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COULD’A, WOULD’A, SHOULD’A

I am smiling.

How do you feel when someone tells you after the fact what you could have done, what they would have done, or what you should have done?
I don’t know about you, but I start to feel like a child who can’t figure that stuff out for myself retrospectively. It makes me question my ability to be competent, and I’ve been around the block a few times!

If you are already beating yourself up for making a mistake, the last thing you need is to have someone rub your nose in your shame when there is nothing you can do about it. In a work related situation, there is a time and place for a gentle response of instruction that preserves dignity. The people in our personal lives deserve the same consideration.

I learned to smile and keep my peace because most people who do this have good intentions. They want to help you know what to do if the situation happens again. So I will listen because wisdom can be found in listening.

But occasionally, a person will give you their perspective after the fact to make you feel less than and elevate themselves. We know this because we know the person. Even so, I smile and keep my peace because the peace of the Lord is more important than any word the devil inspires.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:13

You and I will do better next time. I love you.

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CLEANING TIP

Do you like cleaning the bathroom?

How nice to take your bath in a washtub with no worries. If I had the choice between arm wrestling a T-Rex and cleaning the bathroom, it might be a toss-up. It looks relatively easy, but it seems to be a losing battle!

When we moved, our new house had a clear glass shower stall that looked very pretty, but the first thing that went through my mind was how I would keep it looking that way. I had used the daily shower cleaners before, and they are effective but only with consistent use, and they are expensive.

While digging on the net, I found a few recipes for homemade daily shower cleaners and read the reviews. The recipe I share here works very well and costs pennies to make. We may forget to use it every time we shower, but even a modest effort is effective, and it helps the memory if it’s kept handy in the shower.

DAILY SHOWER CLEANER
1/2 cup peroxide
1/2 cup rubbing alcohol
1 tsp blue Dawn dishwashing liquid
1 Tbsp Jet Dry Rinse Aid
2 cups water
Mix in a spray bottle.

It’s a great way to use all the peroxide and rubbing alcohol you bought when the Covid panic hit! The recipe calls for the original formula blue Dawn for the cleaning power. I purchase a small bottle for this recipe and also to use as a laundry grease spot remover. One bottle of this recipe lasts our household about six weeks and is so cheap to make. You can also use the daily shower cleaner less often on the tub and sinks.

So often, I’m content to have my house look surface clean rather than make an effort to do a thorough house cleaning. However, if I look at my life with introspection, that theme can be a common thread if I’m not careful.

Nothing authentically good and precious comes without hard work, perseverance, and commitment to perform consistent maintenance.

As Christians, our attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs are all part of our own spiritual house. We are responsible for the upkeep of our home, because collectively, we form a village that has no boundaries in Jesus Christ.

By wisdom a house is built, and by wisdom it is established.
Proverbs 24:3

With due diligence, we can nurture our spiritual home with prayer, fellowship with other believers, and reading the Word of God in the Bible. The daily cleaner of our spiritual house is the Holy Spirit.

Mold, mildew, soap scum, and hard water deposits are the least of our troubles without the Lord.

Let Him in.

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DO YOU LOVE PEOPLE?

That was the only thing he said to me. He asked if I loved people.

I worked behind the counter in the church cafe almost every weekend for nearly three years, and I had never seen this guy before. He was pretty nondescript, older, quiet, and as he paid for his small purchase, that was the question burning on his mind?

I looked at him, smiled, and told the truth.

“I’m getting there.”

He looked at me and walked away, leaving me standing there with the answer burning on my mind. What a stupid answer, I thought. Everyone knows if you love Jesus, you are supposed to love all people. Who was that guy, and why would he ask such a thing of someone he didn’t even know?

Why not?

A few months later, something happened that rocked my boat. It reminded me of that question, and I decided I needed to take a break until I knew without a shadow of doubt that my answer would be pleasing to God.

God sent challenges and lessons during that time of rest and continues to do so. My mind was stretched, my patience was tested, and my whole world was upended for a while as I searched my heart that was still a little cracked.

I discovered it’s difficult to love without trust, and if I couldn’t trust God to take my troubles from me and handle them in His way, then I could never rightly say I know how to love.

Years passed, and the world was rocked with a crisis that forced even more contemplation but revealed God’s blessings through change. I received a boldness I never knew I had to do things I never thought I’d do, and we received confirmation and peace about our choices.

There is still turmoil swirling around the world, but the peace remains along with the knowledge that loving Jesus first allows us to love people. He shows us how and when, and all we have to do is respond and leave the results up to Him. It doesn’t matter how we feel about the people. What matters is how God loves them. It sure takes a load off.

I never saw that man again, but I have a feeling his own lesson on love was in asking me that question, and we are both walking a little lighter.

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INDEPENDENT

Ruby the cat and Chanse the dog. Gingerly getting along while Dad gives the love.

I grew up in a household with a vocal Democrat mom and a quiet Republican dad. They were married for almost 60 years; proof that people with different ideas and beliefs can coexist, and even love, if they are mature and have a heart, and know that there are times when it’s best not to talk about it.

I’ve been a registered Independent for decades because there are weaknesses in both parties that produce maniacs. Screaming, name calling, mocking, destruction, and other behaviors of disrespect will not be tolerated. My ears close like a door on a windy day.

My mind weighs the facts given by both sides and is most swayed by a kind, relatable, educated, biblically authentic, and God-honoring position. There are too many who quote the Bible without having actually read it. There are too many who use the Bible as a hammer to pound their personal views instead of offering it as a beacon of truth, righteousness, and discernment to make choices that are honoring to God and all people. I know because I’ve done both at one time or another. The damage and confusion I caused is what made me yearn to know more about the Bible and it’s historical significance, the symbolism, and how it all ties together over thousands of years of cultural differences and political warfare. There really is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Is it even possible to honor all people in our choices here on earth? I wonder because every compromise creates a resentment. Every win creates a loss, and every filling creates a void. I’m reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

For everything there is a season
and a time for every activity under heaven:
 a time to give birth and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted;
 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build up;
 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance;
 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
 a time to seek and a time to lose,
a time to keep and a time to discard;
 a time to tear apart and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak;
 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Jesus is the greatest Independent that ever existed. That is, he isn’t swayed by public opinion or popular consensus. His only dependence is on God Almighty. By the power of the Holy Spirit, He sifts through all the muck and bares the raw Truth with the intent to purify, and then He lets the individual with a softened and repentant heart make their own choice.

Our equality is in how God loves each and every one of us and allows us to choose to follow Him or not. He loves ALL of us. It all boils down to us paying that love forward. We all have something to give. Let’s do our part.

Thank you, Lord. Thank you for your mercy and grace. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for my independence which allows me to choose dependence on You in every season of my life.

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God’s Blessings

I woke up a bit after 3 AM this morning and God blessed me.

Normally when I beat the earliest of birds up from their slumber, I just try to go back to sleep. But this time I picked up my phone and opened Instagram. Instead of scrolling, I saw someone on the “suggestions” whom I know but haven’t spoken with in a while so I checked out her profile.

There on a sparsely used page were a few photos, and the newest one was posted exactly twelve minutes before I woke up in the wee hours of the morning. While it didn’t tell me much, it told me enough, and it soothed a mother’s heart.

It never ceases to amaze me how God works in our lives even when we least expect it. Enjoy the journey.

He is your praise, and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen. Deuteronomy 10:21

KOMBUCHA

It sounds like a sneeze gone awry.

Have you ever eaten sauerkraut? How about sourdough bread? If so, then you have enjoyed some good fermented food!

For those who don’t know, kombucha is a fermented sweet tea drink loaded with many reported and scientifically acclaimed probiotic health benefits. Some of those benefits include improved digestion, immunity, absorption of nutrients, reduced allergies, detoxification of the body, prevention of UTIs, and restoration of balance after a round of antibiotics. There are skeptics, but I prefer to enjoy this delicious drink, knowing it is benefitting my body. That said, please check with your doctor if you have any doubt that you can eat or drink anything fermented. We want to keep everyone safe.

In years past, there has been concern that kombucha is an alcoholic drink because it is fermented, and the fermentation process produces alcohol. Most kombucha sold in stores has an alcohol content of .5% or less. In comparison, a bottle of beer has 2.5% or more. You would have to drink a whole gallon of kombucha at once to feel anything, if at all. A dose of cough syrup has more alcohol content than most kombuchas. The great thing about making your own is you have control over the ingredients and the fermentation time frame, which regulates the amount of alcohol allowed to form. You can ferment kombucha for a week or several weeks, but the longer you let it brew, the more alcohol content. There is a sweet spot for time and temp to get just the right amount of carbonation and sweetness. Experimentation is key.

Commercially prepared kombucha is expensive. When I first started making it, you could only find it in health food stores and restaurants, but now you can buy it in grocery and drug stores as well as the big box stores like Walmart or Target, and you can expect to pay $2.50 to $4.50 for a 16-ounce bottle. Making it yourself is much cheaper. I estimate my kombucha costs about $.40 per 16 ounces to make. That’s a significant saving. It’s also fun because you can get creative with your tea blends and flavor additions.

Your start-up supply needs are simple. First, you need to buy a SCOBY, which stands for “Simbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast”, or you can make your own if you prefer and have the time, but you can start on your process sooner if you buy it. I purchased my SCOBY on Amazon for about $19.

You will also need a one-gallon glass jar and a breathable cover for it, stainless steel cooking pot, stainless steel spoon, a thermometer, a funnel, PH test strips, bottles with sealed flip tops, and a heat source. They sell little heat wraps that wrap around your gallon jar during fermentation, but when I first got started, I used a heat mat for a reptile enclosure. It worked great and kept the brewing cupboard just the right temperature, between 72 and 78 degrees. Warmer temperatures will make the kombucha ferment faster, and cooler temperatures will allow mold to grow, so it’s best to keep a close eye on the temps. You also need 2 cups of plain (not flavored) kombucha that you can get at the store. This kombucha is your starter that tells the SCOBY “Hey, wake up! We have work to do!”. All start-up materials are available online or at businesses that sell brewing supplies.

Here is the bare-bones process:
First, you make sure all your utensils and equipment are clean and air-dried.

Now it’s time to brew your sweet tea. Heat 7 cups of pure, filtered water (I use a Zero filter system which filters out nearly everything) to 212 degrees if you are brewing black tea, 170 for green tea, or 185 for Oolong tea. I use black tea in my basic recipe. It’s stronger and sweeter, but green tea and Oolong are lighter and very good with citrus and fruit infusions. Experiment!

Take the hot water off the fire and add your tea bags or loose tea. Use the best quality tea you can afford, and do not use flavored tea which doesn’t brew well. Let the tea steep for four minutes, then remove the tea bags or strain the loose tea.

Add 1/2 c. organic cane sugar or turbinado sugar which is even less processed, and stir until dissolved.

Add 7 cups cold, filtered water to the tea and stir.

Cover with a paper towel and cool the tea until it reaches 72 degrees or less. The live kombucha culture you are going to add cannot tolerate warmer than 72 degrees.

Once your tea has cooled, stir in the plain, room-temperature kombucha you bought. You only have to buy it once because the starter kombucha for your next batch will come from the brew you are making.

Pour the cooled tea into the 1-gallon jar.

Now you are ready to add the SCOBY. Gently place the SCOBY on top of the tea. It feels gelatinous and kind of slimy. If it sinks, it’s okay.

Cover the jar with a breathable top. The kombucha must have air. I have used a coffee filter and a rubber band with good results. I don’t recommend cheesecloth as the mesh isn’t tight enough to keep tiny fruit flies from entering and ruining your batch. I’ve done that, and it’s sad. I found reusable mesh tops with a drawstring pull in a three-pack, and they’re perfect.

I use a stick-on thermometer outside the jar, making it easier to monitor how warm it’s getting in the process, but it’s optional.

Time to put your kombucha to bed in a nice warm, dark place where it won’t be disturbed for 7 to 10 days. Use your little heater if it’s not consistently warm enough in your space. It doesn’t have to touch the jar but must be near enough to keep it warm. After seven days, use a PH strip to test. Ideally, you want the PH to be between 2.5 and 3.5. A PH of 4 is okay because harmful bacteria cannot live in that acidity.

You also can taste test your kombucha by dipping in a straw along the side and take a sip. If it tastes too sweet, it needs more time. Give it another day or two. If it tastes vinegary, oops, it’s fermented too long. Please don’t throw it out! You can use it in other ways! You can use it to make sauces and salad dressings, candies, mayo, and even skincare products. I’ve read you can even use it for a sourdough starter.

There is nothing wrong with this SCOBY. The dark spots are tea and yeast strands. Perfectly normal. You can rinse the yeast off with cool water before placing the SCOBY in a resting jar with sweet tea.

If all is well, remove the SCOBY and place it on a clean plate with some kombucha to soak it while you fill the bottles. Ladle 2 cups of kombucha into a mason jar for refrigeration. This portion will be your starter for the next batch.

I’m making blueberry lemon flavored Oolong Kombucha.

If you desire to add fruits, spices, or juice, this would be the time to add them to the bottles according to your recipe. Then using a funnel, pour the kombucha into the bottle, leaving 1″ of airspace at the top. Close the sealing caps and check for leakage.

I label my bottles with ingredients and date bottled. The labels dissolve when wet.

If you are making plain kombucha, you are finished. Just refrigerate your fresh brew. If you have added flavorings, the kombucha bottles will be put back to bed in its warm cupboard for an additional two days of fermentation. Refrigerate to stop the fermentation process.

There are two SCOBYs in the resting jar. One is the “Mother” and the thinner “Baby” grew from the mother during fermentation. You can keep them to use over and over, give them away, or use them in other ways. There are lots of ideas on the web!

A resting solution for your SCOBY between batches: 4 cups purified water, 1/4 cup organic cane sugar, 4-6 bags black tea using the same process as when making tea for kombucha. Cool the tea to 68 to 72 degrees before gently adding the SCOBY to a 2 quart glass jar and covering with a breathable topper. The SCOBY can live like this for months as long as you add fresh, cooled, sweetened tea to the jar about every month.

It’s fun to experiment with different flavors and teas. I recommend starting a “Kombucha Journal” to keep your recipes and combinations handy, including notes on the results. Enjoy!

Heavenly Father, Good Morning

I listen to the birds outside my window and feel the breeze on my face, and I know you are near. I love how great you are. You are our creator and teacher and comforting protector. Only You deserve our praise.

Lord, bless this day as you will. Keep my family in your care, and help me to honor you in all I say and do. Knowing You are the King of the Universe and in complete control, my heart is yours.

I pray in Jesus’s Holy name. Amen.

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