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Origins of birthday celebrations

Saturday, 05. December 2015 by Renee Ellison


Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the quantity and pressure of too many children’s birthday parties? If you want a way out of this relentless demand, here it is!

Did you know these historical facts about the celebration of birthdays?

• The first birthday celebrations noted in recorded history were around 3,000 BC, and were those of the early pharaohs only (i.e. the kings of Egypt), not of the common man.
• Often, prisoners were released on this day. (If this is familiar to you, you may have read it in Genesis 40: while Joseph was in confinement in the house of the captain of the guard, the cupbearer was released—and this eventually resulted in Joseph himself being released.)
• In Egypt and later on in Babylon, only the birth dates of royal sons were celebrated. Some royal women’s birthdays were celebrated, such as that of Cleopatra (her husband—who was also her brother—slaughtered their son and gave him to her for her birthday present).
• The birthdays of children were never celebrated, unless they were the male children of royalty.
• The date of a person’s death used to considered be more significant than that of his or her birth. (If this seems at least vaguely familiar, you might be thinking of how in Scripture, we are commanded to remember the death and resurrection of the Messiah—but nowhere is there even a suggestion to celebrate His birth.)
• The Greeks took the Egyptian idea of a birthday celebration and added the custom of baking a sweet birthday cake, in honor of their goddess Artemis. It may be that the cakes had lighted candles, representing moonlight, the earthward radiance of this fabricated goddess.
• With the rise of Christianity, the tradition of celebrating birthdays ceased altogether—until about 1,300 years later. Most of the early followers of Yeshua faced a difficult life that could include suffering and martyrdom for their faith; perhaps this fact influenced them to celebrate the death of a faithful believer, which was “the true deliverance, the passage to eternal paradise.”
• The early church fathers regarded birthday festivities as a relic of pagan practices, and they wanted to avoid them, in their pursuit of personal holiness and purity.
• In A.D. 245 a group of Christian historians attempted to pinpoint the precise date of the Savior’s birth. They were opposed in this by the church (i.e., the Catholic Church), which decreed that it would be sacrilegious and sinful to observe the birthday of Christ, “as though He were a King Pharaoh.”

(Source: Charles Panati, Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things (New York: William Morrow, 1989), pages 31-33)

For more on this topic, read the post dated 1/28/2013.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Overcoming personal management challenges

Friday, 27. November 2015 by Renee Ellison


How to crawl out of feeling overwhelmed by any personal challenge

We’ve all heard about the power of setting goals, but not so much about applying those principles to anything small that repeatedly personally trips us up. We’ve thought about goals as something you do when you set out to swim the English Channel or triple one’s income, but not about cleaning house and sorting down that mess in the garage or basement, or losing weight or getting out of debt or trying to juice for better health, or overcoming negative depressive self-talk.

Just for fun, let’s revisit goal setting as a mad scientist would. Let’s get down to the cellular level to discover how to make its principles work for us, right now, with any challenge, no matter how big or small. By doing so, this time, we won’t be numbered with those who make unrealistic goals in January and quickly forget them by February. By understanding the exact progression of the steps, we’ll crawl out of our personal holes by the dozens! Victory is just around the corner; in fact, you’ll find it at the end of this list!

1. Write down your goal. This takes your vague sigh/wish out of grey matter/brain fog and sets up a citadel in lead on your paper. There is something powerful about seeing your little “impossibility” in writing. Writing becomes a bridge across your Rubicon. It begins to go to work, “rat-a-tat-tatting” on your subconscious.

What you write must be specific and measurable. It’s like eating a steak: you don’t stuff the whole thing into your mouth at once. You bite off little pieces and digest them well. Phrases like “I want to overcome alcoholism,” “I want to clean my house,” “I want to get in shape and be Miss America,” “I want to get out of debt,” or “I want to say only positive things to myself” won’t work. Start hacking and whittling at your large idea, then rummage through the shavings and pick up one little piece to tackle aggressively.

So let’s take the above examples and re-write them in this newer, smaller, more powerful way.
• I will go to an AA meeting.
• I will sort my bedroom drawers, beginning with the small dresser.
• I will make a green salad tomorrow morning—or right now.
• I will not spend money on perming my hair this month, nor on eating out.

2. Now to further gain power over your goal, rewrite your goal on a 3X5 card—as a fait accompli. At the outset, re-word your goal as already accomplished—completed before you’ve done one thing to bring it to pass!
• I no longer drink
• I have all my drawers completely sorted down
• I am slimmer by 15 pounds.
• I say 5 encouraging things to myself a day.
• I have paid off $100 of my debt.

3. Visualize your goal.
Now affix your 3X5 card to your morning mirror.
Re-read it every day, aloud. This engages the auditory memory trigger in your brain.

Also, post for yourself a picture of someone who has already achieved it or of the visual end results. This takes your goal into the visual imprinting eye-gate of your brain.

Continuing the examples above with this third step:
• Post a magazine or website’s picture of a clean room.
• Post a picture of a health guru.

Got it? Your written goal sits next to a picture of your written goal, and you hear yourself repeating it each morning, verbally. This solidly embeds your goal into both hemispheres of the brain and into your emotions.

4. Next, write down your obstacles toward achieving your goal.
If there weren’t obstacles, you would have already achieved it! This step is what most of us missed when we wrote down a goal and attempted to attain it in the past.

“I don’t make a salad because the kitchen is too cold in the morning and the vegetables and lettuce are too cold and the faucet water is too cold, and I don’t keep the right combination of vegetables in the fridge to even make a salad, and I don’t like the taste.”

5. Now write how you will overcome each obstacle.
• I’ll put a little radiator heater in the kitchen to warm it up quickly.
• I’ll pick a salad recipe, make a list and shop for the exact ingredients for my salad and I’ll purchase them as my first priority not my last priority.
• I’ll prep all the veggies the night before and put them in little containers.
• I’ll make a salad dressing that tastes good that helps me get the salad down.
• I’ll remove all the ingredients from the fridge when I first get up before making my bed and getting dressed so that when I assemble them they are warmer to the touch.
• I’ll make a salad large enough to last two days instead of one.

6. Next, decide on a time and a place for each goal.
• I will go to an AA meeting Monday at 3 at town hall.
• I will sort my drawers for 15 min. every night at 8 p.m.
• I’ll prep my vegetables at 7 each evening.
• I’ll exercise around my city block, and do so at 5 each evening.
• I’ll try to go one hour countering every negative thought with a positive one.

7. Keep records.
Document your current status toward achieving each of your goals. You do this by keeping a record of what you actually did today. Then determine, did that dive-bomb your efforts or did it help them? What will you do to get a better grip on the objective tomorrow? If you are in debt and your goal is to resolve that problem, keep a record of all of your receipts so that you can log them in and tabulate them by the end of the month to see where your money actually went.

8. Decide on a reward for yourself for when it is achieved.
Your reward doesn’t have to be huge or expensive. It can be doing something—like hiking in a new area, or even just having an entire bowl of large strawberries—more than you usually allow yourself! Tell someone about your victories or record them in a private journal.

9. On the heels of such success you might want to start in again with another goal?! What will that be?

In closing: remember to review seeing and saying your goal each day. Be your own best coach.

(For more on this topic, download the e-book on Goal Setting and Time Management, or the Kindle book on Conquering Self-induced Stress.

Filed Under: Home management tips

The love of God for Israel

Tuesday, 24. November 2015 by Renee Ellison

No one parents better than God himself. See here, His love for His first born, Israel, and the love that is expressed back to Him. May WE learn to parent with such love.

From the calling of Abraham out of the din of paganism to the hair-raising, iffy passage through the Red Sea, to the skin and bones of the holocaust, to the creaky old cast-off ships bringing the outcasts home to the land, to the making of the desserts to bloom where there is no water, to the current David and Goliath existence of escaping bullets and bombs and international bullyings every hour of every day, the Lord’s love story will prevail. In the end, He will YET EMERGE out of earth’s swamp, triumphant with blood dripping from His hands, the apple of His eye firmly gripped in His upraised palm…yes, there will sit the apple. And we will sit there, too, incomprehensibly, and head-spinningly grafted in. Surely, it’s the greatest love story ever told.

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Salad dressing and chai tea recipes! :)

Friday, 20. November 2015 by Renee Ellison


One of many simple pathways to better health is to replace store-bought salad dressings with ones that you make with ingredients that are welcomed at the cellular level. Our good friend Megan shared these; following them you’ll find my chai recipe that I shared with her:

Italian Dressing
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
1 T raw cane sugar
2 T dried oregano
1 t ground black pepper
1/4 t thyme
1 t dried basil
1 T dried parsley
1/4 t celery seed
3/4 T salt

Tips - If some spices are not powdered, blend in coffee grinder or blender. If you don’t have all the spices, don’t worry. It tastes great anyway. smile

Mix all spices together and store in a tightly sealed container.
To prepare - whisk 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup oil, 3 T water and 2 T dry mix.

Poppy Seed Dressing
2 cups olive oil
1 cup honey
1 cup apple cider vinegar
3 Tablespoons poppy seeds
a pinch of mustard powder

Blend on high in your blender until it really thickens. What we served today, we had to dilute because it is so thick. smile It stores for a long time in the fridge.

“Ranch-like” Dressing : )
This is simply a combination of mayonnaise and salsa. We buy a “Vegenaise” (made from grape seeds) at the health food store. My sister makes her own mayo and uses that. I never measure - but I would guess that it would be about 1 cup of mayo and 1/2 - 3/4 cup salsa.

An old favorite is just -
lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
olive oil

Another favorite is to use -
mix with water
lemon juice
salt and spices
optional - yogurt

Chai Tea (homemade)
I make my own Chai now and it is delicious. Serve it with rice milk and a smidgeon of honey.
I mix a big pan of it on Sundays and then drink a cup of it a day…wonderful spicy warming tea…with good energy ...and great elimination from it as a bonus!

8 cups water
2 T Yerba Mate tea (loose leaf)
1/2 tsp cardamon, cinnamon, ginger, fennel
1/4 tsp clove, and nutmeg

Bring it all to a boil, and then cover and let sit for 20 minutes.
Then bring it all to a boil a second time; cover and let sit again.
Finally, strain out the spices and store the tea in two glass canning jars in the fridge.

For much more along these lines, order our Mother-easy quick-fixin’ great-tastin’ super healthful mostly raw delicious food ideas, a booklet of scores of mouth-watering, healthful food combinations that you may never have thought of. Gets you goin’ in the right direction right now!

Filed Under: Nutrition tips

Gaining a broad perspective on marriage

Friday, 13. November 2015 by Renee Ellison


When couples first enter the super-charged waters of struggling with strong differences, they can feel bewildered and overwhelmed at learning how to deeply relate to one individual on earth. They can feel that the task of getting along is insurmountable. A key tool the enemy uses is to keep the couple isolated, thinking that their situation is worse than that of 3 billion other marriages.

Isolation from any other thought—living in the prison of one idea, trapped in our own internal mental mulling—is counter-productive. Rolling around only our own spin about the situation in our heads, over and over (like sucking on hard candy), is the enemy’s finest artillery. He strives to keep the couple disconnected from finding out that others struggle, too.

The enemy of our souls keeps the couple from thinking that marriage books would be helpful, and he makes it conveniently inconvenient to go to the effort of attending marriage seminars and workshops. And when they do go to view helpful marriage YouTubes, he works hard at distracting them, convincing them to watch other YouTube clips instead, on more seemingly urgent subjects. And by all means, he suggests that they don’t get marital counseling—that is for really troubled marriages—getting them each to think it is better to smolder about one’s own troubles by oneself.

Conversely, the great comfort of the Holy Spirit, the helper of our soul, is to show us how universal marital troubles are. The dominant emotion of marriage seminars is laughter. Why? Because each couple looks around the room and realizes that all of the men are feeling this way and all the women are identifying with another entirely different concept, Thus the couple begins to relax withIN their dilemmas, and breaks out of their trips around the barn.

Conversation in all directions helps restore perspective, grants insights, and diffuses pressure. By all means, seek wisdom from older good strong marriages, and read the experts. There are enormous repositories of help out there in the big, wide, wide world…a veritable store house of relational GPS’s.

Filed Under: Spiritual tips

Organizing your home school materials

Monday, 26. October 2015 by Renee Ellison


For much more on this topic, read our booklet/e-book/Kindle book, Razor Sharp Teaching Tips for Homeschool Moms. It is loaded with practical proven ideas.

Meanwhile, here are some of the general organizational principles for getting your homeschooling shipshape:

(1.) Begin with labeled containers. No matter how tight the budget is for a family, containers are a must. Start on some level, using any sort of container—even with just cardboard boxes you bring home from the grocery store and store under the beds. You always start conquering organizational chaos by organizing in containers. The principle? Everything has a place, and there’s a place for everything.

(2.) Visual clarity. You can see it at a glance.

(3.) Easy grabability. No stuff is stored behind other stuff unless it is duplicates of the same thing; there’s no digging for anything).

(4.) Like things with like things, and back-ups for frequently consumed items. Ideally, you want to have on stock two or more of everything you commonly use, so you never run out of anything. If you do this, you will seldom if ever have to do emergency shopping for food or school supplies. When you get down to the last one, you note it on your shopping list so you remember to re-stock that back-up second thing on your shelves.

Organizing your school stuff:

In addition to arranging picture books by size, if you have some early readers of various sorts, arrange those by level of difficulty so that you escort the child through all of them progressively.

Arrange everything so that your family members (including your husband whenever he’s taking over the homeschooling when you’re not available) don’t have to ask you where anything is. They will know by looking. Localize all of your school stuff near where it will actually be used, on shelves either under a counter eating area or flanked along a wall next to your main projects/schooling table. Build long shelves at waist height, using 8-12” deep boards held up on each end by bricks cinderblocks—free from somewhere—and then group all your supplies (like things with like, down to minutiae—i.e., no pencils in with the markers). Separate out everything into its own container. Group all of your school books and workbooks together. Top it all off with a large wall map of the world, a large map of your country, a large clock, a large calendar—all on the wall in that area—and each child’s large homeschool to-do checklists.

Set your young children’s flashcards in little white plastic baskets (3 for a dollar? cheapo at Walmart—either in their kitchen container area or the general container area). Their size is 5 inches by 6 inches by 2 inches. These let your flash cards breathe and flop backwards and forwards with some air and finger room in there, as opposed to using tight 3X5” metal/plastic index card boxes. Stick a card upright for a marker to separate each type of flashcards, and label each division of cards on this upright card.

‏Summary: general organizational principle:
Your overall organization principle is arrange your stuff so that anything you do repetitively, you want to do optimally. In other words, spend as much time as necessary up front on getting it organized exactly right, so that you will have to spend no time organizing it later smile

Filed Under: Home management tips

Homeschooling when you also have preschool children in your home

Thursday, 22. October 2015 by Renee Ellison


Do you wonder what to do with wiggle worms while you’re schooling the others? Here’s the overall principle: busy children are happy children!

This means you have to stay ahead of your little guy with projects—even if those projects are only just busy work. For much more on this topic, read our booklet/e-book/Kindle book, Training Terrific Tots: 50 ideas to use with a little one who can’t read! It is loaded with ideas.

Meanwhile, here are two possible approaches to homeschooling children while you also have a child who is too young to do academics. One approach moms use is to let the little guys “hang from the chandeliers” and just concentrate on the academics with the older children—you’ll get to those younger guys later. The other method is to corral all of your youngsters into your school area: no one can go out beyond this line during school time—here is YOUR part of the table to work on—or, you must work on this large beach towel on the floor with your puzzle, trucks, or whatever.

The secret for the mom is to stay ahead of the little guy with attention-focusing activities that he can do with little or no input from you. Toward that end, here are some ideas:

Athletics of various sorts: three laps around the living room; ten reps with an unopened can of soup in each can; four push-ups in each corner of the school room—etc.

Chores: dream up endless little jobs to do that really don’t matter but that will occupy him. For example, he can use a washrag to wipe all of the door handles throughout the whole house, or sort books or papers by size. He can empty all the trash cans, sort the silverware drawer, wipe down the front of all of the cupboards and the lower realms of the walls near the floor, wipe the bathroom floor with a damp paper towel, wipe out the bathroom sink, wipe down the inside of the front window, sweep the front steps, shake rugs, dust the window sills, etc.—whatever he or she is physically up to. You get the idea. If you don’t use soap for any of these projects there is no danger that they will do anything wrong or make your life more miserable.

Creative activities in place:
• you draw large squares on a piece of paper, and then the little guy colors each square with a different color
• he plays with ice cubes on a tray
• he plays with a tubful of water on the kitchen floor, using measuring cups and funnels on a towel on the floor right here at your feet

The overall accomplishment goal for the mother is to focus on just one child at a time, deeply—shifting your focus from child to child until you have covered them ALL and then you get back at it with the first ones again, no matter what you are doing during the day—laundry, fixing a meal, etc. You get one child fully into that activity with you, so that you are double-whamming your time—building relationship, character qualities, bonding, securing obedience, laughter, enjoyment, letting them know that you cherishing them, etc.

Focus, but then shift your focus—that’s the name of the game. Cycle through your children over and over and over and over. Smile warmly at the other three—while going deep with the one.

Intentional family camping

Thursday, 15. October 2015 by Renee Ellison


Years ago, Dr. James Dobson did research to identify what people thought were the most effective activities to bind a family together. At the top of the list, after having a strong faith, came family CAMPING, with not even a close second. Apparently, camping embodied the bulk of people’s fondest memories. Children LOVE to be squished into tight places WITH their parents, in ever-new “on the edge” surroundings, a unified force against the elements!

To make camping a success and not a fiasco, one must become at least moderately intentional about PREPARING to have a good experience. That means thinking through a fair number of details ahead of time.

So, whether you have camped before but want to improve your efforts at camping or you are brand new to its challenges, here is a bit of practical hand-holding to help you boost the experience into the list of “fun things we did as a family”—and not a blackout bad memory!

To begin with, you want to think of CONTAINERS. The first container you’ll have to consider is your major overall container of how you will transport all of the stuff. Determine whether that will be your car trunk, a rack on top of your car, the back compartments in an SUV, the open back of a truck, or a small trailer that you pull behind your vehicle (which means you’ll have to get a trailer hitch, too). The finished size of that space, established by you ahead of time, determines how MUCH stuff and what weight and size of things you can take with you—because it all has to FIT. Some people with SUV’s like to put columns of plastic drawers in the back so that when they open up the back of the van they have an instant tailgate kitchen already organized and ready to go. Others like to construct wooden shelves in a small trailer so that all of their boxed stuff is neatly labeled and easily grabbed whenever they’re camping.

The first two big items to consider are your sleeping tent and a kitchen tent (if you want one). After hours and hours of research we have three suggestions of real winners for tents for FAMILY camping (not hardcore lightweight back-backer single guys : ) Those guys can survive with a nylon tepee tent—which only weighs 24 pounds and only involves staking the sides, setting one lightweight pole up into the middle of the inside of the tent, and presto they are done. No floor, of course, on this unit.

Sleeping tent
Cabela’s Big Horn III and Cabela’s Alaknak tents provide oceans of space for a family. (The Big Horn has no internal poles to deal with—providing a large dome-like interior atmosphere.)

The Kodiak tent is a light weight canvas tent (canvas breathes better than nylon) and is super easy to put up for a single mom with children, or a single widow. It has a sealed in floor for those who are squeamish about night crawlers, spiders, snakes, etc. gaining entrance into one’s tent withOUT a floor.

And, finally, a Davis tent—which may be the ultimate in large canvas tents. It weighs a lot, but once constructed feels like a real house. It is ideal if you are staying in one spot for a long time. Hunters love them. They can also be four season tents with the ability to add a stove.

Kitchen tent
Why would you want a kitchen tent? Because if ANY inclement weather appears, it can immediately shut down your cooking efforts indefinitely. Menacing weather of high winds, rain (with its attendant mud afterwards), hail, tornadoes, dust storms, etc. quickly drives you back into your car or sleeping tent until it blows over—which could last anywhere from a half hour to all afternoon or evening to several days! If you want to keep your paper plates, chairs, and utensils from blowing all over the mountains you’ll have to provide some secure kitchen space. An E-Z-Up shelter with tarps for sides will help in this endeavor, securely anchored with super strong tent pegs and taut ropes tied through ALL of the grommets on the tarp walls. Or some outdoor tent gazebo which has both screened walls and tarp walls that can rapidly be let-down or unfurled when a storm approaches. Or another canvas tent with no floor. If you pick a tent gazebo with ONLY screened walls the weather will march right into it and either lift it up in the air and hurl it into the nearby lake or collapse it all over your stuff. Obviously for your kitchen enclosure there is no need for flooring other than the dirt. You don’t WANT flooring, other than dirt, so that people can troop in and out of it to eat without taking the time to remove shoes.

Be sure that you lock away all perishable food each time you leave your camp site and each evening after dinner. You don’t want food smells attracting unwanted animals.

For both your sleeping tent and kitchen tent, look for used deals on Craigslist or E-Bay. Some people start out with great expectations, but then sell their gear with dashed expectations not too long afterwards!

Selecting your campsite
Pick a place higher up rather than lower down—so that if any torrential rains come you won’t be flooded out, as the water pools down below. If you find yourself with a lower spot as your only possibility, be sure to dig a small trench around the base of your tent—to collect and divert water should that become necessary during a downpour while you are sleeping some night.

If you pick a place higher up, make sure it is not all the way up on top of a hill. You want your tent site tucked in closely a ways down from the extreme top edge, so that you don’t catch sudden winds that tend to blow on mountain tops.

Preparing your tent’s foundation
Give time to making a smooth foundation for under your tent, before setting it up. Bring a shovel and rake along to get rid of any unwanted stones or fallen branches and twigs so that they don’t poke holes through the floor of your tent. Bring along a rubber mallet for pounding in your tent stakes.

After each trip, hose down your tents and thoroughly dry them in the sun. If your gear is stored dirty, its lifespan will be shortened. If you pack wet gear, it may become moldy. Then fold up and keep all of your camping gear packed and ready to go in ONE area of your garage, trailer, or other storage area.

Sleeping bags
Your next most important purchase is DOWN sleeping bags. The deeper temperatures the bag is tagged for, below zero, the better. Then you want a thin self-inflating 3 or 4 inch air mattress underneath (there’s nothing worse than having to inflate your air mattress by some manual means when you are already exhausted from putting up your tent).

Exped Down mats are the luxury liner warmest mats—but you have to inflate them. There are several other easier models that work fine, obtainable from REI, for instance. But if warmth is a higher priority, then go with the Exped mat. For added insurance, purchase a thin exercise mat to put below your air mattress in case the air goes out of your air mattress in the middle of the night (and check for deflation before you go to bed, each night, top them off with some more air, if some was lost in the last 24 hours—this is a miserable job to do in the middle of the night, so tend to it BEFORE going to bed). The exercise mat ensures that you won’t be sleeping directly on the cold ground.

If you are the kind of person that just can’t get warm—bring along a polyester warm blanket to further cut the air on top of your sleeping bag for when you first go to sleep. Your body will warm up in the night and you can toss this extra layer off later.

Keep in mind that when coolers are full of ice and food they become super heavy. So opt for several smaller coolers instead. In addition to being lighter, this allows you to even categorize the types of foods via each cooler. Put cheeses and yogurts in one, pre-cooked dinners in another, drinks in another, cut up veggies and fruit bowl contents in another, etc. The 28-qt. Coleman Extreme is ideal for this; it is built to retain the coldness longer.

Ice solutions
If you freeze your water bottles WITH water in them—either your own concoctions of bottle and ice or the large six packs of pre-bottled water—tossed around in the cooler individually, you double-whammy your space—because you can drink them as they defrost.

You can buy several half-gallon cardboard containers of juice or rice milk, and freeze these with the liquid IN them. Because these become blocks of ice, they last far longer—and again you can drink them when they’re unfrozen.

Another way to keep the cold ice coming is to cram ONE cooler completely full of ice packs (no food at all in this cooler). Each ice pack will keep all the other ice packs cold for a week!!! Remove one ice pack a day to put into your food cooler and you’ll not have to return to town so often to refurbish your ice.

Food choices
Pre-cook as many meals as will fit in your cooler. It is wonderful to be able to open and dump dinner in a pot and have it hot and ready in five minutes. Often there is no time or WAY to cut up the ingredients for dinner right there on the scene. And you may be too exhausted from just mere survival which takes more energy than at home—or long day hikes, hauling water, etc. For additional quick meals bring along dehydrated soups and canned food (don’t forget a can opener) as well as bars and supplements and super food powders.

Cooking utensils
Keep a duplicate set of all cooking utensils that you will be using so that you don’t have to ransack your house trying to remember what to take each time you go camping. Have all of these things already packed, for camping use only, and keep them packed for easy quick retrieval for fast getaways.

Cooking burner
A simple lightweight Coleman one-burner Powerpack stove may be all that you need. This is a large 3 inch burner which runs on a propane canister and takes both small and large pans. It has a metal frame to keep pans from slipping off while stirring. Heat your tea or coffee or hot water first, and then set aside and heat your main meal in a separate pan, within mere minutes of each other. Purchase a butane lighter-stick to make lighting this stove far easier than using tiny matches, and burning your fingers.

An American Camper propane heater delivers 10 hours of marvelous heat with each can of propane fuel. This is far easier than bringing along a wood-burning stove for short trips in the fall.

In addition to flashlights which only yield light directly ahead of you, purchase several LANTERNS that will give you light in all directions. You need two or three. One for your kitchen area, one for your tent, and one outside the entrance of your tent, if coming home to the tent in the dark. Have BOTH battery operated and SOLAR operated versions of each of these so that if you run out of the other, you always have the opposite fuel for backup. Goal Zero makes good solar equipment—an excellent source of renewable free energy.

Solar oven
(This item is totally optional). American Solar Cookers are FREE heat source ovens. Some enjoy them so much that they use them every day in their regular non-camping life as well.

Keep in mind that even if you bought the most LUXURY editions of all camping equipment it would total far less money than any RV purchase—or hotel bills. Nowadays, hotels have become so expensive for families that the popular phrase “spend a night, not a fortune” is on the lips of many travelers as they seek less expensive alternatives.

For further reading on this topic, download our Survival Planning for Simpletons e-book (also available as a Kindle book, and in print).

Filed Under: Home management tips

Escorting your elderly parents through their final chapter

Sunday, 20. September 2015 by Todd Ellison


If you have elderly parents, here, to help you shepherd them through their last days, is a compilation of helpful quotes from Atul Gawande’s excellent book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.

Many of us need help in even just opening a discussion with our aging parents about the important issues facing them in their final stages. As Gary Smalley has noted in Making Love Last Forever, experts have found that death and sex are two of the most difficult things to discuss.

Although Dr. Gawande doesn’t write from a Judeo-Christian perspective, he (aHarvard Medical School surgeon and professor) is effective at front running some thoughts on the complex issues that face the elderly. You as a believer can read these management strategies within the context of our faith in the resurrection—adding the very real hopes and eternal realities for your parents which are absent from this book’s presentation.

“Being mortal is about the struggle to cope with the constraints of our biology, with the limits set by genes and cells and flesh and bone [and, we would add, the personal and loving sovereignty of Almighty God]. Medical science has given us remarkable power to push against those limits… But again and again, I have seen the damage we in medicine do when we fail to acknowledge that such power is finite and always will be.

“We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being. And well-being is about the reasons one wishes to be alive. Those reasons matter not just at the end of life, or when debility comes, but all along the way. Whenever serious sickness or injury strikes and your body or mind breaks down, the vital questions are the same:
• What is your understanding of the situation and its potential outcomes?
• What are your fears and what are your hopes?
• What are the trade-offs you are willing to make and not willing to make?
• And what is the course of action that best serves this understanding?” (p. 259)

This is a good way to think, at this juncture in life: “living for the best possible day today instead of sacrificing time now for time later.” (p. 229)

Dr. Gawande has come to believe that “whatever we can offer [a person who is in this situation], our interventions, and the risks and sacrifices they entail, are justified only if they serve the larger aims of a person’s life. When we [medical staff] forget that, the suffering we inflict can be barbaric. When we remember it the good we do can be breathtaking.” (p. 260)

“At least two kinds of courage are required in aging and sickness. The first is the courage to confront the reality of mortality—the courage to seek out the truth of what is to be feared and what is to be hoped. Such courage is difficult enough. We have many reasons to shrink from it. But even more daunting is the second kind of courage—the courage to act on the truth we find. The problems is that the wise course is so frequently unclear. For a long while, I thought that this was simply because of uncertainty. When it is hard to know what will happen, it is hard to know what to do. But the challenge, I’ve come to see, is more fundamental than that. One has to decide whether one’s fears or one’s hopes are what should matter most.” (p. 232)

Dr. Gawande observes that the default setting of the medical establishment has been “You took the most aggressive treatment available.” On the other hand, “This [new] business of deliberating on your options—of figuring out your priorities and working with a doctor [him not as the Dictator or even as the Information-provider, but as a collaborator in interpreting the data and trying to fathom the unknowns] to match your treatment to them—[is] exhausting and complicate, particularly when you [aren’t able to ]...parse the unknowns and ambiguities. The pressure remains all in one direction, toward doing more, because the only mistake clinicians seem to fear is doing too little. Most have no appreciation that equally terrible mistakes are possible in the other direction—that doing too much could be no less devastating to a person’s life.” (p. 220)

Dr. Gawande summaries a study Daniel Kahneman reported in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, that found that there are two ways to evaluate experiences: how we apprehend them sequentially as they’re happening, and how we think of them afterwards. How we think about the afterwards, sticks with us a lot longer, and what we tend to recall are the most intense periods and the very last period of the experience. [Thus, how an experience—including a person’s life—ends, is crucial.] Kahneman called it the Peak-End rule. A key point here (pp. 238-239), is that “We have purposes larger than ourselves. Unlike your experiencing self—which is absorbed in the moment—your remembering self is attempting to recognize not only the peaks of joy and valleys of misery but also how the story works out as a whole. That is profoundly affected by how things ultimately turn out. ... in stories, endings matter.” (pages 236-238)

“I am leery of suggesting the idea that endings are controllable. No one ever really has control. Physics and biology and accident have their way in our lives. But the point is that we are not helpless either. Courage is the strength to recognize both realities. We have room to act, to shape our stories, though as time goes on it is within narrower and narrower confines. A few conclusions become clear when we understand this: that our most cruel failure in how we treat the sick and aged is the failure to recognize that they have priorities beyond merely being safe and living longer; that the chance to shape one’s story is essential to sustaining meaning in life; that we have the opportunity to refashion our institutions, our culture, and our conversations in ways that transform the possibilities for the last chapters of everyone’s lives.” (p. 243)

“Technological society has forgotten what scholars call the `dying role’ and its importance to people as life approaches its end. People want to share memories, pass on wisdoms and keepsakes, settle relationships, establish their legacies, make peace with God, and ensure that those who are left behind will be okay. They want to end their stories on their own terms [we would say, on the terms God dictates for them]. This role is…among life’s most important, for both the dying and those left behind.” (p. 249)

Filed Under: Home management tips

We shall be like Him…

Saturday, 05. September 2015 by Renee Ellison


Yeshua’s high priestly prayer in John chapters 14-17 is surely the Holy of Holies of all of Scripture (John Stott).

No greater words have ever been spoken. The earnestness with which the Savior pleads to the Father (and WHAT He asks for) is incomprehensible: “That they may be one as We are one.” AS WE ARE: in like manner—to share in OUR glory—the glory which We had, in which We existed for all time beforehand. The implications are staggering.

While we find ourselves fighting in vain against endlessly sinking into living for activities and accruements, our Lord and Master is steadily, constantly, masterfully relational. In and through all things, His eye is ever on the relational dynamics of all things. His conversations with the wicked unbelieving pierce to the dividing of soul and spirit, more like surgeries than conversations; and oddly enough, the righteous experience the same from Him, but theirs is unto LIFE.

When one meditates on the restraint the Messiah exhibited while on earth, away from His almightiness, one is spell-bound. His ability to do dashing miracles of untold numbers was controlled entirely by His relational aims. He performed only what would deepen the relational. He had no desire for show. When we peek into this high priestly prayer and see Him on His knees, we get a glimpse of the ultimate in unfettered love. Our humble High Priest quietly succeeded in asking and obtaining the inscrutable for us.

Filed Under: Spiritual tips