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.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Coconut Protein Bites

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! Has your week been as busy as mine? It’s that time of year again! Time to can, preserve, dehydrate, and freeze all the wonderful veggies, fruit, and herbs that the Lord has so graciously blessed us with. As busy as it can get, I still love this time of year!

Canning in the last days of summer reminds me of the hot summer days of my youth when helped with the canning each year. It also reminds me that summer vacation is quickly coming to an end and a new academic year is about to begin. Where did summer vacation go? Seems we were planting our garden only a few weeks ago and now we’re harvesting and the fall semester begins next week!

Eight of the 21 quarts of tomato juice we’ve canned so far this year. 

Eight of the forty-two jars of green beans we canned this week.

With all that being said, even with all of of the hard work picking and canning, I did have a little time to work on a new recipe that I think you’re going to enjoy! My family is in agreement…this recipe is a keeper! It’s easy to make, requires no cooking, very versatile, sweet, satisfying and really tasty! But, best of all, it’s clean, healthy, and vegan! I hope you enjoy my vegan chocolate chip coconut protein bites as much as we do!

Ingredients;

10 Whole pitted dates (I prefer medjool dates)

2 tablespoons of Organic or non GMO peanut butter

1 scoop preferred plant protein powder (this ingredient is optional)

1 cup organic gluten free oats

1 tablespoon organic chia seeds

1 teaspoon ground flax seed (optional)

1/2 cup organic vegan dark chocolate chips

1cup organic shredded unsweetened coconut

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (I have substituted Walden’s Chocolate syrup for a more of a chocolate taste and also less sugar)

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Process:

Put all of the ingredients in a food processor or a ninja reserving the chocolate chips and half of the shredded coconut. Process until blended well and forms a dough. Add chocolate chips and pulse a few times until chips are incorporated but not completely ground up.

Roll dough mixture into preferred size balls or you may press the mixture in a pan lined with parchment paper for protein bars. Roll the protein balls in shredded coconut and chill for at least an hour or place in the freezer for thirty minutes to eat sooner. The longer these bites chill the better they are!

My choice of preferred dates! They’re delicious right out of the box!

You can change these delicious bites up by melting a few of the vegan chocolate chips and drizzling the melted chocolate over the protein balls. You can also substitute almond butter for the peanut butter. They’re delicious either way! They keep in the fridge in a sealed plastic container or zip lock bag. I have found that they keep their shape in my lunchbox chilled with blue ice and they make a great midday snack!

Delicious peanut butte coconut protein balls!

I have modified this recipe a few times and added coco powder for a deep chocolate taste. I’ve added cinnamon, different flavored protein powders, added craisins, and different flavored Walden’s syrups. Either way, they’re delicious and powerful protein snack. I have to say the recipe above is my favorites as well as my family’s favorite! FYI: If your dough feels sticky you can add a few more oats to make the consistency more dry and easier to handle.

Protein balls with drizzled melted chocolate.

For now, I’m off to grade a few more assignments for the students in my summer course…yes, I even teach during summer vacation, but just one or two classes. I hope you enjoy these delicious protein balls. I’d love to hear from you and maybe your modified version.

If you’re interested in my canning recipes for homemade tomato juice or canning green beans, check out the following links to the recipes that I have used year after year.

Canning Green Beans the Time-Tested Way

Canning Tomato Juice the Easy Way!

God bless from the mountains of Kentucky! Remember, it’s never too late to begin your journey to a healthier and happier you!

Making Memories in the Mountains…

Hello from the mountains of Kentucky! We’ve had a couple of beautiful fall-like days in Appalachia. It almost feels like fall with temperatures in the upper seventies! I’m not complaining, this is perfect weather for outdoor activities, porch sitting, and for picking and canning beans.

Fourteen quarts of green beans picked and canned this morning!

I enjoyed the morning yesterday with our oldest granddaughter working up beans that we had picked from the garden. It was a memorable morning for both of us. We enjoyed small talk, reflecting on different things going on our lives, sharing fun-filled memories, and also our dreams and some of our future plans. I love days like this. It reminds me of my days as a young girl sitting on the front porch of my mamaw’s little grocery store. We would string green beans to hang dry for shuck beans, or as some prefer to call them, leather britches. We also sat countless hours breaking freshly picked beans for canning. These were experiences that helped mold me into who I am today and memories that I will forever cherish.

Rows of vining beans on fence from our garden last year.

As we sat working up the beans yesterday, i couldn’t help but allow my mind to drift back to a much simpler time…a time when days seemed to be forever long, summer vacations were the best, hard work was appreciated, porch sitting was welcomed, and families actually talked to each other… face to face! Those were the days prior to personal technology (AKA cell phones) and also days that make me long for those simpler times! I recall sitting for hours on the old bus seat or wooden ladder-back chairs helping my mamaw work up her beans. I never remember saying I was bored or complaining about helping. I enjoyed helping and also working the produce from our garden, even as a kid.

I loved spending time with my mamaw, and also hearing the stories of her youth, and when her kids were growing up. She would talk about the importance of putting away/canning enough food for winter and for what she called, hard-times.

I also thought about the days we spent on our back porch with our mom working in freshly picked cabbage. She would divide the big heads of white cabbage and place a half in a large bowl for me to chop. I loved having the job of chopping cabbage with the sterilized open ring of the empty cream can, and then gradually graduating to using a grater, only after she was sure I wouldn’t lose a knuckle.

I worked along side my mom as she would fill the sterilized jars with beautiful white shredded cabbage to be pickled into delicious sour kraut. We enjoyed the fresh kraut immensely with soup beans, AkA pinto beans. The heat from working outside didn’t bother us or deter us from our mission whether it was work or play. We were not accustomed to air conditioning and often went outside to seek refuge from the heat inside our house. Some of my fondest memories of summer and summer vacation are playing outside, playing hide and seek in our papaw’s corn field, making club houses in the barn, and playing in the creek. Regardless the heat index or what the thermometer read, we enjoyed playing and having fun outside!

Our youngest grandson running through the rows of young corn.

I can also remember as a kid pondering on the words that I had heard my mom and both grandparents speak of. Hard-times, I wondered what they were, when they would arrive, and why would canning hundreds of jars of beans, cabbage, and corn help us when hard-times arrived. I thought canning, drying, and preserving was just something that everyone did, what we were supposed to do.

I didn’t realize that many times in my youth we were actually living in those hard-times that my mamaw and papaw spoke about. We always had plenty to eat, a full root cellar or pantry of canned goods, which included fried apples, peaches, beans, corn, jams, apple butter and more. Today, I am thankful that I learned from my mom and grandparents how to garden, can, preserve, and how to plan for and also to survive and make it through real-life hard-times.

I recall in our youth, and in our own children’s youth relying on our pantry of dried beans, canned beans, baskets of potatoes we dug from our garden, corn from the freezer, and many other goodies we put away. I learned early on in our marriage that when the primary source of income comes from coal mining, pink slips and lay offs were inevitable. Unfortunately, we also learned that unemployment insurance barely met the bills. This was when I truly learned that having a well-stocked pantry of preserved and canned food helped families to survive those real-life hard-times.

Our garden early in early spring.

But, more than anything, I learned from my mom, grandparents, and experience that God will always provide, and He honors hard work. I’ve also learned that planting and working the garden as a family creates many cherished memories, provides nourishing healthy food for our entire family, supplements the weekly grocery bill, and also ensures that an Appalachian tradition of gardening and preserving is still handed down from generation to generation and remains a way of life.

Our oldest grandson hoeing young tomatoes in late spring.

I hope you have enjoyed my Appalachian memory and a small part of my heritage. Feel free to leave feedback. I enjoy hearing from my readers. For now, God bless from the mountains of Kentucky!

Rainy Days in the Mountains…

Happy Independence weekend from the mountains of Kentucky! The rainy season has made its way to our small corner of the world and continues to linger over the mountains. Without a doubt this is the rainiest spring and summer that I can remember. I love an occasional slow summer rain, frogs peeping from the trees, and the peace and tranquility of reading and relaxing with a hot cup of coffee while the rain falls softly. However, too much rain for a farmer means a lot of extra work, some disappointments, and making changes when necessary.

Rain clouds gathering over the mountains…

With all the rain also comes lots of weeds in the garden that have to be hoed, tilled, and pulled. We’ve definitely had our fair share of weeds this summer but limited dry time to remove them. All hands were on deck this week as we used the one evening without rain to till our corn, and hoe between and around all the veggies. Talk about a great workout for the upper body and a great workout for the garden. It looked renewed and revived after the working was complete. The rain has actually proven to be a blessing for our cucumbers, squash, and zucchini.

Squash is one our favorite summer veggies!

We’ve been able to pick an abundance of zucchini, squash and cucumbers between the random showers of rain. We’re not complaining…we’ve enjoyed baked, fried, and sautéed zucchini and squash, and delicious vegan zucchini bread. Eating what we’ve grown brings a sense of completion, but sharing the fruits of our labor with neighbors, friends, and family is one of the most satisfying and fulfilling labors a farmer can experience.

Despite the weather and rescuing and reviving and re-staking our forty-five tomato plants that were riddled due to high winds and heavy rains…our tomato plants are still standing with lots of green tomatoes and some that are slowly ripening. Our entire family loves tomatoes ripe or fried green! Fried green tomatoes is a dish that never gets old! Its also healthy, clean, and vegan!

I was also able to check an item off of my ever-growing to do list this week, which always makes me happy! However, happy does not quite describe the emotion I felt as I clicked send on the email containing the attachment of the final revisions and edits of edition II of the textbook that I wrote. It has been long tiring journey, but a rewarding one that I’m glad I embarked on! I’m super excited to teach with and for my students to use the new textbook in the fall!

Summer II classes began Wednesday, which means the fall term is only a few weeks away and also lots of early morning grading and planning. I fully intend to make time for my favorite early morning walks where I love to take pictures capturing the beauty of our mountains. I also look forward to reading on the porch for a few more weeks before the fall term begins when things get a bit crazy…but it’s a good kind of crazy!

Random picture I took on an early morning walk after the rain!

I’ve also enjoyed time in the kitchen this week and working to perfect my vegan lemon bread recipe. No worries…that tasty recipe is coming soon! I must say it is delicious, but I want to try one more tweak before posting the recipe! I’m loving the use of tofu in vegan recipes and am anxious to share new ideas and recipes with you soon.

My first attempt at clean vegan lemon bread!

Despite all of the rain…it’s been a blessed week. Feel free to follow my blog and also leave comments. I enjoy hearing from each of you. God bless for now from the mountains of Kentucky!