Bits of Stolen Fluff

At a recent Bible study, a friend shared a story of her young daughter who had taken a pair of scissors and cut up the comforter on her bed.

When my friend discovered the damaged quilt hidden under another blanket, she was not happy! She shook her head in disbelief and asked,”Why? What were you thinking? Why would you cut up your comforter?”

Her daughter responded, “Because I needed the filling inside to make a pillow for my dolly.”

My friend was beyond frustrated as she thought of all the batting she had just down the hall in her craft room! She had an abundance of what her daughter needed! It was just sitting there, ready to be used!

But her daughter never asked.

Instead, she took things in her own hands and did irreparable damage to a comforter.

She was left with a pillow that would not last. It was just a folded handkerchief stuffed with bits of stolen fluff instead of the beautiful, pillow that her mother could have helped her make.

After we had all laughed and commiserated with this mom, I immediately thought of how often we act just like this young daughter.

We see a need, whether real or imaginary and instead of going to our heavenly Father with that need, we take matters in our own hands.

We cut and paste and scheme, leaving behind a trail of damage and hurt and frustration.

Our feeble efforts are never are good or as eternal as the ones we leave to God’s hands.

They are just bits of stolen fluff wrapped in our own devises.

Our Heavenly Father has everything we could ever need.

All we have to do is ask.




Double Trouble

The toughest lessons in life are the ones you have to watch your children learn.

We had two such lessons in one eventful afternoon.

The first one was Pedro – who had detoured on the way home to check out a fire in the distance – and got a flat tire. Buddy and I were in the car with him so we had ring side seats.

He had changed many tires before, but he discovered quickly that changing a tire on the side of the road with a flimsy jack is quite different from changing a tire at home in the shop.

It took over 20 minutes and the help of a kind hearted stranger just to get the spare tire out.

That lame-brain engineer who decided it was a good idea to put a spare tire underneath a mini van should have to sit on the side of the road and watch his 16 year-old son try to get the rusty thing off.

Just saying.

It took another 20 minutes and another kind stranger with a hydraulic jack in the back of his hatchback (with the two dogs and lots of junk) to get the van up.

The National Guard even stopped by.

I should have sold tickets.

But he did it! An hour later, Pedro got the tire changed, passed his “man test” with just a scraped knuckle and his pride intact.

Meanwhile – twenty miles away – Dagmar was getting her own life lesson.

She and Angel Girl were running an errand in town and were in a fender bender.

I was sitting on the side of the road watching Pedro struggle to get the tire changed when she called.

“Hey – mom, we were kind of in an accident. But we’re okay. Not much damage – and the sheriff is on his way.”

Oh my.

Never a call you want to get.

My only thought was, “Call your dad!”

But he was back in the shop where there is no reception and never got the call.

Dagmar had to handle the entire thing herself.

And she did just fine.

My poor husband. He didn’t get my frantic call that we had a flat tire either.

Nope. He called me as he was leaving work and I got to ruin his day in one fell swoop.

Insurance forms. Body work. Two new tires.

Poor guy.

Now that everyone’s home safely and the dust has settled I can hear the kids laughing upstairs and I know it’s time to count some blessings.

Nobody was hurt.

Nothing was damaged that can’t be fixed.

And our kids did good.

Really good.

They handled themselves just as we would have wanted them to.

They’re gonna be just fine.

I can only hope their parents make it!

Wandering Calves and Life Lessons

I happened to look out the window yesterday morning and saw Belle – the youngest of our calves  – walking across the yard.

It was a cold, drizzly and windy day. Not a good time for a little gal to be away from her mama.

The problem was – she was short enough to walk right under the electric fence. To her – that fence wasn’t a boundary – just a mere suggestion.

Maybe the grass did look greener on the other side.

Maybe she just wanted a little adventure.

Maybe she wasn’t paying attention.

But there she was on the wrong side of the fence walked away from the safety, protection, and life-giving nourishment of her mama.

I quickly found my shoes and went out to round her up.

But she didn’t want to be rounded up, and took off running in the other direction.

She was down the hill and almost to the ravine before she stopped for a breath. When she did, she realized she was lost.

She let a scared little bellow for her mama – but it was lost in the hollowing wind.

She had gone too far.

She was wet, cold, hungry and alone in a big scary world.
Baby Calf
I have to admit – it brought tears to my eyes.

I quietly walked behind her and got her turned around and running in the right direction.

It was several minutes – and a few false turns before she ran back under the electric fence – and several more before she found her mama.

The whole incident was eye-opening for me.

I saw her danger. I wanted to help. But I couldn’t make her go in the pen. I just kept pointing her in the right direction until she finally crossed the fence.

As a mother – I could see so many lessons in Belle’s little romp.

How can I make sure my kids see Biblical boundaries as safeguards and not suggestions?

How can I stay faithful in pointing them in the right direction, even when they don’t always want to listen?

How can I stress them to them the importance of staying near so they can hear their Master’s voice – no matter how loudly the world tries to drown it out?

This morning as I looked out the window, I witnessed a very different scene.

Little Belle was standing right next to her mama when the cows walked in for water. She nursed for a long time , doing little happy dances as she went from one side to the other.

Then, with a bulging tummy full of warm milk,  she jumped and twirled and kicked up her feet as she followed her mama all the way back to the pasture.

And I thought to myself, that’s what I want for my children.

Safety at the Savior’s side.

Joy and contentment in obedience.

Life Lessons

We started school this week.

All the curriculum came out. The books got dusted off and the pencils sharpened.

But I find it interesting that the most important lessons learned this week didn’t come from any books – they came from life.

Lessons like responsibility.

When you are the one responsible for getting up and feeding the pigs – and you happen to oversleep – pigs don’t like it.

They bend the fence in order to get out and run around the yard in search of food.

Your mom and your sister are not very happy when they have to help you get them in – and then figure out how to keep the fence together until your dad comes home.

Over an hour of the day is lost.

And your dad is not pleased with the bent fence.

“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.”                   Proverbs 6: 10-11

Or generosity.

That sacrificing the time to run to town for extra ingredients so you can work in a hot kitchen to make meals for those who just got out of the hospital makes you feel good.

Especially when you see the looks of appreciation on the faces of the recipients.

That taking the time to sit and down and visit when you delivered the meal was just as important as the meal itself.

And that by the time you left – you felt just as blessed as the ones you brought the meal to.

“A generous person will prosperous, whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25

This is what I would call real education.

There are some things in life that just can’t be taught in a textbook.


A Gentle Reminder Part 2

Last week I shared how God used a daffodil to gently remind me how useless it was to worry. But that wasn’t the only lesson He wanted to teach me.

I’ve owned a Christmas cactus for many years. Somehow – even when every other plant I owned died from neglect – this one stayed alive.

My Grandma had a very large and beautiful Christmas cactus. I remember how excited she was when she could get it to bloom! She followed some special instructions that I could never remember – something about putting the plant in a cold dark place for a certain amount of time before bringing it into the warmth.

It was all very confusing to me, so I never worried about it. There were so many other things to think about it – like how to feed and cloth five children who were growing like weeds.

I was just happy that the plant was still alive.

BloomsThen – just the other day – I saw this.

My Christmas cactus had buds!

I had done nothing to encourage it to bloom. I didn’t put it in the dark or cold – and the poor thing was covered in dust!

Most of the time I either forgot to water it and when I did remember – I gave it too much.

I didn’t deserve those blooms. But God gave them to me anyway.

What a beautiful picture of grace.

Blooming Christmas Cactus

An unmerited favor. A blessing.

Those two beautiful blossoms  reminded me once again how very blessed I am.

I  had been spending so much time worrying, complaining and fretting over things that I wanted or situations that I felt needed to change, that I was missing the grace that was all around me.

And God blessed me with two breathtakingly beautiful, quite undeserved flowers to bring things back into perspective.

How about you?

Proverbs 28:20 “A faithful man shall abound with blessings…”

Can you see them?


Lessons from Loss

Peter Paul Rubens Praying HandsIt’s been just a few months since I lost my good friend and prayer warrior.

Her death left a gaping hole that has slowly started to heal.

But there’s something about a gaping hole that makes you want to ask some questions.

What was it about her that – when she left – we all felt such a loss?

Why was she the one we all turned to for comfort and prayer?

How did she get to be our prayer warrior?

The obvious answer is that she cared.

She listened. She wept. She empathized. She made us feel safe and loved.

Yet – she didn’t play God – she trusted Him. As we shared what was on our hearts – she didn’t immediately start telling us what to do or how to fix it.

(Oh how I struggle with that one! I want to fix things for people. I want to make it all better. I want to give every story a happy ending.)

But there was something even more than that –  something that went even deeper.

We could trust her.

When you shared a request, you could trust her to pray about it. She would be concerned and  check back with you for updates, letting you know she was praying.

(I can’t say that about everyone. I know that people can’t always say it about me.  How many times have I said I would pray about something – only to totally forget.)

We could trust her to treat us and our requests with respect. She didn’t dismiss our concerns or make light of our requests. If it was important to us – it was important to her.

She was such a blessing and I still miss her.

But I’m so thankful for the part she played in my life – and for the things she’s taught me.

Lessons that have continued even after she’s gone.

Lessons about praying and caring and people.

Life-changing lessons that I’m still trying to learn.

Chocolate Bread Pudding

My mom shares this comfort food with a little life lesson…

chocolate bread puddingOur children never liked the traditional bread pudding with cinnamon and raisins. now in our “empty nest” season of life we have “up scaled” the recipe to include nuts, dried fruit, coconut, etc.  I can just hear their “ugh”!

When we first found this recipe for Chocolate Bread Pudding, my initial reaction was “ugh” — chocolate & bread do not go together!

But, then again, when have we not been able to eat something with chocolate in it?

So, being the adventurous one, Papa Jim made it, but just a half  recipe, in case we didn’t like it!

But that wasn’t a problem – it was delicious! It tastes like chocolate pudding with texture! It was wonderful plain, but ice cream dressed it up!

Life lesson: Don’t be afraid to try something new, especially if it contains chocolate!

Chocolate Bread Pudding
From Nana Shirley’s Kitchen

12 cups of ½ in. bread cubes
4 cups heavy cream (condensed milk works!)
2 cups milk
½ cup cocoa powder
1 Tablespoons instant coffee granules
1 cup sugar
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
10 egg yolks

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300°. Toast bread on rimmed baking sheet, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp, about 30 minutes. Transfer to large bowl.

Increase oven temperature to 325°.  Grease 13 x 9 inch baking pan.   Heat 1 ½ cups cream, milk, cocoa, coffee, and ½ cup sugar in saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until steaming and the sugar dissolves.  Pour warm cream mixture over toasted bread and let stand, tossing occasionally, until liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring additional 1 cup cream to simmer in saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until smooth. Transfer 1 cup chocolate mixture to medium bowl and let cool 5 minutes. (Cover pan and reserve remaining chocolate mixture for serving.) Add egg yolks, remaining cream, and remaining sugar to bowl with chocolate mixture and whisk to combine.

Transfer soaked bread mixture to prepared pan and pour chocolate custard mixture over bread. Bake until pudding is just set and surface is slightly crisp, about 45 minutes. Let cool 30 minutes.

Warm reserved chocolate mixture over low heat, then pour over bread pudding.   Serve. (Leftover bread pudding should be refrigerated or frozen; reheat individual portions in microwave.)

Make ahead: In step 4, once soaked bread mixture has been transferred to prepared pan, the pan can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight. When ready to bake, remove plastic and proceed with recipe as directed, increasing baking time to 55 minutes. Let reserved chocolate serving sauce cool, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Heat sauce in microwave when needed.

Option: You can half the recipe and bake in an 8 X 8 inch pan.

Until next time,
Nana Shirley

Ahh, more wise words from Mom, who is one of the most adventurous women I know!