Category Archives: Holidays

When Faith Brings Unexpected Joy to the Cancer Journey

If you’ve had any experience with cancer, you can’t read Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy: What My Mother Taught Me About How to Live and How to Die without feeling the profound weight of grief Becky Baudouin experienced as she walked through the great shadowlands with her mom.

My husband appears to be healthy today, but he’s a survivor of prostate cancer, and once “The Big C” enters your life, it never quite leaves, hanging like a gloomy cloud perceived somewhere at the edges of your peripheral emotional vision. The husband of my dearest friend from childhood is going through chemo treatments right now, so the fear is fresh again in me…the hope for healing…the longing for health…the insecurities about the future…

Becky’s book is like a basic 101 course in dealing with life and death issues!   However, it’s also like taking medicine, so I was very ambivalent about starting. It’s painful to reflect on past losses; it’s even painful to process present challenges! And, it’s downright terrifying to consider possible future worsts while hoping for bests. Therefore, reading Becky’s book was an exercise in faith and hope…hope that faith could bring unexpected joy even in such tragic circumstances as the loss of an irreplaceable loved one.

Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy was truly therapeutic! Becky opens the doors of her heart and takes you on a journey with her through her own childhood, her mom’s illness, grieving the loss of her mother, and coming through the depths of grief back to life. Interwoven throughout the book are some of the treasures she learned from her mother about faith, life and death. The author’s motivation is obvious—she wants you to know that you are not alone in your suffering, that all the crazy stages (such as grief brain) are pretty much universal, and that (as her mom taught her) you don’t have to be afraid of death.

Shining through the weight of grief is the weight of glory. One of my favorite thoughts was this: When we were little, sometimes our mothers would call us home, but we wouldn’t want to stop playing. However, at other times, we would realize how hungry and tired we were and would be glad for the dinner bell! Reflecting on this, Becky writes, “…surrendering in death is accepting God’s timing when he says, ‘It’s time for you to come home now.’ When we live a surrendered life, when we’ve learned to listen to his voice and follow where he leads, we trust him because we believe he loves us and knows what’s best. And hopefully when he calls us, we will realize how hungry we are for heaven, how ready we are to go home.” Amen? Amen. I think that will be the greatest unexpected joy for each of us as we anticipate death! We will see Jesus coming for us, and suddenly, we’ll be overjoyed to go!

Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour” (Isaiah 43:1-3).

Birthday Bliss (or Not)

Alan has taken me somewhere very special and unusual for my birthday (out of town sans cell phone), so I won’t be home to soak up all the kindness of friends and relatives, chat on the phone, or even hit the “like” button on Face Book! Still, I wanted to let you know that you’re ever in my heart and prayers, and so I decided to prepare a few jokes so we could share some smiles today anyway!

YES!!This is in honor of all my friends who—like me—struggle with weight!This is especially for my daughter, four daughter-in-laws, nieces, and all young friends who are bravely rearing babies today! This one is a direct hit for me. Don’t know how the rest of you feel!  Here’s one for my hubby and all you health-care professionals! This one’s not so funny with all the hurricanes disrupting America’s millions of alligators. May you meet no crocodiles or alligators either later or in a while. 😦(This in honor of my son Stephen, who just passed his PhD comprehensive exams in musicology. Way to go, Stephen!)This is especially for my son Joel, who works as an editor, my daughter,  my writers’ group buddies and all fellow writers, lovers of good books and movies! Never thought of this one, but doesn’t it make you laugh?! …In honor of all my fellow Baby Boomers
who are developing gold-fish brains like Alan’s and mine. Anybody singing in a choir these days?  🙂 Here’s another one for the birthday girl (me).And, for all you fans of super hero movies…and Jesus!

 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18)

Making Jams: Fun for Profit

Well, perhaps not for commercial profit, but certainly for personal profit, since you can make jam for a lot less than it costs to buy it (if you buy the fruit on sale at peak season), and you can be sure that homemade is fresher and more wholesome, particularly when contrasted with jams that contain preservatives or a lot of sugar.  For instance, in the last two weeks, I’ve caught a sale on raspberries for $.77 for 6 oz., another on 6 oz. packages of blackberries at 2 for $1.00, and quarts of strawberries at 3 for $5 (all nicely under $2 per pound). Without much work, I now have a winter’s supply of berry jams—some “canned,” some stored in the refrigerator, and some in the freezer—with enough to give away too. I don’t take a very conventional approach, and I used three different methods, but let me tell you what I did, and if you don’t already have a tried-and-true method, I hope it will inspire you to experiment!  I always keep one shelf in one cupboard for a stash of glass bottles with lids, which I use for food storage (on the theory that glass is better for my family than plastic, and—of course—the jars are free, since I just wash up empty glass jars left over from foods I’ve bought from the grocery store). Actually, canning jars with lids are my favorite (since they usually seal nicely without much effort), but you can use any jar with a lid that seals securely. I’m going to tell you what I did (and like), but I’m hoping this just inspires you to try making up your own recipes to get just the right tang, sweetness, and consistency for your own personal taste!

First, start by washing and drying 4-6 small jars and lids. Make sure you have the right tops and that they fit snugly, with no dents or flaws. Set them on top of a cutting board (or other surface that can take a lot of heat).

Mouth-watering Blackberry Jam

48 oz. fresh blackberries
1/3 cup water (just enough to keep anything from burning before the berries and sugar break down and melt)
1.5 cups sugar
1 package (1.75 oz or 49 g) fruit pectin (for making jam)
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat in a heavy saucepan, stirring faithfully and pretty often until all the berries break down (which takes quite a while for blackberries), the sugar and jello totally dissolve, and the jam starts to thicken slightly. It took me half an hour on medium-low heat, but I’m quite sure it will depend on how hot your stove is, the type of pan you use, and how juicy your berries are, so go by the changing consistency rather than just time. It’s a pretty subtle but distinct difference, but it’s not “thick” at all, just no longer watery.  Once the jam is done, ladle it out immediately into the dry glass jars, almost to the top. When you actually can jams, you have to leave a little head room (like 1/2  inch), but I fill the jars almost to the top, which makes them more likely to self-seal. Make sure there are no traces of jam that will keep the jars from sealing properly, and then screw on the lids as tight as you can. Afterward, give the tiniest turn to the left just so air can escape if need be. When I do this with canning jars, almost all of them seal on their own within an hour, just left on the kitchen counter.  Any jars that don’t seal must be kept in the refrigerator to preserve them, or else you can open the tops and add a layer of sealing wax, but I’ve stopped doing either the official canning (which darkens the jams and I suspect causes loss of nutrients) or the wax. Suit yourself but please don’t sue me if you get sick. In my experience, you’ll see mold if anything is amiss, so you’ll know there’s a problem. Of course, if you’re willing to give up some refrigerator space and share with your friends, you won’t have any problem finishing it all off before it goes bad.   🙂

Rich, Ruby-red Raspberry Jam:

48 oz. fresh raspberries
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 large package (6 oz) raspberry jello

An alternate method for making jam is to use flavored jello (gelatin) instead of pectin, and I actually prefer it. I’ve found that one large package of jello replaces one package of fruit pectin, tastes a bit brighter (without needing to add lemon juice), and is less expensive (particularly if you catch it on sale!).  Follow the same instructions as for blackberry jam. However (of course), take particular care not to let it cook too long, or the jam will darken! If you do it just right, your jam will continue to be bright red, even after it’s finished and on your bread!

There are many recipes for making jam, but in the end, it depends on your taste. I started out with equal amounts of berries and sugar, reduced the sugar, switched from pectin to jello, stopped canning…etc! My theory is that cooking should be a growing, learning process whereby we develop our tastes and improve our nutrition as we go!

Unbelievably Yummy Strawberry Freezer Jam

If you haven’t already discovered this world-class jam, try making freezer jam:

Step One: Clean and mash 4 quarts strawberries. Place in large mixing bowl.  Step Two: Pour 1 cup boiling water in a separate bowl, to which you add:
1 large package of strawberry jello
1 large package of orange jello
Stir faithfully until all the jello has dissolved in the boiling water. Set it aside to cool a little. Step Three: Combine 1 package fruit pectin for freezer jam (1.59 oz) and
1.5 cups sugar. Mix the pectin and sugar together, add to the mashed berries, stir thoroughly, and allow to rest on the counter for 15 minutes

Step Four: Add the tepid (not hot or cold) jello solution to the freezer jam mash. Pour immediately into bottles or plastic containers for the freezer. (If you’re using glass jars, make sure you do give at least 1/2 inch head room so the bottles don’t break when the jam freezes. Actually, I don’t think there’s an issue with plastic for freezing; the problems come with heating plastics. Theoretically, there shouldn’t be any problem with freezing jam in plastic containers.)

Step Five: let the jam rest on the counter for half an hour before storing in the refrigerator or freezer. This jam is quite a bit softer than regular jam, and if you don’t like the consistency, try adding another 1.59 oz. of freezer jam pectin. Also, some people like more sugar, so you could try adding another package of jello. If you don’t like the results…try, try, and try again!!

(P.S.—The recipe for cooked jam also works well with blueberries or any other type of berry. Whatever you happen to have on hand and like to eat!)

O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” (Psalm 34:8)

 

Keeping It Down to a Dull Roar

I am the youngest in a family of five children, and when we were growing up—in the spirit of Cheaper By the Dozen—my father used to remind us fairly often that we needed to “keep it down to a dull roar.” If he can see what’s going on down here from his heavenly porch swing, I suspect he’s shaking his head every once in a while, wondering what all the hubbub’s about around our house.Elanor is the youngest of our 16 grand children, and things can get very chaotic when we have a quorum together for the holidays! However, I’ve noticed that when she’s sitting on her mother’s lap, staring into her mother’s eyes, she is usually the picture of contentment!

Oh, to be like that with my heavenly Father—oblivious of everything around me and able to take delight in Him, simply resting in His love and care!

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child (Psalm 131:1-2).

These Colors Don’t Run

Happy Fourth of July to all Americans everywhere, and if you’re not an American, I hope you are living in a country where you are happy enough to want to celebrate, and that you’re able to enjoy safety and freedom. My little grand daughter Amélie was helping me arrange this bouquet, and when we got finished, she sighed happily. “At least we won’t have to water the flag!”  My sister heard this sentiment: “Red, White, and Blue. These colors don’t run.”

I am glad to be an American, just like I hope you’re glad to be a citizen of your country, but even more precious to me than my citizenship in America is my citizenship in heaven…where the color red most often refers to the saving blood of Jesus Christ, the color white speaks of purity, and the color blue is known as “the heavenly color,” pointing us heavenward. What keeps me from running—from being afraid—is that I’m saved by the blood of Jesus, can daily experience cleansing by the water of the Word of God, and am filled with eternal life through faith in Christ.

Today, I want to praise God for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness here in America, and for the even greater spiritual blessings of life, liberty, and love! I hope you’re experiencing the same joys and freedoms wherever you live!

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:20-21, ESV).

 

Grilled Steak to Die For

With Father’s Day tomorrow, I was thinking it might be a good time to discuss grilling meat. We were visiting friends not too long ago when the husband mentioned that for Father’s Day all his kids were coming home, but that he would be manning the grill. “Go figure!” he grinned.

I’m sure he was delighted with the prospect of seeing his kids and grand kids, but it occurred to me that he might have preferred the prospect of sitting in a lawn chair sipping lemonade and watching his kids grill instead of continuing to be “the man of the hour.” So, if you have a father that you’ll be seeing this weekend at his home, and if you think he (or your mom) might be grilling, how about asking if they’d like a little help? It would be one great way to honor your father on his special day!

If you’ve never grilled steak, it’s really very simple, but there are a few tricks to optimize the flavor:1. Choose a good piece of meat. Frankly, for the first 40 years of our marriage, I felt blessed if we could afford chuck steak. Doubtless the favorite cuts are the most tender, but not everybody can afford a filet mignon or Porterhouse. If you’re a little more budget conscious, rib eyes are amazingly tender, and sirloins are great, but a good chuck steak works just fine. Avoid round steak, which is unbearably tough unless you slow roast it for a million hours.2. Tenderize your steak. I use Adolph’s meat tenderizer, but I’m sure there are other fine brands out there. Sprinkle liberally and then use a hand tenderizer (pictured above and available at kitchen supply stores)      to puncture the steak liberally on both sides. This helps soften the steak                                               and infuse the tenderizer.3. Marinate your steak with some type of oil and your favorite seasonings. The oil helps keep in moisture, and the seasonings (obviously) enhance the flavor. My favorites are Italian Wishbone, minced garlic, and a liberal sprinkling of Montreal Steak Seasoning. (I ran out of the steak seasoning just before needing it for this photo. 😦  Normally, I always keep one of every common cooking item in my storage pantry and buy a new one when I finish the old one so I’m never without, but this requires a little extra investment of cash and keeping close watch on the current shopping list.) 4. Gourmet chefs would doubtless recommend marinating the steak covered in your refrigerator for a few hours or over night, but even 15 minutes (not refrigerated) can make a distinct difference in taste. 5. Make your grill HOT and throw on your steak, searing it on each side for about one minute (to seal in the juices), and then turn the heat down to medium and cook it for another couple of minutes on each side. (Note: my beloved husband just took over as the grill master at our house again after a 40-year hiatus, and he’s lovin’ it! Working together is really fun!) 6. There’s a learning curve to figuring out when your steak is “just right.” If you’re not sure, test it by cutting into it. A medium rare steak is usually safe to eat and most tender, but if you like it more cooked, that’s your choice. Just know that the more cooked, the more dry and less tender.7. Serve it up sizzling hot. If it’s done, you can keep it for a few minutes in an iron skillet in your oven, but the steak will continue cooking even after it’s off the heat. Some people suggest letting the meat rest for a minute or two before cutting, but by the time we’ve thanked the Lord for our food, I figure it’s rested enough! 8. Serve it up with several healthy (yummy) sides, and enjoy!

(Here’s a playful contribution by Bob Hardee, who has a great sense of humor!)

Memorial Day: Remembering Hacksaw Ridge

Memorial Day began back in 1868 at the end of the Civil War as a special day to remember everyone in the U.S. military who had lost their life in the service of our country. At that time, it was called “Decoration Day,” and grave sites were decorated with flags and flowers. Memorial Day is celebrated as a national holiday on the last Monday in May now, and it also serves as the unofficial beginning of our summer. What I didn’t know before yesterday is that there are only 4 cemeteries in America and one on foreign soil where the flag can always be flown at half mast, and one of them is here in Michigan. Last May Alan and I had the privilege of exploring the Normandy Coast with our two youngest sons, and during that time, we saw many deeply moving (and distressing) museums and memorials to the devastation of World War 2.

The American Cemetery at Omaha Beach is the one foreign cemetery
where the flag may be flown continuously at half mast. Can you guess where the others might be?
*Arlington Cemetery in Washington D.C.  *The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii *The Gettysburg National Cemetery near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania And last, but not least (because I believe it was the first),
U.S. Post Cemetery on Mackinac Island, Michigan.  On this special day to commemorate those who’ve lost their lives
in the service of our country, I would also like to express my deep gratitude
to those who have served or are serving presently. And, for any of you who have the stomach for a terrifying story of heroism
in war, I’d like to recommend Hacksaw Ridge. Hacksaw Ridge is based on the incredible true story of a young Christian kid named Desmond T.  Doss who joined the army during World War 2. Doss joined as a conscientious objector and became a medic. In one night of amazing heroism during the Battle of Okinawa, Desmond Doss single-handedly saved 75 people  from being butchered by the enemies at the top of Hacksaw Ridge. Later he was honored as the first man in American history
to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot!

Oh, for a world full of men like Desmond T. Doss, who have a heart to protect the freedoms of their country while preserving life rather than destroying it. I know of no one other than Jesus who can inspire such courage and nobility! Jesus gave his life so that everyone in the entire world can have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This Memorial Day, would you like to be like Jesus and like Doss?

Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:27-28).

(*These 3 photos are from Wiki. The seven illustrating Hacksaw Ridge are from the 2016 movie by that name [directed by Mel Gibson], and the rest are mine, one from Fort Mackinac yesterday but the others from the Normandy Coast in France last May.)