Where Are YOU From?

Several years ago, I took on a writing challenge to create a poem from a template with the resulting work informing readers about myself and my family history. This is the result, a poem I had the privilege of reading at my father’s funeral. I regret he never had the opportunity to read it before he passed away. But then, Dad also knew where he was from.

Where are you from?

 

Heritage

I am from buttered bread

sometimes with Welch’s jam.

I am from the hand pump on the back porch

that spewed out ice-cold water

and you weren’t really thirsty

but you had to take

your Saturday night bath.

I am from the lily of the valley

growing under the lilac bushes,

the scent sucked in just before

you gave them to Mama

who loved them more than you.

I am from Sunday morning nip and tuck.

Dawdling ‘round from Uncle Bud,

cousin Toad and his counterpart, the Frog.

I am from the way we tease and laugh out loud.

From “Stop that squirming”

and “Bow your head.”

I am from a Bible Mama plum wore out.

From Daddy’s faithful Christmas and Easter Sabbaths.

I’m from the middle of a little bitty place

and a rich Christian heritage

across the Rhine River in Germany.

From fried chicken. And apple pie

in a bowl with milk poured on.

From the toddler who drank fuel oil

putting scare into us all;

a vision of stomach pumps not quite real.

From the backyard wedding of my sister

and a reception in the woods where we

ate picnic style licking barbecue from our fingers.

I am from the tattered black pages of an album

Dad pulls out on his little whims.

Repeating names I’ve heard a thousand times

but won’t remember, he tells me I am from

these folks of buttered bread, hand pumps,

laugh out loud, and worn out Bibles.

 

copyright by Paula Geister 2005

Midwestern Autumn-Lovin’ Foodie

I live in one of the Midwestern states so I get to experience four distinct seasons. Autumn is my favorite.

The weather in autumn agrees with my body. Autumn also stirs my soul. I have fond memories of school starting, playing in fallen leaves in the front yard of my childhood home, and cookouts over backyard fires. (Say, “marshmallows,” “hot dogs,” “S’mores.”)

Autumn brings a harvest of some delightful produce as well, and pumpkins are ready about now. Or getting there. Those delightful places where they sell apples, cider, donuts, and pumpkins  open up during September in my home state. People flock there.

Hewlett-PackardPumpkins will grace porches soon–just as they’re picked or carved with a face. They provide a pantry item when we pack them up for the freezer. And in my opinion, eating pumpkin pies just makes more sense during autumn.

This is one of my favorite recipes using pumpkin. The cream cheese frosting makes it really special, but even without it, the bars are exceptionally moist. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bars

4 eggs
¾ c. oil
1 ½ c. sugar
1 16 oz. can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, cream together eggs, oil, sugar, and pumpkin. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture and blend.
Spread mixture into a 13” x 9” pan and bake for 25 minutes.
While pumpkin bars are baking, make the frosting.

Frosting
1 3 oz. pkg. cream cheese (room temperature)
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ c. butter or margarine, softened
2 c. confectioner’s sugar

Cream together the cheese and butter. Mix in the vanilla. Add the confectioner’s sugar and blend well. When bars are cooled, spread frosting on top.

If you want to use your own fresh or frozen pumpkin from your pantry, you probably can. I suggest using a food processor or blender to “whip” it into shape. Be sure all the stringy fibers are removed for the best texture.

15 A.W. Tozer Quotes

A.W. (Aiden Wilson) Tozer began his lifelong pursuit of God after hearing a street preacher in Akron, Ohio, at the age of seventeen. He lived from 1897 to 1963. The self-taught theologian committed his life to the ministry of God’s Word as a pastor, teacher, and writer. Some of his books include Knowledge of the Holy, The Pursuit of God, God’s Pursuit of Man, Fiery Faith, and Whatever Happened to Worship?

Tozer imageFor your meditations today, here are fifteen quotes from A.W. Tozer.

“Outside of the will of God, there is nothing I want. And in the will of God, there is nothing I fear.”

“I am thankful that justice is in the hands of God.”

“God never hurries. There are no deadlines against which he must work. Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves.”

“I want the presence of God Himself, or I don’t want anything at all to do with religion. I want all that God has or I don’t want any.”

“If your Christianity depends on a pastor’s preaching, then you’re a long way from where you should be.”

“Faith is not a once-done act, but a continuous gaze of the heart.”

“Rules for Self-Discovery:
What we want most;
What we think about most;
How we use our money;
What we do with our leisure time;
The company we enjoy;
Who and what we admire;
What we laugh at.”

“To be right with God has often meant to be in trouble with men.”

“When I understand that everything happening to me is to make me more Christlike, it resolves a great deal of anxiety.”

“How completely satisfying to turn from our limitations to a God who has none.”

“We must not select a few passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian.”

“Without doubt, the mightiest thought the mind can entertain is the thought of God, and the weightiest word in any language is its word for God.”

“We can be in our day what the heroes of faith were in their day – but remember at the time they didn’t know they were heroes.”

“God created the world out of nothing, can he not do anything in and through us?”

“We can afford to follow Him to failure. Faith dares to fail. The resurrection and the judgment will demonstrate before all worlds who won and who lost. We can wait.”

Photos In “Frames”

Tyler is a photographer whose blog I follow. His shots almost always feature trees or at least some aspect of nature. Lots of leaves, stones, logs, and lichen. You should go there and take a look at The Ancient Eavesdropper.

His most recent photo challenge was to frame our shots in an interesting way. I’m by no means as good as Tyler, but I like to fool around with the Fuji and see what I can come up with. I’ve been meaning to take some pictures by the Kalamazoo River near downtown in my fair city. The river’s usually pretty quiet there, but the critters can be lively. Last night I stopped on my way home as the sun was setting. These are what I captured.

Canada geese flock all over here. Some even stay in winter if they can find food.

ducks framed 2

Looking northwest to the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center, I took this long gander at a lone park bench (pun intended).

Fed Center framed

A lamp post ‘tunnel’ and a pattern in the railings frequently seen in Cereal City.

lampost tunnel

The path goes both ways and I thought of Robert Frost and that road less traveled.

lampost center framed

Next time I take the camera down to the river, I believe I’ll try early morning when the sun is on the other side of these same scenes. Perhaps I’ll even wait for December and venture out in the snow.

Be a blessing to somone today.

God Asks Questions

Occasionally, I ask God a question. It’s not a case of questioning God, which is entirely different. Sometimes I just feel the need to have a conversation in which he makes things clearer. I don’t always understand.

For instance, I sometimes ask, “What’s going on here, Lord?” Hoping he’ll give me insight to a situation or how another person is responding, I check in with him first. Another one I ask is “Will you please direct me here, Lord? I’m not sure which way to go.”

These, obviously, aren’t hard questions for God. He can answer any question. When he wants to. The thing I’ve learned about asking God a question is sometimes he answers in a way I wasn’t expecting. God’s answer to my question might be that I get another situation. When asking for direction, he more often than not leads me to some place I never even considered. Or someplace I thought of but didn’t want to go.man in woods praying

God is in the habit of asking me questions as well. In fact, I get more questions from God than he gets from me.  To inspire me toward further spiritual maturity and to being conformed to the image of his Son, the questions are much harder for me than my questions are for him.

Obviously.

Some time ago, God asked me about my motivations and wanted me to be clear on something. Turnabout is fair play with him, for sure. This is what he asked me:

“What is the difference between your devotion to Jesus and devotion to your idea of what Jesus wants?”

This question is one I return to repeatedly. Because I tend to think I know what God wants, my actions will reflect that. If I don’t stop and consider first my relationship with Jesus and remember what his mission is, I create my own mission.

Heavenly Father, I’m so grateful that you’re always working and that your Son is as well. The questions you ask are sometimes difficult for me because I so often think I know the way you work and how you want to work in the world. Please keep reminding me that you are the one in charge, even when I don’t understand what’s going on. You’re the perfect parent and I trust you to raise me as a good Father would. For your glory, Amen.

Foodie Converts (Food)

Most of the time, I cook for one person (me). For that reason, recipes end up being changed to accommodate. Instead of making a recipe for eight servings, I cut it down to one or two so I’m not eating that main or side dish all week. Sure, there are some dishes for which I cook a whole batch and freeze enough for later. But some foods I’d rather not preserve that way because they’re just not as good thawed and re-heated.

Something that helps me to cut a recipe is having simple conversions I can make while baking or cooking. Today I’m passing on some that you can memorize if you need to decrease like I do. You may even find it handy to know these simple conversions if you’re increasing a recipe.

It’s easy to double; you just multiply by two. But how about making a recipe one-and-a-half times the amount? That’s a little trickier. Foodies make it work, though, don’t we?

Here are some simple conversions I’ve managed to keep in my brain (for the most part) for when I need to “alter” a recipe to suit my needs.stainless-steel-measuring-cups-spoons-250 square

Basic conversions

  • 3 tsp. = 1 Tbsp.
  • 1/3 cup = 5 Tbsp. + 1 tsp.
  • 1 c. = 16 Tbsp.
  • 2 c. = 1 pint
  • 4 c. = 1 quart
  • 1 oz. = 2 Tbsp.
  • 16 oz. = 1 lb.

Can Number Equivalents

  • No. 300 = 14-16 oz. = 1 ¾ c.
  • No. 303 = 16-17 oz. = 2 c.
  • No. 2 = 1 lb. 4 oz. = 2 ½ c.
  • No 10 = 6 ½ – 7 ¼ lbs. = 12-13 c. (This is handy to remember when you’re cooking for a crowd)

One-Pound Equivalents

  • 2 c. butter
  • 4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c. granulated sugar
  • 3 ½ c. sifted powdered sugar
  • 2 c. milk
  • 9 medium eggs
  • 2 2/3 c. oatmeal or brown sugar
  • 1 1/8 c. rice (uncooked)
  • 2 1/3 c. dry beans
  • 2 c. ground, packed meat

Pan Size Equivalents

  • 2 8-inch layer pans or 1 ½ to 2 dozen cupcakes in muffin tins
  • 3 8-inch layer pans or 2 9-inch square pans
  • 1 9-inch layer pan or 1 8-inch square pan
  • 2 9-inch layer pans or 1 13×9 pan, or 1 9-inch tube pan or 2 8-inch square pans
  • 1 9×5 loaf pan or 2 dozen cupcakes in muffin tins

That last conversion comes in handy when I want to make apple, zucchini or carrot bread to freeze, but I want to freeze individual servings for snacks. It would also work for individual meatloaf servings if you’re trying to maintain portion sizes.

Remember to measure liquids and dry ingredients correctly.

Use dry measuring cups for flour, sugar, shortening (or other solid fat), and various chopped or minced foods. Liquid measuring cups (glass, plastic or other material) for any kind of liquid. Don’t know the difference between a dry measure or liquid measuring cup? Liquid measuring cups have a spout.

Use measuring spoons to measure ingredients such as lemon juice, flavorings, salt, spices, etc.

Certain ingredients like flour and powdered sugar should be spooned into the measuring cup and leveled off, never packed in. Other ingredients, like brown sugar, butter or shortening, should be packed down into the cup and then leveled off.

I’m not the only person who needs to make changes to recipes. As I travel the web and investigate new foods, taste combinations, and options, I see recipes in metric measurements. This Midwest cook doesn’t do metric! That’s when I need more help and I rely on what others who’ve gone before me have created.

Here’s a blog post from “Start Cooking” with a chart to help you convert just about anything during your kitchen adventures.

Happy cooking and eat hardy!

The Letter

As I begin work on a devotional book and a memoir, I’ll be spending more of my writing time on those works. I’ll still post original essays, Media Monday, Good News, and Foodie Friday, but you’ll occasionally see re-blogged posts like the one here. This story is from a couple years ago. What a difference it can make in someone’s life to write one letter.

This story is a version of what might have happened when the slave Onesimus returned to his master, Philemon. Purely conjecture, it is nevertheless partly based on facts. For the original letter from Paul, see Philemon in your Holy Bible.


I heard the door of the outer chamber open and close and went to investigate. Quartus stood with Onesimus kneeling next him. Onesimus stared down, holding out a sealed letter.

“Onesimus has returned, master,” Quartus said.

“I see that, Quartus; you may leave us.” I was full of conflicting emotions. Anger. Sadness. Confusion. Mostly relief. “The letter, Onesimus; what is this letter? Hand it to me.”

He stood and handed me the letter. He remained standing with his eyes averted while I read the whole thing through. In fact, I had to read it twice. It was from Paul, the apostle, imprisoned in Rome. The letter was a plea on behalf of my slave–a request to accept him back now that he’d become a follower of Christ.

It was a good letter and he made good arguments.

“Do you know what this means, Onesimus?” I asked him.

Onesimus nodded, his eyes still averted. “Master, I cannot speak as Paul does. His words are much more convincing. Of course, they are or I wouldn’t be here. All I know is that now I belong to Christ Jesus. I was freed from the bonds of my sin to serve Him. I suppose you could say I’m a slave in two ways; first to God and then because I’m still bound to you. That’s why I’ve returned.”

Yes, he knew exactly what it meant.

“You may go to your quarters, Onesimus.” He left and I sat down heavily on the chair by the table.

He’d made it all the way to Rome! Somehow he’d found Paul and now he was a follower of Christ and a brother. Of course, he knew what could happen to a runaway slave. But he returned.

I got up and paced the room. I pounded my fist on the table where the letter lay. I don’t know why I was so agitated. Paul’s letter requested nothing more than what my Lord would do. But forgiveness is hard, even when it’s someone you care about. And I had always cared about Onesimus. Maybe we hadn’t always seen him as anything but a house slave, but we cared about him.

I put my head in my hands and I prayed. I thanked God that Onesimus had made it safely to Rome and found Paul. It was a blessing that he could be of use to Paul so I thanked God for that as well. Then I prayed that God would give our household the willingness to accept my decision because we are bound together in love with Christ as our head. I sighed deeply before calling him to me.

“Onesimus, come!” Once again he stood before me, eyes cast down. “Look at me.”

A man is what I saw through my eyes. But now, because of what had happened for Onesimus in Rome, I saw someone else in my heart. I put my hands on his shoulders and squeezed.

“Welcome home, Brother. It will be a pleasure having you here serving again.”

A Wrong Number Works Out Well

There’s always good news out there if you look for it.

Today let’s focus on one man’s effort to rescue a frightened grandmother. If you thought car salesmen don’t deserve a good word, think again. This excerpt from the story tells, in our hero’s own words, a little of what happened.

“She called our landline and got through to our receptionist, who asked me what to do. I said, ‘I’ll go and make sure she’s ok.’ At first I thought she was just across the road, it turned out she was about two miles away.”love_boom_200_167

The response just described won’t always happen if you transpose numbers. Usually, people just say, “I believe you have a wrong number” and hang up. To his credit, Dang Vuong didn’t.

Here’s the whole story from The Kindness Blog. The blog features only stories about acts of kindness. Maybe you’d like to follow them to get the occasional uplift to your spirit.

Bend Like Gumby

Staying flexible means being able to forego what we believe are our rights. Rights to resources like our time, energy and money. We’re able to move from one thing and invest in an endeavor that has bigger potential or works better. Simply put, being flexible means you have no problem stopping doing one thing, and starting doing another.Gumby

Being flexible works in our lives no matter if it’s a ‘big’ thing or a ‘small’ thing. And let’s face it, some things are just small things.

As far as being flexible, I’ve learned that if I bend a little, I don’t get as frustrated. It’s easier to work on a team. And I often learn something I may not have if I’d remained committed to having my way.

I won’t compromise my values to be flexible. I won’t bend that far. But I’ve also learned I can go steady on and hold to my values in a gracious manner. While I keep an open mind and listen to varying viewpoints–after all, new information might change a formerly held belief–my mind has already been made up on issues testing my faith in God.

 

Foodie Sows Some Oats

As I read other foodie sites and watch trending recipes, Overnight Oats seem to be right up there with anything healthy and easy to prepare. I’m all for it. Once I tried them, they became a favorite way to start the day. Fiber, protein and some kind of fresh fruit and…wow. Tasty.

But then, I really like my oatmeal. No matter how it’s prepared. One of my most requested recipes every time I share them is for Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies. Here you go.

Eating oatmeal just plain makes sense. One half cup of dry oats–that’s a single serving–contains 4 grams of fiber. That’s 16 percent of your total fiber needs for the day. The recommended daily intake of fiber is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.  Oats also contain the minerals manganese, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. That little package of goodness also provides 5 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of sugar.overnight-oats-peach

Those Overnight Oats are looking better all the time, now aren’t they?

Sara Bonham, an athlete, scientist and product developer, has written a great article listing some of the benefits of eating oatmeal you may not be familiar with. She did the research (so I didn’t have to) so it’s not just her opinion. A couple of pieces of information on that list were news to me.

Since I keep bringing up those Overnight Oats, how about I help you out with a basic recipe and some variations you can try? It’s also sort of trendy to prepare them in those pint mason jars, but you can use whatever works for you. An empty peanut butter or a jelly jar will work. Some people just mix them up in the bowl and put them in the fridge overnight.

I like mine with plain Greek yogurt and a mix of berries, but I’ve seen some combinations that sound pretty tasty. (Almond Joy!) And the combinations are endless when you consider people use such ingredients as nuts or chia seeds, dried fruit, fresh fruit, nut butters, pumpkin, spices, and quinoa. All mixed in with humble oatmeal, a pantry staple that’s inexpensive and healthy.

Hey, is your family like mine was when I was growing up and you sometimes like to have breakfast for dinner? Oatmeal is making its way into pancakes these days too. Try these, maybe.

This foodie is hoping you begin to put oatmeal into your diet if you haven’t already done so. Oatmeal: it’s not just for breakfast anymore.

Eat hardy.