Crabby Pants Jelly Math

It was finally the day to make crabapple jelly. I finally had enough jars, finally found the crabapples, and finally extracted the juice after a long-kitchen interrupting- two day process.

It began with the crabapple gathering process. The tree was loaded. My husband brought a ladder and went with me on a warm Sunday afternoon to pick crabapples to make this favorite jelly. There were so many apples on the ground. Beautiful crabapples starting to rot, some with worms, no way to tell. The ones on the tree were, for the most part, still not ripe. We picked up and picked a farm box full. I was ecstatic.

Monday was a bust for jellying. Things just didn’t happen to start the cutting and coring process. Tuesday, I cut up a huge bowl full of the tiny green apples, discarding the core, brown spots, wormy spots and put them in the pot. Covering them with filtered water, I started the stove, and cooked them exactly the right amount of time. Mushed them with a potato masher and then hung them up in a white kitchen towel to drip the magical juice into a bowl. They pretty much occupied my kitchen Tuesday evening and overnight. Finally, in the morning, I measured out the juice from my labors.

Four cups. Only four cups. Two days and only four cups. I was so disappointed that I did not get five or seven cups for two days of work. These numbers were in my mind. Finally, I let myself get over the disappointment and prepared the jars to make the jelly. I prepped seven half pint jars, because I knew that I would add at least four cups of sugar to the four cups of juice. My canner holds seven jars. Oddly, jelly math does not work that way.

I combined the crabapple juice (which tastes horrible by the way) with some of the sugar in my pot and began cooking the combination. Slowly, I added and tasted until I got the right amount of sugar to make the prefered combination of tart to sweet. A bright tasting jelly appeals to me for this fruit. That landed right at four scant cups. So four cups of juice and four cups of sugar boiled away in my old stainless cooker.

Crabapples are full of pectin, so no added pectin is needed to make them into jelly–just heat and magic and 220 degrees. So, I got out the instant read thermometer and the jelly was at a rolling boil, and, precisely at 215 degrees the dogs…all of them…wanted out. I made them wait until the jelly reached 220 degrees. Then I turned off the gas and quickly let the dogs out into the dog yard. I never leave them unattended outside. It took about five minutes for them to all go out, sniff, the boys peed on everything, and then everyone drifted back in.

When I returned, sadly, the skim on the top of the jelly reminded me of the leathery fish bait that my husband uses to salt water fish, and it wouldn’t detach from the jelly that was already jelling in the pot! Nothing prepared me for the speed at which crabapple jelly would gel. I don’t know why jelly is spelled with a “j” and gel is spelled with a “g.” Anyone? I was crabbier than the apples by this point.

My next half hour was spent fishing most of the white leathery foam off of the jelly still in the pot. In picking the bits of foam that dislodged, I wasted at least a cup of jelly de-foaming the jelly. Finally, most of the fish bait was off the top of the jelly, and I started moving the already jelled jelly into the still warm jars. It was just weird .. already jelled as it was.

The big sad crabby surprise. I got 4 half pint jars of jelly. Four. So four cups of juice plus four cups of sugar less one wasted cup of foamy fish bait equaled four cups of beautiful clear and mostly fish bait free jelly. Jelly math. Who knew?

I sat down at the kitchen counter and started cutting more apples. The jelly is delicious….even the fish bait looking pieces. I’ll just make more.

Kim Orsini

Kindred Spirits

When God Provides A Friend

The kindred spirit…you have likely heard that said, especially in the south. “Lordy, that girl and I are kindred spirits.” Did you read that with the right accent? I am indeed rich with Christian friends, but my soul quickens and my heart smiles when God weaves the rich blessings of Christian women into my life.

It’s fortunate that our Lord puts Christian friends in our lives. Even more, it is a true blessing when he allows someone to cross our path that will enhance the best of us, accept the worst of us, and walk along side us maturing in Christ as we go.

A Facebook sister in Christ I have never met lives in the Northeast. We have different passions and interests, but we always encourage each other. There is another sister in the Midwest. I know that I can call on her. Another dear friend and I can speak plainly and passionately about our plans, our fears and our failures. My daughter is one of my closest kindred spirits and she and I grow closer as our path on this earth continues. More recently, as I wind down an administrative career and move toward ministry, I have found God enriching my life with more and more Christian sisters.

But this isn’t about me and my growth, this is about Jesus. Jesus helps us to remain strong in faith. He is the glue that cements our lives together. Just as Jesus sent his disciples out to the Churches, He is still sending His people to each other. Apart, we are small islands of faith in a huge sea of world. Together we are stronger, more dynamic, and we have more impact on those who need to be pointed toward Him. When we are discouraged, our kindred spirits-our Christian friends, guide our eyes upward to The Light. They inspire us to do just this very thing…expound on the goodness of Our God.

It’s amazing to me that Christ foresaw the benefit of the connection with Christian sisters. Kindred spirits, souls connected, sisters in Christ — I love the gift Jesus gave to me when He brought you into my life. I hope you know who you are. I also pray we all recognize the gift of a true friend — a kindred spirit — and foster and nurture the relationship. I believe it is a gift from God.

Samuel 18:1

As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.

Thoughts on Equipping or Who knows, Tammy Fay?

God equips those who He calls. I believe that each of us have a calling. Further, even before you were born God knew that 256BFD26-23F5-47A0-A489-90C68A08CB03you would have the ability to serve in His Kingdom and His exact plan for you. Isn’t that amazing to think about?

God has equipped every one of us for some part in his kingdom. Now, we are not all going to be Mother Teresa or Sandi Patty or Tammy Fay Baker. Who said Praise God? But seriously, Jesus has a role for me and He has a role for you, and if He has a job for us, He already provided our equipment to do the job. Right? Who is still thinking about mascara?

So, how do we determine our calling and plug into our equipment? Yes. That is the hardest thing to figure out for many Christian women. You may have already completed a spiritual gifts survey and discovered the rich gifts that God has given you, but for us latecomers who haven’t found our place (I am one of these), I would encourage you to dig into the pages of His Word and listen to the Holy Spirit speak to your heart.

Who knows, Tammy Faye? You may just surprise yourself.

Hebrews 13:21 May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead out Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep EQUIP you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Grace and Octopus Arms

IMG_0252Our Grandson is almost six and he is quite a funny guy. He, like me, loves to make people laugh, enjoys sharing stories in his almost six year old manner, and sometimes, just sometimes, likes to balk authority…just a little.

This weekend our grands were with us, and we strategically had a full agenda…an agenda designed to eventually tire busy children and their grandparents. Dinner and a movie with the BIG buttered popcorn, followed by kayaking our creek the next day, followed by Grammy’s special steak for dinner and their favorite veggie….broccoli. Can’t make that up. Broccoli.

We were all beat at the end of day two. From being at the farm and on the creek, we were also covered with sun screen, bug spray, and needed tic checks. After the huge dinner and upon the arrival of bath time, our grandson told his older sister to go first, then he immediately rolled over on the couch and proceeded to move into snooze mode.

Oh no.  Grammy advised the grandchild to go get in her tub to get bathed and in bed quickly. He wasn’t interested. Grammy, rather, was very interested, and was verbally ticking off the reasons why he would want a bath after a day of creek, spray, etc. He still wasn’t interested. Suddenly becoming the Incredible Hulk, I (Grammy) lifted this not so little one off the couch to take him to the bathtub.

Of course, my precious grandson morphed into a floppy dead fish. I tried to stand him up, and and he had amazingly developed spaghetti legs. So, once again I picked up the floppy fish and some how carried him to the bathroom. While in transit, I also morphed into “get the reluctant child in the bath” mode. Holding him up in the air, I managed to pull his shorts off with my foot. Simultaneously, two other hands I didn’t even know I had plugged the tub and turned on the water to the perfect temperature. I used one of those extra hands to pat myself on the back. I still had it.

Finally devoid of pants, Grandson stood on his spaghetti legs, and I started taking off his shirt, when all of the sudden he developed octopus arms. They were flailing everywhere. I’ve never seen anything like it. Between the spaghetti legs and the octopus arms, he seemed to be in a gelatinous state of movement.  Envision a child shaped tomato aspic.  I was amazed for approximately five seconds, then even more determined.

Oddly, spaghetti legs miraculously disappeared once the Grandchild was stood in the tub, but somehow I got him to sit down. I then lathered up a wash cloth and proceeded to discuss the merits of removing the creek water and bug spray and sun screen and chemicals and making sure he didn’t have any bad bugs on him, and all the while, I’m soaping and rinsing, soaping and rinsing, and the darling is crying like the bath is killing him while sitting in the perfectly warm water in the big tub.

Finally, Granddad appeared to finish up. His timing has always been perfect.

Once Granddad finished the child-washing, and our sparkling Grandson has been lifted out of the tub and dried off,  the tears miraculously stopped.

Then, the grandchild exclaims pointedly to his Granddad, “That wasn’t a bath.”
“What?” Granddad asks. “It wasn’t a bath?”
“No,” the grandchild answers. “You didn’t wash my hair.”

Well there you go. We’ll have to remember that in the future. I don’t want to forget these moments. They grow up too fast.

Father, thank you for the grace you exhibit to me every day and especially at my hour of salvation. I pray that you remind me when confronted with octopus arms to exhibit the same grace. Amen.

Marriage 101Forgive and forget – Inspired by Ephesians 4:32


Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Have you notice that kindness is dwindling in society. Rarely when we meet a person on the street do we expect a kind word. No, because the person on the street has the earbuds in and don’t even know we are there. People avoid eye contact, text instead of talking to each other, we are no longer doing unto others the way we would like to be done unto. We’re simply existing in the same spaces but mostly independent of each other.  

Sadly, I see married couples who are have allowed these changes in society to come into their homes. Their tone of voice with each other is often contrite or sarcastic. They live in the same home but don’t communicated except to discuss what they are going to eat, who took the dog out, the garbage pickup schedule and a lack of toilet tissue. In this I-generation, we sit and stare at our devices hoping someone will “like” our picture of the day or moment instead of talking to the person three feet away who is doing the same thing.  I “love” my husband, but he needs to know it.

So what of kindness? A soft word of welcome. Doing something nice for someone, just out of —– kindness. Kindness in marriage should come easy, right? Not necessarily when we are so busy.  I pray to be reminded.

Where has the compassion gone? Do we really care that our spouse is struggling with their job responsibilities or do we more care that if they loose their job, it will be us who suffers from the lack of income. How do we show compassion toward our spouses?   I pray to be more intuitive.

Forgiveness. Jesus speaks clearly on forgiveness and that we should forgive each other not just seven times but seventy times seven times. So, when my husband did something that I didn’t approve of and asked for my forgiveness, why did I verbally unpack all of the other things he has done in the recent past before I was ready to forgive him?

Christ is the example of the traits I should display.  Jesus showed kindness and compassion to those who were brought to him for healing, for the casting out of demons, and for the little children. He turned no one away who came to Him asking to be made whole. This giving of Himself to others remind me of the kindness I should show.  

Ultimately, Christ gave it all and bore our sins on the cross. When we become Christians, we are forgiven of our sins and they are covered by His redeeming blood. God forgets our sins. Oh how often do I resurrect the sins of myself and those of my spouse?  We should show the same kindness and compassion to our spouses that Christ showed to us. Forgive and FORGET.   God has reminded me to bury the memory of forgiven sin to be resurrected no more.  

Hope you don’t mind that I shared it.

May God Bless our Marriages.

Marriage 101 Intentional True Love

Inspired by Song of Solomon 3:4

Our middle daughter is getting married in one month, and we have began working on a project for the wedding with scripture at its nucleus. While working on the project, I was reminded that the Bible contains so many beautiful and even instructional passages about marriage. Truly, God has given us the perfect marriage handbook in His Holy Word. As we continued to work on this project, God inspired me to share some of the jewels I am gleaning about marriage from the verses that are touching us. Please forgive my humble attempt to describe what has been shown to me.
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Intentional True Love

Euphoria! You know what it feels like to come over a mountain top and have the vista drop in front of you, to descend from the heights of a roller coaster, to imagine yourself stepping off the edge of a cliff and tumbling down down down. Your heart races, your hands and feet ache or sweat, and you may even feel dizzy. 

My long married friends may need to think back a while. When you initially met your spouse to whom you were hopefully romantically attracted, many of you experienced similar “over the top” moments as your body responded in the normal way that God intended. As you planned your wedding, your life, and spent your first days together, you likely experienced that euphoric state over and over.

 After a few years of marriage, however, that over the top feeling is often quashed by busy lives, dirty diapers, maintaining a home, familiarity, and all of the worldly influences that we allow into our lives. Yes, we allow external interferences in our marriages.    

In 1974, Carl Carlton spoke of an everlasting love in a song that came to mind. In case you have forgotten….

Open up your eyes, then you’ll realize here I stand

With my everlasting love. 

Need you by my side, girl you’ll be my bride.

You’ll never be denied everlasting love.

From the very start, open up your heart,

Be a lasting part of everlasting love.

Real love will last forever!!

Carl’s song, while secular in nature, had a valid point. Lasting love must root itself deeper in your heart than the adrenaline powered first love we share with our spouse. It begins with our intention to grow our love for and with each other.

True lasting love comes from Christ. The model of Christ’s love for the Church should be the model of our love for our spouse. It is intentional, humble and lasting. It is deep within us, not always euphoric, but always present. It doesn’t wane. It wants us to search the deepest part of our heart and soul and meld those inner processes to those of our spouse.  Once we understand that model, we should intentionally build on it.  

I was a widow, but knew that I would not forever be a widow. When God brought into my life my second husband, there were certain commonalities outside of the initial euphoria that were shown to me and that I look for. Although neither of us were or are perfect, we matched in Christian doctrinal beliefs. This showed me that although we were brought up in very different households, God prepared us in an important way to be together.   

That is our strength today. When things seem to get out of hand in life, we know to turn more toward God – together. Oh, our marriage is not perfect. No marriage is truly perfect except for Christ’s marriage with the Church. However, we are growing together through intention so that our differences are pushed apart as we are pulled together by the roots of Christ’s love, which we share. With a commitment to have a Christ rooted marriage, then the two shall truly be as one. 

I have found the one whom my soul loves. Song of Solomon 3:4

I pray for inspiration and intention to be closer to my Husband’s heart. 

Here is the fine print: I am called to write inspirational words for women, so my shares are directed at women. Our brains are wired differently and our needs are much different. While we have the same set of directives as men (Go ye therefore…), we interpret and share based upon the nature of wives, mothers, daughters and sisters in Christ. Men are welcome to read, but please know that I am writing to my sisters. 

 

The Purse

My handbag looks like any normal tote.  It’s black leather-like with an emblem on it and shoulder straps, and there is a cute little dangling metal thing on one side. It was on clearance at one of those department stores that sells discounted name-brand  items, and it serves me well. When fully loaded on Sundays, it carries my Study Bible and a journal for sermon notes, my phone and Ipad, four pair of reading glasses and hopefully, a pair of sunglasses, although, I can never find the sunglasses when I need them. There are also assorted rings and bracelets that bothered me and were cast-off during the week and finally, my blood pressure pills.  Some days, at about twenty pounds, my purse could be used as a weapon if need be.  

A humorous Facebook discussion among some of my cousins brought to light a previously unrealized disorder. The subject was messy purses. Public photo sharing ensued, and each purse was messier than the one before it. It seems to be genetic. In my opinion, my submission to the spontaneous contest was rather remarkable. I was still smiling when I recalled that I recently asked my husband to retrieve an item from my handbag, and he refused. He said it was too messy and acted as if he might be bit by something or perhaps catch some disease.   

This newfound consciousness of my untidiness caused a moment of clarity in an otherwise jumbled mind, and I decided I should clean out the purse. You may have gathered by now that I am not one who changes my purse to match my shoes, or even swaps it out weekly or even seasonally. I live in and out of this handbag, and it is loaded and ready to go at all times. Therefore, it collects items for a while. They kind of pack down and sometimes disappear entirely.

As I began, it appeared that most of the top layer was receipts. I always keep them thinking I will sort them and file them. There is no reason to keep all of them, but I do, and they are loose in my purse. Then, there is the pack of sticky notes that have become unstuck on themselves and stuck on something else or the side or bottom of the bag. They were meant to be with my Bible, and that may inspire another blog entirely. Multiple, multiple pens exist in my purse. I have pens for everyone always. Gum and straw wrappers that didn’t make it to the garbage. Well yes, they did. The garbage can that is my purse. Napkins I have blotted my lips on. I forgot I had lipstick that color – somewhere. The makeup I put on in the car if I am not driving to work but rather riding with my husband: mascara, blush and two or three colors of lipstick (except for the missing one) and two glosses. There was that missing set of car keys my husband mentions every morning.

Then, I came upon something rather unexpected. Butter. Yes, butter or some butter-like spread in a plastic container with a foil top. On August 5 we enjoyed a birthday dinner with my mom at the old country restaurant where we like to shop as much as we like to eat. This was September, and there was butter spread in my handbag from early August. It was partially opened. This explained why some of the receipts had oil spots on them. As I cleaned out my purse, it never occurred to me to wonder about the oil spots on the receipts until the moment I found the pat of butter in the little plastic container. This was an eye opener. Butter had lurked in my bag waiting to coat my glasses, my I-devices or worse, to smear the edges of my Bible – for a month. I stared at the forgotten butter spread with disdain, its little container slightly bent and the foil lid pealed back just a small amount. It was disgusting and gritty and I had pushed it away and allowed that unwanted and potentially messy item to reside for a month in the bottom of my purse. Why?? Then I realized the number of times recently I had to tell one of our dogs to get its head out of my purse. They knew. Oh, they knew there was tasty fat in my purse.

I would like to say that I will retain the lesson about collecting clutter in my purse due to the finding of the butter, but I fear I will not. Organization is truly an effort for me. My purse is always with me, and I tuck the little things that I can’t immediately discard in my purse with the intention of ridding myself of them later. Then, it’s hard for me to discard these little bits of stuff — like it’s sometime hard for us to rid ourselves of some sins that lurk in the recesses of our being and we occasionally find there when we take time clean out our heart with prayer and worship.  

For God to work with us and make us like Him, for Him to equip a believer fully with the Holy Spirit, we have to discard even the little bits of those things we hold onto that we should not. The straw paper of envy that we hold against the neighbor with the new car. The broken toothpick of malice for someone who has made us feel less than adequate. The butter spread which could influence our life in many ways just as it could have ruined the items in my purse. Sins of anger or drunkenness or sexual impurity touch many aspects of our lives and create a separation between us and Christ.

As Christians, we must strive to completely divest ourselves of these bits of sin in order for God to fill us with the good things He has to offer – those things which make us holy. The blood of Jesus can wash away sins that we even hide from ourselves if we ask Him to reveal them and we confess them.

My messy purse is now clean. It is easier to carry….a much lighter burden on my older shoulder.  

Father God, I pray in Jesus precious name that You cleanse me of the little bits of things – of sins– that displease You so that I am the empty vessel You wish to fill with Your goodness.

Psalm 51:10 (ESV)

Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

Thanksgiving

Before your feet hit the floor each morning, just as you take your waking breaths and before you even open your eyes, where does your mind wander? Do you seek Jesus? Do you wake up with thankfulness, do you praise God, or do thoughts of the day ahead along with the tasks that wait for you flood your mind?  
In my home, our furry four legged friends tell us that the first thing we should do is feed the dogs and Max, the cat. The young newspaper delivery person slings our paper up into the yard anticipating we will read the news, the television news person wants to describe events happening around the world. In other homes, families are dressing the children, eggs are cooking and the coffee pot is heating. 

Our attention is immediately assaulted by any number of things as the day begins. But, what of Jesus? Did the Creator and Finisher of all things — of our faith — enter our thoughts? Moreso, did we think to enter His gates with Thanksgiving? He was there waiting for us.
If your day is like mine, it clips along: feed the dogs – shower – dress – brush my teeth – find my shoes – do makeup and commute to the job. I am not the best morning person, so sometimes minimal makeup is done in the car and sometimes even my shoes are found the car. Then, quite frequently, the day takes on a life of its own.  

Mid morning I’m sitting in the office at my desk, peering at two computer screens, managing calendars, travel, jets, multiple phone lines and all manner of things for a very busy CEO, and I realize — I skipped Jesus this morning. I skipped Him altogether! My heart sinks. Did I really miss that golden moment to begin my day in God’s Court with praise to Him?  

To be filled with the Holy Spirit (which is a continuing conscious act on my part that doesn’t just happen) I have to first, what? Enter God’s Court…be in His presence. I have to divest myself of the things of this world so as to experience the fullness of this gift. Logically, there would seem to be no better time to let God take control of my life and my day than early morning when external things of this world have not pressed themselves upon me, and boy, don’t they press?

Enter God’s Court. Receive a refreshing of the Holy Spirit. Renew your connection to the Master and be thankful. So, at the early dawn, before the sun, I’ll try to keep my eyes closed for a few minutes and, during that sweet time I will….

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His Name. Psalm 100:4

Thank you, Jesus, for wanting us to have a relationship with you. 

Summer Squash

We joined a Community Supported Agriculture farm this year. Adventurous eaters, the unexpected bounty received week to week is so exciting, AND we are helping a local farmer. I will say, however, that the first two weeks gave us an abundance lettuce, kale and and other greenery, and our noses got just a little twitchy. However, just before we became rabbits, here came the yummy summer squash, tomatoes and onions.  
Now, when I envisioned summer squash, I though of the familiar yellow crookneck squash. But, Whoa! I was never prepare for all of the varieties of summer squash! There was crook and straight neck, yellow and bicolor, thin green zucchini, the little round and yellow squash orbs whose name I will never know, and the flat scalloped Patty Pans. The Patty Pans resemble ballerina tutus of my youth, and they taste sweet and nutty. Just saying Patty Pan makes me smile everytime.

I offered squash to a friend who asked if she could have one specific variety. She wasn’t interested in any of the others. Well, then. Our share didn’t include her preferred squash, and I expounded on the wonderful other squash in our weekly share. I explained that when the squash are cleaned, sliced and cooked with salt and pepper, they all taste just like – well – summer squash. From one bite to the next that wonderful flavor of summer squash shines through, and the initial appearance has little to do with the final result. Yep, stay with me ….I’m going somewhere.

This wonderful melange of squash make me think of our friendships with other women, and in particular our Christian sisters. We are all different, all unique. But blended together — in conjunction with each other — we serve God’s kingdom in wonderful ways. In service and instruction to children, in choirs, in missions and in so many ministries in our churches. Especially in prayer, I believe, can Christian women join hearts over common needs so very effectively. I am thankful to be a part of an intercessory prayer group started on Facebook.  Most in our group have never met each other, but our prayerful hearts meet over the needs of many and across several states. 

Yes, some of us resemble the normal yellow squash you see in the produce stand, and then there are the exotic small zucchinis. You know the ones I’m talking about. For fun, we have a few Patty Pans among us. You know who you are and if you are not one of them, I hope there is a Patty Pan in your life. They certainly keep things fun and stirred up. Together, however, we are a wonderful dish of sometimes nutty squash who honor, serve and are savored by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit to as to form one body.  1 Corinthians 12:12-13a 

So, since you are likely now hungry, here is an easy recipe for my skillet squash. You can use any combination of summer squash or any one particular kind.  

3 lbs of young summer squash, cleaned and sliced. I like young squash because they don’t have the large seeds and don’t have to be pealed. Huge bonus!  

2 medium onions, peeled and sliced in 1/4 inch slices

2 T butter

Salt and Pepper  

Prepare the squash by washing and slicing thinly. In a boiler place the squash with just enough water to cover them. Think Baptism, not drowning. Bring to a boil, then simmer until tender. About 10 minutes. (Sometimes don’t the Lord let us simmer until we reach just the right tenderness?) Drain the squash and set aside. In a black skillet, melt butter and add onions. Sautee the onions until they are transparent and the edges are brown. Add salt and pepper to the onions and stir for one minute. Then add drained squash to pan and stir to combine. Adjust seasoning as necessary. There you have it.   

I celebrate that God made us so unique. Not one of us is better or more necessary than the other, but we are all important in His kingdom.  

My dear friend, I pray that you have Christian sisters to walk with you along life’s journey, and I hope that in your life God has placed at least one Patty Pan for entertainment.