“AIN’T NOTHIN’ ELSE”

I was cleaning out drawers today and found a CD-R marked “Old Documents and Photos”. I suspected I would find treasure, and I did. Included was this installment of my journal.

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November 25, 2003

This morning I took a friend downtown to the clinic for a doctor visit and to get his meds. He got out of the hospital last night. I have to say I’ve been praying for courage and strength a lot lately.

The visit to the clinic was eye opening. I was in awe, and when I left, I felt a considerable amount of gratitude. Those poor people coming in there to get their meds were coming in out of the cold, and I think most of them were mentally ill. They all had warm coats, but I heard one lady say she was having difficulty warming up. Another said she was starving for something to eat. Some sat like zombies; you could tell they were thoroughly medicated. Others chatted easily and greeted by name everyone who came in. One woman seemed perfectly normal and very conversational. Then she started chatting to herself.

The clinic provided hot coffee for free. They also had a pop machine that took 50 cents for a can of pop. One man asked if anyone had a quarter. No one did, but several said they would give it to him if they did have one. Another lady told the woman who was hungry that there were two churches nearby that gave out food. You could tell….this small group of people takes care of each other.

One woman was overjoyed that she would only have to come to the clinic once a week instead of twice to get her meds. She told everyone that she and her husband were going to their church tonight for a Thanksgiving dinner and bingo. Her husband had to wear a stocking cap at all times because he had a one-inch metal plate in his head, and it got cold and hurt when his head was exposed.

One couple invited a man to their place for Thanksgiving. I wondered where their home is, but from the looks of the man’s jeans, he hadn’t washed them in weeks, and I doubt he would mind if their home weren’t fancy.

My little one had to use the restroom, and I got a strange, almost apologetic look from the lady behind the desk when she pointed down the hallway. I understood when I opened the door to a room so filthy and trash-laden that I couldn’t bear to let my child touch a single thing. I wanted to cry.

Not long before we left, the woman who was talking to herself blurted out that she wasn’t afraid of anybody. She repeated it, “I ain’t afraid of anybody…’cept God. He has power. And Jesus. They both have all the power. Ain’t nothin’ else in the world. Nothin’ else.”

I needed to read this now.

WASHED CLEAN

After almost 24 consecutive years, 31 years total, I’ve been sober for so long that people forget.

My children were young enough to remember very little about the previous years without being told, and my youngest never saw me under the influence. The time I stumbled into darkness and relapsed was one day 24 years ago when I ended up in the hospital with clinical depression and PTSD. I was put on antidepressants for 10 years until by the grace of God, I weaned off. I’m not ashamed of being sick. On the contrary, I am overjoyed to be healed of addiction to alcohol and cigarettes, and clinical depression.

People forget, but I don’t. I can’t.

The Lord saved me from me and gave me a life to live in gratitude. He gave me empathy for the struggles of others and appreciation for the wisdom of turning our weaknesses over to Him so that He can work His healing touch on us.

The only reason I’m alive today is because of Jesus. In my infirmity, at the end of my meager limits, I submitted my life to His will and began a new journey up a different path. Choices became clear, and there was unparalleled freedom for the first time in my life. Is it any wonder He has my heart? I now need to ask Jesus to help me with my eating habits which have become more than just a fueling of my body. Food has become a liability now that I’m older. I pray for the courage and discipline to humbly hand this part of my life over to Him so my body, His temple, can be healthy and strong. I want to be able to live out the rest of my days in whatever capacity He wants me to. I can think of no better goal.

No matter where you are at or the condition you are in, nothing is so awful that Jesus can’t take you in His arms and love you to wholeness.

When you have everything to gain is when He does His best work but why wait? Allow yourself to be loved back to life. I would love to hear your story.

Thank you, Jesus.

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.

HOME

This photo was taken the weekend we made the decision to move. Somewhere.

People say this is God’s country and it is, but God directed both of us at the same time to move somewhere else. We had no idea where, but it needed to be warmer but not too warm, and it needed to be in a central location to our families. A bonus would be lack of humidity but that wasn’t a deal breaker if we had air conditioning. Three months later, we were living in a state neither of us had been to before and we knew no one who lived there. A step of faith to a new life. A new chapter. Perfect timing.


I actually had an acquaintance suggest something must have happened to make us run away and I had to laugh because nothing happened other than a collective realization that after thirty-five years, we no longer felt like Colorado was our home. A healthy home is where you feel safe and loved and respected in spite of your differences. It was time to stretch our wings and conquer our fears and uncertainties about our future.

I think it’s sad this acquaintance didn’t even consider the Holy Spirit’s hand in our lives. So often that is the way it goes. We are quick to rationalize and justify our doubt instead of simply trusting God’s sovereignty and wishing someone well on their next journey. Why do we automatically want to think the worst of people?


That isn’t of God, and that’s the answer to the question. Colorado provided for many seasons. This new place is totally different, and even so, it looks so familiar. God is good.


We are home again.

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.

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.

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!

Photography by Tamra Witt.

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