Our Purim Meal

Does your family celebrate any particular Jewish holidays? For the most part, our family have not celebrated any of them (aside from, perhaps, a commemorative meal at Passover time with other church friends or something like that). However, several years ago I made a Purim meal as a school assignment. I enjoyed the experience, although one memorable thing from that day was Mom’s mention of me having “too many pans on the fire”—a first for that particular expression for me!

Challah Bread

Either later that year or the next year, we celebrated Hanukkah together as a family for the first time. Again, it wasn’t anything fancy—basically just lighting the candles was the extent to which our “celebrating” went. But it was fun to remember the story and know that around the world there were other people commemorating the several-thousand-year-old holiday along with us.

This year, I marked on the calendar when Purim was going to be, more out of interest than anything else. When I saw last week, then, that it would fall on the next Sunday, I thought it would be fun to do a little something for the occasion. Monday became our day to celebrate, since I had the entire day free. It was fun to dig up the recipes I used four years ago, and put them to use again! I think I was a bit more organized this time, although we did end up eating a little late and I didn’t get the kreplach done. Oh well. It was a fun evening anyway, and having slightly different food for a change was also quite enjoyable!

Challah bread

Our menu for the night:

  1. Challah Bread (a traditional Jewish braided bread glazed with egg and I added some poppy seeds; a favorite around here. I’ve made it several times and it always disappears quickly!)
  2. Chickpea and Noodle Soup with Persian Herbs (should have put more salt and pepper in it—but it turned out delicious anyway)
  3. Roast Turkey
  4. Tomato and Onion Toss with Herbs (our family’s variant on a recipe I found online)
  5. Hamentashen (a triangular cookie with filling in the middle; I used apple butter and plum jam)

Tomato and Onion Toss with Herbs

One neat thing that coincided beautifully with Purim is that as a family, we finished reading the book of Esther just a day or two the holiday. What are the chances of that happening? But it did, and having gone step-by-step through the story together, this meal had a lot more meaning to us (well, to me at least!) as I thought of the beautiful story of courage and faith behind it. Only God could bring all that together!

Chickpea and Noodle Soup with Persian Herbs

Roast Turkey

Hamentashen

I’m not sure which was my favorite part of the meal to make—it would probably be either the Challah bread or the Hamentashen. I loved playing with the dough when braiding it for the Challah (and would like to try doing a five-strand braid next time!). I also loved shaping the Hamentashen. And one thing I learned—you can’t squish the corners of the Hamentashen too much. As you can see in the above picture, they come apart some in baking. Even if they might not be perfect, they did taste good!

Have you ever celebrated Purim or any other Jewish holiday? If you did, what kinds of food did you have with it? If not, do you plan to try it sometime—even if just for the experience?

Task Management and Bullet Journaling

One thing I’ve been working on lately is figuring out how to best manage my to-do list. I often have a lot of different projects going all at once, and along with that often a lot of little tasks. Keeping track of everything—and knowing what to do when—is something I definitely haven’t gotten down to a fine art yet.

Daily log

Sometimes, I have to wonder if a lot of the struggle is mostly found in the fact that I’m in an in-between stage—not a child anymore, not really a young teenager anymore, almost an adult but not really that, either. As I’ve put it to some of my friends before, “Adulting it is hard.” Sigh. (And yes, all of you people with many years and much more experience than me, feel free to chime in with any advice you may have!)

What I’ve been doing lately as far as task management is collect everything in Todoist, then work through it each day as I can. I love Todoist because I can paste in multiple jobs at once, and if I type them up right, the inline parsing setting will automatically assign dates and priority levels (1-4) to the different tasks. It’s slick, easy, and remembers the stuff I need to remember.

Often through the days, though, working with Todoist involves transferring jobs to my “daily log” notebook—a fun gift from my aunt!—which I love, because seeing something written down and completed on paper is just that much more satisfying. It’s also helpful in the fact that if I want to find out when I last did something in particular, it isn’t hard to skim back through my previous entries.

Daily log

However, this means that in effect I have two systems running at once. While it works, I would like to figure out how to do this faster—or eliminate one or the other to make things go smoother.

Lately, I’ve come across a system called bullet journaling. And although I haven’t looked into it much, I do know a lot of productivity gurus out there use it. However, I’m not sure the time spent (at least at this stage) would be worthwhile to figure out how to do it. One thing I have discovered, much to my surprise, is how much of a “thing” this is! Search “bullet journal” on Pinterest, and you’ll find pages and pages of pins. Look on Youtube, and it’s easy to find 10 – 30 minute videos.

So while I’m curious about how some people do it, at this stage I’m choosing to use what I have. I wonder if Paul’s admonition to be “content in all things” would apply here?

What do you use for keeping track of tasks? How do you streamline things so you get things done rather than always trying to make the process work better for you? Have you ever heard of bullet journaling before—and if you have, do you have any experience with it?

Snippets of My Life

“It needs to be something profound,” my brain argued. “If I can’t make a good contribution to someone’s life, then it isn’t worthwhile.”

“But you haven’t posted in weeks,” my more logical side contended. “Not posting at all is just as bad—if not worse—than posting something that may or may not be encouraging.”

Chocolate
I made some dark chocolate yesterday from cocao butter, cocoa powder, a bit of salt, stevia, and vanilla essence. It’s turned out delicious!

Sigh. The struggle is real, folks. But today, I thought I’d drop in and say hello and give a quick update on life. Outside, one of my brothers along with a few other helpers are currently scraping paint off the side of my sleep out in preparation for painting. This guy…he’s dedicated. I’m thankful. That job is one that I’ve wanted to do for years, but never taken the time for (partly because I knew it was going to be a huge job, and partly because I can’t stand painting). But he’s getting it done! Two walls are already completed, so there’s only two left to do. Definitely a blessing there!

We’ve had a family living with us for over a month now. That’s been an incredible blessing, giving us a lot more fellowship than we’ve had in a good long while. They’re currently waiting for their visas to come through so they can find a job and live here on more of a permanent basis, but for now we’re just appreciating the fact that God has brought them into our lives.

This morning I worked on uploading more books. I always try to stay at least a little ahead, but this week caught up with me and Tuesday didn’t have a review. I made up for that yesterday, and have now completed the project.

Uploading Reviews

Tomorrow, Lord willing, I’m planning to do a bit more promotion work for a book that launched last Saturday—the first in a collection of Jane Austen re-writes! This one was a retelling of Emma. That’s one of the books that I haven’t read, but would love to sometime. Jane Eyre is at the top of my classics list right now, though—I loved that story, and am hoping to reread it since it was so good. Maybe Emma can be next? Here’s a quote from the book, Emmeline, that I really loved:

Emmeline Quote

Such encouraging words. Yes, as I’ve discovered and rediscovered lately, prayer can be the most essential thing a person can have in their life.

I’ve been working on making Bible memory work a more consistent thing in my life lately. I’ve always done some, but I’d really like to make it an everyday occurrence. Lately, I’ve just been finishing up Luke 12:22–31. What a convicting passage! Usually, I don’t worry too much about clothing or food (another way I count myself incredibly blessed—or else cursed, if the comfort of that materialism has taken my focus away from the Lord), but I do tend to worry about other things. Reading through this passage lately has reminded me again of how much my worries are no big deal to the Lord. Simple or hard, ALL things are possible through Him, and I can trust that He has and will accomplish His bigger plan in my life. I just need to take it to Him.

“And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.” —Luke 12:25–28, emphasis mine

I especially find the part about “doing that thing which is least” annoying—of course I can’t grow a foot taller just by thinking about it! Jesus calls this a “least” thing, though, so only imagine what could be done with our Father watching out for us. Wow. My faith appears pretty small when I think of things that way.

What’s kept you busy these last few weeks? What has the Lord been teaching you lately?

Boating the Creek and Giveaway Winners Announced

Boating 01

The giveaway ended yesterday evening, so today I had the priviledge of collecting the results and randomly picking winners! What fun! Thanks again, everyone, for entering and sharing while it was running. The publicity was much appreciated.

LRD 500 Reviews Party

And without more ado, I announce…

  • Kendra S as the winner of the $20 Amazon giftcard,
  • Megan C as the winner of the DVD When Things Seem Impossible,
  • and Deborah F as the winner for the Janet & Geoff Benge book.

All winners have been contacted, and their prizes will be sent off soon. (If you haven’t gotten your email yet, contact me here.)


I wanted to share a few photos from a recent excursion our family took to the ocean. We took a few friends with us, and my brothers spent some time blowing up one of their inflatable boats so they could go boating on a creek out there. It was a lovely sunny afternoon, and all enjoyed themselves immensely!

Boating 02

Boating 03

My oldest brother took our youngest brother for a ride.

Boating 04

While some people were out boating, the others worked on building up the “dock” a little.

Boating 05

Boating 06

Then, since a day isn’t complete without at least one slightly challenging task, my oldest brother decided to create his own water craft: A “Y”-shaped log laid over another large log, the ends of the Y acting as outriggers to keep the raft/boat/whatever-you-call-it level.

Boating 07

Those who were still out on the boat weren’t sure what to think…

Boating 08

…especially when he asked to borrow one of their two paddles, as his pole (a washed up branch) wasn’t getting him very far!

Boating 09

So they ended up making it back to port with one paddle, doing a bit of twirling in the water as they went. And the one on the logs got back in safely, too—amazingly, he didn’t even get wet!

Thus ended a fun afternoon at the creek.

I’m so thankful we can do things like this as a family—being out in God’s beautiful creation enjoying spending time together is a precious, precious thing. I’m so thankful for all my siblings and for the unity we have as a family. We’ve been through a lot together, but we can still smile, laugh, and praise the Lord for His goodness to us. Life isn’t always easy, but trials serve to highlight what a treasure we have in these relationships and the memories we’re making together. I’m so thankful!

Over to you: What have you been doing with your family lately that will leave good memories for years to come?

Handed Over

Just recently, I’ve been pondering on a line from a movie about Brother Sheffey. It has come to me several times and been quite a challenge to my spiritual walk, so I thought I’d share it with you, too.

Blooming oregano

Near the end of Sheffey’s life, a young man came to him asking for forgiveness for a wrong he had committed earlier which effectively stopped Sheffey’s ministry. Following this request, Sheffey shared a profound thought.

“God never forces His will on men. He calls them unto Himself, but if they will not follow Him, then they have to go their own way. The campground is gone—not because you burned it, but because God’s people didn’t want it. And God let them have their own way.

“Every time we give up a part of our faith to try to fit into the ways of the world, we lose it forever. We lose a precious part of God’s promise. Sacrifice to the world, and the world will never give it back. And some day, when the world tells us we can no longer have our religion, except where they say, and God is driven from our schools, our government, and our homes, then God’s people can look back and know that our religion was not taken from us. It was given up. Handed over, bit by bit, until there was nothing left.”

Are you keeping the faith? Are you pushing on, against the tides of evil that are pressing in at all sides? Are you actively working against the roots of Satan that are trying to overcome your faith?

This is a sobering question for all of us, myself especially. It’s too easy to let things slip. But we must never, never do that.

Hebrews 10:22, 23—“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

2 Timothy 1:13, 14—“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.

Hold on!

Christmas Outing

I meant to get this post up several weeks earlier already, but what with one thing and another that didn’t happen. Here it is now, though—late is better than never.

Christmas Outing 07

Christmas has not been a big deal for our family for years. We’ll have a picnic lunch out by the beach somewhere, the boys will go swimming, I’ll have a chance to read something, and Dad and Mom just rest and watch the children. The last two years, we’ve gone to a beach about half an hour north of us where there are rarely if ever any people, and afterward picked cherries. It’s a lovely time to just be together and soak up fresh ocean breezes and sunshine.

Christmas Outing 01

Notice the piles of dirt to the top, far left—there are thousands of little slips (landslides) like that all over the area, all caused by the earthquake. Some of them were very big, closing major roads, and some roads aren’t open yet because they’re so bad!

This year as we were heading off the beach, Mom, another brother, and I, climbed up the cliff-like edge of the beach to get to the train tracks that we have to cross to get back to the van. We wanted to inspect the tracks, because we had seen from a distance that they were significantly moved around in one section as a result of the earthquake.

Christmas Outing 02

I didn’t get very many pictures from that spot, but we soon headed about 5-10 minutes inland, and also saw damage on the tracks there that ran alongside the cherry trees. In these two pictures, you can see how the railway sleepers were lifted out of the gravel they are normally embeded in, either by the bridge rising some or the land on either side of the bridge sinking a little. Also, notice the hole to the middle right of the picture above—the gravel had fallen through down toward the road beneath. The edge of the bridge used to be almost level with the gravel here.

Christmas Outing 03

Little brother posed for a picture. You can see another place where the track sank behind him.

Christmas Outing 04

Christmas Outing 08

I headed down the tracks a bit, to see what the bridge looked like from a distance—pretty impressive! This is typical of the railroad line in this area. Lots of little things that will need to be fixed before they can send trains down here again!

Christmas Outing 05

Christmas Outing 06

Christmas Outing 09

In all, it was a gorgeous day to be out exploring earthquake damage and picking cherries. The latter weren’t totally ripe yet (they tasted better a week or two later), but it was still a fun day to be outside.

How was your Christmas? Share below, or if you wrote a blog post, link to it in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

And one last thing before I finish—have you entered the giveaway yet? Only four days left! Get your entry in now.

500 Reviews: Giveaway Time!

Hello, everyone!

It’s giveaway time! I’ve got to say—running giveaways is probably one of my favorite jobs around here at LRD (besides reading books, of course!). I was talking to Mom about the giveaway this morning, and she encouraged me to keep it simple…while I was all for doing something big and fun! Well, we came up with a compromise and I’m happy about that too.

500 Reviews Celebratory Giveway!

But first, before I tell you what you could win, I’d like to say a big thank you. I don’t do that enough, I know, but thank you for being here—even just taking time to read this. Thank you for your support over the past year and a half that we’ve been going, for taking time to read our reviews and buy a few books that hopefully have been helpful to you, and for sticking it out even through those times when I haven’t gotten the reviews up when I should have. Thank you. We couldn’t do this without you—if it weren’t for you, our job would be pointless.

And since we finally hit 500 reviews on the website, I thought it called for a celebration! 500 reviews isn’t nearly as many as I hope one day to have, but it’s a good start. Where will another 500 take us? Well…that’s at least partially up to you. What subjects do you want us to research and find more books on? Tell us, and we’ll see what we can do. We’re all about helping you succeed in what you’re doing. I’m excited to see what will happen next!

The Giveaway:

There will be three winners at the end of this drawing. It is open internationally (as long as you can use an Amazon.com giftcard or receive a book from Book Depository!), although please note the DVD is only available to those residing within the US. The giveaway will run from now (January 16) through to January 23.

You could win:

Enter to win:

LRD 500 Reviews Party

(Can’t see the widget? Enter here.)

Any questions or comments? Ask below. And here’s hoping you’ll win!

God bless,
Esther

Hope // My Word for 2017

The word burst upon me with a riot of color this evening, the sunset turning the leaves on the trees next to my sleepout into a beautiful green sheen. Like stagelights, except better—much, much better, because the Master Stage Director (or whatever they call them) is in control of those lights.

Hope.

I’d been working on next year’s calendar, getting it ready for use (and to share with all of you; stay tuned for that!), enjoying being able have room for inspiring quotes—a first in my calendar-making experience. And as I worked on including another quote, the words jumped out at me.

“Hope itself is like a star—not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity.” ― Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Hope 01

Hope.

It’s a beautiful word, one that can convey so many different meanings. It’s one that often surfaces this time of year—the hope that Jesus has brought to the world through His birth, death, and resurrection. Hope for humanity beginning at the cradle and continuing through past the cross.

We say words so often that they become trite. Common. But this word—it’s alive. It can mean the difference between life and death. If you have hope, you can see beyond the pain of the present and believe through faith that your future will be better. If you have hope, you have something to cling to. A solid anchor. If you have hope, you can recognize the true beauty of the gift you’ve been given in Christ.

My mind drifted to a scene I saw as I flew home a few weeks ago after a two-week trip to the States. As we rose above the clouds over Auckland, I looked down to see the shadow of our plane floating below us. Around that shadow was a perfectly round rainbow. I’ve heard of seeing rainbows from airplanes before, but had never personally experienced it. And as I looked down, I couldn’t help but think how much the Lord is like that rainbow—surrounding us with His love, especially in the middle of storms.

Hope 02

I tried to get a picture of the rainbow. It didn’t turn out that well, but you should be able to get the idea! 🙂

Hope is like that—the life preserver, if you will, that surrounds us. A shield during the “night of adversity”.

Hope—for change, for a better future, in Jesus—is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

I don’t often get into “words for the year” or things like that, but this year I’m choosing hope. As daylight fades into golden droplets on the leaves—one last fling of color before another day is gone forever—I’m thankful for hope. Thankful that it is given to us, thankful that in Christ we have more than hope for a better tomorrow. We can have hope for eternity! Praise the Lord!

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God[!]” Psalm 146:5.

Every Christian’s Nightmare

Every Christian's Nightmare

One night recently as I was getting ready for bed, I was suddenly struck with a thought. It might be worth something, it might not, but it did provide some interesting fodder to mull over as I went to sleep.

It’s every Christian’s nightmare that Jesus will go to sleep on us.

That isn’t going to happen, but have we gone to sleep on Him? Have we become so caught up in our day-to-day lives and our pet little routines that in effect we’ve squished any form of our Christian lives into one nice little bow-tied box called “I’m a Christian”? Have we begun turning to encouraging worship music instead of turning to Him? Have we slipped a little “devotional time” in our mornings or just before bed just so we can feel good about ourselves and know that we’re doing this Christian thing right? Have we so minimalized our Christianity that in effect we really aren’t any different from anyone else—we’ve just got a few slightly different daily rhythms?

Humor me for a second, and think about it. Are we really that pitiful?

Wait

Wait on the Lord

In my single-digit days, one of the things I most despised hearing from Mom were the words “hold your horses!” And, sadly, as I’ve gotten a little older that hasn’t changed much. She still reminds me, when I start heading down multiple what if? rabbit trails at once, to stop, be patient, and well…just wait.

Funny thing is, the Bible has some things to say about this too. Psalm 27:14, for example, has this to say about it:

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

And, of course, one of my favorite verses lately has a similar theme to it:

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

The thing is, God doesn’t always show us His “understanding” right away. He doesn’t even “strengthen our hearts” right away. He doesn’t always “direct our paths” just as soon as we pray, “direct me, please!”

It’s hard to wait when you’re afraid. Hard to believe that God really is going to come through and be with you, is going to follow through on His promises. I think of all those people listed in Hebrews 11, and wonder how many of them battled fear even while clinging to the faith that earned them a place among the “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1)? Many, I’d expect.

So today, as I go about my daily life, trying to commit my cares to the Lord and asking Him to help me trust Him more, I’m asking for patience to wait. For patience to just rest, see that the Lord is good, and follow His plan.

Not trusting is wearing—physically, emotionally, spiritually. But trusting Him? While it may be hard, we can be sure we have a firm foundation—because Christ has risen! (See 1 Corinthians 15:13-22.)