Sweet tea show down

As a native of the south, there are staples in our culture that cannot be replicated elsewhere. Gumbo, cornbread, fried chicken, pot roast, banana pudding, the list goes on and on. On the top of my list of things that make the south the best place to live is sweet tea.

While I was growing up, Mom had a 2 quart tupperware pitcher she served her sweet tea in. She steeped the tea bags in boiling water inside a cute little black tea kettle. Then added the perfect amount of sugar to the pitcher plus the steeped tea. She filled the pitcher up with water, stirred, and she was done. A pitcher of sweet tea never stayed around our home for long. She made a new one at least every other day. We are definitely carrying on this tradition up in this house today.

Sweet tea is serious business in our family. And the brand of tea I use in my home today just cannot be tampered with. Okay, as a family of seven, we budget our grocery trips tightly, so I thought I needed to skimp on buying MY brand which is $3.19 at Kroger for the other brand which rang up $2.29. I brought it home and tried the other brand, and it literally was terrible. No matter how sweet I made it, the tea was bitter and not smooth. I actually threw the rest of the box away, shaming myself for trying to skimp on tea. Want to know the good verses evil tea brands?

 

GOOD

EVIL

 

The most important thing about this situation is that Luzianne actually originated in Louisiana, so naturally it’s got the south’s best taste in mind. Lipton, on the other hand, actually began its commercial life with a powered tea mix… need I say more? I ain’t doing it.

Tongue-in-cheek, obviously, for calling Lipton evil, but it truly differs dramatically especially when you make unsweet tea. It just has a weak, bitter flavor, no matter the amount of bags you use.

So here is how we make our sweet tea in the Sheridan home. I have experimented with boiling the bags with the hot water on the stove top and adding a pinch of baking soda for an even smoother taste. Here is where we have landed for the perfect sweet tea.

The South’s Best Sweet Tea

Ingredients

4 bags Family Size Luzianne Tea

4 cups water

4 quart pitcher

1 1/4 cups white sugar

  1. Bring four cups of water to boil in a sauce pan. Pour immediately into pitcher then place 4 bags of Luzianne tea in pitcher and cover with lid. Allow to steep at least 10 minutes.
  2. Next, carefully remove tea bags from pitcher and discard. Add 1 1/4 cups of white sugar and thoroughly stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Then fill pitcher to the top with water. Stir one more time. ENJOY!
  3. Side note: I do enjoy having a 50/50 many days. That’s just half sweet tea, half unsweet tea. To make unsweet tea, follow the same recipe just without sugar. And to make the perfect 50/50, you first put the unsweet tea in and then pour the sweet tea on top. That ensures a true 50/50!

So, if you are looking for the best tea to brew in your home, go get you some Luzianne! Walmart has it the cheapest, but if you have to pay $1 more at your local grocery store, please please do it – you won’t regret it!

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Change of Course

I love coneflowers. They like it hot and require very little maintenance. Butterflies and bees think they are legit, too.

About two years ago, we moved just five miles down the road from the first home we owned as a married couple. That flowerbed was covered in coneflowers. And butterflies. And coneflowers.

As the coneflower finishes its bloom, the center dries up and can be lobed off and discarded or sprinkled in another area to seed and create another coneflower plant. We continually did this at our last house, and we literally had dozens upon dozens of plants; so much so, I had to gift the tiny plants to anyone who would take them. For me to give away a coneflower plant is a big deal!

But we moved, you see. And now we have this strange flower bed that holds water and has poor soil. Even after Brandon tilled the bed and brought in good stuff to mix in with the bad soil, we have a pretty terrible time with this bed.

Cue the coneflower planting. They like it hot and require very little water. These surely will live, right? Right?

Wrong.

Two mature plants didn’t even make it the full season last year. And this year, one died and has barely made it above five inches, even by the end of August! Mom bought me three coneflower plants at the beginning of summer, and they are LONG gone. I bought several more and the husband got a little chemical happy, and they quickly deceased. And just about two months ago I bought three and ONE has survived. Okay? So, what in the world is the difference between here and our other house?

I don’t really know. They grew like weeds in Oakland, but they won’t grow, won’t flourish because of a handful of stimulants and factors. So, maybe I just need to plant something different, change the course of my gardening.

Change the course. Change the direction and vision.

I sit here today with a quiet home. It’s 11:58 a.m., and there is no one asking for lunch or whining because they want the toy their sibling has. Change of course.

Since the fall of 2014, our family has homeschooled. It was rocky at times, but it was good at times. Carter completed Kindergarten reading, and we were rejoicing. At that time we had a 6 year old, 4 year old, 2 year old, and 4 month old. The days seemed unending. And I, I barely made it to bedtime.

Fall of 2015 brought in another classmate – Sister girl began Kindergarten. But by the end of that year, she struggled to even identify one sight word. Still, I thought, “Surely, with a little maturity under her belt, we can manage and press on.” So, we continued onto first grade in the fall of 2016. For her to sit and focus, I would have needed a seat belt in our chairs. Our middle child had just turned four, and his enthusiasm for learning and working signaled a huge red flag in our schooling with Sister.

We went first to the ophthalmologist to rule out any vision problem in the spring of 2017. And she passed with flying colors. Next, we had her screened for dyslexia. And BAM! There came our roadblock along with severe attention and focus issues. We then saw a psychologist who confirmed the ADHD and dyslexia, deemed it severe with each issue, and Sister was diagnosed with a very helpful stimulant which allows her to finally focus and pay attention. She vocalized a marked difference when she took the medicine. She said, “Momma, I can do my math!” Like, she could actually do it, finish it, feel a sense of accomplishment that she hasn’t felt her whole life, and she was 7 years old.

Change of course.

Homeschooling seemed to work for us for a few years, but then we began to see problems that we knew we needed help with that couldn’t be accomplished inside the home. Like those dad-gum coneflowers. Oh how I still really, really, really love those things. I just cannot, I mean cannot, make them thrive, flourish, grow in my new flowerbed. Why? I don’t know, truly. But it’s just not happening.

Cue change of course. Public school for CB and Sister this school year! CB is being challenged and pushed academically, and we are so privileged to get to address heart issues with him as he is the most talkative after school and tells us every single detail of his day. We are incredibly thankful for how God made CB like that. Sister is thriving socially and given one on one help with her dyslexia and sounding out words and even reading some sight words now. We are making progress. At home, we were not. At home, CB would get out of doing flash cards for math or I would tire so easily because of the three little ones who still needed me whilst attempting to give the two olders the schooling they needed. It wasn’t working. They weren’t thriving. We weren’t growing as a family in a healthy way. Change of course.

God led us peacefully to enroll these precious souls into public school in Somerville. I look at them and know that they belong to God, and He will use them mightily for His glory and the advancement of His name. It is overwhelming that they are His, and we are theirs only for a short time to train and instruct and guide. But He is faithful to keep them, protect them, and give us wisdom in how to walk with them through each day and trial.

My flowerbed has changed since moving. Box woods and daylilies. That’s about it. But they are thriving and growing and living. The flowerbed is lovely, and I will plant what will grow in this soil and have a happy heart about it! But, change is painful. Change is sometimes not what we think we want or think we need. But God gives us little precious souls that are not like any other He ever created and they join up with other siblings to make a sweet family. Their specific, individual personalities, difficulties, and strengths may need something different than we originally planned to thrive and grow and become the men and women God has planned for them to be. We have to learn to set aside our wants and desires and submit to God’s plan because it is always, ALWAYS, always best.

 

 

 

Grit: Part II

Last week I wrote about grit, how it is a determiner between success and failure. Grit is a real deal characteristic we can instill in our children with help from the Lord. There is one thing grit is and there is another thing that it isn’t. Grit is strong-mindedness and purpose-driven excelling through difficulties and affliction. Grit isn’t pulling yourself up by your boot straps. Nothing in the Christian life gets accomplished by doing anything on your own and with your own will power. And that is why I cling to and adore this passage in Jeremiah 17.

“Thus says the Lord:
‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man
    and makes flesh his strength,
    whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
    and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
    in an uninhabited salt land.

7 Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.'” Jeremiah 17:5-8 (emphasis mine)

 

When, when, when the heat comes. Not if the heat comes. Not if – when. When trouble, affliction, pain, heartache, trial, job loss, infertility, sickness, life, heat come the person who trusts in the Lord will not fear.

If the person whose trust is the Lord is compared to a tree whose leaves remain green in the time of drought, how is that? The current circumstances have no affect on this tree. Its roots are deep, drinking up that water it is planted near, and that tree remains unaffected by the drought. This translates into the hope of the Believer in Jesus Christ who never changes though all around him gives way. Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” The source of nourishment (the stream) for the tree remains and never wavers, just like the Source of our faith and hope is in a Person, our God who forgives and loves and takes care of and protects His children.

Because the tree was carefully planted by a stream of water, it doesn’t fear when the heat comes because it can continue to grow and remain healthy due to the stream as its life-giving helper. That tree is tethered to the stream, with direct access to its refreshment. We all have direct access to the Life Giver if we remain and abide with Him. When we abide with Jesus we will not cease to bear fruit, just like the tree planted by the stream of water survives the terrible drought.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:4-11 (emphasis mine)

That tree is neither fearful nor anxious. God’s word says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Then the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:6-7. Life is SCARY, and we never know what curve ball will be thrown to us next. But knowing that our source of life is our God who never changes and He holds our hand in the mundane and in the tragedies, our hearts can be comforted.

After becoming a believer, I learned a lot about reading the Word in context. So look what comes directly after Philippians 4:7 in verses 8-9:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

All of that: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praise-worthy is Jesus … It’s HIM. Remain in Him, keep our eyes on Him. How? Pray, read, talk about Him, encourage your heart with memorizing Scripture, talk about Jesus with your children and friends and spouse and family. Keep Jesus on the tip of your tongue and the forefront of your mind.

When that drought comes, when that heat comes, and I am telling you, it is coming, you will be “like a tree planted by water that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17)

 

christian quotes | Charles Spurgeon quotes | suffering | affliction

 

Grit

I watched as my husband sat on the end of the bed and looked at him. His ole fuzzy head and dimpled face hasn’t changed much in 9 years. He’s just so cute. Brandon began to talk to him about his experiences with school and sports. “Bud, I wasn’t that good at sports at your age. And I wasn’t good at math in the third grade, either,” he said. Carter’s eyes widened. The look of surprise was evident. His dad, the warrior in Carter’s eyes, the guy that doesn’t give up, that pushes his mid-30 body to limits many don’t… he struggled?

“That’s why you have to keep working, keep pushing, have grit, son,” he went on. Grit. It’s a new word to our family. “Firmness of character,” “resolution,” “fortitude,” “courage,” “firmness of purpose,” “mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously.”

It’s a mental toughness. And my husband possesses it. I think it’s because those words he told Carter were true: he was pushed as a young kid to plow through his struggles and not make excuses. Brandon’s mom didn’t shy away from any sport that Brandon wasn’t the best at nor did she make excuses for his difficulties in math. Granted, they cried together as he pulled himself up (and his momma pulled him up) each time he wanted to quit. But that momma of his didn’t give up on him.

Ease of learning or ease in extracurricular activities isn’t all where it’s at. The mountains our children must climb are storing up for their future selves grit and determination to conquer life’s mountains or challenges they set out to accomplish for themselves. If our children want to try something that we think may be a bust because we don’t think they will succeed, we need to weigh our response. Oftentimes saying no will only handicap our children’s storehouse of grit if our “no” is in a false sense of protection.

“We are parenting for a day we won’t see.” Author unknown.

I love that quotation. I don’t know where my husband and I read it, but it’s the absolute truth. May we raise a generation of gritty children who are firm in who they are and have strength in all circumstances, especially the tough ones they will face day in and day out year after year. And we can pray for grit, because God can give it.

I think of our dearest friends whose four children are overseas alongside them in temporary housing and in a school that isn’t ideal. Grit that God has given them helps them wake up each morning and get things done. They have longed for three months to be firmly planted in the community God has for them, but God has them set as nomads for the time being. They are weary, but, oh they are gritty, too, by God’s grace! Firm in their purpose in that big city to raise those kids to know and love Jesus and proclaim His name among the lost there.

Be gritty. Have grit. Encourage your kids to be gritty. It’s the difference between success and failure.

Grit. Get you some!

 

 

 

Arrival

Arrival. The dictionary defines arrive as to reach or attain an object or condition. If we are seeking to arrive somewhere or to something there must be a journey, a trip, a going. Arrival denotes the reality that there isn’t quite a teleportation that automatically gets us somewhere. We have to experience the in-between of packing up, traveling, and then getting there. Beginning, middle, and end.

Traveling on an airplane is a trip, a journey. There are things we experience on the airplane between point A to point B. You know… those magical Biscoff cookies on Delta and the amazingly cold Ginger Ale that you don’t order any where else. Maybe as much as we would like to skip the whole 6-8 hour car ride to the beach, it is necessary to get us to that sandy, sunny, salty destination. It’s long. The kids gotta stop and use the restroom every 50 miles. It’s tough and long. But the journey is necessary in order to arrive.

This is exactly the same with our lives on this earth. The reality of our existence is that we are born and we live and we die and we will spend eternity somewhere. Our souls will live forever. The Bible says in Daniel 12:2-3, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.” And also in Matthew 25:46, “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” We will either live forever with Jesus in heaven (everlasting life, eternal life) after we die on this earth, or we will live forever in the absence of God’s presence in hell (eternal punishment, everlasting contempt).

Where am I going with this? In 1 and 2 Corinthians, Paul uses the term “being saved” on several occasions (1 Corinthians 1:18, 1 Corinthians 15:2, 2 Corinthians 2:15). “Being saved” as in it isn’t final yet, today, at this moment, at the time of the prayer you prayed, on the day you committed your life to Jesus, on your spiritual birthday, on the day you know God got you and saved you and forgave you of your sins. Like, “being saved” is an on-going process and journey, something we look forward to God finishing. “Being saved” is all at once final and continuous until God calls us home to eternity with Him, all the while knowing we are His even on this side of eternity on this earth looking forward to either his return or our final day. “Being saved” means that on the day of our salvation we haven’t yet arrived and we can’t stop striving to grow and read the Bible and pray and learn about God.

“Being saved” is a journey. And it is hard. The paradox between being a sinner and God’s child literally blows my mind several times a week. How can I need to go to God and ask forgiveness because of this sin or that sin yet still be His? Because I am being saved. I am on this mind-boggling journey of sanctification which is a really fancy word for being made more like Jesus until His return or my final day. Christians, as they are sanctified, desire to sin less, become more quickly convicted of their faults and sins, and walk closer to God in His word and in prayer.

“Being saved” means one isn’t saved on August 29, 2006 ,and continues living in sin, for herself, demanding her own way, and not seeking to please God in all she does. Being saved means you do an about face, an 180 degree turn from your life full of sin to walk away from sin and toward God. As we are being saved, we are repenting repenters. We keep on asking God to forgive us of our daily sins. We keep on praying this

“Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Show me, Lord, where I have sinned and need to confess! Show me, Lord. Show me, Lord.

“Being saved” is a glorious journey from God making you His child until our final day on this earth. It is a joy, it is hard, and in it is a promise that  “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” Philippians 1:6. So live! So love! So obey! Go on this journey working toward living for Him and for His honor. He is worthy because Jesus came down and lived a perfect life, died on a cross and took all of our sin and shame on Himself for us. God poured out all His wrath on Jesus for our sake on that cross, because of our sin. Jesus died that day on the cross. But He didn’t stay dead. Sin and death did not gain the victory. Because three days later, Jesus rose up from the grave and now He is seated at the right hand of God. Our Savior, Jesus.

We will fall. We will mess up. We will say the wrong thing. We will lose the fight some days. But we gotta continue fighting the good fight of faith and keep on. Get up! Keep going. Don’t stop praying. Don’t stop trusting. If you don’t know if you are His child, ask Him to save you. Pray. Read. To Him belongs salvation. Keep seeking and reading God’s Word. He truly is enough.

A Battle for Glory

This fight we are in on this earth is for God’s glory – not for ourselves. Maybe to outsiders this battle looks selfish. Maybe to onlookers the sides we choose seem petty and judgemental and self-serving.  Oh, I am a fallen mortal. But, the same power that rose Jesus from the grave lives in me. And as a child of God, I am called to stand for one thing and one thing only – Him.

“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans‬ ‭8:11‬ ‭

Tonight I am pleading with the Father to fill our children up with the Holy Spirit and to grant them eternal salvation through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Savior. They are lifeless without eternal life. Our children are without life and without hope apart from Jesus. May God give life to our children’s mortal bodies through the Holy Spirit that He will grant them upon the day of salvation. 

And our precious friends and fellow believers in Christ who are about to awaken across the sea in a land that is not their birth home for the sake of Jesus and lost souls… you are prayed for. May you represent the King in love and deed and truth and action. You are not forgotten. Your work is not in vain. Your toil does not go unnoticed. May the peoples in your sphere of influence taste and see that the Lord is good. Praying to that end for the peoples of Asia, Papua New Guinea, and Germany. 

Keep fighting and battling for truth and righteousness. May we keep striving with the help of the Holy Spirit to represent the King well in all we say and do. 

July 18

This big brother was once in the hospital bed, sleeping 23 of the 24 hours in a day with a baseball-sized bleed on his brain. There was swelling of his brain, and he couldn’t walk or use his left arm. His eye would wander and couldn’t focus. It was an unbelievably scary time. 

But God.

He held CB in His hands. Kept him breathing. Kept the ventilator way away from him. Kept his vitals perfect – and I mean perfect. 

There was imminent discharge with a swelled brain and a seizure on the verge.

But God. 

There was a nurse practitioner who rounded whom we hadn’t seen in 10 days of being in the hospital. She called the best neurologist in Memphis, and within hours a helicopter had landed to take CB to LeBonheur.

Days later he had his first brain surgery and 24 hours in ICU. Three days later was his last brain surgery, and he recovered in his regular room. We rolled out of the hospital three days after that. He couldn’t walk when we got home, but he walked again by his 2nd birthday three weeks later.


Upon every passing day in the month of July, there are so many memories of what we were doing on that particular day in 2009 and 2010. Seven and eight years have passed since God walked us through some of the most challenging days of our lives. 

But God. 

Oh, He always has a plan. What’s the plan for this dude? I cannot wait to find out. He is quick to stand up for truth, and it is one of the most incredible things I have seen. As a momma, coming out of the ferocious 2s, 3s, and 4s with “one of the most strong-willed children God ever created,” to see our 8-year-old stand for what is good – oh wow, what a gift. Sure he’s a brother who falls down to temptation in a real way daily. But God is so kind to show us glimpses of His work in a young heart.

Affliction and trials are sometimes blinding and seem oppressive and make one unable to see the big picture. But once God lifts that particular time up and allows you to see some of the why’s, it is breathtaking. We still await God’s revealing of what CB is called to do with his life for God’s glory, but we are crazy thankful for His walking us through heavy affliction for our good and His glory. 

Sometimes God doesn’t plan for a redemption in affliction, and for that I cannot even fathom the heartache so many families and friends experience. I will tell you it doesn’t fall on blind eyes. We have been near losing both CB and my husband. But in all God’s ways, there is His gentle hand, His comforting grace, His beautiful carrying of His children. Fall hard on Him. He is enough. He sees you and hears you and wants you to come to Him. May we find comfort in Him in all our days.