Blueberries: From Picking to Eating

Standard

Muffins

This past month marked the height of blueberry season here in North Florida. We have three bushes in our yard, but the late frost killed most of the berries on the vine. Fortunately, we found a u-pick blueberry farm right outside of town.

Picking

Robby went to school with Jen, who owns Myrtle Creek Farm along with her husband Scott. It was nice to visit with them and see their beautiful farm, filled with blueberry trees, blackberry bushes, and even a pear tree. They lost a lot of berries to the late frost this year, too, but they still had plenty for us to pick!

Even though we have our own blueberry trees, Jen told me something I never knew: they only ripen on the vine. That means you have to pick them at their peak (dark blue). If you pick them early (when they’re still pinkish), they won’t continue to ripen on the counter or in the fridge. Their technique? “Tickle” the berries. If they fall off the vine, they’re sweet and ready to eat.

 

FreezingBlueberries_1

Now, Robby and I can’t possibly eat two quarts of berries before they go bad, so we freeze them to enjoy throughout the year. The trick to this is to lay the berries on a small sheet pan and then set the pan in the freezer. That way, each berry will freeze individually, and you won’t end up with a solid mass of blue ice. Once frozen, scoop the berries into freezer-safe bags and return them to the freezer.

Mary Frances’ Cobbler

Cobbler

Nothing beats my mother-in-law’s cobbler. Seriously, I can eat so much of this stuff that I make myself sick. It’s that good.

When I stopped eating wheat, one of the first things I did was figure out how to make this cobbler gluten-free. The good news is that it’s easily altered, and it tastes even better without wheat flour!

Click here to download a printable recipe card.

 

Banana-Blueberry Muffins

My new favorite muffin is banana-blueberry. They have just the right amount of sweetness, and they smell like heaven when they’re heated up. If you don’t have time to make these from scratch, there are some great mixes available. I’ve tried a couple gluten-free options, and both were delicious.

IMG_4829The King Arthur Gluten-Free Muffin Mix is a basic vanilla mix, but it has a great flavor. You’ll need to add one or two soft bananas and a cup of blueberries. The batch always makes several more muffins than it promises, which is really nice. If you prefer, you can use a small loaf pan instead of muffin cups.

Robby recently picked up a box of Simple Mills Naturally Gluten-Free Banana Muffin & Bread mix. It has far less carbs than the King Arthur mix because it uses coconut sugar. In total, the mix has only seven ingredients, including dried bananas. Just mix in a few blueberries. I got 11 nice-sized muffins out of this mix.Muffin_SM_1

If you have leftover muffins—and that’s a big IF—throw them in a freezer-safe storage bag and freeze them for later. They’re great for breakfast or dessert!

Do you have a blueberry recipe you’d like to share? Please post it in the comments.

Thank you!

Encouragement for the Exercise of Faith

Standard

If you ever peruse social media sites like Facebook or Instagram, you’ll see a lot of posts about exercise. A lot.

Some are simple words of encouragement:

 

The latest trend, though, is sweaty selfies with tag lines like “I did it!” or “Almost ready for that 5k!”

Selfie_1opinionatedwoman
Credit: 1OpinionatedWoman

These folks are shamelessly sharing their hot-mess photos with us because they know that we’ll understand their struggles, and we’ll respect their efforts.

 

The Christian Struggle

As Christians, we have our own struggles to contend with. Physical exercise might be hard, but disciplining our minds and hearts to seek and follow the Lord can be so much harder…and yet infinitely more rewarding. That’s why the writer of Hebrews said that we should “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1b NAS).

If this daily spiritual exercise is so important, why don’t we see related posts on social media?

Imagine what would happen if friends posted memes like these:

FakeMeme_1FakeMeme_2FakeMeme_3

Would you encourage these folks (“Thanks for sharing. We’ll be praying for you!”) or would you un-friend them?

Would you allow their stories to strengthen your own faith, or would you succumb to pride, judgment, and gossip?

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged,” (Matthew 7:1 NAS).

 

Let us Rejoice

We applaud anyone who performs physical exercise—regardless of how out of shape they are—because we know they can improve over time. It’s the effort that counts.

However, in our own Church family, we tend to criticize other believers who share their success stories. (“Why does she tell everyone she has a ministry degree? It sounds prideful to me!”) For those who have the audacity to admit they struggle with sin, we repay their honesty with judgment. (“I can’t believe he did that! He shouldn’t be a leader at church.”)

It doesn’t have to be this way. If the world, in its sinfulness, can celebrate the smallest improvement, then the Church, consisting of Christ-followers, can rejoice in the confessions and commitments of others to seek the Lord! In fact, since we are all members of the same body of Christ, it is our duty to uphold one another.

“And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:26-27 NAS).

 

Encourage One Another

I challenge you to be transparent—if not with the whole world, then at least with your loved ones. Let them know your triumphs, as well as the areas you are struggling in, and give them the opportunity to encourage you and strengthen you in prayer and support.

Likewise, if you see others sharing their hearts, take a moment to applaud their efforts. Appreciate the courage it took for them to admit they’re not perfect. Lift them up in prayer, asking for the Lord’s guidance and protection as they continue to seek after God’s perfect righteousness.

Remember, we are all part of one body. Let us be sure to encourage one another as we learn to exercise our spiritual muscles.

“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13 NAS).

Real Promises for a Lasting Marriage

Standard
IDo_BSK_061417

Robby and I recited our vows in March 2011. (Photo credit: Lindsay Osborne Photography.)

The following blog was first shared on OneChristianVoice.com, a media hub that shares information relevant to Christians, including local and world news, and inspirational and fun articles. Check out their site for information on what matters to you.


 

Fantasy

Music fills the church. A hush descends as guests take to their feet. The church doors open, revealing the bride in glistening white. She clutches a bouquet of red roses…no, make that yellow tulips flown in from Holland that very morning. The groom’s eyes glisten as he takes in the image of his beautiful bride.

Holding hands, the couple repeats time-honored vows. They quickly promise to love and keep one another for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, forsaking all others, for as long as they both shall live.

After sharing a passionate (but church-appropriate) kiss, they burst out of the building in a shower of flower petals and confetti, and ride off in the sunset toward their fabulous honeymoon destination.

The credits roll.

 

Reality

Thanks to the romanticism of movies and TV, that’s how most of us envision weddings. This image is reinforced by a gazillion posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, all subtly promising enduring happiness if we can only find the right combination of gowns, flowers, music, and cake. Perhaps that’s why the average cost of a wedding, reception, and honeymoon is over $28,000.[1] (And we’re still coming out of a recession!)

No matter how fantastic the wedding day is, it only lasts a day. It is suddenly replaced with the reality of married life. For many of us, that reality is a joyful partnership, filled with love and laughter that help get us through the rough patches of life. But for others, the reality doesn’t live up to the fantasy. Perhaps that’s a big reason why so many marriages end in divorce.

I can’t help but think that couples would be better prepared for marriage if they had just a dose of reality before the wedding day. That’s why I’d like to propose a change—not to TV shows or social media posts (Rom Coms and pins about color palettes all have their place). No, I’d like to expand those wedding vows.

 

Revised Wedding Vows

Instead of the sing-song words that we repeat but don’t take to heart, what if the bride and groom had to make real promises to one another—promises to love in spite of issues, to forgive when necessary, and to stay together no matter what? What if we packed our vows with Scripture, such as Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Corinthians 13:13, and Galatians 5:22-23?

The following is an example of what that could look like.

I, [Bride and Groom], promise:

  • To prioritize God first, you second, and myself third.
  • To encourage you to grow closer to the Lord.
  • To accept you just as you are, with all your flaws (which may become more apparent over time).
  • To forgive you completely of all past, current, and future wrong-doings, then put it behind me and move on.
  • To take care of you when you’re sick, even if it makes me sick.
  • To stay with you, even if (God forbid) you become disabled in any way.
  • To have eyes only for you, even when you’re old and no longer sexy.
  • To cherish you, even if you can’t give me the kids I’ve always dreamed of.
  • To respect you, never speaking discouraging or belittling words to you.
  • To always be lovingly honest with you.
  • To make all effort to live in peace and harmony with you.

 

There would also be vows specific to the bride and groom.

I, [Bride], promise:

  • To submit to you as the Church submits to Christ, even when it’s difficult or it doesn’t make sense at the time.
  • To let you take the lead, even when I think I know a faster, better way.

I, [Groom], promise:

  • To love you as Christ loves the Church, being willing to sacrifice myself completely for your well-being.
  • To help you pursue the call God has for your life, even if I have to make sacrifices for a season, such as doing all the “girly stuff,” like cooking and cleaning.

 

Once the vows are exchanged, the new married couple share a kiss, have cake, and dance all night! (This is a wedding celebration, after all.)

 

A Good Start

If all marriages in the Christian church started out with these vows—with real promises—would it refocus the emphasis from the fantasy of the wedding day to the reality of married life? Would it really make a difference on the quality of a marriage or its lasting success?

I don’t know. But I am certain that it’s a good start.

[1] “Wedding Cost Statistics” – Statistic Brain.” 2017 Statistic Brain Research Institute, publishing as Statistic Brain. 5/17/17. http://www.statisticbrain.com/average-costs-of-an-american-wedding