I have been hugely enjoying fruit this summer. And let me just tell you that that’s an incredible understatement.
Recently it has been nectarines and peaches that have been my addiction. Especially some truly wonderful peaches grown in local orchards. We bought a whole box of peaches a week ago, some of which we enjoyed fresh ~ but I also made a few batches of jam, froze pie fillings, and froze some peach halves in lemon juice & sugar also. So yesterday Gabriel and I simply had to return to the local orchard and buy more. They are beyond delectable. Last week we had some called Lady Zee, and this week we are loving the Angelus variety.
Tonight for our small group dinner (finally reconvening after over a month off), I am bringing dessert and what am I bringing? Fruit dessert! Now, if you know me, you likely know that I really and truly do not like fruit desserts much whatsoever. Especially cooked fruit. But this dessert I’m bringing tonight? A fresh peach tart. No tainting baking of the fruit involved. Plus it involves cream cheese, which makes most things simply lovely to my tastebuds.
Inspired by this recipe, but constrained by a desire not to spend oodles of money on the deliciousness of mascarpone cheese right now, I came up with a slight variation (or two maybe). I also cut some corners on time because I tend to do that whenever possible with cooking & baking.
Following, below, is what I ended up creating and figured I may as well share my creation with you since I wrote it down anyway. 🙂 I hope you can find some juicy, plump, rosy, sugary peaches and give this a try before the end of summer really arrives. It’s just too delicious (and pretty eye-catching, to boot) to pass up!
End-of-Summer Peach Tart
In a medium-sized bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 Tblsp sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt. Cut in 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter. Once incorporated as you would a pie crust, add 2 egg yolks, and finally 1/4-1/3 cup of ice water.
Pull into a ball, flatten into a disk, and transfer to a cookie sheet that you’ve lightly dusted with flour. Stick the cookie sheet with dough disc into the freezer.
Preheat your oven to 375 F.
While the oven heats and the dough chills, wash up your dishes. After about ten minutes, take the dough out of the freezer, roll it out, and fit it into your tart pan. Make sure it goes up the sides, and cut off the excess. (I used the excess in a little tin pie pan and let Gabriel sprinkle it with sugar and cinnamon, then we baked it for a snack.) Line the tart with foil or parchment, and fill with beans/pie weights. Bake at 375 F for 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven.
While the tart shell bakes, prepare the filling.
In my KitchenAid mixer, I used the whisk attachment to bring 1 cup of heavy whipping cream to peaks (they were stiffer than “soft peaks” but you want to make sure you don’t let it turn into butter). Meanwhile, as that magic happens, in a large bowl with a handheld mixer, mix together 16 oz. of softened cream cheese and 1 cup of powdered sugar until very creamy. Add 1 tsp vanilla and the zest of half a lemon, incorporating well. Once the whipping cream has peaks and the cream cheese mixture is ready, gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Place that bowl in the fridge.
When the tart shell is done baking, stick it in the freezer and let it cool off (~10 minutes). While the tart shell cools off, peel, pit, and thinly slice a few peaches (I used two very large peaches; they were each nearly the size of a softball). Once your peaches are prepared and your tart shell has cooled, spoon the cream cheese mixture into the tart shell, and smooth the top with a spatula. Lay the peach slices attractively on top.
Put 1/4-1/3 cup of peach jam into a small microwavable dish. Heat for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between (I did two 30-second increments). Once the jam is pourable, use a pastry brush to brush the peaches on top of the tart with the liquified jam.
Garnish with a sprig of fresh herbs or edible flowers, and chill for a few hours before serving.
Truly delicious, especially with a peach mojito. Oh man: end-of-summer heaven! 🙂
This is the first of multiple upcoming updates for you all, so stay tuned over the next few days. I’m planning on having them rise in excitement each day… we’ll see if I can manage to pull that off.
COOKING and BAKING:
This is an area where I have enjoyed thriving lately (although, ironically, I haven’t actually planned tonight’s dinner yet, haha). For a few months this spring, it certainly wasn’t an area in which I could thrive (thankfully my stash of freezer meals and my very loving, kitchen-savvy hubby thrived in my stead), but in recent weeks I have loved getting back in the kitchen. I have replenished my freezer with Chicken Divan, Stroganoff, Meatballs, Muffins, Whole Grain Bread, Cookies, Grilled Pizza Crusts, Taco Meat, and more.
This morning I was able to host my weekly ladies’ group, and made some Brown Sugar Muffins for it. They turned out well enough to share the recipe, which was my combining of a couple.
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream shortening and brown sugar; mix in egg, milk and vanilla. Add flour, soda, and salt, mixing until combined. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 2/3 full. Mix together 4 Tblsp. butter (room temperature), 1 cup brown sugar, and 1-2 Tblsp. cinnamon in a small dish; sprinkle generously over tops of the muffins. Bake for 16-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. (I got 14 muffins out of this recipe.)
I’m trying to think of recent meals we’ve had or are soon to have (in case you’re ever in a cooking funk and want someone else’s ideas). Here are just a few:
Broiled salmon topped with balsamic vinegar & peach jam, then sprinkled with finely chopped pecans & panko breadcrumbs; served with rice and green beans
Baked salmon topped with crushed garlic, lemon slices, lemon pepper, dill, olive oil, and soy sauce; served with roasted carrots & beets
Fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, roasted potatoes, and green salad
Grilled chicken caesar salad
Asian chicken salad
Chicken piccata; served with roasted asparagus and quinoa
Stromboli; served with fruit salad
Pasta casserole (farfalle and chicken tossed in marinara; topped with mozzarella, topped with pesto); served with baguette and green salad
Steamed tilapia topped with lemon pepper; served with steamed broccoli and quinoa
Chicken and apple sausages; served with sauerkraut, fruit salad, and a veggie plate
Baked potatoes topped with chicken, broccoli, and a cheddar cheese béchamel sauce
Shrimp & veggie kabobs; served with pasta salad
KEEPING HOUSE and DECORATING:
I have to say that I have been doing a good job of keeping house lately (thanks, Lord!), and I am thankful. My little boy loves to help me clean, which makes it easy to incorporate into time I spend with him. He loves to vacuum with me, he loves to mop my kitchen floor (although his arm strength doesn’t make a big dent, so I do it myself after he’s done), and he really thinks there’s nothing better than washing windows & cleaning bathrooms. Who knew?! I don’t do a big house-cleaning on a certain day of the week; I do it as things need it. I’d say we vacuum roughly every other day; sometimes more often when we go in and out a lot, which tracks in dirt from outside. I think we do a good solid cleaning of bathrooms once a week, and a second quicker “wipe down” also once a week (and just prior to whenever we’re expecting company: there’s not much worse than being a guest in a stinky, grimy bathroom). Mopping and windows and dusting? I do those on a less frequent, as-needed basis. Washing curtains and light fixtures and the like? Even less frequently, but still on an as-I-deem-it-necessary basis.
I will openly, even gladly, admit that I have not been going out of my way lately to update any decorating. We’ve added a large framed picture of the three of us (thanks to the photo shoot my brother did last month for us), but that’s about it since redecorating Gabriel’s room a few months ago. My decorating schemes & designs are, however, being recorded in a little notebook for room-by-room inspiration for our new house. So I have been clipping things from magazines and catalogues I run across, writing down websites with nifty ideas, and figuring out ways to describe with pen & paper what in the world I’m envisioning for each room in my head. Some of it will involve sewing, crafting, and repurposing; some of it will involve utilizing my father’s woodworking skills; some of it will involve thrifting and garage saleing and searching on Craig’s List for things I really really want. But while I am not putting energy, time, or money into our current home’s decorations, I am able to hone some of that domestic creativity and start working on the planning and preliminaries for our new home. And that’s a blessing, because it certainly won’t happen overnight.
LAUNDRY and IRONING and MENDING:
I tend to do laundry on Tuesdays and ironing on Wednesdays. Not always, but it’s my general rule of thumb. If only so it reminds me to get it done, as we’re not the type who wait until we’ve run out of underwear or until the hampers are overflowing into our rooms. But we’re also a small enough clan at this point that I am able to easily accomplish the whole week’s laundry in one day (as long as I am home for the majority of the day). I’m so thankful for my servants (i.e. my washing machine and dryer), even though they are admittedly a bit rough, old, and rickety! These servants do make my jobs so much easier. And I love ironing. Is that odd? I like to chat with my mom on the phone or stream something on Netflix (usually something from the BBC) while I do it, and I generally don’t have that much ironing to do each week, so one naptime is enough to get it done. Plus my iron is just splendid and makes ironing a breeze. Having decent domestic tools really is a plus, an aid, a blessing. Mending… well, mending I definitely try to do on an as-needed basis. But, um, I’ll be brutally honest here and tell you that I’ve had a pair of my hubby’s cargo pants folded up downstairs waiting for a button for quite a few months… I think I even have the button somewhere. Typing this out reminds me that I need to get that fixed. Today. Procrastination has no place in my realm of domesticity. I will say that the last time I noticed a hole in one of Steven’s shirts, I patched it within three minutes of locating the hole! But that is not the norm. I need some work there.
CRAFTING and RE-PURPOSING:
This is an area where I have sadly been inactive. I would love to get crafting again, but it seems to be more of a winter pursuit for me, I guess. I would like to think that I could stay on top of sewing, crafting, gift-making, and re-purposing of all sorts all year round. I need to work on this, get inspired, think of projects, and jump in. I have stayed on top of our family photo albums (I try to update them 3-4 times a year to keep them current, and to keep it a manageable project). My stash of homemade baby gifts is dwindling, and will soon need replenished. I have some ideas in my head of what to do next, so within a couple months I may be busily crafting once again! I will not be doing “a homemade Christmas” this year, so that takes a little pressure off the crafting and sewing world and puts it more heavily in my next category!
FRUGALITY and SHOPPING:
I have been thankful this year for my love of penny-pinching. I am far from perfect with it—I do occasionally do impulse buys or end up deciding that I really do need that latte (which makes me thankful for gift cards we’ve been blessed with!) or the larger pack of lightbulbs—but for the most part, I stick with my lists, I use what we’ve got, and we make do with what we can or we simply do without. I am already thinking about Christmas gifts, mostly because I know I need to be as frugal as I can with them this year especially (and because we’ll be busy with some other things during Christmas shopping season, so I need to be done before most people get started), so I want to keep my eyes peeled for good deals, clearance sections, coupons, and overstocks (in stores and online). A new place I am currently learning to balance frugality (and prayerfully seek wisdom) is in the realm of shopping for things for our new home. There are wide ranges of quality (and therefore price) for everything: windows, doors, siding, cement, appliances, paint, light fixtures, drawer pulls, countertops, toilets… everything. We are praying for wisdom with where to cut corners, where to invest a bit more, and how to get the best bang for our buck in every area of our home. It’s a huge responsibility, a bit of stress, and a good challenge that Steven and I are working on meeting straight in the eye.
READING and WRITING and MUSIC:
I continue with my weekday typist job for Olive Tree Bible Software, and although I feel like it does eat up hours that I would love to use elsewhere, it’s only for a season, and I am thankful for the opportunity to serve my family, serve this company and its customers, and it also has the added perk of giving me some great resources to read while I am typing! I am also continuing to be actively moderating & fellowshipping at Hannah’s Prayer and actively writing for Grieve Out Loud. These endeavors also occupy a lot of time, but it is a blessing for me to have this opportunity to reach out, bless others, bear burdens together, pray for ministries and individuals, and use my childrens’ lives and legacies to impact the Church and her people.
While I have not done as much reading this year as I have in some others, I am reading through Scripture (currently, Jeremiah and Revelation), Streams In The Desert, Prayers Of An Excellent Wife, and Brave New Family. I have a few other books I’m itching to read, but am determined not to bite off more than I can chew (or more than I can read!) at this point.
With music, alas, it has been on a back burner. It would be wonderful to have half an hour every day to play harp and piano, to sing, to compose. But this isn’t a season of life where it is very practical. I accompany at church (and occasionally sing there), and very rarely will play here at home for my own pleasure or because Gabriel will ask me to. But yes, it is rare. I would like to change that someday, probably in some other season of life. Perhaps once I am teaching (family members) again, I will have more of an excuse to play more myself.
So that’s a little bit of an update in my domestic realm (although there’s certainly more areas I could have added)… and just for fun, I’m saving the domestic realm of GARDENING for tomorrow’s update…
I love hearing what’s on the menu for different families ~ so what’s for dinner in your home tonight? 🙂
Tonight, my family will be having Reuben Sandwiches and a big green salad on the side (with lots of vinegar dressing). Yum.
I’ve never made Reubens before, but I love sauerkraut, I love corned beef, and I love fresh bread. And I’m pretty good at making all of the components, so surely the combination will be mouth-watering. 🙂
So this is the bread that’s baking in the oven right now, I have leftover sauerkraut from a cookout on Sunday (two jars of kraut [one drained, one not] with some brown sugar, a chopped onion, and 2 peeled & chopped apples ~ all simmered in the crockpot for hours!), and my corned beef is tenderizing in the crockpot with some spices today. When I get home from my ladies’ group, I will mix up some quick Russian Dressing, and we’ll be good to go.
Enjoy serving your family tonight: no matter what you serve up on the plates, enjoy serving your family.
Instead of giving in to the hard morning I’m having, I am flipping over my calendar page a day early, and trying to embrace October instead of sticking my tongue out at it. So I’m lighting a seasonal candle, baking pumpkin cookies, and reading a Keates poem on fall. Later Gabriel and I will go play in the pine needles outside and work in the garden.
To Autumn by John Keats (1820)
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
Fresh Pumpkin Cookies
2 cups butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. allspice (I added a little cloves and nutmeg too)
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups sugar
2 cups fresh pumpkin puree
4 cups flour (sifted)
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups raisins (I did 1 cup golden raisins, 1 cup mini chocolate chips)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Blend all ingredients thoroughly.
Drop one inch dough balls onto greased cookie sheet.
Baking time 10 minutes.
I think I’ve previously established with everyone that when I am stressed, I bake. Well, I bake more than usual, I should say. And I try to pawn off goodies onto people. For instance, yesterday I was particularly on the verge of being overwhelmed — so (in addition to homemade pizza) I baked two types of sweet quick breads to send to work with Steven today, in order to spoil his coworkers a bit. Thankfully we have a lot going on this week, so I have more excuses people to bake for. One fellowship group tonight, another on Thursday, pastoral visitation on Wednesday, and company coming over for dessert on Saturday. I need to buy more sugar.
This is the lemon bread (I also made apple bread – I’ll post it another time) I made yesterday, and will likely make another loaf to take to the fellowship group on Thursday. I used a Meyer lemon from my grandparents’ tree. I don’t know if any other lemon would make this as perfectly. 🙂 Recipe originally from Hot Providence, page 51.
1 1/2 cups flour 1 cup sugar 1 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. salt 1/2 cup milk 1/3 cup butter, melted 2 eggs, beaten Lemon zest of 1 lemon (remove zest first for the bread, then juice the lemon for topping)
1/4 cup sugar & juice of one lemon = the topping.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together. Add the milk, melted butter, beaten eggs, and lemon zest. Pour into a greased 9×5-inch loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together 1/4 cup sugar and the lemon juice; let sit. Remove from oven, but leave the bread in the pan. Carefully (and liberally) poke top surface of loaf with a fork (or toothpick); then pour the topping/glaze over entire surface of the bread. Leave in the pan to cool completely. This slices easily and evenly. Just delicious!
This is the cookie recipe I made today for tonight’s fellowship group. They are so delicate, I think they need to be served on china saucers. Recipe from a friend.
LIME SUGAR COOKIES
1/2 cup butter 1 cup sugar 1 egg 2 teaspoons lime zest (I zested an entire large lime) 1/4 cup lime juice (my lime only produced about 2 Tblsp juice, so I used about 2 Tblsp lemon juice to make the rest) 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter, sugar and egg. Mix in lime juice and lime zest. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until combined.
Roll dough into small balls (I didn’t roll them because the dough was pretty sticky; I just tried to dollop the dough as neatly as possible), & place on greased cookie sheet.
Bake 10 minutes or until they are slightly browned (mine baked for about 13 minutes).
Place cookies on a cooling rack and (once completely cooled) sift powdered sugar over cookies.
Okay… so I know it’s a little early… but I got my first birthday present of the year! It arrived on Saturday while I was out & about, so when I pulled into the garage and saw the big white object with the colorful bow (more than two weeks before my birthday), I was surprised and excited. 🙂
It’s freeeeeezing! Okay, not really the funniest pun ever. But it’s a freezer. A big, awesome, deep-freeze freezer. Aaaaah. I can buy in bulk even more easily now. And we can eat a better variety of foods this way. And when I get into a baking mood (like today — uhh, yeah, so I made 25 cinnamon rolls and 16 pesto rolls!), I have a place to store things. Hurray! I spent a while during Gabriel’s naptime organizing the new freezer today. I think I like the way I’ve got it set up. And I’m itching to head to Costco, bake a bunch of bread, and make myself some more freezer meals. 🙂 And by the way ~ thanks, Mama & Daddy!
Proverbs 31: 14-15, 27 She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household… She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
And in case you were one of the folks who wanted to know how I made 3-Cheese Pesto Rolls not too long ago… I made them again today and wrote down what I did as I went. 🙂
MJ’s 3-Cheese Pesto Rolls
Briefly mix together: 1 1/4 cups hot water 1 1/2 Tblsp yeast 1 tsp salt 1 tsp sugar/honey 1/3 cup Crisco/butter/oil 1/2 cup bread flour
Let it proof for about five minutes. Then add 1 egg and an additional 3 or so cups of flour (I used 2 more cups bread flour, and a little over 1 cup of all-purpose flour). Knead for about 5 minutes. Let rise in an oiled bowl until doubled. Punch down; roll into a long rectangle.
In a bowl, mix together: 1/2 cup softened butter 3 oz. softened cream cheese 3 oz. pesto (I make my pesto in approx. one ounce cubes and I freeze them; so I used 3 cubes)
Spread the filling over the dough. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Cover it all with a nice layer of shredded mozzarella. Roll, slice, and bake on a lightly greased jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with sides) at 350F for about 25 minutes.
So I got a bundt pan for Christmas – something I’ve wanted ever since I got married. Very exciting stuff, people! 🙂 And right now I’ve got this orange chocolate chunk bundt baking in the oven to take to our church Christmas party tonight. Mmm. 🙂 Of course I just realized that I have no more orange juice to make the glaze… so I get to improvise. 🙂 Woot woot!
So we had Mommy & Tots today for the first time since September, I believe. It was so nice to have the ladies and tots in my home again! There were five moms and seven kids (plus two “baking”!) – Gabriel is the oldest. 🙂 We visited mostly, and let all the kids play with toys (and each other!), had a Christmas ornament exchange (gotta love those), and ate a brunch of orange slices, gingerbread with whipped cream, and my favorite egg casserole (Jac & Sam, I think you girls shared this with me years ago!). I thought I would share my recipes with you, as well as our words of encouragement for the mommies this week. 🙂
1 cup sour cream 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 cup butter 1 cup molasses 1 egg 2 1/3 cup sifted flour 3/4 tsp baking soda 1 tsp cinnamon 1/4 tsp cloves pinch nutmeg 1 tsp ginger pinch salt Heat butter and molasses until melted and bubbly. Cool slightly. Beat in sour cream, sugar, and egg until smooth. In separate bowl, sift dry ingredients. Add molasses mixture to dry ingredients, blend until lump-free and smooth. Pour into a greased 9-inch pan (round or square or loaf). Bake at 325F until done – firm, yet bouncy to your finger. Test after 45 minutes. Do NOT overbake. Watch it closely, since you want it moist not dry. Serve with whipped cream!!
Campbell Ranch Egg Puff
1/2 cup butter 1 pound fresh mushrooms 1 pound shredded cheese – I use colby-jack 10 large eggs 1 pint cottage cheese 1/2 cup flour 1 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp salt 1/3 cup or so of cooked sausage, ham or bacon (I usually use about 5 strips of bacon) In a large frying pan, melt the butter. Wash and dice the mushrooms, and add to the butter. Saute for a couple minutes until completely coated with butter and getting a little soft. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs until well blended. Add remaining ingredients and the mushrooms/butter. Pour into a greased 9×13-inch baking dish. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes, or until knife comes out clean.
The Christmas build-up is famous for being prime stress-out time, particularly and especially for busy moms. So here is your annual gentle reminder to forsake all stressing out. Put all your worries, concerns, panics, and pressures (and lists of things you cannot possibly get done) in a big box, tie it with a ribbon, and put it away. Remember that all good things come with temptations, and Christmas is no exception. Being tempted is not the same thing as sin. Having temptations to get stressed out is normal, every day life. Giving way to the temptation is the problem.
Now a little stress is a good thing; without it we might not get very much done. Deadlines make us work harder, and there is no stopping December 25. But when stress turns into worry which then leads to self-pity, which causes grumbling, which makes for a sour attitude, it is no fun for anyone, neither you nor the people who are witnesses to your stressful life. In fact, they get tired of hearing about it: Ha! You think you have it bad. I have eighty-five people on my list. And I haven’t even started shopping yet! And of course this is not glorifying to God, which is what our lives are to be all about. Especially at the celebration of Christmas.
The worst case scenario is that you won’t get it done. The cards won’t get mailed on time. The cookies won’t get baked. The kids won’t have the hand-made gifts you had planned. But if the kids have a joyful mom over Christmas, that will have a far greater impact on them than the missing cookies or gifts.
Maybe the stress is because of finances this year. You just can’t do all those things you had hoped. One of my kids’ favorite memories of Christmas involves stockings full of bungie cords and rubber bands! They had so much fun with those things for months.
Sometimes the big disasters (the turkey burned, the gravy spilled, the gifts were all late, broken, and stolen) make the best stories later. We need to recognize them at the time and enjoy them as we live them out, believing God as we go.
So have a wonderful time of preparation. Don’t stint on the gifts and the candy and the celebration. But do it all as an overflow of JOY, not as a panic-stricken obligation! And treasure up the good stories as you go.
Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls — Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
As you do your Christmas shopping, you are bound to run into the person who is feeling very guilty about buying presents. It’s so materialistic, they say. Well, yes, it is in one sense. After all, it is stuff. But if we are buying this stuff to bestow on our friends and family because God has bestowed so much of it on us that we just have to let it slosh over, then that is not materialism.
Thankfulness is a great antidote to false-guilt giving. Look at how much God throws away on us all the time. How much rain just runs down the gutter? How many sunsets are enjoyed by the whales because no one else is around to see them? What about the mountainsides covered in wildflowers that no human eye will behold? God just gives and gives and gives recklessly. He doesn’t want us to feel guilty about the sunset or the flowers. He wants us to overflow in thanksgiving. And though we cannot come near His capacity to give, we can imitate His extravagance by giving gifts and filling stockings and making fudge, all to the glory and praise of The Great Gift Giver Extraordinaire.
Once upon a time there was a very wise old man named Job. In his old age God gave to him a daughter whom he named Jemima, which means little dove. He loved his little girl and she loved her daddy.
One day Job decided to go on journey and asked Jemima if she would like to go along. “Oh, yes,” Jemima said. “I would love to go along.”
But Job said, “It will be a journey that takes us several days. So we will be staying each night wherever people will have us. So I can’t promise it will be nice. But God will take care of us. He always does what is right. He always meets the needs of those who trust him.”
Jemima smiled and said, “And even if things go bad, God makes them turn for good. Right, Daddy? Just like the little poem that you taught us:
When things don’t go the way they should God always makes them turn for good.”
“That’s right, Jemima,” Daddy said, “and there’s another little poem you need to learn. It goes like this:
When things go better than they should For people who are bad, Remember, if they stay that way, At last they will be sad.”
And so they started off on their journey and walked all day. At sundown they saw a little cottage and knocked on the door. A very poor man and his wife and baby lived there. Job asked if he and Jemima could spend the night there before they continued on their journey in the morning.
The poor man and his wife were very happy to let them stay. They gave Job and Jemima their own room and made them a simple supper. The special treat was fresh milk from their only cow. This was how the poor couple made a living. Their cow gave good milk and they sold it for enough to live on.
In the morning when Job and Jemima got up they heard crying. The cow had died during the night. The poor man’s wife was crying, “What will we do? What will we do?” she sobbed. The poor man was about to cut the cow into pieces and sell the meat before it spoiled. But Job said, “I think you should not cut the cow in pieces but bury him by your back wall under the olive tree. The meat may not be good to sell. Trust God, and he will take care of you.”
Then Job and Jemima went on their way. They walked all day again and were very tired when they came to the next town and noticed a fine home. They knocked on the door. A very wealthy man lived in this house and they hoped that they would not be an inconvenience to one so wealthy.
But the man was very gruff with them and said they could stay in the barn. He gave them water and bread for supper and let them eat it by themselves in the barn. Job was very thankful for the barn and the bread and water and said to the wealthy man, “Thank you very much for the bread and water and for letting us stay in your barn.”
In the morning Job noticed that one of the walls of the house was crumbling. So he went and bought bricks and mortar and repaired the hole in the wall for the wealthy man. Then Job and Jemima went on their way and came to their destination.
As they sat by the fire that night Jemima said, “Daddy, I don’t understand the ways of God. It doesn’t seem right that the poor man’s cow should die when he was so good to us, and that you should fix the rich man’s wall when he was so bad to us.”
“Well, Jemima,” Job said, “many things are not the way they seem. Perhaps this once I will tell you why. But after this you will have to trust God.”
“The poor man’s cow was very sick, but he didn’t know it. I could taste it in the milk. Soon he would have sold bad milk and the people would have gotten sick and died, and they would have stoned him. So I told him not to sell the meat, but to bury the cow under the olive tree by his back wall because the Lord showed me that, if he dug the grave there he would find a silver cup buried from long ago, and sell it for enough money to buy two good cows. And in the end things would be better for him and his wife and child.”
“When we spent the night at the rich man’s house, I saw the hole in the wall and I saw more than that. I saw that hidden in the wall from generations ago was a chest full of gold. If the rich man had repaired the wall himself, he would have found it and continued in his pride and cruelty. So I bought brick and closed the wall so that the man would never find this treasure.”
“Do you see, Jemima?”
“Yes, Daddy, I see.”
“So never forget, Jemima, many things are not what they seem. But if we trust in God,
When things don’t go the way they should God always makes them turn for good.”
But if we turn away from God and are unkind and selfish, then the other saying will come true:
When things go better than they should For people who are bad, Remember, if they stay that way, At last they will be sad.”
And that’s the way it was with Jesus. It seemed like he was unimportant because he was born in a small unimportant town, not a big city. He was born in a stable, not a palace. He was laid in a manger, not a fine bed. He was a carpenter not a famous statesman. He had a small group of friends, not a great army. And worst of all, he was killed like a common criminal on a cross.
But many things are not what they seem. He was the Son of God, the Savior of the world. He rose from the dead. He is alive today and rules over the world and King of kings and Lord of lords. And everyone who trusts in him will have all their sins forgiven, and will be able to say,
When things don’t go the way they should God always makes them turn for good.”
It’s only FOUR days until Christmas!! Time to start counting down….. 🙂