Work and Family

Those Pesky Distractions
Walk into your new office space, stop and enjoy the sight. Your desk is clean, your pencils are sharpened and your typewriter or word processor beckons. ‘I’m a writer,’ you breathe.

Quiet pervades the atmosphere. Excitement courses through you as you sit down and start to write. You just know this is the time to write that blockbuster novel, or at least to write something in your journal for the day.

With the first keystroke, someone banging on your door shatters the silence. Startled out of your moment of inspiration, you go to the door only to find your neighbor, who loves to talk.

After she leaves, you try to put your mind back on what you wanted to write.

In the middle of a paragraph, the shrill ring of the telephone makes you jump. You answer automatically only to hear a chatty telemarketer. Attempting to be courteous, you try to tell the caller you are not interested, but you can’t get a word in edgewise. Finally, you set the phone back in its cradle and plan to write.

In the meantime, however, your computer has frozen. Not being a super-whiz at electronics, you realize you must shut it down and reboot it. Perhaps that may even necessitate calling tech-support or your computer-savvy spouse, or you may have to wait until your children get home, since they know more about it than you do!

Finally, peace descends on your office, the words begin to flow and you dream of publishers beating down your door to accept your manuscript.

You write one page (double-spaced), and you pat yourself on the back. You know you’ll be able to continue with no disruptions this time. However, the neighbor’s dog has other plans as he begins to bark non-stop. There will almost always be distractions. The key to getting anything done is to learn how to work in spite of them.

The truth is, you can write. It isn’t a matter of the right circumstances (although they do help), but rather the will to write that is important. Even if you start with fifteen minutes per day, you can accomplish a great deal by the end of a week. Self-discipline is the key, just as it is in so many other things, such as eating, exercise and daily devotions.

Setting an artificial deadline can help. Make a goal to have so many pages done by a certain date. One of the hardest parts of working at home is the lack of external forces to keep you at it. It helps to realize you are working for God and He is your employer.

Belonging to a critique group is also essential and is an opportunity to stimulate writing ideas. Regular attendance keeps you writing, helps you to be accountable to others and provides valuable feedback from other writers. If no critique groups meet in your area, you may consider starting one yourself.

Although outward distractions abound, some distractions are inward, such as fear, laziness, procrastination or lack of self-discipline and motivation. Admit these to God and ask for His help. Prayer is the true starting point for your writing.

When you sit down to write, you will be amazed at how many ideas come to you that are unrelated to writing. Suddenly you remember the refrigerator needs cleaning, a drawer needs to be sorted and the ironing is piling up. The clothes need washing and the garden needs weeding. This is the time to remember God’s work is most important. If you can write for only a short period out of your day, then let the other things wait until you are finished. Making a to-do list will help relieve the urgency you feel to do other tasks.

So, lay in a supply of earplugs and set your will to write. Be gentle with yourself; all habits take a while to either break or to develop. Pesky distractions will always arise, but they need not permanently interfere with your writing.

By Crystal J. Ortmann
One Step at a Time
When I received the telephone call that my ninety-two-year-old mother had almost died, I knew it was time for her to sell her home and live with me in Oregon. She always said that she would move when the time was right, but with Mother the time was never right. We had several frustrating conversations, and it appeared that she would rather die alone than to sell. After that phone call, there was no doubt–the time was right.

The thought of Mother coming to live with me was overwhelming, and taking an assertive role with her would be extremely difficult. Mother had been alone since my father’s death in 1951, and she was fiercely independent. My children were grown and had moved out, so I had no other obligations. But the future with Mother caused me great concern. I asked the Lord to work out this complicated and potentially hurtful situation. Faith was not flooding my heart, but I did have a peace that the Lord would somehow show me what to do.

After Mother recovered, I called and told her that she seriously needed to consider selling her home and moving in with me in Portland. This time she agreed, but said that she did not want a ‘for sale’ sign in the yard, absolutely no lockbox on the door, and, to top it off, she did not want people going through the house. Impossible! How could anyone be so unreasonable! Instead of voicing all of the reasons that her plan would not work, I told her that I would fly to Denver within a week to put her house on the market.

When I arrived at Mother’s, I went through the house, noting that it was in desperate need of major repairs. Since I had a real estate license, I saw how any buyer could negotiate down the asking price.

I started calling real estate companies and arranged for two agents to come to the house. The first one did not impress me, and the second agent did not seem like much of a salesperson. I silently prayed and asked the Lord to direct me to make the right choice. I was mentally comparing the two agents and considering whether I should call another real estate company when the second agent said that he needed to call his office. When he hung up, he said that he had good news. While he was talking with the secretary, another salesperson in his office overheard the address of Mother’s house and said that he was coming right over with his client who was looking for a home in this neighborhood.

The agent and his client went through the house. She liked it and wanted to make an offer. Within two hours, Mother’s house sold at the asking price with no requirement for repairs. The Lord had taken care of the complete transaction without a ‘for sale’ sign in the yard, no lockbox, and no people going through the house. In three months, the transaction closed, and I moved her to Oregon.

There have been several difficult events in my life since Mother’s move. I have been encouraged by remembering how overwhelmed that I was at the prospect of selling my mother’s home and the dilemma of moving her into my home. The Lord knew exactly what to do, and all He required of me was one step at a time.
Bible Gardening with Myrrh

We may never determine which plant is the holiest in the Bible, but myrrh surely stands high in that pantheon.

The three kings presented to the baby Jesus and His family the most precious gifts they could envision: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:11 is one of the most loved Bible verses, describing how the Magi, or ‘wise men from the East,’ traveled to Bethlehem to greet the Christ child, the newborn ‘King of the Jews.’ Their gift of myrrh symbolized Christ’s ability to heal.

Two of the three gifts the wise men offered are derived from plants that we can grow in our gardens today. Myrrh is created from the sap or resin that oozes from the bark of the Commiphora myrrha plant. The sap is scraped from the plant, and when it is dry it can be burned as incense or used in medicine, in perfume, and for embalming.

Myrrh was burned as incense in the temple in Jerusalem in Bible times, in the innermost sanctuary where only the priest was allowed. Luke 1:10 speaks of the congregation praying outside of the inner sanctuary ‘at the time of incense’ (KJV). Myrrh was burned each day in the temple as part of the morning and the evening services.

Its beautiful fragrance is attested to in the many mentions of myrrh being compared to loved ones in the Song of Solomon. In Song of Solomon 1:13 a young girl speaks of her beloved as ‘a bundle of myrrh,’ and 5:5 and 5:13 describe ‘sweet smelling myrrh’ (KJV).

As written in John 19:38-39, upon the death of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea was given permission to take Jesus’ body to a tomb. John 19:39 describes how Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing 75 pounds to the tomb of Jesus. Following the Jewish burial custom they wrapped Jesus’ body in linen with the myrrh and aloes.

A second plant, Commiphora katef, is sometimes translated as myrrh and also has a gummy resin, which was called myrrh in ancient times. Both of these plants have sharp thorns and grow in hot arid lands in North Africa and in Arabia.

The myrrh plant, rarely grown in the United States and hard to find here, can be obtained through a determined search on the Internet or by asking your local nursery owner to find you a myrrh plant for your Bible garden.

Imagine the thrill of children when they enter your garden and see a myrrh plant and its sap, which emerges in droplets from the bark and sets there. For a fun project they can scrape the resin off the plant and allow it to dry, and then as a family activity you can burn it as pure, natural incense.

The best time to locate myrrh plants is during the Christmas season. A few nurseries sell them because myrrh was one of the gifts the three wise men brought to the Christ child.

If we carefully seek to follow Christ, obeying Him and allowing the Holy Spirit to exert control over our thoughts, words, and actions, then we will also be able to represent Christ to those who are perishing in their sins.

Terra Hangen
New Furnishings

New furnishings! To some, this is a thrill, but for many, the thought makes them shudder. The costs of equipping a home can be astronomical. However, if you are a savvy spender, you can stretch your dollar and reduce household expenses. Here are some helpful ways:

Buy good sheet sets on sale to use for tablecloths, chair covers, pillowslips, or curtains.
Decorate your home with versatile pieces that can be used in different rooms. Bring the outdoors in; cut ferns, wildflowers, and small tree branches make for interesting (and free) arrangements.
Frame greeting cards, pictures from old calendars, or your favorite church bulletin as unique and clever art for your walls.
Invest in furniture that is versatile, such as a sofa bed, day bed, or stool that doubles as a storage unit.
Construct your own furniture. For example, wooden crates can be stacked to hold your home entertainment units. Lay an old door across two opposite bricks or sawhorses to serve as a table.
Buy appliances and furniture at auctions, garage sales, thrift stores, and warehouses.
Discover usable furniture or home decor at the curb on garbage collection day. Remember, one man’s trash is another’s treasure.
Haul it home yourself. When you purchase new appliances and furniture, the cost of “free delivery” is often built into the price. Negotiate the price down by offering to take it home rather than scheduling a delivery date
When you get your treasures home and the house is decorated, protect your investments. Here’s how:
Cover wood tabletops with clear glass, plastic, or a vinyl tablecloth to protect them from liquid spots, scratches, and dents.
Clean and polish wood furniture with olive oil.
Remove shoes before walking on any flooring.
Vacuum daily. The quickest way to wear out carpet is to allow dirt and grit to get imbedded in the nap.

With a little ingenuity, you can get more for your home furnishing dollar and have a home that is uniquely you.
Rebellious Morning Glories

Everybody knows morning glories bloom only in the soft sunlight of the morning, thence their name. Well, ‘everybody’ is wrong about morning glories.

Several quite contrary morning glories revel in blooming in the hot afternoon sun and even in the midnight hours. Yes, many of the climbing classic vines like Heavenly Blue and Grandpa Ott greet the dawn with tender open blooms that close at midday. But this family has some rebel members.

My favorite discovery in this family is Convulvulus Tricolor, or bush morning glory, which grows only 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide. Each plant resembles a full bouquet of royal purple flowers trimmed in yellow and white. The tricolor is purple with white and yellow in the center, but bush morning glories come in a range of colors. Get seed packets of several colors, and plant them right next to each other, several seeds together. That way you can have masses of pink, white, and the tricolor. Tricolor morning glories have flowers that stay open all day, even in the hot afternoon sun. They give you a burst of long-lasting color and thrive in containers or any sunny spot. They can come back again the next year by reseeding themselves. What more can we ask of a plant?

The second rebel member of this family is the moonflower. Instead of early morning flowers, these 6-inch fragrant white blooms open only in the evening and seem to glow in the dark. You will want to go outside in the evening to enjoy them. Children and adults find them a bit mysterious and rather magical.

The traditional morning glories are handsome workhorse vines. They do well in containers or in the ground, twining up a trellis or fence. Growing quickly from seed in one season, they will reward you with splashes of color. For new gardens, they can quickly cover large areas, softening harsh lines, and creating an established garden appearance.

The most widely planted varieties deserve their name, since they bloom strongly in the morning with flowers fading in the afternoon. An heirloom and highly prized variety is Grandpa Ott. These magenta flowers grow on a vine that can reach 15 feet in length. For contrast, plant Heavenly Blue. These sky-blue flowers can reach 4 to 6 inches across.

All morning glories are best grown from seed, planted as soon as the danger of frost is over. The wide variety of flower color and form is very dramatic. These vines love sun. Since the seeds are as hard as pebbles, it is a good idea to soak them for two hours, then nick them with a knife and plant them. If you start them early indoors, use peat pots that will go directly into the garden or larger pot. Don’t overfeed them because too much fertilizer will give you more vines at the expense of flowers.

They will trail down in a colorful cascade if you have them in large containers. You can train them to grow up by putting a trellis in the pot. Planted next to a sunny wall or fence, they will seize the opportunity and attempt to reach the sun.

So give yourself a treat and buy some packets of different kinds of morning glory seeds. Don’t forget the moonflowers, especially if you have children who enjoy flowers.

By Terra Hangen
The Worth of a Woman

When you look into a mirror, do you like the woman you see? Or are you more preoccupied with finding flaws? When you examine your inner self and your attitudes, do you feel like a winner or like a spiritual and relational drop-out?

Take a few moments to give some honest answers to the following true or false evaluative questions. A few of the questions, as you will see, will not be applicable to every woman.

* I feel happiest when my home is neat and clean and I’m ‘on top of things.’
* I believe that how my children behave is a direct reflection on my ability as a mother.
* I know that “bad hair days” when things don’t go my way shouldn’t bother me, but sometimes I become very depressed and seriously dislike myself.
* If I could lose this weight, I’m sure that others would find me more appealing.
* Things go wrong at home because I don’t plan ahead well enough and think things through.
* I’m single, and I don’t have a full identity and purpose because I don’t have a family to care for.
* Comparing myself to other women is a good activity for me because it makes me realize how much I need to improve.
* I don’t often ask other women for help or advice because I don’t want them to know how much I need it. I would rather figure it out for myself, even if it takes longer.
* How I feel about myself is not what counts–if my husband and kids do not think highly of me, that fact alone should tell me I’m doing something wrong.

If you are like many women, you may have answered ‘true’ to at least one of the above. Don’t be ashamed of that, though. You are not the first one to be lured into false thinking and performance-based living. Take a look at any of the top women’s magazines and programs today and you get more than an eyeful of the world’s ideal.

Lose weight, work harder for a happier marriage, raise your children this way, find fulfillment in this activity, be your own woman–the slogans and the blurbs cry out for you to be different, to look different, to take care of your own needs. They tell you appearance is everything. Every woman has things she tries to hide, and how well you do at seeming ‘with it’ and getting what you want at the same time is the measure of your success.

The Lord who made you fashioned you very delicately and purposefully to be exactly the unique female you are. He has a plan for you, and His ideals transcend the here-and-now. In spite of what you may have been raised to believe, the worth of your womanhood is not determined by your looks or behavior or personality type or position in life.

Susan Hunt, author of The True Woman: The Beauty And Strength of A Godly Woman, explains the real foundation of your womanhood: ‘As a redeemed daughter of the King of kings, the Christian woman has a new identity. Her identity is not determined by her situation nor by her relationships with men, as feminists believe we [Christians] are saying, but by her Savior. Her concern is not self-image but being an image-bearer of the Lord God . . .

‘The uncomfortable truth is that even though we say we have a Christocentric worldview, when the pressure is on, we often shift to an egocentric view of our situation. We think selfishly rather than redemptively . . .

‘The true woman is a recipient of redemption. God set His sovereign affection upon her. He bound Himself to her in covenant faithfulness to be her God. He has redeemed her with His own blood. She is His treasured possession . . . [We are in] the folds of unspeakable love . . . a love that wraps eternal security around us . . . because we are His treasured possessions. This is the indisputable identity of the true woman.’

The reality of your standing in Christ is often difficult to remember when you are attacked by thoughts of low self-esteem and worthlessness. When you look at the beautiful woman with the seemingly perfect family and wonder why that couldn’t be you, this false and envious longing strikes a hurtful blow at the woman God designed you to be.

Remember, Satan wants you to take your eyes off of Jesus and put them on yourself and circumstances, and your own sinful nature makes its appeal to your emotions daily. When you lose your solid footing in His truth, you stand on the slippery ground of relativism, and God never intends for you to live in fear and self-condemnation. He loves you–that’s enough.

You may argue that even when you turn to Scripture you experience the same feelings of judgment. Everyone points to Proverbs 31, but the thought of meeting such a ‘superwoman’ is so intimidating that you do not read any further. While the manifestations of godly womanhood differ from person to person, the nugget of truth at the very end of the chapter is the one you want to mine and hold precious: ‘Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised’ (v. 30).

First Peter 3:3-5 expands this concept even further: ‘Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past used to make themselves beautiful’ (NIV).

God’s ‘mirror’ is one that reflects the radiance of a gentle and quiet spirit.

The spirit of inner peace is a transcendent quality that any woman can develop when she abides in Christ, builds a deeper relationship with Him through prayer and study of His Word, and allows the Holy Spirit to produce new character fruits in her life.

Why is this gentle and quiet spirit so attractive? It says that you trust Christ, not your own resources. You’re not worried about daily circumstances, because you know He is in control. You can give freely, since you are not concerned about getting something in return.

You understand God’s grace and love for you. You accept yourself because He made you just as you are.

You can accept others for who they are and trust Christ to change them. You can meet any challenge in His power. You laugh when humor comes your way, and cry with those who need empathy and comfort.

In short, you are in love with your Savior and the life He has given you–and it shows all over. That is attractive.

It’s irresistible, and best of all, that spirit is not an ‘act’ you generate for appearance’s sake.

In her book The Confident Woman, Anabel Gillham shares her gradual awareness of these truths: ‘How incredible! How unbelievable! I had struggled for so many years, hating my performance patterns, and yet living to perform, driven to perform, searching out the praise of men and thirsting for the love of God I thought could come only to those who performed well enough to receive it.

‘Yet God had just shown me that He loved me in spite of anything and everything, and He had shown me in a way that I could understand.’

Is Jesus’ love a reality in your life? To the degree that you grasp His unconditional love, you understand your worth as a person, as a woman, as a wife or mother or grandmother.

Let Jesus worry about doing any corrections and adjustments as He sees fit. That’s not for you to be concerned about.

You’re a beloved and righteous princess in the eyes of your Father the King.

Your job as a woman is to rejoice in how He made you and find satisfaction in His love each day.

Copyright ? 1997 May IN TOUCH magazine
All rights reserved

Used with Permission
She Did What She Could

Mark 14:3-9: ‘She did what she could.’

Helen slammed the car door and put the key in the ignition. If I hurry, I can make it to the store and back before the children come home on the bus. She turned the key. Nothing happened. The battery is dead again? Why can’t the garage fix this car so I’ll have one when I need it! She tried again. Nothing! In frustration, she put her head down on her hands that were folded over the top of the steering wheel. Tears pricked in her eyes.

‘Lord, I have to get to the store now,’ she said aloud, looking toward the ceiling of the car. ‘I can’t possibly walk there with three children in tow!’ She tried the key again. No luck!

Getting out, she returned to the house, hung her coat and threw her purse onto the shelf above. I have twelve items on my “to do” list, only two of which are “quickies,” and now the car won’t work! “I’m sorry to complain, Lord,” she prayed, “but this business with the car is getting really frustrating. Please help me to calm down and trust You. I don’t like to be cross.”

Most young mothers know the frustration of a too-full ‘to do’ list. It is easy to succumb to the ‘tyranny of the urgent’ and let some items on our lists be pushed onto the next day. We feel frustrated at the end of the day when so few items are done. Why can’t we accomplish all our tasks?

Each of us tackles our tasks differently. Perhaps someone else’s methods will help you to accomplish more.

Try the easy items first. If one job takes only five minutes, get it out of the way as quickly as possible. Seeing at least one item crossed off your list at the beginning of the day is a great morale booster.

Tackle a difficult task first while you have fresh energy. Later, completing a couple of quick items will give you a boost. Then take on another longer or more difficult task. Pacing oneself can relieve the stress.

Do one room at a time. If several items involve work in one room, do all those items before going on to another room. One young mother’s vanity license plate reads ‘BCKN4TH.’ Doing one room at a time will alleviate the exhaustion of walking back and forth, back and forth.

Shop once a week and mail items at the post office on the same day. That way, you need to get the car out only once.

Limit TV watching. Watching only one program a week would free up a lot of your time. OK, so one a day! Limiting the hours small children watch TV will cut down on the volume of noise in the house. The hours when the TV is off can be filled with soothing music from a radio or CD player.

Do two things at once. If you must watch TV, you’ll accomplish more by doing something else at the same time, such as ironing or folding clothes.

The pressures on any woman in Jesus’ generation were as real as those faced by women today. Even though the woman in Mark 14:3-9 had wasted much of her life in sinful pleasures, Jesus didn’t expect her to earn her salvation through much work for Him. Jesus commended her not for doing much, but for doing what she could.

Bible Gardening With Melons

Watermelons and cantaloupes are such a delectable part of picnics and barbecues on hot, steamy summer days. So, when reading the Book of Numbers in the Bible, it is easy to conjure up a picture of an ancient people wandering in the harsh Sinai desert, crying out despairingly for a taste of sweet melons from home.

Numbers 11:5 paints such a scene for us of people who were exhausted and hungry, longing for the sweet melons of Egypt that they used to eat at no cost. ‘We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons’ (KJV). Numbers 11:10 records how Moses heard his people weeping from despair and hunger, rebuking Moses’ leadership. ‘Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families,’ which angered the Lord and Moses.

The Hebrew title for the Book of Numbers, ‘In the Wilderness,’ is very apt, since Numbers traces the divinely guided journey of the Israelites from the wilderness of the Sinai desert to the plains of Moab. The complaints about the lack of clean water and fresh food, detailed in Exodus and in Numbers, are referred to as ‘the murmuring stories.’ These stories foretold the shattering rebellion of the Israelites and the break between God and His people, which would eventually be healed.

Experts suggest that the melons referred to in Numbers were either Cucumis melo (muskmelons, which we call cantaloupes), or Citrullus lanatus or Citrullus vulgaris (watermelons). Both types of melons were grown in ancient Egypt and in the Middle East in Bible days, and are widely depicted in the tomb art of the Pharaohs. Watermelons were grown as a crop in the Nile Valley 4,000 years ago.

From our Bible readings, it is clear that melons developed in hot arid lands, but don’t despair if your climate doesn’t match that of Egypt. Today, thanks to the creation of new varieties, you can find a type of melon that will thrive in your garden, even in northern areas and in small gardens. Start the seeds as early as you can. For areas with short growing seasons, plant them indoors in peat pots for a fast start. Plant the seedlings outdoors in a hot sunny spot, and provide a deep watering at least once a week. When you consider how juicy melons are, it is clear why they need large amounts of water. Rich fertilizer is essential, too.

To increase heat and boost production for all melons, I suggest that you lay black plastic on the ground; cut a hole or slit in it before planting each plant. This will cut down on weeds and conserve water by limiting evaporation.

Some cantaloupe hybrids, like Mainerock (75 days) and Minnesota Midget (65 to 70 days), have been developed for northern gardens. Minnesota Midget produces small fruit–5 to 6 inches in diameter and weighing 13 to 24 ounces–with a delicious flavor. Sweet’n Early hybrid, which is ideal for short-season areas, bears six to eight melons per vine and matures early (66 days).

The Charleston Gray hybrid, with its gray-green rind and red fruit, is very similar to the watermelons grown in ancient Egypt, which the Israelites longed for on their desert travels. The Charleston Gray was developed by C. Fred Andrus in Charleston, South Carolina, in the 1940s, and is a classic plant-breeding success story, accounting for 95 percent of the American watermelon crop in the 1960s; it is still widely grown.

The shape and hard rind of the Charleston Gray make it easy to ship. It is resistant to the two main diseases afflicting watermelons, and it tastes delicious. This plant takes up a lot of room for its sprawling vines, and yields oblong, delicious melons that average 20 to 30 pounds (80 to 85 days).

The Sugar Baby Watermelon is very popular because it takes up little garden space, with compact vines producing 6- to 10-pound melons (85 days.) For a melon that grows widely in Israel, both cultivated and wild, try the Malili Watermelon, which produces in dry conditions and yields 10-pound melons, with deep red fruit (90 days).

For seeds of some of the less common melons, such as the Malili and Minnesota Midget, do a bit of planning and order seeds from catalogs or online.
Holiday Hospitality

Did you ever meet someone who seemed to be the ‘hostess with the mostest’? The moment you entered her house and smelled homemade apple pie baking you knew it would be a night to remember. She served a complete five-course dinner, including the appetizer. Her house seemed to sparkle; not a single object was out of place. Had she cleaned for days? The many Christmas presents under the tree made you wonder if your hostess had been working around the clock since Labor Day to prepare for the holiday season. How does she do it? you muse.

Your first clue should have been the fact that the house smelled of apple pie, yet the dessert you ate was chocolate mousse. Your wise hostess merely chose a candle that would whet your appetite for the evening. Dinner was great, but it doesn’t take a culinary artist to bake seasoned chicken breasts, served beside crescent rolls, garlic mashed potatoes, corn, and a tossed salad. Could it be the appetizer you ate was from the neighborhood deli? It isn’t polite to snoop, but if you had, you might have noticed her overstuffed coat closet held her three children’s school backpacks, two throw pillows stained with Kool-Aid, and her husband’s collection of sports magazines. Good thing you didn’t shake or examine the Christmas gifts, which were uniformly wrapped with paper coordinating with her Christmas tree ornaments, or you would have found them to be empty boxes wrapped and displayed beneath the tree as a festive touch.

I have a friend, Jan, who met with another friend for breakfast one morning. As Jan and Lainey chatted over coffee about the approaching holiday season, Lainey talked about how fun it would be if she and Jan arranged an evening get-together with some of their friends from church. Jan knew that with plenty of advance notice she could use the church facilities for the celebration. Lainey paused in the middle of their planning and candidly said, ‘Jan, the best place I can think of to spend an evening with friends is your house. Your home is a place of such warmth and peace.’ Little did Lainey know, Jan had prayed for her home to be a place of ministry and refreshment.

Anyone can be a successful hostess and develop a ministry of hospitality. It does take some planning, but it isn’t rocket science. So why do so few of us entertain guests in our home? It seems to be a lost art. The fact is if we think something is simple we are much more likely to try it, and given a measure of success, we may repeat the experience.

To entertain guests with little fuss consider these suggestions for meal planning:

For the main course try frozen veal or chicken cutlets. Add a zippy premixed sauce for a finishing touch.
Choose brightly colored vegetables from the frozen section of your grocery, such as carrots or a mixed vegetable medley.
A tossed salad is easier than ever to create. Try the prepackaged salad. Merely place the greens in a bowl and add cherry or grape tomatoes.
Hot bread is a complement to any meal. Check the frozen food section for preshaped rolls in a bag. Just thaw. Allow 4 to 6 hours for bread to rise. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes and serve.
So many boxed dessert mixes are available to make the final course a no-brainer. Or try a frozen fruit pie served a la mode.
If you want a really stress-free evening and your budget will allow, invite your guests to your favorite restaurant for dinner and serve dessert and coffee at your house afterward.

I like to clean the house the day before entertaining guests. Cleaning in advance and planning a simple menu places the emphasis where it belongs, on my guests. I really prefer to clean once and entertain twice. By that I mean, I often clean on Thursday, have guests on Friday and again on Saturday or Sunday for lunch. Once the cleaning is done and I’ve finished the shopping for my simple menu plan, entertaining is a joy.

What about entertainment? Usually guests don’t expect a song and dance from their host. Simple conversation can create lasting bonds.

Hospitality is a great ministry. Romans 15:7 says, ‘Welcome and receive [to your hearts] one another, then, even as Christ has welcomed and received you, for the glory of God” (Amplified Bible). Inviting guests into our home is an opportunity to show the love of Christ and bring Him glory. It provides a chance to deposit cheer and goodwill into the life of another, no matter what the season.

Gwen Miller
Bible Gardening with Roses

As Bible gardeners, we create our gardens using plants mentioned in Scripture. Roses, often called ‘the queen of flowers,’ are among the most delightful of all Bible plants.

In Biblical times, roses grew in the Holy Land. Four species of the genus Rosa are native to Israel; one grows on Mount Hermon, and another on Mount Sinai. Of the other two species, Rosa canina grows in many countries, and Rosa phoenicia grows near rivers and streams in Mediterranean lands.

Roses grew wild around Jerusalem and Jericho and were cultivated in gardens for their beauty and scent and for culinary purposes. Rose hip tea and jam are still popular in the Middle East, and rosewater was among the world’s first treasured perfumes.

Isaiah 35:1 says that the desert will ‘rejoice and blossom as the rose’ (NKJV). Roses are sturdy bushes and grow wild in every part of the United States and Canada; varieties are available for both shade and sun. Most roses love sun and a nice breeze to keep mold and mildew away from them. Some roses have stunningly beautiful flowers, and others are loved for their scents. Many roses cherished for their smell are described in nurseries and catalogs as old-fashioned roses.

To encourage flowers, roses benefit from occasional deep watering, correct pruning, and nourishment from rose food, which is sold in nurseries. I recommend buying tough suede leather gloves designed for gardening or carpentry work and a small hand pruner.

To encourage an almost continual supply of blooms, when rosebuds finish blooming, prune the dead bud just above a leaf with five leaflets, where the stem looks thick enough to support some heavy flowers.

To help roses survive harsh winters in northern states, stop feeding the plants in late August and allow the flowers to develop into seedpods, called rose hips. In northern states where roses need protection to survive winter’s cold, give them a blanket of soil to cover the bud union, where the rootstock supports the grafted rose. In severe cold areas you can set up a circle of chicken wire as tall as the plant, cover it with plastic to keep out the rain and snow, and fill the chicken-wire cage with leaves, peat moss, and soil. Remove the cage in early spring before new growth starts.

Roses come in every nuance of color. You can indulge yourself by planting a garden of many shades of one color or multicolored roses that look like they’ve been splashed with colors by hand, or you can plant mixed colors of roses for future colorful bouquets. You may come to love rarer colors, such as Blue Girl, with its subtle blue or lavender tones, or the striking Jacob’s Coat vining rose, with blazing orange and yellow blooms. No matter what palette you want to paint with for your garden, roses can fulfill your dreams.

People have loved roses for more than 2,000 years. Jesus likely walked among roses as He preached and prayed. Today, as ever, rose gardens are ideal places to pray and meditate.

Terra Hangen
Homemade Balms and Toiletries

Tired of paying $5 for a little pot of lip, healing or Tiger Balm? For under $10, you can make all of these and still have tons left over to give away to friends as gifts. Making your own balm is easy, taking only seconds by melting a few natural ingredients in the microwave. When the base is done melting, you simply mix a few flavors, essential oils and/or scents and then pour into small containers to cool. The balm cools very quickly.

Making your own balm also lends itself to making your own solid perfume and healing balms, such as Tiger Balm. Once you understand the simple chemistry of balm making, you are then learning the bases for lotions and soaps. The making of melt and pour lotions and soaps will be discussed in a future article. This article is aimed at just getting you started on the easiest level there is in saving money making your own quality toiletries.

Basic Balm Recipe

The recipe for basic balm is simple. It’s one part soy wax (food grade) to one part edible oil (such as canola or sweet almond), but I prefer Emu oil for its healing qualities. A little beeswax helps keep it all a tad hard. I consider ‘a little beeswax’ about 5% of the entire amount of oil and soy. To make the balm, simply melt the bees and soy wax in the microwave only for a few seconds, until just melted. I used a disposable cup when I first started out, but now I keep a little four-ounce plastic Tupperware jar just for balm making. When using a disposable plastic cup, be careful not to get so hot it melts the cup. After I take the melted waxes out of the microwave, I mix in the oil and then any other ingredients. This is the fun part! At this point, you can add essential oils to make Tiger Balm, fragrance to make solid perfume, a few broken Vitamin E capsules, and/or a little flavor. For lip balm, I usually do not use a sweetener since it causes lip licking and then subsequently dry lips. But there is a sweetener available and a few drops will go a long way. For color, you can swirl in just a tad of old lipstick! Use a toothpick to do this. A little goes a long way.

When I am done mixing my magic, I then simply use little plastic pipettes (like the doctors use) to transfer the warm oil into containers or even lip balm twist chap stick looking tubes. If you are making chap stick, you simply want to increase the soy wax amount to three parts soy to one part oil and keep the beeswax at the 5% of the entire amount.

How Much Does All This Cost?

Let’s say I want to make 16 pots, which are about 1/4 of an ounce each. I then need four ounces of base to make those 16 pots. That is actually a very small amount of base. According to our recipe, that would mean two ounces of edible oil and two ounces of soy wax, and then, of course, a little beeswax. You can also buy four ounces of this base already made for $4.95. That means you are paying thirty cents per pot for the pre-made base. Containers run about 30 cents each if you want to get fancy and buy them. You may have some small containers at home, like old cosmetic shells. After considering essential oils, flavors and all, I figure you can make the 16 pots for under $1 for each one. Buying retail and getting less of a quality product would cost over $80. Family and friends love it so much the little pots will disappear!

Making Lip Gloss for a Fraction of the Cost

In making lip balm, you also find how to make lip gloss, even if it is just using all Vitamin E oil in a gloss roller. I like to use 1/2 Vitamin E oil to 1/2 Primrose Oil (great for PMS) and a little flavor oil. Doing that you have the healthiest lip gloss on the planet! I should know, that is all I gloss my lips with!

Copyright ‘The Dollar Stretcher, Inc.’ Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Bible Gardening with Mint

Jesus was familiar with mint and spoke of tithing with mint in Matthew 23:23 and in Luke 11:42. Mint is easy to grow and may even become invasive in your garden. Once you plant spearmint or peppermint, you will find that it not only thrives, but also spreads by underground stems–sometimes more than you would want.

Mint can be grown from seeds, cuttings, or plants purchased from a nursery. Although mint prefers moist soil and partial shade, with a half day of sun, it is hardy enough to grow in dry, hot garden spots. However, to produce a healthy plant with lots of tender new leaves, give it the water and partial shade that it prefers.

Under ideal conditions, mint will spread to new areas in your garden and even into your lawn and areas where you don’t want it to grow. Therefore, if you don’t want to be surprised by new mint plants springing up, plant it in pots. One way to keep mint where you want it is to install plant borders that are 14 inches deep. A positive aspect of mint’s spreading: if you step on the plants, you will smell the clean, refreshing scent of mint.

Mentha longifolia, or horsemint, is the most common mint found growing wild along streams and rivers in the Holy Land. In Bible times, mint was cultivated in gardens and prized for its medicinal uses and its flavoring for foods and tea.

Today’s gardeners have hundreds of mint species to consider. A favorite peppermint in modern gardens is Mentha piperita, which grows to 3 feet tall; its leaves are perfect for tea. Take ten fresh, tender new leaves, pour a cup of boiling water over them, and steep for 3 to 5 minutes, for a lovely cup of mint tea.

Mentha spicata, or spearmint, reaches 1 to 2 feet tall and is an ideal accompaniment for lamb and can be used in fruit salads, cold drinks, and mint jellies. Many Middle Eastern recipes use spearmint in pilafs and tabboulehs.

Other popular mints are Mentha piperita chocolate, or chocolate peppermint, which is a full-bodied mint that complements coffee and desserts, and Mentha suavelens, or pineapple mint, which has a delicious scent.

When you plant mint in your garden or enjoy of cup of mint tea, remember Jesus walked among mint in the Holy Land and mentioned it in Matthew and in Luke.

This Bible plant is so easy to grow I recommend it for every garden.

Terra Hangen
Garden Chocolates: No- Calorie Gardening

Here are some no-calorie ways to enjoy chocolate by bringing the color and the scent of chocolate into your garden. The first secret is to mulch with cocoa bean hulls. Whenever your local plant nursery has cocoa bean hulls for sale, treat yourself and buy a bag or two. The mulch hulls are a soft chocolaty color and, best of all, they have the scent of chocolate. If you toss the hulls to the base of your plants by hand, your hands will smell wonderful. For a week afterward you will catch the scent of sweets as you enter your garden, particularly after you water. In addition to wide use in the garden, you can use these hulls on all your patio container plants, so that when you step outside to the patio, there’s that wonderful aroma. There’s no reason not to consider adding cocoa bean hulls to the containers of your indoor plants.

But there are more ways to build your chocolate garden. Chocolate enthusiasts will enjoy growing a vine from Japan called–you guessed it–the ‘chocolate vine’ (Akebia quinata). The leaves are attractive and the flowers are tiny and brown and not very noticeable. They emit a white chocolate scent that we connoisseurs love. This vine grows in sun and in part shade, and may need to be controlled since it can be an aggressive climber, twining to 15-20 feet. The chocolate vine is deciduous, but evergreen in mild climates. The plant will grow in all zones.

A third discovery is the Sarcococca bush (S. ruscifolia). This slow-growing bush is a bit of a hard sell, so nurserymen will tell you, because the bush and its leaves are quite ordinary looking. The feature that lends grandeur to this bush is the potent perfume of its very tiny white flowers: the noble waft of chocolate. The plant will grow in zones 4-9 and 14-24.

Geranium enthusiasts may be familiar with scented geraniums (Pelargoniums). These sturdy plants do well in containers outdoors, in sun or partial shade. For a delicious chocolate mint scent, try Chocolate Peppermint Geranium. The gray-green leaves are splashed with chocolate color and the flowers are pink. Gentle rain, hot sun, or a light touch by your hand will release the fragrance from the leaves. This plant thrives in zones 3-11, and overwinters in zones 8-10. For colder climates bring the potted plant inside in mid-autumn.

For the flower with a color that most resembles dark rich chocolate consider the Chocolate Cosmos (Cosmos astrosanguineus). The flowers have a velvety mahogany look and a chocolate scent. They don’t resemble the annuals that are so popular. Chocolate Cosmos are tuberous perennials that can be dug and stored in winter in colder zones. They are recommended for zones 7-10. This gorgeous cut flower is native to Mexico and is sometimes called the Black Cosmos.

Bringing chocolate to your garden is a way to enjoy chocolate fragrance that is calorie free!

Try planting some of these chocolate beauties, and enjoy them in your garden and in bouquets throughout your home.

By: Terra Hangen

I’m Stressed!
I’m Stressed!

A Hurting Word…

If you keep a “running record” of these devotionals, then you know that I was running this week: I run the family laundry, cleaning, restaurant, and arbitration services. And don’t forget the teen taxi service, the worldwide web page, and now I’m running around the writer’s block – right! And you? You run, too. I know – we all do. Even the world is spinning and running around in circles!

A Helping Word … or Two!

Confess it!

It will CHALLENGE you to acknowledge your helplessness and rely completely on the Lord!

“Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in thy tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of thy wings” (Psalm 61:1-4 KJV).

Ad”dress” it!

It will CHALLENGE you to withstand the enemy in HIS battledress, not yours!

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil … Wherefore, take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:10,11,13 KJV).

Bless it!

It will CHALLENGE you to pursue a deeper relationship with the Lord!

“Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now have I kept thy word…It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes” (Psalm 119:67,7l KJV).

Stress is a nine-letter word, and the word is CHALLENGE! See it not as a problem you “can’t” handle; see it as a challenge you and your Lord “will” handle. Now, if I can stop running long enough to catch my breath, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. How about you?
Removing Weeds and Grasses

Low Cost Alternative?

I have an area that I need to get rid of weeds and grass. Round-up can get expensive. Do you have any ideas? I don’t have a problem with run-off.
Any help would be appreciated.
Bobbye C.


A simple, inexpensive, and organic way of controlling weeds is to use newspaper. Cover the area you wish to rid of weeds with several layers of newspaper, then spread mulch or compost over the newspaper. You can plant whatever you would like over this. Just poke a hole in the newspaper for the seed/plant and plant away!

A good reference would be Organic Gardening magazine, published by Rodale Press. They also have a website: They have a lot of good inexpensive organic tips and can point you towards other references, such as square-foot gardening and other labor-saving and organic methods of gardening. Organic is better for you and for the environment.

Depends on Your Goal

Weed control can be difficult and simple. If you don’t want to plant anything in the area get rock salt and laden the area with salt, the only problem is that you will probably never be able to plant anything there for a very long time.

If you want to plant, a time consuming method is to water the area prior to the growing season cover the are with black plastic and let solar energy do the work. The weeds will sprout but will die do to lack of sunlight. The problem here is that as you disturb the soil for planting you disturb weed seeds, so you may need to kill the weeds, till the soil, kill the weeds, etc.

Another method is to cover the area with a weed barrier and import composted soil (but this is not cheap). I hand weed, till, plant, use Round-Up and hand weed. If you have well composted soil weeds are easy to pull.
Albuquerque, NM

Killer Salt

If there is an area where you don’t want *anything* growing back, salt water is a great way to kill off weeds and keep them from coming back. I use 1 part salt to 2 parts water.
Anne P.

Cheaper Cost for Round-Up

Concerning how to get rid of weeds & grass other than using Round-up, what do you want to use the area for? If you want to replant in the area, you’d be hard pressed to find a product that works both as well as Roundup, but also that has *no* carry-over for future items planted. No, I don’t sell it, but my father (farmer) has used it since it came on the market, I used to use it to hand spray large thorn weed patches in the pastures, it doesn’t adversely effect animals/etc. I believe the patent recently expired, so perhaps there are now Round-up equivalent product available. If you go with Roundup, definitely buy the concentrate; the pre-mixed means you pay a lot for water. Prior to Roundup, we had to spray a lot of nasty stuff to clear a field between rotating crops, which wouldn’t neutralize when it interacted with the soil (like Roundup does.) Pricey, yes, but very environmentally friendly to compared to alternatives.

Vinegar and Dish Soap

Weed control is very difficult to get under control but there are a few ways to do it.One is to make a very strong vinegar and liquid dish soap mixture and apply liberally but locally to the weeds,also gasoline sparingly but locally is a excellent solution.

Buy Bulk

I do not know where you live but I needed to kill a large area of weeds and found Round-up very expensive so I did some research. 1 quart of the 41% super concentrate costs about $80. If you buy it at a farmers supply house for agricultural purposes it costs $150 for 2.5 gallons. I still thought this was expensive so I contacted a farm supply co-op in Canada and found out that the patent has been off in Canada for a few years and the price is even less. In Canada it cost me $100 CDN ($65 US) for 10 litres which is even more than 2.5 gallons. I got together with my neighbor and bought one and split it the first time and it lasted me quite a while. This last time I bought an entire jug for myself. I have tried many other products through the years just because of the cost of Round-up and always ended up disappointed. Round-up has worked the best.
Robert L.

And Stay Out

After weeds are dead – DO NOT ROTOTILL!!! Every time you rototill, weed seeds are brought to the surface to germinate. Some weed seeds can lay dormant FOR YEARS until the right conditions exist. Rototilling is highly overrated. Not only does it provide a medim for weed germination, but it destroys the soil structure. Soil SHOULD be naturally layered…..
from a Master Gardener in NY

Tarp Solution

A very effective and cheap method to completely eliminate grass and weeds is to cover the area with a plastic tarp for several weeks. Weeds and grass need sunlight to survive, and will die if deprived of the sun.

As Cheap as Water

I use a kettle of boiling water to kill the weeds that grow in the cracks of our sidewalk. I just pour it on the weeds (especially at the root) every day till they die. works pretty good and is safe for kids and pets after treatment.
Melissa W.

Copyright 1996 – 2004 ‘The Dollar Stretcher, Inc.’ Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Grow Biblical Plants in Your Garden

Put the Bible in your garden. No, I’m not suggesting that you buy a dozen Bibles and set them next to your tomatoes and onions. Instead, put plants in your garden that will be like colorful signposts pointing you to a special Scripture verse. Trees, flowers, herbs, and vegetables appear abundantly throughout the Bible. I’m suggesting that you buy some of the more than 100 plants mentioned in the Bible and fill up your garden with these ‘pointers to joy.’

The Creator himself served as our world’s first gardener. After He created the earth and the waters, Scripture says that He got His hands dirty. ‘Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. . . . The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it’ (Genesis 2:8,15).

The Bible reveals a beautiful truth: We all belong in gardens! God calls us to create and nurture patches of earth no matter where we live. Devoted gardeners have discovered that it is therapeutic to kneel down and dig in the dirt. Kneeling is also the time-honored position for praying. Bible plants in our gardens jog us to think of Scripture passages associated with these plants. They turn our hearts upward toward the Source of all joy, calling us to pause while gardening, and send a prayer toward heaven.

When we decide to plant a garden with Bible plants, we have many choices. Some that may intrigue you are the grapevine; grains, such as wheat or barley; herbs, such as mint, mustard, or dill; trees, including the olive, fig, apple, palm, almond, pomegranate, myrtle, or willow; vegetables, such as onions, leeks, or cucumbers; and flowers, such as roses, lilies, crocuses, daffodils, or narcissi.

A delightful choice is the group of bulbs that includes the daffodil, narcissus, and crocus. These little beauties may already be in your garden. If not, planting them is simplicity itself. Just be sure to find a sunny spot and to follow the directions that come with the bulbs about planting depth. It is always good to put some bulb food in the hole before planting. Also, I recommend planting some of the bulbs in pots. This protects them from gophers and lets you move the pot to a central spot when the plant is in full bloom.

Gardeners in every climate rejoice when the crocus heralds the end of winter. In cold regions, sunny yellow and bright purple blossoms thrust upward through the snow, gladdening the gardener’s heart. In warmer climates, too, the crocus provides spring’s earliest blossoms. For the planter of a Bible garden, they are triply welcomed for their beauty, their early arrival, and the verse they bring to mind: ‘The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy’ (Isaiah 35:1-2).

A second recommended Bible plant that will grow happily throughout much of the country is the true myrtle, or Myrtus communis. This small shrub has pretty, lightly scented white flowers, three-fourths of an inch across, and glossy green leaves that are strongly scented when crushed.

Myrtle is mentioned in several places in the Bible, including Isaiah 55:13: ‘Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.’

Myrtle can be pruned and kept to a rounded 6-foot shape, or you can let it reach its full height of 15 feet. The myrtle’s berries are delicious to songbirds, another point in its favor. Myrtus communis is hardy to 20 degrees F. and withstands wind and heat very well.

Whenever I think of my garden, I am reminded that Jesus commands us in John 15:12 to meet the world with love. In verse 16, He tells us that we are chosen by Him and appointed ‘to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.’ I can think of no better way to remind ourselves and others of His love and our mission than by sharing the pleasure and bounty of the beautiful flowers and produce from a Biblical garden.