Didn’t Know I Had

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Discovering a problem you didn’t know you had is never fun. Not that I didn’t know I had a problem. Chronic migraine has been a part of my life for around fifteen years now.

On a recent trip to the dentist, in between skipping with glee or perhaps crying (the details are a bit fuzzy), I discovered that I had too many teeth for my tiny mouth. In fact, this might be one of the causes of my migraines.

Oh joy! If anyone ever tells me I have a big mouth, I can point them to medical proof that I do not.

Of course, the natural response to my too-many-too-small dilemma is to send me off to an oral surgeon. I skipped my way to his office, too. I think. I might have been dragging my feet alongside my car as I drove there. Again, the details are a bit fuzzy.

Oral surgeon confirmed that the teeth had to go. So with some degree of reluctance, I scheduled a day for the surgery.

To be honest, the thing that scared me the most was to be put under. Flashes of memories of pets being taken to the vet to be “put under” rose up to greet my darkest imaginings. Here, I expose the dark underbelly of being a writer. A good imagination is wonderful — until it is late at night and you are contemplating all the things that could go wrong.silhouette-1734706_640.png

That’s when all the classes on writing I took shoved their way into my brain. In essence, when one writes a book, one must ask, “What is the worst thing that can happen to my character?” Once one arrives at a conclusion, one asks again, “What would make it even worse, and then still worse?”

This is all very well and good when one is casting one’s characters into these situations. This is slightly less fun when I’m asking myself, “Okay, what could go wrong with the surgery? What would make it even worse, and still worse again?”

Around the time, I had reached the 30x worse that could happen, I tried to reign in my out-of-control thoughts. I prayed. I put my trust in God to help me through.

After surviving surgery — and a bad reaction to my pain meds — I returned to the land of normalcy. But the whole realizing I had a problem of a too-tiny mouth and too-many teeth made me think about other problems people don’t know they have.

The biggest one is sin. Thankfully, God has warned us about this problem. He has provided away to escape through salvation in His Son.

As people gear up for Easter and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, perhaps we should all consider our too-many sins and our too-dirty hearts, and thank God for providing a way to find freedom through Christ. cross-671379_640

Best of all, there will be no horrible reactions to pain meds.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8

Have you ever discovered a problem you didn’t know you had?

Cliché Me Not

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Any writer worth their salt is told to avoid clichés like the plague. Yet sometimes this leaves authors caught between a rock and a hard place. Or the devil and the deep blue sea.

In short, avoiding clichés might leave one feeling like the cat got their tongue.

The funny thing about clichés is that they have been around so long, no one knows what they mean. We might know that it’s wrong to throw the baby out with the bath water, but what sort of flaky parent would?

The cliché comes from the old-time practice of an entire family using the same bathwater for their yearly bath. First, dad bathed. Then mom. Then the kids in descending order of age. Last came baby. By then, the well-used water had reached a level of murkiness that made losing the baby in its dirty depths more understandable.

Thank you, Lord, for modern plumbing. bucket-159476_640

Other cliché’s origins are murkier than the bathwater. The cat stealing one’s tongue either originates from the “Cat-o’-nine-tails” whip used for naval punishment–or the ancient Egyptian custom of liars’ tongues being fed to cats. Um, yum?

Now, you might be wondering if I am as mad a hatter–an expression derived from the mercury-induced insanity suffered by hatters creating hat felt in the 17th and 18th centuries.

I am not as crazy as a loon. To prove it, I have decided to offer up some suggestions for how to avoid clichés in one’s life.

Cat got your Tongue–this old phrase is very easy to modernize, and the possibilities are endless. To put it into mathematical terms, cat=animal and tongue=body part. Why not, “Does the dog got your kidney?” Or, “Does the unicorn have your earlobes?” Maybe, “Has the aardvark got your left clavicle?”

You’re welcome for providing this equation guaranteed to provide you with endless replacements for this tired old cliché.

What about “They lived happily ever after.” Why can’t they live prosaically ever after, or tiredly ever after?

Brave as a lion or weak as a kitten…has anyone else noticed a cat cliché trend? Anyhow, these tired old clichés will burst with new life after only a few minor changes. Exhausted as a newborn’s mother or flippant as a antelope.

While these new clichés might make little sense, that isn’t the point. Stop being as critical as a rhinoceros.rhino-3247846_640

All clichéing aside, some phrases remain more than clichés. Jesus died to save sinners. Do unto others as you want to be done unto yourself. Love God and others. These phrases go beyond cliché and are simply truths.

Saying them will put you at no risk of having your tongue fed to a cat.

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, even Christ.”  Ephesians 4:15

Have you ever rewritten a cliché? Share in the comments.

 

 

 

 

My Odd Co-worker

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Lately, I have been having problems with my co-worker. She claims her never-ending nap is work, she constantly follows me around and asks me to prepare her food, and she has been known to lay across whatever I am working on. Any effort on my part to get her to move is met with a slow blink.

If  anyone wonders why I don’t report her to management, it’s because she is management. At least, in her own eyes.

She does have her good points. She is generally quiet unless she is singing an aria of her own composition. She attacks inanimate objects that are planning to come to life and revolt. She is kind enough to offer to do the dishes on a nightly basis. Not wanting praise for her work, she attempts to do this in secret and is always annoyed when caught.

Her favorite Bible story is the one about the persistent widow and the unjust judge. She enacts it every night when I refuse to feed her the first time she asks.20190105_100246.jpg

Okay, so I should probably mention that my co-worker is not exactly human. In fact, she is mostly feline. When you work from home, co-workers are in short supply.

I will say that my Boss is far more helpful than my cat co-worker. Although I must confess that living up to His work ethic can be daunting. After all, He created an entire world in just seven days.

Including very lazy cats who think that the rest of the world is their staff.

20190114_142432“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”      Ephesians 2:10

What’s the kindest thing a co-worker has ever done for you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sweet Message

 

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Although I have not eaten a SweetHeart in years, I was sad to learn that there won’t be any for the 2019 Valentine’s season.

I still remember the anticipation I felt when I opened the girly colored boxes as a child. I laid out all the hearts to read the messages and decide which ones I would give my friends.

One particular year, my sisters and I were each sorting through our own boxes and commenting on the messages. Like baseball cards, the messages involved degrees of rareness. While sorting, I discovered a rare SweetHeart in my box. I think it said, “Guess Who?”

One of my sisters instantly wanted the heart to give to a friend of hers. After a bit of begging, I decided to give her the piece of candy. She still owes me for this act of extreme sacrifice, which would probably be more believable if I could remember with a greater degree of certainty exactly what this oh-so-important message was.

Although modernbride-614918_640 hearts have messages like “Text Me” on them, original conversation candy wasn’t shaped like a heart and had a bit more to say. Some of the original messages included, “Married in pink, he will take a drink,” “Married in White, you have chosen right,” and “Married in Satin, Love will not be lasting.” (I’m not a poet, but do Satin and Lasting rhyme?)

Since these original candies were also larger, they could be broken in half. People would play games that involved finding the other half of their candy—and potentially their romantic other half as well.

Better yet, the couple would know exactly how to dress for their wedding day since both satin and the color pink were out—and white was in.

SweetHeart candy also makes an appearance in the book about my favorite redhead, Anne of Green Gables. After Gilbert presents her with a heart, she grinds it beneath her foot. So romantic!lady-1334240_640

Although SweetHearts will be back in 2020, you still won’t find now extinct phrases like “Hep Cat” and “Fax Me.” Nor will you find advice on what to wear to your wedding. But people will still use the candies to express their love to their sweetheart, or perhaps to drown their depression over their lack thereof.

One message of love that will never go out of style is found in Christ’s redemptive love for His people. Although not printed on candy hearts, this message is printed on our human hearts.

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;  And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”  Hebrews 10:16-17

Have you ever given or received a SweetHeart?

Guest Post by April Kidwell

19 Unusual Ideas for Romance

by guest blogger, April Kidwell

 

Here are nineteen simple low cost ideas for creating a little romance in your life:

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#1 Hold hands while swinging. Not coordinated enough? Try the teeter-totter. Or merry-go-round. (Oh, wait! I’m showing my age.) How about hide and seek? Run. Chase. Grab hold of one another and hold on tight. Find secret places to share a kiss. Whisper sweet nothings. Let the world and all it’s worries slip away.

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#2 Learn something new. A language. An art. The other person’s favorite song. Share your personal knowledge or find an expert and learn together. Most everything is more fun together.

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#3 Laugh. When was the last time you laughed until your sides hurt? What makes your loved one laugh? Do you know?

Need some ideas? Watch a comedy you both know too well, and quote the lines with the actors.

Play the alphabet song game—where you have to sing a line from a song for every letter of the alphabet.

Or find a great romance and dramatically read the lines to one another.

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#4 Pray. Share your thoughts, your worries, or aspirations with each other and with God. Hold hands. Kneel. Sing praises to the Lamb. Worship Him who created you to love and rejoice in the love he has given you.

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#5 Watch the sunrise. I know. Most people go for sunsets, but how many sunrises have you seen together? Grab the fluffiest blanket you own, snuggle up on the tailgate, or in the front seat of your car, or on a wooden bench overlooking the sea. Lean on the rail of an old wooden fence. Wait for it. Watch. See. Breathe.

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#6 Try something you’ve never tried before. Never painted? Check out a paint
night. Eaten sushi? Chopsticks and wasabi. What about Snowshoeing? Cross country skiing? Ice Skating? Bundle up and cuddle up.

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#7 Find water.  Find a stream. Watch the ocean. Hike a waterfall. Swim. Relax
in a hot springs. Go fishing. A good old fashioned bucket of worms and a pristine mountain lake can be good for the soul.

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#8 Talk about your dreams and goals. Just talk. And listen. Take turns. Dream big. Ask what if? If only? And how come? Really listen to the other person, and understand what his/her heart is seeking. What is their deepest desires?

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#9 Hold hands. Feel the warmth of the other person’s skin. The rough spots and smooth. The shape of his/her fingers. Focus on the connection of being close to one another, sharing intimacy.  Friendship. Love.

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#10 Serve together. Is there a soup kitchen? A food pantry? A community shelter? Senior center? Single mother in your church? A lonely elder? Commit to helping others, supporting and encouraging others, together. Whether it’s one day, or one day a month. Serving others is a true Biblical expression of love.

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#11 Walk a dog. Pet kittens. Many communities have an animal rescue which needs volunteers to walk dogs, or pet cats. Or if you have the resources, find out what the rescue needs and go on a little shopping spree. Dog or cat food. Fluffy beds. Cleaning supplies. There’s a good chance you’ll make it big on their social media page for the day for being a fur-tastic donor!
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#12 Write a love letter. To each other. To your children. To your parents. To Grandparents. A special someone in your church. Show love, by encouraging and being the light of love to others.

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#13 Share your vision—make a vision board. Post affirmations, favorite pictures, inspirational words, quotes, and thoughts that represent your love. Include goals for the future, celebrations of what you’ve shared so far, and encouragement for the season you are in.

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#14 Lock out the world. Take time to focus on one another with no distractions. Maybe this means no kids about. Or no technology. Or getting out of town. What is it that distracts you? Focus on your loved one for a whole hour, a whole afternoon, or a whole day.

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#15 Spend time with those you love the most. Love is meant to be shared. A connection of hearts. Maybe this means family game night. An afternoon
sledding with the kids. Or a sit-down meal prepared by everyone, together.

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#16 Set a timer. Throw darts at a map. Draw names from a hat. Drive until you’re not sure where you are and find your way home—the long way. Play games along the way. Talk. Sing songs. Be quiet.

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#17 Ride bikes. Ride horses. Hike. Picnic. Sit. Spend some time in the woods, on the high desert, or on a trail. Get fresh air and exercise. Experience God’s creation together.

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#18 Indulge each other’s hobbies. Try something you haven’t tried before. Share your interests. Go to an art museum with her. Explore a Science museum with him. Ride motorcycles. Target shoot. Go shopping. If the other person loves it, and you love him/her, spend a little time doing what they love.

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#19 Visit a library or bookstore. Make a photo collage of book titles that tell your love story. Make sure you include some selfies for posterity.

 

Don’t let other people, and certainly not the world, define love and romance for you. God created us for relationship. Let Him be the author of your romance.

 

What is the most unusually romantic thing you have ever done?