Saturday, June 15, 2013

He will act...

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
Psalm 37:3-6

I chose a three-verse passage for the next two memory sessions. I'm just beginning to prepare to teach Bible study for Cross Camp in a couple of weeks and my prayer is that I will make much of HIM. 

Trust in him, and he will act. 

This runs counter to my natural tendency, which would be to work super-hard so I can dazzle some unsuspecting students with my knowledge, wit and general hipness. (pathetic, right?) But in my first year of teaching at camp, (seven years ago!) I learned so much more than I actually taught. Isaiah 26:8 became a theme verse that year -- 

"Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws 
we wait for you.
Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts."

I still fight nerves and feelings of inadequacy every time I teach, but it's incredibly freeing to trust in him -- and let HIM act. Truth is, I can't change a heart. I can't open a mind. All I can really do is dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness...delight in the Lord, commit my way to Him and trust that He will give me the desires of my heart. 

What a relief! 

Don't get me wrong -- I'm about to get crazy-busy studying and preparing! (I've already spilled coffee on my Bible once today!) But it's with the knowledge that as I press in to know Him better, obey His calling, His grace will multiply and I can teach from the overflow!

So, pray for me and my little highlighting, word-processing, over-achieving self, that I will make His name great! And pray for the girls I will be privileged to serve -- and all those God brings to us at Cross Camp!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

In a little jam...

Our wonderful neighbors Billy and Jane Reed are magnificent gardeners -- and generous! When Billy dropped off some peaches and two nice batches of plums, I had an uncharacteristic attack of kitchen ambition and decided to try to make plum jam. I've never "canned" anything, largely due to a fear of pressure cookers and explosions. But I got on the Google and found a pretty simple looking recipe that mainly just required lots and lots of boiling water and a few other tools, so I gathered a few things at Wal-Mart and got cracking! (Forgive the fuzzy pics - the blogging thing was an afterthought and I just snapped away with my phone!)

I bought a dozen half-pint jars (the recipe will make 8), some sugar, some sure-jell pectin and a little set of canning tools (for $6.95, I think) that included a wide-mouth funnel, jar tongs, a measuring thing and a magnet thing for lifting hot lids out of the boiling water. I also ended up buying the pot at back left which included a rack. I have pots, but I didn't have the rack for lifting and lowering the jars into boiling water, and the whole set was $19, and I thought maybe if I made the investment, I'd do more canning in the future!

The Reeds brought over these small, beautiful red plums and some yellow. I decided to go with these for the color. Wash, pit and chop them. This is the most time-consuming part of the whole process, except for waiting for large pots of water to boil. I opted not to peel them. Aren't there lots of nutrients and fiber and stuff in the peeling? 

The plums they brought were exactly the amount I needed for my recipe! (4 1/2 cups)

Put the plums in 1/2 cup water, bring them to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, then add sugar. The recipe called for 7 1/2 cups (whoa!) but several commenters said if the plums aren't super tart, you don't need as much. I put around 6 cups. You stir that, bring it to a boil, then add the pectin. The recipe calls for one box, but several folks said they used two to get it to "set" properly, so I added two.

Meanwhile, boil the heck out of the new jars and lids in your new canning pot. Remove the jars with the tongs and the lids with this handy-dandy magnet! Coolest gadget I never knew I ever needed!

Then, fill the jars to within 1/8 inch of the top. (Isn't that jam a pretty color?)

This is where the little measuring thing comes in. You can quickly tell if you've filled it to the proper level, and also run it around the edges of the jam to remove bubbles. Apparently, bubbles are bad. The recipe also recommended you skim the foam from the top of the boiling fruit, but I couldn't figure out how to do that. So, disclaimer - my jam may not be bubble-free.

Waiting on their final bath. Now to this point, the whole thing took less than an hour, but after sterilizing the jars, I didn't get a fresh pot of water on to boil and it takes a long time to boil that much water in that large of a pot. The jars are supposed to be submersed in the pot, once the water is boiling, then you bring it back to a full boil, cover and "process" for 10 minutes.

You know what they say about a watched pot, right?

When the water is finally boiling, use your handy jar tongs to place the jars into the boiling water...

...which then takes forever to get back to a rolling boil. But anyway, you get the picture. If you're a little more organized than me, you can get this whole thing done in around an hour!

I totally forgot about labels, so I just took some mailing labels I had and first just scribbled on a few, then decided to try to print some. I am HOPELESS for some reason when it comes to labels! My daughter has to do them for me every time. However, she's at the beach, so I just did the best I could! (I also just-this-minute realized I made labels that say "Pear Jam" when, in fact, I made Plum Jam! 
Bless my heart! Back to the drawing board!)

After filling the eight jars, I had a tiny amount left. I put it in a (unsterilized!) tupperware just to see what would happen and made myself some toast to sample! Pretty tart-sweet! I don't know if this batch will be good enough for gift-giving, but it wasn't a bad first effort!

On an unrelated note (kind of!) my new favorite thing arrived in the mail!
And today, I'd say I'm just "plum" happy!

As with most things, I'd also say if I can do it, anyone can! 
Go get yourself in a jam today!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Your consolation brings me joy...

I don't like to think of myself as an anxious person. 
In general. 
I usually have an optimistic, glass-half-full, sunshine-y viewpoint. But...when I fall into any kind of anxious cycle, I do not do it halfway. Combine an over-active imagination with a swirl of irrational late-night fears and you have a recipe for a special brand of crazy! I don't know what precipitated it, but lately I have been battling late-night fears that bear little resemblance to reality. But when you're in the grip of that kind of cycle, reality can get fuzzy. 
I don't like admitting this about myself. I don't want to be an anxious person. 
But it happens.
So when it was time to choose a scripture to memorize for the first of June, this seemed like a good one to marinate my mind/heart in.

"When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy."
Psalm 94:19

Another translation says "when anxious thoughts multiply within me..." That perfectly describes what happens when we give in to the fearful thoughts -- they pile in on top of one another, escalating into an all-out anxiety attack.

But God (oh, I love those words!) consoles. He is ready to comfort, to cheer, to delight, to encourage, to bring joy to my soul. How does He do that? Another favorite Scripture gives a hint:

"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

Instead of churning mentally over every conceivable (awful) what-if, present my requests to God. Pray. And (this is key) with thanksgiving. Remembering, with thankfulness, the ways God has proven faithful in the past can definitely lessen the fear in the present -- or future. And He promises His transcendent peace.

And don't forget:

"Cast all your anxiety on him, 
because he cares for you."
1 Peter 5:7

That is truth. Truth is truth, regardless of how my anxious mind is feeling at the moment. Hang on to the truth.

Also, I want to be mindful of others struggling through seasons of anxiety. Proverbs 12:25 says:

"Anxiety weighs down the heart, 
but a kind word cheers it up."

So, that's my choice. Cling to the truth -- know that His consolation will bring my anxious soul back to joy. And share a kind word with others who need that encouragement.

(Update -- In typical God fashion, this song recommendation just happened to pop up on Facebook. So perfectly ties in with what I've been wrestling with!)