Saturday, February 25, 2012

Face the Lions

I'm lying on my bed reading The Cross and It's Shadow. The sentence jumps out at me. "...Daniel...faced hungry lions rather than have any interruption in his communion with God."
Conviction sets in. Everyday, I let things get in the way of my communication with God. I wince. I know that what I do today determines my strength of character in the future. At this rate, would I, could I stand to face the lions? I realize that I've slipped out of the habit of 'walking-prayer'.
Soon, Mum sends me to feed the little bucks and lock up the bucks for the night. And as I walk, I talk to God... and pray --

"God help me! Help me to be so connected to you, that I would face hungry lions, (if need be), rather than interrupt our connection."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Winning Tom's Heart*

"Georgia, what are we going to eat there?" Tom asked worriedly.
"They're vegetarian too, aren't they?"
"Yeah. I don't know what we'll eat. They did say that they'll feed us. I'm sure we'll survive the next 10 days."
I only found out about this conversation that my friends had before coming here, towards the close of their visit.
When they arrived their fears were quickly dispelled. Their second meal here, was lunch. Georgia, Mum and I prepared it together. Georgia washed the potatoes, Mum put them through the slicer, another peeled the onions, and I mixed it all up. It was popped into the oven and soon the aroma of potato and coconut wafted through the house. Our visitors were keen to try it. A salad was tossed and the table set. We had made two trays. Wise choice. The first tray was scraped out in minutes. Most of us had to stop ourselves from eating too much. I guessed that the Scalloped Potatoes were a hit. I didn't realize how much though!
That evening, we explained to our visitors what we normally do for tea.
"We usually don't have much for our evening meal, if anything. Generally just fruit. But, feel free to eat anyway. What would you like?"
"The potato dish from lunch!" Tom piped up.
Hmm, wow! He really liked it!

The morning meal of the next day was sago cooked with apple and pineapple juice.
"This tastes so much better than sugar-water sago!" Tom stated after chewing and swallowing a mouthful of it with our goat's milk.
We laughed. I'd never heard of making water sago!

Haystacks was on the menu for lunch.
"Haystack?!" Georgia asked incredulously.
"Oh, yeah. Layers of different things. Corn chips. Beans. Lettuce. Onion. Carrot. Cucumber. Tomato. And dressing. Get the idea?"
"Sounds different!"
"Well, it's a great way to have lots of fresh with legumes." Mum explained.
When it came time to make lunch, we again did it all together. Even Tom helped and cut up the tomatoes. He enjoyed that.
And when it came to eating the haystacks, Tom's stack of the tomatoes was the biggest and was repeatedly topped up.
"It's great! You can custom make your own haystack!" he grinned.

The days came and went, but not without being used up to the full. And filling up our stomachs amply too! One day, we were late with making lunch as some chores had taken longer to do. Mum made a quick vermicelli stir-fry with onions and tempeh. After we all finished our meal, Tom had some more of it and especially the tempeh.
"What's this stuff called? It's really yummy! It tastes like meat!"
"It's tempeh (pron. tem-pay)," I answered.
"What's it made out of?" he asked.
"Fermented soyabeans."
The siblings gasped. "What?!"
"Well, it's like miso. Have you ever had that?"
"No! What's that?"
"Oh, never mind. Hmm... you're bound to have had soy sauce. It's fermented too."
"Yes, we have."
"Well, tempeh is far better than soy sauce. And don't worry, it's not mouldy!"
They smiled, relieved. And Tom ate another piece.

In the days that followed, my friends tasted many new things. In fact, I did too! On the day, that we planned to have Shepherd's Pie, but Mum decided to do something we'd never had before as well. She had soaked some lima beans overnight, and needed to use them. I was nervous of her doing something that wasn't "tried and true", but that didn't bother her.
After all, she got it out of her faithful and favorite (albeit falling-apart), 30-year-old cookbook, Ten Talents. She picked two recipes, the Lima Bean Casserole and Lima Bean Loaf and used both of them, excluding the tomato puree, for Dad who can't eat tomatoes.

We came in for lunch very late that day.
We had been up and away exploring and doing photo shoots on the property. We heaped our plates and sat outside on the veranda, to eat. Mum had already eaten, so it was just us three 'children'.
"Mm! This lima bean dish is not too bad." I admitted.
"It's so tasty!" Georgia added.

They had tamale (polenta) pie. Carrot and rice loaf. Corn bread. Banana bread. Carob cake. Oh, yes that carob cake. Georgia made it. It was delicious! We adapted the recipe to suit us and be more healthy. Georgia re-wrote it out for us for future use. At the end she added, "Gobble with pleasure." Indeed, we all did. Couldn't help it!
They tried our Carob Balls too.
"These taste just like the chocolate balls we make with biscuits and well, not as healthy stuff," Tom said.
Mum wasn't sure if that was a compliment. I had to re-assure her it was.

They liked all the meals. Liked? Let's make that "really, really liked" them! Because they did. And those first-mentioned scalloped potatoes? When we asked Tom and Georgia which were their favourite savoury meals, Tom voted that dish was the best.
"Oh, that's just because you've forgotten what the lima bean dish tastes like!" Georgia insisted.
"It was good too, but I think you should make that potato dish again," he told me.
"And the lima bean dish!" Georgia added chirpily.
So we did. And once again, the trays were scraped out in moments. Only the second time I made the Scalloped Potatoes, I sprinkled a little too much cayenne pepper on the top (to keep it from browning).
Tom had the first bite of all of us. I was still inside getting something extra for the meal. He came running inside to the water filter and gulped down some water.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Argh! You put too much salt in it this time!"
"Oh no! I tasted it, before I put it in the oven and it seemed fine."
"I must of just gotten a clump of it," he grimaced.
Embarrasment washed over me. I tried to salt it right! I was happy to notice that he kept eating his food though. None of the rest of us thought it was too salty. Then it hit me.
"Oh, Tom. I think you more like got a clump of cayenne pepper!"
We all laughed. That would make sense. We enjoyed our meal. After all, it wasn't too salty. It was perfect.

On Sabbath, we again had sago, this time with corn bread. Tom going by the previous week, accepted a big serve. He liked it a lot! However, it turned out his eyes were bigger than his stomach, as he was last to finish, I mean not finish. He just couldn't fit it all. Even though he would've happily!

They're back home now. I miss them. We had a wonderful time together. Georgia liked the food so much that she has asked me for the recipes of the dishes to make for her family. 'Specially their favourites. (Bet you can guess what they are!)

I learned many things from their visit. One of those things being, you can feed (non-vegetarian) visitors healthfully (and gluten-free!) And they'll love it.

*through his stomach.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Floods and Helicopters

It all started on my birthday, a week ago. Driving rain bucketed down incessantly, without hardly a pause.
The creek, when it is raging. (It normally looks like this. Yep, that picture is of our creek too.)

The previous evening, Mum and Jana had carried/dragged the goats through the high, (but not yet) raging creek. We'd brought them up to a three-sided shed, to keep them out of the water that was pouring into their normal shelter, on the other side of the creek.

It had been pouring for days, and still was. Mum regularly checked the weather online, in dire hopes that it forecasted hope. Instead we just came across more stories of local towns inundated, and thousands of people being evacuated. Dad was stuck in this town.

The sun had not been out for days. Not very helpful when solar is your source of power. And when the last drop of full for the back-up generator, has been used up. The fridge and freezer became bacteria incubators, after being off for a few days. I emptied the fridge out, reasoning that it'd be a little cooler outside after all. But, it still wasn't enough to keep the food from going bad.

"What we need is the SES, girls!" Mum informed us, worriedly.

"Really? Why?" I asked after coming inside from milking a goat on the veranda (to keep out of the rain.)

"We need fuel for the generator and hay for the goats."

"They're not going to bring us that, Mum!" we protested.

We girls brainstormed. Surely it wasn't necessary. But the rain kept up. The goats had to stand on planks and other objects to keep out of the mud. Worse than this uncomfortable state of affairs though, was their obvious hunger. We have plenty of grass for them to graze on normally, but the rain was driving and the wind chilly. Only few succumbed to their hunger and ate the water-drenched greenery, despite being consequently saturated. Others shivered under shelter.
Mum was right. We kind of really did need the hay. And definitely fuel too.
"How will we get the SES to come?" was the obvious question next.

Just call them? We wished we could've. The phone was out. Dead due to the deluge. It had been out of order for a few days, and it coming back on anytime soon was obviously unlikely. The roads were all closed. No way a Telstra technician would get out to the exchange. Thankfully, the inverter had a enough power to run the laptop and internet. Mum was able to put a request for someone to call for us, on a HS forum. A lady volunteered to do it. Many messages exchanged with questions and answers for what the SES had asked, the message was that they would come. We weren't quite sure just when though. Would it be in the night? Or the next morning?

It turned out to be neither. Cherith had to get hold of them once again, with the repeated request. Fuel, please! They were busy with evacuating people and air-dropping food. 18 helicopters were in service for our area, alone. The local town's river peaked (this morning) at 10.5 metres, covering the main bridge and flooding the town. Wow! Maybe our situation was not that desperate, after all. The rains continued. The question came from the SES, "Do you need to be evacuated?" We talked about it for a quick moment. Our answer? "Definitely not!" Why? Well, were would we be taken anyway? To a cramped town hall? Our house itself is high, so not in danger of being swamped anyway. I certainly preferred the thought of my own bed to sleeping on the floor of a hall, without any bedding (as some have had to do.)

The hours crept by. Schoolwork and chores occupied our time. But then, did we hear it? It was different to the unusually regular sounds of airplanes passing. The whipping of blades could be heard. The clouds were thick. We could see nothing. We paused our lunch and hurried to the window straining our eyes and ears for anything. The thought excited us! Maybe it was for us! The sounds died away. Our hopes did too. Obviously, it wasn't for us.

Once again, the dim light of a cloudy day, dissolved into the dark of night. We settled down to sleep. There would be hope tomorrow. The forecast was for far, far less rain. The thought of it made me smile. The rain stopped that evening, before I went to bed. The silence! Strange. So different! It caught me by surprise... so quiet! That was however, until I stepped outside onto the veranda. The same rushing of water. It was the creeks - or raging currents, as they had become. Inside though, the noise ceased. I had a peaceful sleep.

Friday. The SES... was it going to finally come today? The phone rung. It was my brother. After finishing her conversation with him, Mum called Dad. The first time she had been able to hear his voice since Sunday. Relief washed over both of them. When the phone call ended, and she was going to call another child, she realized the phone -- once again, was dead.

Communication returned to being only possible, through emails and chat. Cherith called up the SES. She was chatting to us while she was on the phone.
"Do you need any food?" she repeated the question.
"No, just fuel," we answered again.

On second thought though... actually we could do with some. We were out of carrots. Soy milk. And more. How would we get food though? When Cherith had tried to order food from Woolies, over the phone, they had given us the condition of needing a cheque book. Well, neither of us had one of those. A food drop, was impossible. Or so we thought.

Soon, the phone was back on! Yay! And this time, for good. Mum called the SES and explained the dilemma. Well, Coles was a different story to Woolies, we discovered. Yes, they would take your card numbers over the phone, SES informed her. On the phone with Coles though, Mum could hardly believe how good they really were about it. Not even card numbers were wanted. "Just pay us when you are able to come in next!" a worker told her. Mum was shocked! She began giving her order. "Just wait, I'll grab a trolley and gather it up for you," he offered. He then proceeded to get together Mum's order.

A few hours later, we heard that loud chopping of the wind. This was it! We knew it.
We ran to the window, this time seeing the blue and silver object come over the trees.
"Grab the camera, girls!" Mum suggested. There was a definite excitement in the air. We didn't hesitate to obey.
I stayed on our veranda and captured it coming in.
Mum and Jana ran to the other house where it was landing.
After snapping this picture, I followed suit. The wind almost knocked the breath out of it.
The grass on the side of that hill was blown flat.
Not quite. But I had certainly never been that close to a helicopter before. With the spinning blades being about 20 feet long (or more), it was like standing in the wake of a mega-fan.

It was an amazing experience. And now, I would love to join the SES (State Emergency Services). But in the meanwhile, I'm grateful to God for the blessing of living in Australia where we have such services. And I'm grateful too, that His hand was over us during this flood. Oh, and for giving me life for as many years as he has. (How long that is, my friends know and you can guess. ;)
Me, Jana, Mum and SES volunteer.
You can see how windy it is by the way our hair and clothes were being blown around. :)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

God's Smile

Even when I think about God just once it's written down? I ask myself in wonder. How tender of Him!

The words of Malachi 3:16 warm my heart. "Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name."

Thinking how just one thought of just His name is recorded makes me want to think about Him lots and lots! He treasures it whenever I talk or think of Him. Wow! When I have conversations with my sister about my wonderment and awe of God and His ways, now and then, when I pause to think of the angel writing it all down... I almost think I see God smile.
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