Finding Joy During Uncertainty

It’s been a while since I have posted. I’ve been working on this post for a few weeks, but kept encountering interruptions, or starting over to find the right words, and still just setting it aside to work on later. Sometimes I’m not the best at multi-tasking. I have been in a routing of focusing on what needs to be done first, which often results in me neglecting my blog that I enjoy so much. Life has been very different since the outbreak of COVID. We’ve encountered many changes along the away and have had to learn to adapt, and in some cases still adapting as it seems every day brings about new changes and a new, or resurrected sense of uncertainty. I, like many of you, have gone through a roller coaster of emotions with the changes and devastation that have occurred in our world within the last year. My emotions ran amuck from fear and worry to joy, and so the cycle continued for weeks that turned into the months. However, all change that has occurred in my life hasn’t been a fearful change, or a change that came with a dread. No, life is not perfect, nor will it ever be. But, change can bring a freshness, personal growth, and also time to rise up to the challenges, goals, or tasks that we’ve put on the back burner far to long ago. It’s time to find beauty in the ashes!

A peaceful time of prayer while admiring God’s creation.

The way we socialize, shop, worship, educate, vacation, and even dine out have all encountered changes in one way or another. However, I was reminded several months ago of the words given to me by a previous boss. Things were continually changing with the district where I taught, and if you are an educator, parent of school-aged children, or work in the public school system, you know about change. He simply stated, “change is good.” He further explained that we could take what felt like an uncomfortable change, a scary journey, or a dread and turn it to our good, and to our student’s good. Shame on me! I had neglected the wise words from a long-time friend from many years ago. Why had I not used those same words and applied them to our situation today. Please don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that this wicked virus is good by any means. But, what I am saying is that with all of the changes we’ve encountered…also came time. Time, that I seemed to lack when life was rushing by so quickly. It was time to rediscover and renew my prayer life, my creativity, bring a sense of newness to my classes, encourage and bring hope to our students, and bring hope to our family.

These changes would occur one day at a time, overcoming one obstacle at time, living in the day and being thankful for the time that I have. I would not waste time sitting and worrying, wondering about what the future held, when would all the sickness end, or when life would get back to normal? Key word here is, life. I was reminded that I was allowing life to slip away, right before my very eyes. Think about it, for those old enough, it seems we turn around and twenty years of our lives have vanished. We’re left asking ourselves questions such as; What did we do with those twenty years? Were they spent feeling sorry for ourselves, living in constant fear, complaining, spending far too much time on social media, which by the way will deplete our joy, if we allow it to. Or were days, months, and or years spent doing things that we love to do? Were we spending time bettering ourselves through meditation, prayer, reading, breathing the precious air that we have been gifted, spending time with family, or cherishing the life that we have been given?

Through this journey of change, I was also reminded wise words of my pastor’s wife shared. During one of the most difficult times in her life as she battled for her very life of having diverse diseases the doctors thought would take her life, she had a profound encounter with the Lord. While feeling down and or discouraged one day, she felt the Lord express the following question; are you going to sit there and die or get up and live? I have pondered this question many times since then, and actually asked it of myself, and asked others who were going through a rough time. Some might find it hard to believe that the Lord actually speaks to us, but let me say my friends that the Lord has a way of reaching us through His word, in our thoughts, a gentle breeze, kind words of others, in the lyrics of a song, in dreams and in many other individualized ways. It’s about believing and being willing to receive what He has for us that is so very important. It’s what we do with what He says, whether it be directly from Him in a still small voice, a prophetic word, that gentle breeze that stirs when we need reassuring, or from a bold statement such as my pastor’s wife and friend encountered. Fast forward, my pastor’s wife was healed over twenty years ago, and today is one of the busiest women that I know. But, she’s not too busy to neglect her duties as a pastor’s wife, a friend, a mother, grandmother, her career, and her sincerity as a prayer warrior.

Be strong, be bold, be steadfast, and together we’ll brave the storm.

She has shared those wise words with our church and myself often. In the early fall I was reminded of those words just when I was tired of being down-trodden, tired of living in fear, tired of doom and gloom, tired of negativity everywhere I turned, tired of feeling isolated, tired of politics, tired of what seemed like endless changes, tired of so much sickness, and simply tired of being tired. Her words resonated with me one morning as I sat quietly pondering the events that lay ahead of me. I was now teaching full time at home, advising from home, shopping from home, and doing almost everything from home. I needed a positive change. Was I going to sit here and die or was I going to get up and live. I whispered a quiet thank you Lord, for the gentle reminder that I wanted to get up, I wanted to live and make the most of the day that I had been given. I began to count my blessings. I counted the smallest and largest blessings. I found it difficult to count them all. I felt inspired to write them down. Anyone that knows me, knows I have a passion for journals. Quickly, I found just the right journal from among the many blank journals that I had stowed away in my office. I would make a gratitude journal. The pages were filling quickly, my load seemed lighter, and I felt a sense of control and positivity returning. I found that by writing and recording my blessing daily, it was more therapeutic, it was real, it was a reminder of the blessings that were being overlooked and shelved like a competed novel. This was an area that needed to be revisited daily, relived, and an area that needed to be a focus of a dark time in our world. There is light in the midst of the storm, there is hope, there is joy during the crying, there is God and He did not deserve to be shelved. Rereading the Bible daily became a time of joy, a time of learning, re-learning, and a time of connections. Seeking out new inspirational books to read, books that were filled with joy, hope, happiness, and testimonies of triumph became beneficial and an inspiration that I have been able to share with others. Making time to pray, meditate, and sometimes just sit quietly and reflect on the goodness that surrounded me, rather than watching the news, or browsing social media, became an even larger part of my daily routine, and one that I found myself looking more forward to every day. It was time to get up and take back what seemed to slowly be fading from my view. I was reminded that as long as we have breath, we have hope, and without hope we can’t have faith, and faith is what moves what feels like mountains. Faith will sustain us and help us overcome.

For me, preserving and finding and making time to do what I loved, to write, cook, create, spend time outside, read, prayer time, socialize, even if it’s by phone, or zoom, care for others who may be hurting, and simply counting daily blessings, brought joy during the times of uncertainty. No, life is not perfect, yes, changes are still occurring, and yes the virus is real. We have family and friends who have suffered the cold and vicious symptoms, some still battling the side-effects, and others who have lost their lives to this horrible disease. But, through it all we have had family who have overcome and won the battle with the virus, who have lived to help others, and who have become stronger in their faith as a result. We must find a positive in the negative and remember that change is good. The change that I have encountered through it all is a closer relationship with our savior and a new appreciation for the simple things that are too often taken for granted. I have learned to step back and count my blessings and recount them. I have learned to make time when we often say we don’t have time. I have decided to live by the wise words given to my pastor’s wife, I choose to get up and live rather than sit down and die physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Life is precious. I choose to make the most of it every day, even through the changes of uncertainty. Remember, no one can rob you of your joy. Happiness is a daily choice. I choose to dance in the rain, and find beauty in the ashes.

I’ll leave you with two book suggestions.

Love is Real written by Adam Reid. This is a book that will forever change your mindset and your life. Also, When Women Pray, by TD Jakes. This is a book that allows you to connect to the lives of prayer warriors in the bible, grow spiritually, learn how to persevere, and how to get up and keep living, even when life is hard and uncertain. Both books have made a profound impact on my life and helped intensify the desire to get up and live even more than before.

God bless each of you! As always, thank you for stopping by my blog. Feel free to leave comments or feedback. I love to hear from my readers. FYI…upcoming is a new recipe that I have been working to perfect. My family has enjoyed it thus far. If you love lemon, you’ll enjoy my new lemon trifle. I hope to post the recipe soon.

Making Organic Vegetable Broth. Mountain Life…Is the Best Life.

Early June morning in the mountains.

I, like most everyone, have spent a lot of time at home since early March. I’m not going to complain about being at home. I love and believe the old cliche, there’s no place like home, especially during the spring, which is planting time for our family.

Our grandson learning to till while planting beans!

During this time of uncertainty I find myself reflecting a lot about days of my youth and also being even more thankful for my heritage. We grew up learning how to plant, harvest, and preserve. We were taught how to be frugal, make a dollar stretch, and also how to enjoy and reap the bounty that our beautiful mountains gift us with.

Our mid-May garden.

Growing up in a low socioeconomic area can be hard, but it can also be a blessing in disguise. Many years ago when the economy was unstable, I watched my family work a farm, harvest crops, reap the delicious bounty, preserve the goodness, and also sell their produce and goods.

Even during my adult years when the economy was thriving, I found it difficult to depart from our way of country living. My family has enjoyed continuing the tradition that was handed down to us from our parents and grandparents. We continue to work the land, plant a large garden, labor lovingly over the many rows of vegetables, enjoy the tasty bounty that our garden produces, and also preserve and put away for the winter and seasons to come. It was a good life the and is still a good way of living. It was and is a lot of sweat and hard work, but well worth it.

Hard work truly pays off! There’s nothing quite as tasty as fresh-picked green beans, freshly dug potatoes, and a crisp ear of golden yellow corn from the garden that you’ve worked, nurtured, and watched grow from a seed to a bounty of deliciousness. As for me and my tastebuds, a meal is not complete without a side of sliced ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, and green onions from our garden to make the dinner complete. Who needs meat? Not me! I love vegetables and fruits of all kind. But, for the meat-eaters in our family, we are blessed to keep a freezer of locally grass-fed beef readily available.

As a little girl, I remember watching my mom create savory dishes from leftovers, re-purpose leftover veggies into tasty soups, create awesome potato cakes from left over mashed potatoes, and also turn stale popcorn into delicious sweet caramel corn. During our quarantine time at home, I too, have learned a few new tricks that has made my life easier, our pantry fuller, and also our stomachs happier. I am excited to share a few ideas that I have tried and also to share a new recipe that I created for an unctuous and delicious apple tea bread. Get ready, that recipe’s coming tomorrow! For today, let’s talk about making homemade vegetable broth!

One of my favorite quarantine discoveries was learning how to make homemade vegetable broth! Let me add, delicious homemade vegetable broth. Have you ever heard the expression, waste not…want not? I grew up with that being repeated often, and have encouraged our children, and grandchildren to do the same.

Are you faced with the dilemma of what to do with leftover vegetables, vegetable peels, and scraps of veggies that’s not big enough to use? So, what do you do with all those vegetables and veggie scraps? We either feed ours to the chickens to ensure they are getting enough protein, or we add them to the compost pile. Either of the above is a great method of useful disposal, but I found myself in need of organic vegetable broth and wasn’t able to find it when many of the store shelves were emptying. So, I figured out a way to turn my veggies scraps into vegetable broth. I’m anxious for you to give this simple recipe a try!

Shopping during a pandemic can be a challenge.
Veggies being prepared for the vegetable broth.

Process: First, you will need to begin saving vegetable scraps such as celery stalks, leaves, herb stems, and bulbs. You can also save onion skins, peppers, herb leaves, leeks, onions, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, turnips, and etc. Basically, the only vegetable that you would not want to include in your broth is tomatoes due to the acidic level. You may not want to add hot peppers, unless you want your vegetable broth to be spicy. Also, do not add decaying or withered vegetables to your bag of scraps. Place your vegetable scraps in a gallon zip lock bag and keep it in the freezer until you have enough vegetables to process. I found that a full gallon bag of vegetable scraps made four full quarts of vegetable broth.

Once you have enough vegetable scraps, thaw them and add them to a stock pot of water, The water should cover the vegetables by at least three to four inches. I prefer to use filtered water or spring water rather than tap water. I used a large deep stock pot to make my broth. Add vegetables to pot, cover with water (water should be three to four inches above vegetables) allow the mixture to come to a rolling boil on medium heat. Once the mixture comes to a boil, cover with a lid, reduce the heat to medium low, and allow it to gently simmer for at least an hour. Uncover and allow it to simmer fifteen more minutes on low heat. You may do a taste-test at this point. If your broth is more bland than you would like, you may add more herbs and allow to simmer for an additional ten to fifteen minutes. I added a pinch of salt to mine to add a little flavor, but this optional.

Adding spring water to the veggie scraps.

Allow the broth to cool. Once the vegetables have settled to the bottom of the pot and the broth is cooled, you may use a colander to strain the vegetable broth into a large pot or bowl. Once you’ve drained the vegetables well, they can be added to the compost pile or used for feed your fowl. Pour the broth into clean canning jars, seal with a lid, and place in the refrigerator. The broth keeps well for up to six weeks. The color of your broth will vary depending on the type and color veggies that you use. I used some red onions in my first batch of broth. It was delicious, but darker than the second batch in which I used pieces of yellow onions. Both broths tasted delicious! I think this recipe for homemade vegetable broth fits the description of, waste not want not, while also satisfying saving money, and reducing waste.

Delicious homemade organic vegetable broth!

With so much going on in our world today, from riots, protesting, people dying from COVID-19, and many losing their jobs, life can feel very unsettling. Think about it, life as we know it has literally been turned upside down. Social distancing has created a sad year for our seniors from high-school to college. Prom dresses that were carefully chosen remain in their zippered bags, and services inside the church looks much different than before. Even the process of laying loved ones to rest changed. Through it all, We are still blessed! We had the opportunity to attend church via the zoom app until we were once again able to attend church services. We had food for our family prepared from food we preserved in recent years. We’ve had time to complete some home improvement projects, while also planting our garden. I’ve also been able to teach my courses from home.

During this crazy time, I decided that life does not have to be a doom and gloom situation amidst this horrible pandemic. Also, instead of complaining and worrying, I was determined that I would search for the positive and quit watching the number of people affected by the virus, quit worrying about the economy, and watching the news so much. I decided it was time to set social media aside and dust off that book that I’ve had shelved for too long. I made time to work and improve my herb garden, expand our vegetable garden, do some deep down spring cleaning, enjoy my family, and also make sure to take time to be thankful for the wonderful things that we’re blessed with, and share our blessings with neighbors and friends. But, most of all…it was time to quit living in fear, but time to live and enjoy life!

A glimpse at my herb garden!

It feels good to be posting again. I am pumped about sharing my Apple Tea Bread recipe with you tomorrow. In upcoming posts I’ll share my crouton recipe, new pickle recipe, a ew strawberry vinaigrette dressing, and a garden tip or two. Through it all, we’ll carry on and be thankful for our blessings, health, and family…all the while finding new ways to recreate and re-purpose wonderful dishes from leftovers and what once would have gone straight to the compost pile.

Feel free to leave feedback or ask a question. New followers are welcome. I love to share ideas of organic clean eating, vegan recipes, whole food plant based ideas, and also some vegetarian recipes. I also love to share our story from the mountains of Kentucky, the mountains we call home. God bless and happy Friday.

I love to take a walk in the morning after it rains. God’s beauty is everywhere!