This Is What Forgiveness Is Really About

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So exactly who is forgiveness all about? Well, it’s not about THEM! It’s not about that horrible boss, or your ex-spouse, or your abusive parents. It’s not about that person that purposely and maliciously hurts you every time they show up. Welcome to Day Fourteen of 30 Days to Forgiveness!

It might look that way sometimes, but it’s not. We’ve already established that they probably don’t even care that you’re still hurting and stewing and sticking little pins in little dolls to try to get your revenge. (No, really, don’t do that.)

Let’s face it, some of them, if they did know … they’d be happy.  They don’t want you to forgive them.

So exactly who is forgiveness all about? Well, it’s not about THEM! It’s not about that horrible boss, or your ex-spouse, or your abusive parents. It's not about that person that purposely and maliciously hurts you every time they show up.

Forgiveness is all about you, baby!

Yes, you read that right. In some ways, forgiving others is just about the most selfish thing you can do – but totally in a good way.

Despite hearing that forgiveness is to help you heal, most of us still cling to the notion that forgiveness is about the people we’re forgiving. We stomp our feet and yell that we’re just not ready to forgive, that we’re not going to give them that satisfaction, that we deserve to hang on to this pain.

The saddest part is when we add that final, petulant, “And God wouldn’t expect me to.”

There are a lot of quotes and Bible verses about forgiveness, but there have been times when my absolute favourite was from Proverbs 25.  I find King Solomon to be absolutely hilarious at times – he warns us that if we eat too much honey, we’ll throw up. But he also said that we should be kind to our enemies because “in doing so, you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Three thousand years ago, Solomon pointed out that those who hate us won’t really be happy if we forgive them and kind respond to them kindly.

Sometimes it is true that the other person truly needs and craves your forgiveness. That happens.

Usually, though, it’s not affecting them at all. They don’t really care if you’re stewing in resentment or if you’re dancing through the tulips. If they do care, it makes them happy that you’re still upset.

For you, though, it’s different. You do care.

And you’re trapped in those angry, hurt feelings, with that wall you built to protect your grudge blocking you off from all the good things in life. My hope for you is that you realize how important forgiveness is – not as a gift that we give someone else but as a gift that we give ourselves.

Have you been following along through this entire series? If you have, I hope that you have taken these important steps:

  • Recognized the importance of forgiveness
  • Recognized your need to forgive yourself through confession (admitting the wrongs you’ve done) and repentance (turning your mind from this wrongs)
  • Understood that God loves you and sees you as worthy of love and peace
  • Accepted the fact that forgiveness is primarily for your benefit because often the person who wronged you has long since moved on
  • Set aside time to talk with God, your spouse, trusted friends and perhaps a trained therapist
  • Made a firm commitment to this process

There is just so much beauty and good in this world, but if you’re stuck in a prison of anger and pain, you’re missing out on most of it. It’s time to get un-trapped and to free yourself.

Hey, this isn’t something you’re going to do overnight. It’s a process, remember? And make no mistake, I firmly believe that you need to have God in that mix. Whenever I find myself wondering if I should forgive someone who is unrepentant and even oblivious of my pain, He reminds me that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”. To me, that’s pretty powerful.

When that doesn’t work, I think of those burning coals.

You see, while forgiveness is a gift that I give to myself, it’s also an incredible gift that Christ gave to me and to you. That’s Easter, in case you were wondering. Easter’s about forgiveness and fresh starts and clean hearts … not so much about bunnies and chocolate.

As you continue through this series, remind yourself regularly that forgiveness is something you do in order to heal yourself. It’s the good kind of selfish, the sort that makes us better people and more Christ-like so that we can then be of service.

Start with a daily affirmation or Bible verse as soon as you wake up. Throughout the day, remind yourself of the healing power of forgiveness, that it will heal you – and if you have no examples in your personal life, think of the example of Christ.

You’re doing great! Don’t stop now.

Wait … before you growl at me that you’re not doing great, that you’re actually kicking and arguing and finding every excuse you can to avoid this … you are doing great. You’re still here, you’re still reading along. It’s tough, but you’re doing it.

You’re going to get through this.

So exactly who is forgiveness all about? Well, it’s not about THEM! It’s not about that horrible boss, or your ex-spouse, or your abusive parents. It's not about that person that purposely and maliciously hurts you every time they show up.

Forgiveness Is A Process

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So in the last post we looked at making the decision to forgive. It’s important – without making that decision, you’re not going anywhere. The next part is starting the process of actually forgiving. Welcome to Day Thirteen of 30 Days to Forgiveness!

Wouldn’t it be nice if forgiveness were simply a decision and we could stop there? Okay, I forgive you, and you, and … Unfortunately it’s nowhere near that easy.

Forgiveness is difficult, so don’t feel bad about how much you’re struggling. It is not a feeling and it certainly does not come naturally to us.

In some ways, forgiveness is more like a habit. We make the decision to forgive, and that gets us started, but then we need to spend a lot of time reminding ourselves of that decision until it become a habit, until it becomes automatic.

When you wake up in the morning, before the sun is up, and the blankets are heavy and warm but your room is dark and cool, do you really want to spring out of bed?

I don’t!

My instinctual reaction is to pull back into that dark, safe place of sleep and dreams. But if I stay there, nothing will get done and I’ll get sluggish and lazy.

We really aren’t meant to waste away our days snuggling into warm blankets and soft pillows.

Well, when we begin the process of forgiveness, we often want to retreat back to our “safe” prison of anger and pain, and we can come up with a lot of justifications and excuses for why we should.

We’re not meant to waste away our days there, either!

It takes a conscious effort to forgive, and sometimes we have to stay consciously aware of it for quite some time.

Forgiveness, while it starts as a decision, is a process.

How long does it take to forgive? That’s going to depend on a lot of things, like what you need to forgive, how painful the hurt was, and how committed you are to the process.

Prayer and meditation are both great tools to help you along this journey of forgiveness. (If you’re worried that meditation is not for Christians – I talk more about this in a future post)

Keeping a journal is another great way to support yourself during this process. And of course you shouldn’t discount talking to people. This could be a close friend, a family member, or even a therapist that helps you through your grieving process as well as the process of forgiveness.

The process of forgiveness isn’t easy or quick. That’s why you need to make this decision wholeheartedly. It will take effort, commitment, and a lot of time spent in prayer. It may mean tears as you face things you thought you had buried, and it will involve setbacks in which you feel you will never get past the pain.

But it’s worth it.

There is, of course, a … well, let’s not call it a shortcut, because it isn’t. You see, you’ll know you have finished the process of forgiveness when you can feel that weight lift away. I love how the classic book The Pilgrim’s Progress talks about our “burden” that must be laid at the Cross. That makes it sound very easy, doesn’t it? It should be. Just drop that pain and anger at the feet of Jesus and leave it there, right? The problem is that we keep sneaking back and picking it up again.

There is always room at that Cross, though, and always a place to put down your burden of shame and anger and guilt … even if we are coming back for the thousandth time.

You’ll know you’ve completed your journey of forgiveness when you are no longer sneaking back to pick it up again.

You’ll know you’re there when you can look at someone who spit in your face and still feel peace and love instead of anger and pain.

There are days that I’m there, and days that I’m just as spitting angry and revengeful as ever.

But I have seen glimpses of it and I know it’s possible. It’s the mystery to how Jesus could look down from that cross and ask God to forgive the soldiers.

That love and peace is there for us, too. One step at a time, as we forgive those who hurt us, we make our way there.

Forgiveness Is a Decision (Day Twelve)

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Today we’re going to look at the fact that forgiveness is a decision that must be made. Nothing happens until you make that decision. In the next post, we’ll be looking at the actual process of forgiveness.

Now, we already talked before about what forgiveness is not, but I forgot something. Forgiveness is not an emotion.

Forgiveness is not an emotion.

You are not going to suddenly become overwhelmed by the feeling that you must forgive. It’s a conscious decision that you need to make with your rational mind. Now some Christians will point out that a relationship with God will fill you with love towards other people, and it’s true. If you commit yourself to seeing other people as God does, you will come to love and forgive them. But … and this is a really big but … I’ve known far too many God-loving Christians who show themselves very capable of ignoring that and choosing unforgiveness.

It’s unfortunate, and it harms them in all the ways I’ve discussed before, but it’s still true. No one gets an easy out on this one. Forgiveness requires a choice. You must decide to overcome your feelings of anger and disappointment.

There’s nothing easy about it. The decision to forgive is just the first step in a longer process that we’ll talk about in the next post. And yes, God and prayer and soul-searching are involved. While I believe that I can do all things – including forgiving the “unforgiveable” – through Christ who strengthens me, I’ve noticed that He doesn’t do very much in our lives if we’ve decided to be a lump on the couch stewing in our regrets and anger.

Until you make the decision, nothing is going to change and the process of healing can’t start.

Don’t get all wishy-washy with it, either. It’s far too easy to say “I forgive you” and not mean it at all. Sometimes we say it because it’s expected, or we think it’s expected. Sometimes we see it as the easy way out of an uncomfortable situation. But don’t expect anything to change just by mouthing insincere words.

There has to be real meaning behind the words, and you must have decided to forgive for the right reason. We have already discussed the problem of false forgiveness. Superficially, that looks like forgiveness, but it feels wrong, and it doesn’t produce the healing that we want.

As I said, forgiveness is not an emotion. But it does have an effect on our emotions. Once we make the choice to forgive and start down the path, we can start to heal. It starts with forgiving ourselves, and then forgiving the wrongs done to us and the pain that others have caused. As we move along the path, we can feel forgiveness regarding the things and people we’ve lost because of the actions of other people.

For a while, it takes regular, daily reminders. Today, I will practice forgiveness. Today, and just for today, I will make the decision to examine my heart for bitterness and anger and stay with the process of forgiveness.

Are you ready? In the next post, we’re going to get into some meat and potatoes stuff. We’ll look at exactly how we start the process of forgiveness.

Pain Never Cancels Out Pain (Day Eleven)

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One of those difficult conversations that I have with my children are explaining that we all get hurt by people around us. Misunderstandings, differences in belief and thought, and sometimes plain old malice, we are hurt by people we love dearly and by those we barely know, but paying back hurt with hurt, or holding onto our anger never helps anyone.

Recently, I had one of those conversations, with one child crying from a toy block thrown to their head and the other getting a bitten arm bandaged. He hit me first. No, she took the car I was playing with.

How much does it really matter, though? Or, more importantly, did biting his arm make her head hurt any less?

It’s hard for any of us to get past pain, anger and resentment.

It’s very common to want to get even – to hurt them back and pay pain with pain, preferably more than we received. We could look back into the Old Testament and see the concept of “an eye for an eye”. What most people don’t realize is that this was meant to limit how people were dealing with wrongs.

That says a lot for our natural tendencies, doesn’t it? Our instincts are to not only lash out for wrongs done but to pay it back with interest.

I have said it before – God created us to be loving and full of joy, but since the Fall, we really are a bunch of selfish stinkers. The need to get even is deeply engrained in our social conscience.

What happens when we give in to that and repay pain with pain, hurt with hurt, wrong with wrong?

The pain we give out can never cancel out the pain we received. Never. It just doesn’t work that way and it never did. Our social conscience really needs to learn the lesson of experience!

Paying back the wrongs only adds to the pain and sparks another round of retribution from the other side. This becomes a never ending cycle of pain and anger.

We have all heard about the famous Hatfield and McCoy feud from the late 1800s. It started out as a simple disagreement – over a hog, of all things – and quickly turned into a feud that lasted for generations. That feud spiraled out of control so badly that we use the term ‘Hatfields and McCoys” to indicate a stupid and unending family feud.

In each act of retribution, the families attempted to cancel out pain received with pain given.

It’s very obvious that it didn’t work.

A lot of pain and death could have been avoided if the first act of wrongdoing, or perceived wrongdoing, was forgiven. How sad to look back at generations of hurt and realize this. In the case of the Hatfields and the McCoys, it seems pretty obvious that they should have taken a step back and forgiven each other the previous wrongs. It would have saved everyone from the feud that resulted.

Just as in our own lives, this wasn’t so clear to the two warring families.

Practicing forgiveness is difficult. We don’t want to forgive anyone when we’re hurting, and we usually want the other person to pay for what they’ve done. Forgiving feels too much like giving in and giving up.

Thankfully, that’s not what happens at all.

Instead, forgiveness happens when we choose to move past the pain and anger. Revenge and dishing out more pain can’t cancel out the pain we feel … but forgiveness can.

If we are really honest with ourselves, we don’t want revenge. We don’t honestly want to inflict more pain. What we actually want is to heal and move on, and we mistakenly believe that retribution will do it. In fact, forgiveness is what gets us there.

Again, it doesn’t mean that we like and trust the person who hurt us, and it doesn’t mean we have to resume a relationship with them. But it does mean that we give up on those feelings of anger and the need to get even in order to find peace.

Once we make that decision to forgive, to give up on all thoughts of paying back pain with pain, we are on the path to peace and healing.

Let’s Talk About Forgiving Yourself (Day Ten)

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Forgiving yourself … have I lost anyone yet? Come on back, my friend, this is important.

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about forgiving others. Usually that’s what we think about regarding forgiveness, isn’t it? We think about people who have done us wrong.

And while we’ve talked about how important forgiving others is for your emotional and mental health, we haven’t really talked about you. That is, forgiving yourself, why it’s so very difficult and why it’s every bit as important as forgiving others.

In our forgiveness journey, there is one person we need to forgive above everyone else. And until that's done, we are pretty much stalled.

It’s okay if you struggle with this, because honestly, we all do. Forgiving yourself is harder than forgiving anyone else. There’s no one on this planet who is harder on me than I am! We’re our own worst critics and of course, we remember every stupid decision and harmful mistake we made.

It is so very hard to admit and let go of our mistakes.

Back in 1960, my grandfather made the decision to leave his secure job as a grocery store manager in a small city and to move his family back to small town Nova Scotia. The reason, from what I’ve been told, is that my grandmother missed her mother. In 1960, living a thousand miles from family meant you didn’t speak with or see them very much at all.

The decision was a bad one. Let’s be honest, it was a phenomenally bad decision, since he couldn’t get along with his mother-in-law and couldn’t find a job. He nursed his anger at himself, began drinking to dull his pain, and became violent and abusive.

One poor decision, which could have been handled had it been faced and acknowledged openly, turned into several generations of pain and hurt.

It’s impossible to love yourself until you can forgive yourself. And it’s impossible to truly forgive others until we face our own failings and forgive ourselves.

What happens when we look at our past mistakes, face them squarely and honestly, and then forgive ourselves?

Our sense of personal worth grows.

A while ago, I went through the Bible to find all the descriptions of how God sees us in Christ. It was powerful and you can download it right here (no sign up form required). You are not supposed to see yourself as worthless.

With a more accurate sense of your worth will come a newfound confidence that will serve you well.

Life is much easier and a lot more fun when you see yourself clearly and accurately, when accept your flaws and mistakes, forgive yourself for them, and accept yourself for the beautiful, worthy person that you truly are.

It’s easier said than done, though, isn’t it?

Forgiving yourself is harder than it sounds and it certainly doesn’t come easy to most of us. If you are lacking in an awareness of your worth, of how you are seen through the loving eyes of God, it will be even harder.

So let’s break it down.

First, admit your mistakes. Among most Christians, the wording will be to “confess your sins”. If that terminology makes you uncomfortable, it’s okay. In this context, a sin is a wrong that you have done to yourself or to others. It is something that you have done that hurts someone.

A journal helps here. Sit down and objectively list the wrongs that you’ve done and that are standing in your way. Don’t pretend you don’t know what they are. There are sins in my life that I would never admit to another living soul, but I know and God knows.

Writing them down is good because you have a visual record as you deal with each and cross them out. Don’t be too quick with the strike-out, though. Make sure each is fully dealt with first.

The next step is to think about what you would have done differently, given the chance. Knowing what you know now, what would you change?

That’s clear in your mind, right? Now take a step back and ask yourself this – DID you know that at the time? What I mean is, this hindsight that lets you know that it was a really, really bad decision … did you know that then?

That decision or action that you look back at and can’t forgive yourself for – did you know all of the consequences at the time? Or did you make the best decision with what you knew then?

My grandfather wanted to make his wife happy, and he probably missed home, too. He was making the best decision he could make at the time, but his inability to forgive himself for the bad decision caused decades of pain.

There is a decision that I made a long time ago, which caused me – and other people I love dearly – a great deal of hurt. For years, I had many sleepless nights and tear-soaked pillows because I couldn’t forgive myself for what happened.

If only … if only … if only.

I would have dreams in which I would go back in time and change things.

The problem was, though, there was nothing I could have changed. It took me a long time to fully realize that I did the very best I knew at the time, even if it did end up horribly wrong. The fallout from that decision is still with me, and it still hurts every day, but I no longer punish myself for causing it.

Nor will I allow others to use it against me, to manipulate or blackmail me emotionally over it.

You have those times in your life, too. Maybe you didn’t make the best decisions, but you had to grow and things had to change before you could realize that. It’s time to forgive your past self for the decisions that you made and to be thankful for those mistakes.

Thankful! It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But the truth is that those decisions formed the person you are today. We learn from our mistakes and all of our experiences, good and bad, mold and shape us.

Now, what’s next? There’s another part to confessing the wrongs you’ve done. I once heard a wise person say that not all wrongs or sins must be confessed publicly. Some do, but not all.In our forgiveness journey, there is one person we need to forgive above everyone else. And until that's done, we are pretty much stalled.

If the wrong you did is against God or against yourself, you need to deal with that privately in prayer. Why do we tell God our failings and mistakes? It’s not for Him – He already knows. We confess our wrongdoing in prayer because it is a very important part of forgiving ourselves and healing.

If the wrong you did is against another person, true healing requires that you admit it to them (and to God). I know – that’s really, really difficult. Even within a marriage, it can be very difficult to admit that we did something wrong.

The hardest type of confession, though, is when we have wronged our church or the public. That requires public confession (and a whole lot of private prayer, before, during and after).

The last step is what Christianity calls repentance. It literally means to turn your mind away from something. When we repent of the wrongs we’ve done, it doesn’t mean that we beat ourselves up, put on a figurative hair shirt, and moan about how we’re terrible people. Really, it doesn’t, and it’s a shame that anyone in the church ever thought it did. In fact, I’d say that true repentance might even be the opposite of that.

Repentance means to turn your thoughts away from the thing you’ve done and vow to do better in the future, with God’s help. You’ve grown and become a different person. Forgive yourself for the things you wish you had not done, be done with the guilt and shame and move forward.

The amazing thing is that, when we do things God’s way, we end up as happier, more joy-filled, confident people. No hair shirts required.

Don’t You Think It’s Time To Take Back Control? (Day Nine)

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Years ago, sitting in home economics class, I first heard the word victim with regards to sexual assault. It bothered me then and it bothers me now. We are taught to use terms like “a victim of …” So a person might be a victim of sexual assault, a victim of domestic violence, a victim of …

That victim mentality is taught everywhere, but I’m not sure why. I mean, I don’t know why anyone thinks we need to be taught to be victims!

It’s actually very easy to play the victim. The damsel in distress doesn’t have to do a lot of work, she just sits back and waits for her knight in shining armour to come and rescue her. Nurturing our victim status makes us feel righteous and gives us justification for holding on to our grudges.

No one needs to teach us that. For most of us, victimhood is the default reaction when something bad happens.

It’s much easier to blame someone else and make it their fault. It doesn’t matter if it actually is their fault or not, does it? I remember seeing a t-shirt once that said, “I know it’s not your fault, but I’m going to blame you anyway.”

Stop laughing – you’ve probably done it at least once. I know I have.

Playing the victim does something very important. It lets us sit back and react instead of proactively taking control and responsibility for our thoughts and feelings. We aren’t causing those terrible feelings – THAT terrible person is.

One thing that I tell my children often, and it confuses some people, is that no one can truly “make” you feel any emotion. At our home, no one is allowed to get away with saying “You’re making me angry!” No, the truth is that you are choosing to be angry and just blaming someone else.

This victim mentality comes with a heavy price tag. What you give up is your independence and happiness. Ouch. That’s a lot to give up.

Isn’t it time to take back control of your own feelings and your own life?

The first step is forgiveness. (You knew I was going to say that, right?) When you give someone for a wrong done to you, you take an important step towards taking control. It doesn’t matter if the wrong was actual or imagined.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone what happened or that you forget what they did, as we’ve talked about before. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you will love the person or that you’ll even choose to interact with them in the future (although, if you choose to, you can know do it wisely). It simply means that you make the decisions for yourself that it’s time to let things go and move on.

Forgiveness means taking control of your own future and destiny – or moreimportantly, removing that control from someone who may not even realize that they are controlling you.

A while ago, I spoke with someone who had run into a friend of her ex-husband. My friend was shocked because, thirty years after a brief teenage marriage, the man still hates her for having ruined his life. She had almost entirely forgotten about that short but sad episode and she was completely horrified to realize that his anger towards her, nurtured over the decades, was affecting his daily life. Even if she had been a horrible person and had caused all of their problems, why would anyone want to let an event decades ago ruin their present life?

When you forgive, you make room for the fun, happy and exciting things ahead.

Let me make this very clear – you can’t choose to be happy and invite positive experiences into your life while you’re busy plotting revenge and harboring anger. Instead of living a full life, you’ll end up sitting in a lonely apartment, ruining your own life while the person you hate so much is living well.

You cannot take control AND play victim at the same time.

Yes, when bad things happen, and when someone has “spitefully used you”, it’s quite normal to feel angry. And quite honestly, angry is better than depression. If anger pushes you out of depression, that’s a good thing, but don’t stay there. If you get stuck in your anger, you’ll never move forward.

Can You Refreeze Meat Safely?

Can you refreeze meat? The minute some of you start reading this, I know what you are thinking.

You can’t DO that, Marie. It’s not safe. It’s not … well, it’s just not ALLOWED. 

Everyone knows this. I asked a half dozen people I know, and they all nodded sagely and agreed – it is absolutely not safe to refreeze meat. But how to preserve large amounts of already frozen meat when you do not have a pressure canner? Is there a safe way to do it? 

Can you refreeze meat? Everyone knows that it's not safe. But does everyone know the facts?

A reader asked me how to deal with an already frozen whole deer leg when she doesn’t have a pressure canner or even any large pots. She figured that she would need to thaw it out in order to cut it up, but

Marie, can you refreeze meat? I don’t think it’s safe!

Is there any solution at all?

Of course there is.

The answer is …. sometimes.

Keep It Frozen

While it’s not a perfect solution – eventually you’re going to have to thaw it and eat it – keeping a large chunk of meat frozen – like a whole, frozen leg of venison – until you have everything gathered and prepped means that it’s safely preserved. For now.

Just leave it as it is until you’re ready, and then you don’t have to worry about refreezing it.

In the winter, that can mean storing it in a plastic bin outside if you don’t have a chest freezer.

Yes – that’s safe, as long as it’s a clean, animal-safe container. When we were living off-grid, we stored meat outside all the time.

Find a Butcher

Butchers have wonderful equipment that allows them to cut right through bone and frozen meat. This lets you deal with that giant cut of deer meat without having to worry about refreezing meat.

If you can find a butcher who will do it for you, have the wide part of the leg cut up into steaks, or cut the leg into two roasts. The top one will be more tender than the lower one. Either pot roast it with low, moist heat, cut it into stew meat, or grind it up.

Or maybe it’s a turkey you’re trying to deal with. They can cut those up, too. No more excuses for not buying the huge turkey that’s on sale!

Cut It Up and Refreeze

Yes, you can refreeze meat. 

I promise I would never lie to you about this. It is perfectly safe to refreeze thawed meat as long as it was thawed properly and recently.

Here’s something to keep in mind. If the meat in question was bought at a grocery store, it has probably already been frozen and thawed between slaughter and purchase. I remember finding that out, many years ago, from a butcher. It is actually rare to find “never been frozen” meat at the grocery.

Therefore most people who take meat home and freeze it are actually re-freezing it.

If the meat in question is game, or has been slaughtered locally, you can likely find out if it has been frozen and thawed. If it hasn’t, then you are only thawing/refreezing once.

Defrost the meat in the refrigerator – NOT in cold water or in a microwave – and cut it off the bone as soon as it is thawed enough. Meat is easier to cut if it is still partially frozen, which is best if you plan to refreeze the meat. If you have a pot big enough for the bone, definitely make broth. Otherwise, make someone’s dog very happy.

Repackage the meat in smaller amounts and wrap carefully for freezer storage. The lower on the leg you go, the tougher the meat will be.

I find that stew beef chunks are very versatile. This is a great opportunity to add marinades to the bags.

Gimme Some Marinades

Okay, here are three good ones. Just mix up enough to gently coat your meat, toss it back into the bag and pop it in the freezer. When you want to cook, don’t even thaw – just dump it into the crockpot or roasting pan and cook it low until done.

Once you have the idea of how this works, have fun. Barbecue sauce is good on its own, as is Italian salad dressing.

Lemon and Garlic – mix 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 3 tablespoons oil, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and some pepper.

Mustard and Garlic – mix 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 3 tablespoons mustard (Dijon is nice!), 2 tablespoons lemon juice.

Rosy Sauce – This is really easy. Mix 1 part cranberry sauce and 2 parts tomato sauce. It tastes amazingly good for such simple ingredients. And yes, I’ve frozen it, so I know first hand that it works. If you want more details on this particular sauce, head on over and read about all the variations.

Cut It Up, Cook and Refreeze

Can you refreeze cooked meat that was previously frozen? 

YES!

That is, once you thaw and cook meat, you CAN safely freeze it again.

In fact, if you have thawed it in cold water or in the microwave, you really must cook it before freezing it again. 

And don’t ask about thawing it on the counter because that’s just a recipe for disaster

Don’t do it.

Keep reading for some concerns and questions when you refreeze meat.

Can you refreeze meat? Everyone knows that it's not safe. But does everyone know the facts?

Concerns About Refreezing Meat

There’s actually a valid reason behind the myth that frozen meat can’t be thawed and refrozen. That’s because bacteria can start growing on your meat when you thaw it. And if you thaw and refreeze and thaw again, the theory is that you have even more bacteria.

But the USDA, who always errs on the side of caution, has clearly stated that it is safe as long as you thaw the meat properly.

So don’t thaw your meat on the counter where it can grow bacteria, and don’t let it sit around until it starts to go green.

Do not allow frozen food to become warmer than 40F/4C unless it is being cooked. That’s very important. (And remember, no more than two hours in the danger zone of 41F/5C – 140F/60C .) Do not ever, ever refreeze foods that have developed a bad odor or have become slimy (particularly poultry, pork and lamb).

And if you have any doubts about the safety of the food, toss it. Nothing is worth food poisoning.

Can You Refreeze Fish? For Example, Can You Refreeze Salmon?

Please do not thaw and refreeze seafood. It spoils far too quickly. Really and truly, this is just not safe. 

This past winter, we had a power outage and the temperature in our chest freezer rose slightly. Everything was fine – even the ice cream, which thawed ever-so-slightly and refroze.

The fish, though? When I opened the freezer a few days later, the smell of fish was overwhelming. That was enough of a signal for me – fish that smells that strong goes into the green bin!

Can You Refreeze Cooked Meat Twice?

Honestly, every time you thaw, cook and refreeze meat, the quality is going to suffer and you’re greatly increasing the  bacteria count. This means that refreezing cooked meat is not a good idea.

Once you have cooked the meat and thawed it, it is no longer safe to refreeze again.

How Long Do I Have?

If the frozen meat is properly thawed and then kept at refrigerator temperatures (that is, less than 40F or 4C), you can expect to keep ground red meat, stew meat or poultry for two days, and bigger cuts like roasts, chops and steaks for three to five days after thawing.

After The Second Freeze

Make a note on any refrozen foods “Use as soon as thawed”. When you remove your repackaged meat from the freezer, treat it as extra-perishable. Cook it immediately. Use it up completely within twenty-four hours. This means packaging it in portions that will produce few leftovers.

So the question to “Can you refreeze meat?” is yes, you can, but your next step is to go get a pressure canner. 😀 

Can You Refreeze Meat Safely?

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Can you refreeze meat? The minute some of you start reading this, I know what you are thinking.

You can’t DO that, Marie. It’s not safe. It’s not … well, it’s just not ALLOWED. 

Everyone knows this. I asked a half dozen people I know, and they all nodded sagely and agreed – it is absolutely not safe to refreeze meat. But how to preserve large amounts of already frozen meat when you do not have a pressure canner? Is there a safe way to do it? 

Can you refreeze meat? Everyone knows that it's not safe. But does everyone know the facts?

A reader asked me how to deal with an already frozen whole deer leg when she doesn’t have a pressure canner or even any large pots. She figured that she would need to thaw it out in order to cut it up, but

Marie, can you refreeze meat? I don’t think it’s safe!

Is there any solution at all?

Of course there is.

The answer is …. sometimes.

Keep It Frozen

While it’s not a perfect solution – eventually you’re going to have to thaw it and eat it – keeping a large chunk of meat frozen – like a whole, frozen leg of venison – until you have everything gathered and prepped means that it’s safely preserved. For now.

Just leave it as it is until you’re ready, and then you don’t have to worry about refreezing it.

In the winter, that can mean storing it in a plastic bin outside if you don’t have a chest freezer.

Yes – that’s safe, as long as it’s a clean, animal-safe container. When we were living off-grid, we stored meat outside all the time.

Find a Butcher

Butchers have wonderful equipment that allows them to cut right through bone and frozen meat. This lets you deal with that giant cut of deer meat without having to worry about refreezing meat.

If you can find a butcher who will do it for you, have the wide part of the leg cut up into steaks, or cut the leg into two roasts. The top one will be more tender than the lower one. Either pot roast it with low, moist heat, cut it into stew meat, or grind it up.

Or maybe it’s a turkey you’re trying to deal with. They can cut those up, too. No more excuses for not buying the huge turkey that’s on sale!

Cut It Up and Refreeze

Yes, you can refreeze meat. 

I promise I would never lie to you about this. It is perfectly safe to refreeze thawed meat as long as it was thawed properly and recently.

Here’s something to keep in mind. If the meat in question was bought at a grocery store, it has probably already been frozen and thawed between slaughter and purchase. I remember finding that out, many years ago, from a butcher. It is actually rare to find “never been frozen” meat at the grocery.

Therefore most people who take meat home and freeze it are actually re-freezing it.

If the meat in question is game, or has been slaughtered locally, you can likely find out if it has been frozen and thawed. If it hasn’t, then you are only thawing/refreezing once.

Defrost the meat in the refrigerator – NOT in cold water or in a microwave – and cut it off the bone as soon as it is thawed enough. Meat is easier to cut if it is still partially frozen, which is best if you plan to refreeze the meat. If you have a pot big enough for the bone, definitely make broth. Otherwise, make someone’s dog very happy.

Repackage the meat in smaller amounts and wrap carefully for freezer storage. The lower on the leg you go, the tougher the meat will be.

I find that stew beef chunks are very versatile. This is a great opportunity to add marinades to the bags.

Gimme Some Marinades

Okay, here are three good ones. Just mix up enough to gently coat your meat, toss it back into the bag and pop it in the freezer. When you want to cook, don’t even thaw – just dump it into the crockpot or roasting pan and cook it low until done.

Once you have the idea of how this works, have fun. Barbecue sauce is good on its own, as is Italian salad dressing.

Lemon and Garlic – mix 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 3 tablespoons oil, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and some pepper.

Mustard and Garlic – mix 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 3 tablespoons mustard (Dijon is nice!), 2 tablespoons lemon juice.

Rosy Sauce – This is really easy. Mix 1 part cranberry sauce and 2 parts tomato sauce. It tastes amazingly good for such simple ingredients. And yes, I’ve frozen it, so I know first hand that it works. If you want more details on this particular sauce, head on over and read about all the variations.

Cut It Up, Cook and Refreeze

Can you refreeze cooked meat that was previously frozen? 

YES!

That is, once you thaw and cook meat, you CAN safely freeze it again.

In fact, if you have thawed it in cold water or in the microwave, you really must cook it before freezing it again. 

And don’t ask about thawing it on the counter because that’s just a recipe for disaster

Don’t do it.

Keep reading for some concerns and questions when you refreeze meat.

Can you refreeze meat? Everyone knows that it's not safe. But does everyone know the facts?

Concerns About Refreezing Meat

There’s actually a valid reason behind the myth that frozen meat can’t be thawed and refrozen. That’s because bacteria can start growing on your meat when you thaw it. And if you thaw and refreeze and thaw again, the theory is that you have even more bacteria.

But the USDA, who always errs on the side of caution, has clearly stated that it is safe as long as you thaw the meat properly.

So don’t thaw your meat on the counter where it can grow bacteria, and don’t let it sit around until it starts to go green.

Do not allow frozen food to become warmer than 40F/4C unless it is being cooked. That’s very important. (And remember, no more than two hours in the danger zone of 41F/5C – 140F/60C .) Do not ever, ever refreeze foods that have developed a bad odor or have become slimy (particularly poultry, pork and lamb).

And if you have any doubts about the safety of the food, toss it. Nothing is worth food poisoning.

Can You Refreeze Fish? For Example, Can You Refreeze Salmon?

Please do not thaw and refreeze seafood. It spoils far too quickly. Really and truly, this is just not safe. 

This past winter, we had a power outage and the temperature in our chest freezer rose slightly. Everything was fine – even the ice cream, which thawed ever-so-slightly and refroze.

The fish, though? When I opened the freezer a few days later, the smell of fish was overwhelming. That was enough of a signal for me – fish that smells that strong goes into the green bin!

Can You Refreeze Cooked Meat Twice?

Honestly, every time you thaw, cook and refreeze meat, the quality is going to suffer and you’re greatly increasing the  bacteria count. This means that refreezing cooked meat is not a good idea.

Once you have cooked the meat and thawed it, it is no longer safe to refreeze again.

How Long Do I Have?

If the frozen meat is properly thawed and then kept at refrigerator temperatures (that is, less than 40F or 4C), you can expect to keep ground red meat, stew meat or poultry for two days, and bigger cuts like roasts, chops and steaks for three to five days after thawing.

After The Second Freeze

Make a note on any refrozen foods “Use as soon as thawed”. When you remove your repackaged meat from the freezer, treat it as extra-perishable. Cook it immediately. Use it up completely within twenty-four hours. This means packaging it in portions that will produce few leftovers.

So the question to “Can you refreeze meat?” is yes, you can, but your next step is to go get a pressure canner. 😀 

A Complete Guide to Bone Broth

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What Is Bone Broth?

Have you heard of bone broth? Maybe you’ve heard it mentioned, or you have friends who gush over how much they love it, but you aren’t quite sure what it is why it is so highly praised by many.

Bone broth is a liquid obtained from simmering bones from chicken, turkey, pork or beef in water.

Honestly, that’s it. What everyone calls bone broth today is what Grandma called ‘soup bones’ and Mom called ‘broth’ – it comes from long, slow simmering of bones in water. The biggest difference between bone broth and regular stock is that bone broth is cooked a lot longer. The end result is a tasty liquid that’s delicious on its own, but also makes a wonderful and nutritious base for soups and stews.

Nutrition is one of the main reasons people make and consume bone broth regularly. Of course it’s also very tasty, but more on that in a minute. When you boil bones for a long period of time, you leach all sorts of nutrients, minerals and other things that are good for you like glucosamine and collagen.

It’s also good for your immune system. Remember Mom or Grandma making a big pot of chicken soup anytime someone would get sick? The same principal is at work here. Think of bone broth as a more concentrated version of Grandma’s healing soup. The broth may even help you sleep better at night. Sip a cup of the tasty liquid before bed. It’ll work better than the hot milk your mom used to bring you.

To make bone broth you take bones like those from that leftover chicken or turkey carcass that’s still sitting in your fridge from last night. Cover it with plenty of water and simmer for several hours. How long you cook your broth is up to you. Twelve hours gives you a very decent broth, but cooking it even longer makes it even more nutritious. If you’re using the bones from a roasted chicken, consider tossing them in a large slow cooker and making your broth right in there. They can safely bubble away as you go about your day. A pressure cooker makes incredible bone broth and cuts the time down considerably.

You can drink the finished hot broth as is, season it up with your favorite herbs and spices, or use it to make a pot of soup or stew. The cooled broth can be stored in the fridge for about 4 days or in the freezer for up to a year.

The next time you pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store or roast that Thanksgiving turkey, don’t toss out the bones when you’re done. Use them to make a batch of delicious bone broth. Once you try it, you’ll be surprised just how easy it is to make and how truly wonderful it is.

Why Make Bone Broth?

Okay, it’s fine for me to tell you that bone broth is good for you, but what exactly do I mean by that?

It’s Tasty

My mother’s excited that I featured her freshly made bone broth. Thanks, Mom!

Let’s start with the obvious – homemade bone broth tastes really good. If you haven’t tried making any of these, do yourself a favor and get on it. Bone broth has a deep rich flavor that you just won’t get out of a cartoon of chicken stock.

Drink the broth on its own, or use it as the base for soups, stews and sauces. You can use bone broth in any recipe that calls for broth or stock. Or try simmering your rice or vegetables in the broth for added flavor and nutrition. Rice that has been cooked in dark, nutritious bone broth rarely requires any other seasoning.

After you taste your homemade broth, and then try cooking with that insipid colourless stuff from the grocery store, you’ll be convinced.

It’s Frugal

Bone broth is made from water and the bones you’d toss in the green bin (or garbage if you don’t have compostable pickup). It doesn’t get a lot more frugal than cooking … let’s face it … garbage! For no more than the cost of a little power to simmer the bones, you have something that’s even tastier than high-end stock you buy at the store. Mom says the old folks just called this ‘soup bones’ – and it simmered forever on the back of the wood cookstove.

If you’re buying quality chicken, turkey or beef, you can make the most of every dollar you spend by using every little bit including the bones. Then take it even further by making soups and stews with the broth. It’s a great way to make even little bits of meat and veggies go a long way.

It’s Good For You

Let’s not forget about the health benefits of bone broth. There’s a reason Grandma would put on a pot of homemade chicken soup when someone got sick. Bone broth is full of minerals including magnesium and calcium. The fat content in the broth helps our bodies absorb the various minerals. It’s also full of collagen and gelatin which are good for your skin, hair and joints. Add to that the immunity boosting properties of a good cup of broth and it’s no wonder this has been praised for centuries.

There you have it. Bone broth is one of the tastiest and inexpensive health foods that you can make right in your own kitchen. Grab that chicken carcass leftover from last night’s dinner from the fridge, get out your large stock pot and get cooking.

How To Make Broth

Bone broth gets better the longer you simmer the bones in the water. Good bone broth has cooked for at least 12 hours. Great bone broth takes a good 48 to 72 hours. There are a few different ways to make it. We’ll go over them in more detail, but the general idea is to either use a stock pot on the stove, put your slow cooker to work, or make something called perpetual broth where you continually cook and use the broth.

The method you use is a matter of preference. If you are going to be around, use the stove top method. If you work outside the home or want to keep the broth going overnight, a crockpot will be a better choice. And if you have a pressure cooker, that’s probably the fastest, most energy-efficient method. Pick what works for you and start making some of this delicious broth.

Pressure Cooking

You can also use your pressure canner to preserve your broth for later!

There are two ways to pressure cook, and I have done both. I have a 23 Quart Presto Pressure Canner/Cooker (despite several years of insisting that I’m getting rid of it, I haven’t yet!) and an 8 Quart Gourmia Electric Pressure Cooker.

On the stovetop, simply bring your big canning pot full of bones and water to pressure and then lower the heat so that it cooks at 10 PSI (adjust if you are at a higher altitude) for an hour. Let the pressure decrease naturally until the safety lock opens, and then carefully open the lid.

My electric pressure cooker has a Soup option that runs for 25 minutes. I actually run it through that twice in order to get intensely rich and flavourful broth.

Stock Pot Broth

This is the traditional way of making broth and when I made it on my wood cook stove, this is the method I used. I use my 21 gallon pressure canner pot – it has a good solid lid and is heavy enough to handle hours and hours of slow cooking. You can make a large batch of bone broth and use even the largest batch of bones or the Thanksgiving turkey carcass.

The easiest way to make your first batch of bone broth is to start with a cooked chicken. Roast it yourself or head to your local grocery store and pick up a rotisserie chicken. (Home cooked is best, but those pre-cooked chickens are definitely convenient!)

Pull the cooked meat of the chicken and serve it for dinner. Store any leftover meat in the fridge to use later on to make chicken and noodle or chicken and rice soup with the bone broth you’re about to make.

Put everything that’s left – all the bones and any remaining bits and pieces of meat – into a large pot that has a lid.  I include the skin, too, because it has nutritional value that is better off in my broth.

Fill it with plenty of cold water. The more water you add, the more broth you’ll get in the end.  Don’t fill it all the way to the top or you risk the liquid bubbling over.

Next, add a good splash of apple cider vinegar to the pot.  If you don’t have the vinegar in your pantry don’t fret it. You can add a splash of red wine or white vinegar if you have that, and even some fresh lemon juice works. The acid in the vinegar helps get all the minerals out of the bones and into the broth. But again, don’t worry if you don’t have it. Your broth will be just as tasty and almost as good for you without it.

Cover the pot with the lid and crank up the heat until everything comes to a full boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook your bone broth for a minimum of 12 hours. Letting it simmer even longer – up to 72 hours – would be perfect, but you don’t want it on the stove while you’re out of the house or sleeping. Of course you can use your slow cooker for that long, but what if you don’t have one?

Start the broth in the morning on a day when you know you’ll be home, using a heavy pot that has a very tight lid. I use my heavy duty pressure canner since it seals tight. Simmer it all day until you’re ready to go to bed, and then turn up the heat just long enough to bring it to a boil. Turn off the burner for the night, and make sure the lid is on tightly, but keep the broth sitting on the stove. Do not remove the lid. In the morning, as soon as you wake up bring the liquid back to a boil without taking off the lid. After it has become bubbly hot again, lower the heat and continue simmering.

This is actually, in my experience, safer than trying to cool down that big pot of broth quickly enough and then bringing it back to boiling.  The trick is to bring it to a boil briefly in the evening and then again in the morning, both times with the lid on.

The broth will be tasty after a few hours of simmering but will get better with time. After it has cooked for 12 hours you can start to use it. Just replace the liquid you’re taking out with more water to keep stretching the broth.

Strain some of the finished bone broth into a smaller pot, add the shredded chicken along with some rice or noodles and leftover veggies to make some soup. Or just drink the broth. It’s delicious.

Strain the liquid and store it in the fridge for 3 to 4 Days. You can also freeze the broth for up to a year.

Crock Pot Broth

If you don’t want to “baby-sit” your broth all day or continue to simmer it for 24 to 72 hours straight, and you don’t have a pressure cooker, put your slow cooker to work. This works particularly well for a chicken carcass or any small batch of bones. (Why don’t you have a pressure cooker or canner?)

Put the bones in the crockpot and cover them with plenty of water. Again, adding a splash of apple cider vinegar will help get the most nutrients and minerals from the bones. Cover and cook on low as long as desired.

Strain out the liquid and if you’d like, start another bath with the same bones, since you’re using a lot less water than if you were using a stock pot. You can get up to 3 batches of bone broth out of each batch of bones.

Perpetual Broth

Last but not least there’s something called perpetual bone broth. The basic idea is that you have a pot of broth simmering at all times. You dip out what you need to drink or cook with, add more water and bones as needed and keep it going. You can do this on the back of the stove, turning it off at night, but unless you have a wood stove it may be safer and more efficient to make your perpetual broth in the slow cooker.

This is a good idea if you’re sick and are trying to get a constant supply of hot broth to sip on without a lot of work. Put your chicken bones in the slow cooker along with any herbs or seasonings you like, cover with water and cook for 12 hours. Then start dipping out a cup or two of broth at a time, refilling it with water each time.  Use the broth for 3 to 6 days, then remove everything from the slow cooker, clean it and start over.

What Bones Can Be Used?

Bone broth can be made from just about any type of bone, but for best result, make sure you include some larger bones containing marrow and some knuckles and/or feet (chicken) to get plenty of collagen. Let’s look at some of the different types of bones you can use and where to find them.

Chicken Bones

Here’s something easy. Chicken bones are the perfect “gateway” bones to make your first batch of bone broth. Go buy a nice organic chicken. Roast it and enjoy the meat for dinner. Toss everything else into a large stock pot, cover with water and simmer at least 12 hours.  It’s a great way to make sure you’re using up every little bit of the bird and you and up with some tasty broth.

If you have a farmer in your area that raises chickens for meat or eggs, ask what they do with the bones. You may just find a source of chicken bones free of charge. You can make broth from raw bones, but the flavor will be better if you roast them in the oven first.

Turkey Bones

Turkey works just as well as chicken. You may just want a larger pot. Before you toss that turkey carcass leftover from Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, make a big batch of broth. Bone broth freezes really well. Make a big batch and run the broth through a strainer. Store it in containers and freeze until you’re ready to use it.

Bones can be boiled several times to make more batches of broth. Make one batch to freeze and then another one to use right away. Use less water the second time around to still get a flavorful broth.

Beef and Pork Bones

Both beef and pork bones make for some amazing broth. They are a little bit harder to find though. Talk to the butcher at your local grocery store and ask him to save the bones for you. Sometimes you can even find inexpensive soup bones in the meat department.

Your local farmers market is another great place to source your bones. Talk to the farmers. Even if they don’t raise beef or pork themselves, they can get you in touch with someone who does.

Roast your bones before you make the broth for best results. Just spread them out on a baking dish and bake at 450 F for 20 to 25 minutes. Allow them to cool until they are comfortable and safe to handle. Put the bones in a large stock pot, add plenty of water and boil for at least 12 hours. Use a combination of marrow bones and knuckle bones to get the best broth with the most health benefits.

Bison and Wild Game Bones

If you’re lucky enough to have a hunter in the family, ask him to save the bones for you. Or call up your local game processing business and ask about buying bones from deer. You treat them just like pork or beef bones.

The same goes for bison bones. If you have a bison farm in the area, it is worth making a call. While you’re there, pick up some ground bison too for some of the tastiest burgers you’ve ever had.

How To Use It In Cooking

You’ve made a big batch of broth and end up with more than you can possibly drink before it goes bad. Freeze what you can’t use right away and thaw it down the road to use in your everyday cooking.  Store your broth in glass jars or plastic containers and store them in the fridge or freezer. Thaw them as you need a big batch to make a pot of soup.

Another option is to freeze the finished broth in ice cube trays. Once they are frozen solid, you can transfer them to a freezer bag. Pop some of the frozen broth cubes into the pan / pot whenever you’re cooking veggies for a little extra boost of flavor and nutrition.

Aside from drinking fresh broth by the cup, you can use it anywhere you would use chicken broth or vegetable stock. The obvious first choice is of course as a base for soups and stews. The bone broth will add a lot of extra flavor and nutrition to all your favorite soups. Instead of adding water, or water along with a couple of bouillon cubes, use your bone broth. The broth gives all your soups and stews that yummy homemade flavor. Even something you throw together quickly will taste like you’ve cooked it for hours on the back of the stove.

But don’t just stop there. Try boiling your rice in beef broth instead of plain water for a tasty side dish. Not only will it taste much better, you’re also adding a lot of extra nutrition. You can do the same with pasta. Boil your noodles in the broth, then serve the broth in bowls before the meal.

Speaking of meals, we like to enjoy a cup of bone broth at meal time. In addition to adding lot of minerals and other good nutrients, it fills us up faster and keeps us from over eating.

If you’re making mashed potatoes, add a couple of splashes of broth to thin them out as needed. Much tastier than using water and better for you than adding more milk. Or go all out and make a batch of potato soup instead of mashed potatoes.

If you’re cooking a big pot of dry beans, replace some of the water with bone broth. You’ll get a lot of great flavor without having to add a ham bone or bacon. Give it a try the next time you put on a pot of pinto beans.

Storing and Freezing Broth

Do you remember that first little batch of bone broth you made? Chances are that it was gone before it had time to cool all the way down. Since then you’ve invested in a much larger stock pot and you’re buying soup and knuckle bones by the pounds. The end result is a lot more broth then you can use up right away. Making big batches is a lot easier and more efficient. Now let’s find out how to store everything you can’t use up right away.

Storing Bone Broth In The Fridge

Allow your bone broth to cool completely after you’ve finished boiling it. Anything you haven’t used up by this point should be strained into clean jars and stored in the fridge for up to a week.

You can use the broth straight from the fridge in your favorite soups or stews. If you want a cup to drink, pour some in a small pot and warm over the stove. Add a few herbs and spices to taste. This will come in particularly handy after the broth has set for a few day and doesn’t taste quite as good as the first day.

Freezing Bone Broth For Long Term Storage

If you have more broth than you can use over the course of a few days, it’s probably a good idea to go ahead and freeze the majority of it. Once your pot of broth and bones has cooled enough to be safe to handle, strain the liquid into a large bowl or pitcher.

Depending on how you plan to use the broth later on, you can either freeze it in glass jars or plastic containers, or pour it into ice cube trays for smaller portions of broths that you can add to veggies as you cook them, think out mashed potatoes etc. Or use a combination of both.

Get your freezer containers ready and stir up your broth to make sure all the nutrients are equally distributed. Pour the broth in the freezer containers and allow them to stay on the counter until they have cooled down to room temperature.

Label your containers with the contents and today’s date and move them to the freezer. When using ice cube trays, set them in the freezer for a few hours or until the broth is frozen solid, then pop them out and transfer them to a freezer bag. Label the bag and put it back in the freezer. You can grab individual bone broth cubes as you need them.

Stock vs. Bone Broth vs. Vegetable Broth

It can get a little confusing and many of the terms are used interchangeably. Let’s break down what they mean and how each type of liquid is prepared. Before we dive in, please be aware that there is no standard as to what is called stock and what’s called broth. A recipe may call for stock or you may buy chicken broth at the store. In those instances think of the terms interchangeably. In other words, if a recipe calls for stock and all you can find is broth, go with it. Don’t stop making a recipe because it calls for one of them and you have the other. If you’re making it at home from scratch on the other hand, you can make true stock or broth.

Next, let’s get vegetables out of the way.

When it comes to vegetable broth and stock, they truly are the same thing. You’ll see in a moment that the difference between stock and broth has to do with meat and bones. Since neither are found in vegetable broth or stock, they are the same thing. To make vegetable broth, you simmer things like onion, garlic, carrots, celery, broccoli etc. in a large pot of water. You can even add potatoes or sweet potatoes for extra body. Use whatever you have on hand. Even scraps will work. Boil them in water for an hour or until your broth has a good flavor. Strain and store.

Now let’s get to the meat and bones. We’re talking stock, broth and bone broth here. They can be made from chicken, turkey, beef, pork, etc. You can mix and match but most of us will focus on one type of meat at a time to make chicken stock or beef broth for example.

Broth is usually a lighter liquid. To make it you simmer bits of meat and sometimes bone along with some vegetables and herbs in water. Broth is only cooked for an hour or so and the finished liquid will remain liquid when cooled.

Stock on the other hand includes a lot more bone and cooks for at least a few hours. When I make it, I like to include a mixture of cooked meaty bones and raw bones. Meat and vegetables, herbs etc. are often included as well for more flavor. The longer cooking time allows things like cartilage and fat to dissolve into the broth.  The end result is a liquid with a lot more flavor and body. It also tends to firm up (at least part of it) when cooled. Broth is a lighter liquid while stock has more body and more nutrients.

Bone broth is actually more of a specialty stock. As you’re reading this, if it’s familiar from childhood, you might have had a super frugal mom like mine. Bone broth is the only kind of stock I knew!  It is made mainly from bones without much meat left on them and vegetables are optional. Good bone broth has cooked for at least 24 hours. Adding some apple cider vinegar helps dissolve the cartilage and bring out the nutrition from the marrow. In fact, when I make beef bone broth, I try to crack the big bones to get all of the nutritious marrow into my broth.

Adding Variety to Your Broth With Veggies and Spices

Once you’ve made a few batches of plain bone broth it’s time to spice things up and add a little variety. The beauty of making your own homemade broth is that you can add just about anything to it. It’s your broth and you can fix it how you want it.

There are two ways to do this. You can add some veggies, aromatics and spices during the cooking process, or you can spice things up once the broth is finished.

Adding some spices and seasonings after the fact is a great way to change up the flavor of individual bowls of broth. It also helps your bone broth flavor after it has sat in the fridge for a few days. Bone broth will always be its tastiest right after it’s cooked. But it’s easy to doctor things up with a little garlic salt, some pepper and anything else you like in your spice cabinet.

Keeping things basic when you make a big batch of broth makes it easy to use the broth later. You can boil your rice in it, add it to your favorite stew or drop a little (just a little!) in your green smoothie. With relatively neutral flavor of pure bone broth, you will get good results no matter what you make.

And as mentioned before you can season it to your liking after the broth is done. Here are a couple of herbs, spices and the likes you may want to add to your broth:

  • Salt and Pepper
  • Garlic Salt
  • Onion Powder
  • Green Onion
  • Fresh or Dried Herbs :
    • Parsley
    • Basil
    • Oregano
    • Rosemary
    • Sage
    • Chive
    • Thyme
  • Spices:
    • Cayenne
    • Turmeric
    • Curry
    • Cumin
  • Soy Sauce
  • Hot Sauce

Of course this isn’t an all-inclusive list. If it sounds tasty, try adding it to your broth for added flavor.

The other option is of course to add herbs, spices, veggies and aromatics to add during the cooking process – just remember that that can limit how you use it later.  When you start your bone broth, look through the fridge for veggie scraps. Onions, carrots, celery, garlic and leek are all great options. Add them to the broth as it starts to boil. Even peels and scraps will work since you’ll be straining the broth. Just make sure they are clean before you toss them in the pot.

Dried herbs and spices can also be added in the beginning. When it comes to fresh herbs though, I wait until the end of the cooking process. Most fresh herbs are fairly delicate and you’ll lose all the good flavor and any nutritional benefits if you boil them for 12 hours or longer. Just hold off and throw them in for the last few minutes before cooling and straining your broth.

Now, at the end of this, do you understand how to make bone broth and why you should? This is what Grandma had simmering on the back of the stove for days, but you can make it, too!

The Freeing Feeling Of Forgiveness (Day Eight)

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A few times as this series as progressed, I have mentioned the freedom that comes from forgiveness. Today I want to share a powerful quote on forgiveness with you.

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.~Lewis B. Smedes

In that quote you can find the key to why forgiveness is so important. Once you start forgiving – true forgiveness, not the ‘look at how righteous I am’ false forgiveness – you will find that the feelings that come with it are very freeing.

We often don’t realize just how much we’re held back by the pain, anger, grudges and resentment that we hold. By choosing to hold a grudge, we create a prison that keeps us trapped in those negative feelings. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m no stranger to this.

Once we truly step onto the path to true forgiveness, though, and commit to the work and effort and soul-searching involved, we find that we are setting ourselves free.

Does it really come as a surprise?

Far too many people think that forgiveness is about the other person. They think that we forgive in order to release the person who wronged us. After all, the other person knows what they did, and if they’re a decent person at all, they must feel bad about it. Right?

And so, when you feel that way, you hold back on the gift of forgiveness, believing that you’re withholding something that they want but aren’t willing to ask for.

Okay, that happens.

But not nearly as often as you might think.

We’re all, at heart, quite selfish, and we all think that it’s all about us.

So, in most situations, while you’re stewing and holding on to your anger, waiting for them to come forth and beg for the gift of forgiveness, they’ve moved on and aren’t wasting a thought to the matter.

Since we’re sitting there, holding on to that grudge, though, we can’t move on. We can’t get to the point where we let go of the negative feelings. And while we’re wrapped up in that anger and pain, we miss out on all the good stuff around us.

Forgiveness can fix that.

It’s important to realize that forgiveness really isn’t about making the other party feel better. Even if that happens sometimes, it’s a very secondary consideration. Forgiveness isn’t about letting them get away with something, accepting their toxic behavior or bringing them back into our lives.

Not even close.

You can forgive someone for your own sake and still choose to have nothing at all to do with them in the future.

You can choose to forgive someone and let them back into your life (or not) without the same trusting and close relationship you once had.

The important thing is that, once you truly forgive those who hurt you, you have choices. It is very possible to look at someone who wronged you terribly, forgive them completely and then feel compassionate love for them. After all, we’re all hurting in our own way, and so much of the pain we cause others is because of hurts we haven’t faced and forgiven!

But you don’t have to bring them back into your life at all.

You might choose to have that person in your life in some form.

You might choose to never speak to them again and send them off on their life with forgiveness, love and best wishes.

Whatever you choose, and it is totally your choice, forgiveness means that you cut the ties that gave them power over you, your emotions and your actions. The thought of what happened no longer causes you anger and pain, and that’s a very freeing feeling indeed.

That’s when you’ll know you’ve truly forgiven, when the feeling that comes is one of peace and freedom. Examine your feelings as you root out the grudges and hurts. This is the peace that allowed Jesus to look down and ask forgiveness for those who were torturing and killing him as they were in the act of doing it.

If you’re looking for a couple of amazing resources that will help you grow in your faith, which go along very well with our study on forgiveness, I can’t say enough good things about these:

My husband and I are working through this fabulous little Bible study and devotional together this spring – and making a commitment to doing it each spring. We Choose Rebirth is for couples who want to renew their relationship. Like this Forgiveness series, it will challenge you in ways you may not have expected!

Restored & Renewed is a fabulous Bible Study, geared toward women. With beautiful printables that affirm our worth in Christ, colouring pages to help us relax and so much more, this devotional, Bible Study and journal package are just what you need to renew your soul in just a few minutes a day.

Did you miss the rest of this series?

Day one – Why It is a Daily Choice

Day two – What IS Forgiveness?

Day three – What Forgiveness is NOT

Day four – Why It is SO Important

Day five – Why It’s a Bad Idea to Ignore It!

Day six – The Forgiveness and Depression Connection

Day seven – When Forgiveness Gives a False Sense of Power

Day eight – The Freeing Power of Forgiveness

When Forgiveness Gives You A False Sense Of Power (Day Seven)

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Stick with me here. I’m going somewhere with this.

There’s an interesting thing that happens when we forgive people for the wrong reasons. I’m not saying it’s a good thing. It’s absolutely not good, but the reaction, and the story we tell ourselves, is extremely interesting. And almost all of us have done it.

There are two things that tend to happen.

Someone does you wrong. They spitefully use you. It really doesn’t matter what happened, whether it’s large or small or even if it was real or imagined.

Regardless, you feel slighted and angry.

You’re full of righteous anger.

That anger gives you a lot of energy.

Because you know you are in the right (whether you are or not), you hold onto that anger and resentment.

You’re not going to get pushed around. You’re strong. You’re angry. That hurt keeps you going, and that’s a good thing because they are going to pay for what they did to you.

They hurt you and they’re bad. You, though, are strong. In your mind, you’re hurling all sorts of angry thoughts and feelings at them, plotting your revenge.

And they don’t care.

Looks really don’t kill and no one has yet come to a bad end simply because they’re hated. Otherwise, this would be a very empty planet because all of us are hated by someone.

The only thing happening in this scenario is that you’re angry and miserable, your life is focused on that person you despise, and you can’t have healthy relationships because that ‘ghost’ is constantly showing up.

We’ve established that that is the path towards misery and depression, right? You understand how that works.

So let’s switch it around and change things a little bit. Change the reaction.

You’ve been hurt. The pastor said something on Sunday that was just … well, how could he? You feel betrayed and angry and can’t think of it without tears. With everything he knows about you, and then to say that to you, in front of everyone. You saw the look of shock in faces.

That’s okay, you tell yourself. You’ll forgive him. DEEEP breath … okay, he’s forgiven.

Now, don’t you feel benevolent and righteous? You’re such a good person, certainly a much better person than that pastor. He said that awful thing to you, accused you of … well, you’ll forgive him.

You’re still angry, of course, After all, who wouldn’t be?

But you’ve chosen to be the better person and forgive him for those terrible things he said. (After all, isn’t that what the forgiveness series has been teaching for the past week?)

Clearly, he just needs prayer, the poor soul.

God has promised to forgive us IF we forgive others, and you want your blessing from God. So, you’ll be selfless and choose to forgive that awful thing the pastor said. God will reward you for being so selfless, so righteous.

It’s not up to you to keep accounts. The Bible says so. God will keep score.

It really was awful, though. Every time you think about it, you pat yourself on the back for being the better person, the true Christian, by forgiving.

Can you see the serious flaw here?

This isn’t actually forgiveness! It certainly isn’t selfless and there’s nothing remotely Christian about insisting that you’re going to be ‘the better person’ and let God do the punishing! Instead what you’re doing is expecting a reward for your ‘good’ behavior and you’re just finding another way to wish harm on the person who hurt you.

It’s just that by pushing it out onto God, you’re making yourself feel better about your lack of forgiveness! You’re not fooling God, by the way, just yourself!

Granting false forgiveness – “Well, I’ll be the better person and forgive you, but God will deal with your punishment!” – is no healthier than choosing not to practice forgiveness. Both are dangerous paths to walk and neither one benefits you.

If you choose not to forgive, you are holding onto pain and anger and using it as a shield. It walls you off from other, healthy, relationships.

If you choose to offer false forgiveness, though, you’re fishing for recognition and praise for good acts that don’t actually reflect a changed heart. The pain and hurt and bitterness are still there, simply covered in a mask of false religion.

In either case, you aren’t practicing true forgiveness and you can’t move on. When we truly forgive, we get to a point where we can get past the pain and anger and let joy back into our lives. Whether we’re personally plotting revenge or hoping for God to do it for us, we’re still focusing on the wrong thing.

Ignoring forgiveness and offering false forgiveness are both paths that lead to an unhealthy destination.

If you’re looking for a couple of amazing resources that will help you grow in your faith, which go along very well with our study on forgiveness, I can’t say enough good things about these:

My husband and I are working through this fabulous little Bible study and devotional together this spring – and making a commitment to doing it each spring. We Choose Rebirth is for couples who want to renew their relationship. Like this Forgiveness series, it will challenge you in ways you may not have expected!

Restored & Renewed is a fabulous Bible Study, geared toward women. With beautiful printables that affirm our worth in Christ, colouring pages to help us relax and so much more, this devotional, Bible Study and journal package are just what you need to renew your soul in just a few minutes a day.

Quick Pressure Cooker Recipe Rosy Meat

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There are days when I love my electric pressure cooker and days when I can’t find a single recipe that works. Despite all of those recipes that I have which, honestly, work perfectly well.

Perhaps you struggle with that, too, wondering how to make something in your electric pressure cooker that makes it worthwhile to lug that heavy contraption out.

Rosy Meat is a recipe that I have been making for years, long before I ever knew what an electric pressure cooker was.

I’ve made it in a slowcooker and on the stovetop, including on the wood cookstove. I’ve made it with commercially canned products and homemade, and everything in between. It’s versatile and delicious.

And it is almost perfectly designed for the electric pressure cooker.

The ingredients really can’t be simpler. You need:

1 pint cranberry sauce – homemade cranberry sauce with whole berries, or cranberry jelly, or the commercial equivalent. Once my mom wanted to make it with whole frozen cranberries. We added 1 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar – it turned out great.

1 pint tomato sauce – I’ve made this with pretty much every variation of tomato+sauce, including commercially canned tomato soup, chunky primavera pasta sauce, and barbecue sauce. They all turn out differently but they’re all good.

and some meat. Meatballs, chunks of cooked ham, a few raw chicken breasts … a lot of different things work with it. We’re using meatballs today – maybe three pounds?

This recipe is just made for flexibility. Hey, do you notice the lid on that cranberry sauce? Don’t believe people who tell you to toss your home-canned food after a year. March 2017 it is, and that cranberry sauce is every bit as good as when I put it up. How’s that for energy-saving food storage?

Home-canning is basically a time capsule in a jar.

Just wash off the lid really well before you open it.

Here’s a secret ingredient today – I’m adding a drained pint of carrots. We have one little boy who insists he hates carrots.

He doesn’t. But he thinks he does.

So I’m pureeing the tomatoes and carrots before adding them to the electric pressure cooker.

No carrot chunks in there.

This recipe is so simple my nine year old makes it.

Mix the tomato sauce and cranberry sauce. Add meat. Heat through. Obviously raw chicken breasts take longer than fully cooked meatballs, and the sauce will look slightly different in the end.

It doesn’t really look so great before it cooks, but most things don’t.

I’m making it in my electric pressure cooker today. You can use a crockpot. You could put it in a covered casserole and put it in the oven (although that seems like a waste of electricity). And if you want to put it in a covered pot and let it simmer on the stove, that works, too!

Cover the pot, though, because it makes the same splattery mess that tomato products always make.

It’s good stuff.

When it comes to serving this, the sky is the limit again.

It works well with plain white rice.

You could serve it over mashed potatoes.

These meatballs are positively delicious in a meatball sub.

You could probably take them out of the sauce, stick toothpicks in them and call them appetizers.

Don’t toss out any leftover sauce. It keeps just fine in the refrigerator for several days, and you can add a different kind of meat to it. Maybe meatballs tonight and a few chicken breasts a few days from today?

Why I Am Having an Easter Egg Hunt This Year

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How can Christian families deal with events like Easter Egg hunts?

During the Easter season, there are many events going on from the sublime to the silly. While some are waking early for a sunrise church service, others are running around looking for eggs left by …. a rabbit? It seems rather non-Christian and for good reason. The earliest roots of the Easter Egg hunting are anything but Christian. There are no Easter bunnies in the Bible, and no record of children painting eggs or hunting for baskets of goodies.

In fact, there’s no mention of Easter.

However, early Christians did celebrate the resurrection very early, regardless of what they may have called it. Until the fourth century, Easter and Pentecost were the only holy days celebrated in the church. And … well, the decorated eggs showed up pretty early, too.


The celebration of Easter, despite the name, is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And fair disclosure here – I have never, not once in my entire life, participated in an Easter Egg hunt. Isn’t that strange?

And I have to admit, I needed to have a friend of mine explain Easter Egg hunting to me, and help me understand why it’s fun.

So why am I planning one this year?

This is where I insert a picture of myself surrounded by plastic eggs, captioned “Yes. It’s me, Marie. And you might be wondering how I got here.” Because just as we don’t ‘do Santa’, we most assuredly don’t ‘do the bunny’.

Hey, this post contains affiliate links!

Rabbits do not lay eggsIt’s in large part because of my friend Alicia Michelle and her wonderful Christ-centered holidays series, and specifically the Christ-centered Easter package. For the first time, I am seeing how Easter egg hunting and Jesus can go hand in hand. Her Christ-centered Easter package is overflowing with information and options, and it can be used in different ways depending on the age and makeup of your family.

So, from a fun Easter Egg hunt that introduces our little ones to God’s Easter Gifts … and leading right up to individual and family Bible studies, this package has just about everything you’ll need to celebrate Easter in a Christ-centered way.

My little girls are just three and four, and my boys like to play more than they like to sit still, so we’ll be keeping it simple this year. Next year the boys will be old enough to work through the Bible study on their own. I’ve been selecting decor printables from the Christ-based Easter package and we’ll be doing the Easter Egg hunt as a family. (As a quick note, my husband and I will be working through the We Choose Rebirth marriage devotional!)

Eggs are a symbol of new life and have been used as such for centuries. Easter recipes from around the world often use eggs – in part because that’s when the hens have started laying again and because people are craving delicious fresh eggs! But the egg, wrapped in its impenetrable white shell, also makes a wonderful reminder of Christ’s resurrection.

The tradition of decorating Easter eggs – Paschal eggs – goes back to the earliest days of the church. Early Christians would dye them red to represent the blood of Christ, but sometimes they’d dye them yellow or green, too. One delightful legend is that Mary of Magdalene went to the Emperor to tell him “Christ has risen.” to which he responded “He is no more risen than that egg is red.” Legend says that the egg instantly turned red.

While there are still many who avoid meat during Lent, you may not know that some also avoid eggs. However, once Easter Sunday arrives, eggs come back on the plate – and in the basket and hiding under the sofa – as a delicious food and a symbol of resurrection and the beginning of new life.

And there’s no need for a bunny rabbit who thinks he’s a hen.

Have a fun-filled Easter Egg hunt while celebrating an Easter that is about Christ

Christ-Centered Easter Resources

There are three different packages that are available, depending on what your family needs. There are different bonuses available for those who purchase it during the launch week.

WOMEN

Access to Private FB Group where Alicia will lead the Bible Study (March 18-April 7). I’m excited about doing this Bible study – it will be like hanging out with my friend Alicia again.

MARRIAGE

3 BONUS days of the Bible study/devotional

FAMILY

5 “Story of Easter” Coloring Pages that tell the story of Jesus’ baptism, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection

HOME DECOR

“He Is Risen” Mini Banner

And anyone who gets the Bundle package will get access to ALL of these bonuses but only during launch week.

But the Easter Egg Hunt!

Obviously, the eggs feature in an Easter egg hunt, which makes it a lot of fun. I just came back from the store and it took me an hour to really look through all of the different eggs that were available. Many kind of eggs have been used – hard boiled eggs, chocolate eggs, decorated eggs, plastic eggs and even incredibly ornate eggs. And sometimes … as we are going to be doing, plastic eggs can be filled with surprises.

These eggs – however they are decorated or filled – are hidden for the children to find. A friend of mine tells me that this is supposed to be done outdoors. That’s not necessarily going to work around here, because Easter is often cold and wet, with soggy wet ground that’s still too wet to plant in or walk on!

So we’ll be doing ours in the house.

We won’t be decorating the eggs since I’m using plastic coloured eggs. In each one, I’m hiding a bit of candy and a little Activity card. These pretty little cards are sized just right for the eggs.

The children start with with their baskets and the hunt is on. We rarely encourage competition at our house, so the goal will be for them all to work together to find all 48 of the eggs. My four year old daughter helped me print them off, so she’s had a sneak peak. There are four children and four colours of eggs, so each child has twelve eggs to find.

Our Easter Schedule

March 18 – Begin women’s Bible Study Restored and Renewed and follow along in the Facebook group with Alicia Michelle

April 5 – Day One of children’s Bible Study God’s Easter Gifts; Put up the Happy Easter banner; Begin We Choose Rebirth Marriage Study

April 8 – Put up the Happy Easter banner from the Home Decor Package

April 9 – Palm Sunday – Print off the colouring pages, a copy for each child

April 10 – Start the Risen Bible Study (Family)

April 13 – Maundy Thursday

April 14 – Good Friday

April 15 – Prepare eggs for Easter Egg Hunt using Activity Cards from God’s Easter Gifts

April 16 – Easter – Church – Easter Egg Hunt – Finish Family and Women’s Bible Study

If your family is like mine, then do yourself a favour and get the full Bundle. The retail value, including bonuses, is $120 and the cost during launch week is only $69.99.

No Cooking Easter Morning!

Between our Easter Egg hunt and church, there will be even less time than normal on Easter Sunday.  You might want to join me for a stress-free Easter morning breakfast.

Before you head to bed, fry up 1 pound bacon or loose sausage. We’ll be using bacon. Allow it to cool a bit and chop it up. Dice 1 small onion while you’re at it. Crack open 12 eggs and whisk them up in a large bowl. Add some salt and pepper to the eggs. Get out your slow cooker and a big 32 oz. bag of shredded hash browns.

Spray the slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray and layer 1/3 of the hash browns in the bottom of the crock. Top with 1/3 of the bacon or sausage and ½ cup of cheese. Repeat these layers two more times (omitting the cheese on the last layer). Pour the egg mixture over everything and top with the last ½ cup of cheese.

You can either cook this on low in your slowcooker for 10-12 hours OR put it in a covered casserole dish instead of the slowcooker and place it in the fridge. If you do it in a casserole, place it in a COLD oven and then turn the oven to 350F. Never put a cold casserole dish into a hot oven. It should take about an hour to cook through.

We are having an Easter Egg hunt this year. Here's why!

The Connection Between Forgiveness & Depression (Day Six)

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In the last post, we briefly touched on some of the negatives associated with ignoring forgiveness, and I mentioned depression. Today I want to dig into that a little more deeply.

What is the connection between forgiveness and depression?

Well, I know I said that forgiveness is about you. And it is. But the truth is that it’s not just about you. When we choose to hold onto a grudge, the chances of all involved ending up depressed are fairly high.

If you’re thinking that you’re fine with being miserable as long as you bring them down, too, you really need to keep going through this series. And I love you lots, really and truly, but … well, let’s just keep working on that anger, shall we?

Forgiveness and depression - what's the connection? Can we make ourselves healthier by choosing to forgive?

Anyway, the point is that by choosing not to forgive, you’re hurting yourself and you’re also potentially putting those around you in a dark place as well. That means your spouse, your children and your friends. It means the people who love you and want you to be happy.

There have been some studies down at universities in the United States that show a definite link between forgiveness and depression, and that certainly fits with what I’ve seen over the years.

When we choose to hold onto grudges and hurts and feelings of resentment, we feel less connected to the people around us. When we feel less connected, we have less capability for happiness and positive feelings and experiences … sounds like depression to me.

The good news is that it works both ways.

When we are depressed, it is very difficult to think about positive things. In fact, our brain changes so that we see everything negatively.

When we consciously and purposefully fill our minds with positive thoughts, we can mitigate or reverse those changes.

So let’s see if I can explain this better. We’ll pick one of those awful hurts from an earlier post. You are the adult child of an alcoholic. While depressed, every time you think about your mother, the thoughts are negative and bitter. She was drunk when you came home from school. You were always embarrassed. Other people had a real mother, but you just had this lush that screamed unforgivable things at you. Worse than screaming, though, was when she’d start hitting. Or throwing things. You’ll never forget the day she decided she hated the dinner plates and smashed every one of them, one by one, at your feet.

Look at those memories straight on.

They are there and they’re not going away. All of that awful mess is part of the story that made you, with your strengths and your compassion for others and all of your experience and knowledge.

Now, while accepting your mother exactly as she is, start working on forgiving her.

It wasn’t okay, not a bit of what happened, and it wasn’t right, and it’s totally fine to state that aloud and emphatically. It was NOT right and it was NOT okay.

Love might have to come later, so don’t worry about that right now. You’re just starting. What you need to do now is to start working on separating your negative feelings, which are hurting you every day, from the actions of your mother. It will take time and practice to identify the negative feelings, accept them and release them.

What happened in the past will always be there, and you can’t change that, but you can disassociate them from those awful feelings that drag you down.

There’s nothing special about that example of the violent, alcoholic mother. Perhaps you have a child who has rejected you and all you hold dear, and there are memories that just leave you gasping with hurt. Or you may have physical scars from a violent spouse.

Face those hurts. Look them straight on, name them and then start the process of stepping away from them. The thing that hurt you will always be there. It is in the past and can’t be changed. But you choose whether you let it continue to affect you every day.

Giving – and receiving – forgiveness has a powerful impact on lifting depression.

This doesn’t come natural to us.

Remember Captain Kirk saying that we’re killers and we must simply choose to not kill – today? Violence and hatred and grudges are our natural lot. Forgiveness is something that we must learn, and it’s something we can ultimately only do with God’s help. This is the power of the Cross, at Easter and throughout the year, that we can drop our burden of pain and shame and hurt there and, with the help of God, leave it there.

Despite our violent tendencies, we’re social creatures who crave and physically need connections with other people. We’re so pack-oriented, in fact, that we’ll bond with small furry animals! Actively forgiving, and building connections with other people, helps us to work well together and brings us joy and happiness because that’s how we’re made – regardless of how we act.

This can help lift us out of depression or prevent it in the first place.

It boils down to this – you have a choice. No matter how big the hurt or how much you think you need to hang on to, the ball is always in your court. You can choose to hold on to grudges, resentment, anger and pain, and greatly increase the risk of depression for yourself and those around you, or you can choose forgiveness.

Letting go of that anger and pain makes room for much happier feelings.

Forgiveness and depression - what's the connection? Can we make ourselves healthier by choosing to forgive?

Why It’s A Bad Idea To Ignore Forgiveness (Day Five)

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Let’s talk about forgiveness!

My entire readership suddenly looks baffled and wonders if Marie has lost it. Haven’t we been talking about forgiveness for several days now?

Let’s be more specific, then.

We’ve had a basic overview of forgiveness. We’ve discussed what it is, what it is not (which is just as important) and why it’s so very important to choose forgiveness.

But what happens when you choose to ignore forgiveness? Because make no doubt, it’s your choice.

Some of you are glaring at the screen now, ready to close this post, because you’re thinking I don’t understand. Your pain is so very strong and raw, and the hurt done to you is so incredibly overwhelming, that you just can’t bring yourself to forgive and move on.

If I understood how badly you’ve been hurt, I wouldn’t be so cruel as to suggest you’re choosing to be unforgiving.

Perhaps you were sexually abused as a young child.

You could be the child of an alcoholic who witnessed abuse and toxic relationships throughout childhood.

Your pain could come from rape. Date rape is a vile, under-reported crime that causes lifetime scars. Violent stranger rape creates its own trauma.

It might be that those who were supposed to love and protect you were instead physically and emotionally violent. When you were a child. Or a teenager. Or a new spouse. Or while in the hospital recovering from childbirth.

Maybe you’ve had children torn from your arms. Parental alienation – by the other parent, by the courts, by anyone – could emotionally tear your children away from you, and children have been killed, too.

I get it.

Really and truly, I understand exactly how you’re feeling right now.

There are times and situations in which forgiveness feels absolutely impossible, and no amount of reading or even therapy is going to make it easier.

There are times when, let’s be honest, you just don’t want to forgive. Move on? Baby, that prison of hurt and pain just feels a bit too good right now, because it’s yours and no one can take it away from you, and you’re going to wallow in it for a bit.

It’s okay, sometimes, for a little while, to feel resentful and angry.

Unless you’re spiritually at the point where you can be dying on a Roman cross and calling forgiveness and mercy upon your murderers …. No?

Not there yet?

It’s okay, neither am I.

What’s important, though, is that you start getting yourself into the right state of mind. You don’t want to be stuck in that world of anger, resentment and revenge. It’s not a healthy place to be and it will lead to so very many problems. That’s a place where you can’t have truly healthy relationships with other people, you can’t feel good about the world, and you can’t feel happy and content.

It’s also a place where you can’t connect with God, and I have to tell you, that’s probably the worst place of all. There’s a four letter word to describe what it feels like to lose access to the Presence of God.

Ignoring Forgiveness Keeps You Stuck

When you’re holding onto those feelings of resentment, it’s impossible to move on with your life. You might think you’re managing, but you’re not.

The saddest part of that – the other person has long moved on and most likely barely thinks of you!

True story – I know of a man is constantly plotting ways to ruin his ex-wife’s life.

He loathes her and wastes no chance to tell everyone how she destroyed him. Misunderstandings, the mistakes of youth, fights that escalated for stupid reasons – their marriage had ended for pretty much the standard reasons that young marriages fail. But he can’t let go. He’s on his fourth wife since her, and the anger still bubbles away, wrecking his relationships and her happiness.

Meanwhile, she has remarried (and stayed married) and has happily settled down into a nice community as far away from him as she can. Mention him and she’ll look surprised for a moment and then a little sad. It would have been nice, she’ll tell you, if they could have at least stayed friendly, but it is what it is. The last time he screamed at his family in a grocery store parking lot, she realized they needed to move. She recognizes that she wasn’t the wife he should have been, although not quite to the extent that she says, but then it seems all of her husbands have been “horrible”. At any rate, since she can do nothing to change the past, she has made sure to improve her relationships going forward.

For the record …. I know of four different former couples who all fit into that description, switching the genders a little! It’s sad to see, but it’s so very common.

That person you’re hating on and holding a grudge against, are they even sparing a thought to what happened? In all likelihood, they’ve moved on with life and aren’t feeling worried or bad about it. In fact, it’s quite possible that they’ve completely forgotten whatever it is that you’re nursing in your prison of anger.

And there you are, stuck in that miserable, painful emotional place, holding on to your grudge because it somehow is going to make things right. You see, in the example above, does it matter which spouse was in the wrong, if either of them even were?

Which of them is happier, more content and enjoying life?

Can you see how forgiveness is about you?

Holding On To Anger Keeps Out Happiness

All of that anger makes it hard to make room for positive feelings.

Truthfully, you can’t be happy and angry at the same time, and you’ve spent a long time holding on to that hatred. It crowds out all the good emotions.

When you begin to forgive, and choose to love even those who harm you and spitefully use you, the anger and hurt makes room in your heart for joy and happiness.

If that’s not a great reason to make a serious effort to forgive, I don’t know what is!

It May Even Cause Depression

When you’re stuck in that dark place, you’re retraining your brain to negative, dark emotions. They are always there and, as I said, anger and happiness can’t coexist.

This is a path that leads to depression.

Is it worth it? Is the dubious pleasure you get from nursing that grudge worth risking depression? Even if you are totally in the right and they are totally in the wrong, how does it help you to keep that grudge going?

Yes, there are generally other factors that come into play with depression (and I’ve mentioned before that I suffer from seasonal bouts of depression), but learning how to forgive goes a long way towards easing the darkness.

That feeling of freedom that comes when you truly forgive will go a long way towards helping you feel better. Depression seems to drop you into a deep, dark hole with no sunshine. Forgiveness helps you to let a bit of sunshine in.

Please take this warning seriously.

Ignoring forgiveness will never hurt anyone else more than it hurts you.

Why Forgiveness Is So Important (Day Four)

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When we forgive, a self-built prison of anger and pain comes down and we move on with our lives. But what happens when we ignore forgiveness? When we hold onto anger, hurt, grudges and feelings of revenge, it prevents us from moving on. That means that end up feeling stuck and trapped in the anger.

Saturday Round Up #9 – Health & Wellness

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Welcome to the Saturday Round Up. We’ve been off to a pretty rocky start with the Round Up as I’ve been getting used to a new linky setup and struggling with some very serious health issues at home. If there’s a problem and you can’t link up, let me know. The more we promote the Saturday Round Up, the more exposure other bloggers can get for their great content and the more interesting reading material we all have. Remember – I will pin and promote all posts that are ON TOPIC! 🙂 Come and share your links each week with

Saturday Round Up #8 – Farm to Table

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Welcome to the Saturday Round Up. Those of you who have been around here for a while will recognize that the Saturday Round Up has been revived and reworked for 2017. It’s a new year and a fresh start. Come and share your links each week with us. The focus of the week will change, although the schedule is very simple. I will gray out all except the current week, so you can see the focus and plan for later. This week’s focus is on FOOD! Now food starts with the garden and the barnyard and ends on the table,

Planning Your Potager – A practical and productive kitchen garden

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Let’s put together a potager this year! Practical and beautiful, a well-planned kitchen garden is a time-honoured way to add more fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs into your diet.

A well-planned potager, or kitchen garden, can be a beautiful and enticing way to incorporate more fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs into your diet. The following tips will help you plan a productive and practical potager.

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Tip #1: Pick the Perfect Spot

In my introduction to the potager, I mentioned that it is, first and foremost, convenient. When choosing a location for your kitchen garden, try to find a spot as close to your kitchen as possible. This is your personal culinary garden, intended to be used daily throughout the growing season. When you need an herb or a handful of baby green beans for the meal you’re making, they must be ready right now, not after a long stroll down to the other end of the property.

Take into consideration the plants that you are growing. Unless you are growing all shade plants, you will want a sunny location with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day. In really hot climates, you might want it positioned so the plants are shaded in the afternoon.

And finally, locate your kitchen garden close to water. Garden vegetables are very thirsty and you don’t want to drag a heavy garden house or buckets of water in order to keep your plants healthy.

Tip #2: Pick Your Plants

The easiest way to decide what you want to grow in your potager is to think about what you like to cook.

For example, if you use a lot of fresh herbs, you’ll want a big pot of your favourites, or perhaps several small pots nicely arranged. Husband can’t get enough of your homemade salsa? Plan to have a steady supply of fresh cilantro and juicy tomatoes nearby.

In other words, stock your kitchen garden with the fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers you use in your day-to-day cooking. These are the items you will want to have convenient access to throughout the growing season.

For the most part, the same plants will have a home in both your potager and your main garden, but what matters is the type and maturity of the plants. Here’s what I mean.

Pickling cucumbers go to the main garden, but seedless table cucumbers stay in the kitchen garden. Also – if you plan to grow tiny little immature cucumbers to make small batch gherkin pickles, you’ll want those plants handy.

Roma tomatoes for sauce are in the main garden, while cherry tomatoes remain close enough for nibbling.

Beans – both pole and bush – are fabulous in your potager. Any plants that you plan to leave into autumn for dried beans, though, stay in your main garden.

Even carrots can have a spot in your potager. Plant them thickly in a large container and harvest the sweet, tiny carrots throughout the growing season. Your keeping carrots, of course, go in your large main garden.

While most squash need to stay in a large garden, plant one or two climbing, or compact bush-style, zucchini in your potager.

Anything that needs to be tended or harvested daily needs to be in your potager.

Any of the foods that you plan to freeze, can, dehydrate or put into the cold cellar are best grown in your regular vegetable garden. Generally, you don’t need to check on potatoes, sweet potatoes, keeping carrots or storage onions constantly. They grow with minimal attention and are harvested at the end of the season.

Tip #3: Make the Most of the Space You Have

Because your potager is close to the house, it is probably confined to a relatively small space. If that’s the case, though, don’t be discouraged. In fact, look up! We’ll be discussing this in greater detail in future posts.

Using vertical growing space can maximize your growing area. Baskets of herbs can be hung on shepherd hooks. Many tomatoes grow well in upside-down hanging baskets, while others can be supported along a trellis. Pole beans and cucumbers also grow very well on a trellis or fence.

Don’t forget to keep hanging plants well-watered since they will dry out faster.

Take advantage of as much vertical space as possible to maximize your growing area. Consider growing juicy yellow pear tomatoes surrounded by creeping thyme in a vertical container or use hanging baskets suspended on shepherd hooks for your favorite herbs. Just make sure you keep them well watered as hanging baskets tend to dry out more quickly.

If you have a fence or a wooden wall with good sun exposure, eavestroughing can be fastened to it in order to make a vertical garden for plants with short roots, like herbs and lettuce. You could also add a ladder-like series of shelves to house a lot more plants than you could fit into the ground you have available. The Garden Tower operates on that space-saving concept, allowing you to grow 50 plants in a very small space. Plus, it composts in the same space, so it’s ideal for a potager.

Tip #4: Make It Beautiful

Although some may argue that beauty for its own sake is neither productive nor practical, I disagree. Your kitchen garden is an extension of your home and will likely be visible to your family and guests. So, making the area as attractive as possible just makes good sense.

Good garden design requires balance, symmetry and repetition.

To incorporate balance and symmetry into your potager, try adding two matching brightly colored containers filled with herbs and place them on each side of the entrance.

For repetition, add multiples of the same plants throughout the garden. For example, a group of 3 cherry tomato plants in attractive containers will have a stronger visual impact than a single plant. You can also create a sense of order by planting lovely borders of edible flowers or fragrant herbs along walkways.

Let’s face it – we like spending time in beautiful places.

One great thing about incorporating ornamental aspects into your potager is you may find you want to spend more time in an area that nourishes both your body and soul.

One book that I strongly recommend, if you are trying to design a kitchen garden – a potager – that is both beautiful and practical, is Gardening Like a Ninja. The author, Angela, is a friend of mine, and she has put together an amazing book about slipping edible plants into your landscape. The book is full colour and packed with gorgeous photographs and helpful charts. No matter how small the space or how much you need to make your garden look like landscaping, Angela will give you what you need.

 

Is Your Energy Bill Eating Too Much of Your Money

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Is your power bill out of control?

How do you get a lower energy bill when it is out of control?

It doesn’t matter where you live. I have a friend in South Africa who worries about her power bill, too. As we are moving from an off-grid cabin in the woods to an on-grid house that has never been renovated for energy efficiency, the thought of money trickling away through the power line is at the front of my mind! Where we live, there is no time-of-day billing, and we pay a base rate (somewhere around $10/month, I think) plus $0.148 per kilowatt hour, which gives us the second-highest electricity rates in Canada.

If you’re in Ontario, congratulations, you’re #1.

It’s no surprise that you’re trying to figure out ways to cut expenditures. The logical place to look is your living costs, and a major cost of living is your energy bill.

Most of us don’t receive our power bill and immediately think “Oh, well, that’s not too bad!” (Unless you’re totally on alternative energy like solar)  If you’re looking for some very actionable tips on a variety of utility bills, head over here. If your energy bill is much larger than it needs to be, you might be running it up in ways you don’t even notice.

Now who am I to tell you how to get your power bill down? Well, for three years we lived in an off-grid cabin in the woods and we learned how to make the most of our limited electricity. At the height of the summer, we had about 2kwh of electricity per day. Since moving our family of six to a 2800 square foot, 4 bedroom house on grid, we’ve gone to an extravagant 16 kwh daily. (We’re still getting used to living in this big house – that will go down!)

When you do things that waste energy, you’re also throwing away your money.

Decide you’re going to fervently find and address all the ways you’re leaking energy and money at home. The enjoyable result of your diligence will be some relief from those large electric bills!

Check out these hidden energy drains that eat up your funds (and I know you do at least one of them!)

Leaving your cell phone and electronic tablet chargers plugged in all the time

This might come as a shock but did you know that even if you don’t have your cell phone or tablet plugged in at the other end, these chargers are using energy?

Speaking of chargers, if you leave your cell phone charging after it reaches 100%, it continues to waste valuable energy. So, avoid plugging your cell phone in at night before you go to bed. If you do, it will be draining wasted electricity all night.

Not changing air filters often enough

Have you vowed to change your air conditioner/furnace filter monthly but then don’t do it? Your blower is trying to get precious warm or cool air to you through the vents. But the air can’t get through to be sent through your house if your filter is all clogged up with dust bunnies, pet hair, and dirt.

However you set reminders – your planner, your cell phone or Google emails – make sure that you’re reminded to change your filters on the first of every month.

If appliances don’t have to work hard to heat and cool, you’ll save dollars.

Using appliances that aren’t Energy Star

As you probably know, the Energy Star rating signifies reduced energy utilization to run the appliance, which is a good thing that saves you money.

Even though it probably isn’t economically feasible to run right out and replace all your major appliances with Energy Star appliances, it does make sense to replace old, worn-out appliances with Energy Star products. Insist on Energy Star products when you’re shopping for new appliances.

The seller of our new house included all of her appliances. They’re not old, but they’re not Energy Star. We’ll be keeping our eye out for sales!

Having standard incandescent light bulbs

Do you avoid compact fluorescent bulbs? If you were to replace the 3 most used lights in your home with LED or compact fluorescent bulbs, you would be pleasantly surprised with the results on your electric bill.

Here in Nova Scotia, if you qualify as low income (less than $30K annual income for a family of four, I believe), Efficiency Nova Scotia will replace all incandescent lights with LED without charge. Check to see if your local government has a similar program.

Appliances, gadgets, lamps, televisions, and more that stay plugged in all the time

Although it might be a hassle to unplug and plug in things frequently, the electric companies stress you can save some money if you only plug in items when you’re actually using them.

It might be a bit more exercise to plug and unplug things, like the coffeepot, toaster, lamps, televisions and the like. But you stand to save considerable energy and dollars if you do.

Water heaters set at too high a temperature

Sure, you like to take a hot shower, but does it have to be that hot? Think about the fact that if you set your water heater for 130 or 140F, then it is constantly trying to keep all of the water it holds at that temperature, not knowing when you’ll need the water. You can see how that would waste energy and cost you money.  And there is a increased chance of children or the elderly accidentally burning themselves.

Instead, reduce the temperature setting to 120 degrees. You’ll save quite a bit.

Of course, this only works if you have a gas or electric hot water heater. If you are heating your home with hot water (as is the case in my new house), the water is automatically heated by the furnace and arrives at your tap piping hot and anti-scald devices must be added to all taps and showerheads. In that case, lowering the temperature would reduce the effectiveness of your heat.

In fact, we will be looking into installing a small electric hot water tank to use during the summer – that way we can turn the furnace off entirely in the summer and keep the hot water tank at 120F instead of 160F+.

When it comes to saving costs to run your home, consider doing something about the above drains on your electricity and wallet. You’ll feel great when you do what you can to reduce your energy and budget expenditures every single day.

A lower energy bill makes everyone feel better.

Saturday Round Up #7 – Faith and Family theme

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Welcome to the Saturday Round Up. Those of you who have been around here for a while will recognize that the Saturday Round Up has been revived and reworked for 2017. It’s a new year and a fresh start. I’m going to be hard to reach this week, because I’m focusing on learning and growing as a writer and blogger. Nose to the grindstone, baby!  But I’ll be back online soon and I’ll be happy to pin and share whatever (on topic!) post you link up. Come and share your links each week with us. The focus of the week

Saturday Round Up #6 – Home & Finance

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Welcome to the Saturday Round Up. Those of you who have been around here for a while will recognize that the Saturday Round Up has been revived and reworked for 2017. It’s a new year and a fresh start.   Come and share your links each week with us. The focus of the week will change, although the schedule is very simple. I will gray out all except the current week, so you can see the focus and plan for later. Faith and Family — Share blog posts focusing on Christian faith (yes, this is where you can post those devotions,

Getting Kids to Eat Broccoli (and Like It!)

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How do I get my child to eat healthy food? If you ever feel as though you’re alone as a parent, just start searching for answers on that and related issues. Children are known to be fussy and refuse to eat most of the foods we know are healthy. Most of them live on a diet of breaded chicken and fries and they really hate vegetables like broccoli. Right? Well, maybe. My mom will tell you that I was one of those fussy children, and I’m not a whole lot different today. I dislike strong tastes and there are certain

Saturday Round Up #5 – Health & Wellness

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Welcome to the Saturday Round Up. We’ve been off to a pretty rocky start with the Round Up as I’ve been getting used to a new linky setup and struggling with some very serious health issues at home. If there’s a problem and you can’t link up, let me know. The more we promote the Saturday Round Up, the more exposure other bloggers can get for their great content and the more interesting reading material we all have. Remember – I will pin and promote all posts that are ON TOPIC! 🙂 Have you noticed my very awesome background? It’s

Finding Peace in Challenging Times

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Choosing the path of peace can be a challenging task on a good day. On a bad day, it can feel downright impossible. The constant ups and downs in life are a given. They’re largely uncontrollable. But you can control your response to them. You can learn to feel peaceful in challenging times.

How to Manage Your Time with Mary Poppins

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Of the movies in my favourites list, Mary Poppins is certainly in the top ten. And, while it’s not very true to the books, the delightful Mary Poppins movie can teach us a lot about managing time. We’ve learned how to take our medicine and so much more from her – it’s time to find out how to manage time with Mary Poppins. After all, Mary set the gold standard for efficiency long before nannies began starring in reality TV shows. She was strict, punctual and perfectly organized. Unlike the books (in which she’s rather vain and nasty at times,

Two Questions That Will Put Everything In Perspective

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It’s easy to get bogged down with all the information telling you to do this or that or something else entirely. You want a better life for your family – a sustainable, self-reliant life – but there is so much information out there telling you how to get there. How do you cut through the …. well, let’s say the baloney … and figure out what really matters?

Saturday Round Up #4 – Farm to Table

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Welcome to the Saturday Round Up. Those of you who have been around here for a while will recognize that the Saturday Round Up has been revived and reworked for 2017. It’s a new year and a fresh start. Come and share your links each week with us. The focus of the week will change, although the schedule is very simple. I will gray out all except the current week, so you can see the focus and plan for later. This week’s focus is on FOOD! Now food starts with the garden and the barnyard and ends on the table,

How to Slow Down and Learn to Enjoy Simplicity

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Entire books have been written on how to slow down, enjoy simple pleasures, and lead a simple lifestyle. These books exist because people often long for simplicity, but don’t know how to get out of the rat race long enough to learn it. The good news is, you can start small by implementing some simple tips and suggestions. Here are some ideas. Ten Minutes Ten minutes is a doable time increment for even the busiest person, so it’s a good place to start. Your ten minutes can be at any point during the day – before breakfast, partway through the

Yes, You Can Butcher Homegrown Chickens

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Have you ever considering butchering homegrown chickens? Chickens are a very convenient source of meat.  Whether you’re living on a large property in the country or a small suburban block, you can usually find room for a few chickens, they are cheap to feed and they are relatively small and easy to butcher.  However, I have talked to (and read blog about) many people who find the idea of killing a chicken very difficult.   Hi, I’m Liz, and I’m joining Marie here today to share with you about getting ready to butcher homegrown chickens. I live on eight acres in south

Saturday Round Up #3 – Faith and Family theme

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Welcome to the Saturday Round Up. Those of you who have been around here for a while will recognize that the Saturday Round Up has been revived and reworked for 2017. It’s a new year and a fresh start. It’s funny how, even though I strongly advocate for a sustainable lifestyle, I often begin projects which are not sustainable for me. A hand-picked weekly list of great sites, while enjoyable when I could do it, was not sustainable since I have a small army of little children at home. Therefore, after a break to decide what I would do, I

Coffee and Sin: Living Life with a Focus on God

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Are you living your life with a focus on God? Or are you always, in a hundred little ways, focusing on sin in your life and that of others? It’s an important question. It’s so important that I believe it affects every aspect of your spiritual life. In fact, your focus will determine whether you struggle daily with sin or whether you almost consider it a non-issue. Crazy, thought, I realize, if you absolutely know that all Christians must struggle daily with sin. Let’s imagine, if you will, that this cup of coffee represents sin. Any sin. All sin. Whatever

Taking the Time to Count Your Blessings

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Our world makes it so easy to get caught up in its busy-ness and to forget to count our blessings. But the truth is, you actually have plenty of things to be grateful for, regardless of the circumstances in which you may find yourself. For a moment, turn your thoughts from the fences that need repairing before spring, or the bills that are piling up or … we all have something that puts us into a fretting, negative mindset. But just as we all have problems, every one has their own unique list of things that bring simple pleasure, feelings of pure

Creating Goals for Your Best Garden Ever

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The first step to creating your best garden ever is knowing what you want and setting goals to get there. Too often we make goals for things like finances and education, but we don’t realize that we can use goal-setting to improve many aspects of our lives. Have you ever actually stopped to think about your vegetable gardening goals? Let’s take a quick look at some of the common motivations for gardening first, because that’s the basis of your goals. Getting outside Digging in the dirt is a wonderful way to get outside, get some fresh air and gentle exercise,

Start New Year with a New Family Budget

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Do you need a family budget that works for you this year? I can see you squirming. You’re not the only one. For singles, creating a budget is relatively easy. They tend to have a good handle on how much money they have coming in, and when tracking expenses, they only have their own to think about. Of course singles can overspend, too, but it’s at least a bit simpler to see where the income and outgo are. But creating a family budget is a whole new ball game. Most families have multiple sources of income, so it’s not as

Dealing with Holiday Tension When the Family Gets Together

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Families. They can be a wonderful blessing, and they help make us who we are. But oh, can’t they be a major pain in the neck during the holidays. In fact, they can be both a wonderful blessing and a pain in the neck at the same time. Most of us are under a lot of stress during the Christmas season. With a long school holiday, storm days if you’re in a cold region, and lots of social gatherings, we usually see a lot more of each other at this time than during the rest of the year. Stress and

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Sometimes Christmas Just Sucks

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Life comes in seasons. Some years are wonderful, with laughter, few worries and plenty of good. Other years, though, it seems that the tears never stop. In the good years, the entire holiday season can be joyful and fun. When life takes a turn for the worse, though, we might just wish Christmas would go away. And that’s okay. Yesterday I wrote about enjoying Christmas even if it’s not perfect. Don’t hold back your Christmas joy just because the ornaments are made of paper and the turkey was donated. Laugh and smile and enjoy what you have even if you

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Are You Coveting a Magazine Perfect Christmas

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Covet? No, not me. Never. It’s that Christmas has to be … well, it’s not really, really Christmas until we … I mean, we wouldn’t want the disaster that happened that year I let my husband do the planning … Take a deep breath and face it. You are coveting the perfect magazine Christmas and it’s completely wrecking your joy. Coveting is bad. Joy is good. Just in case you’re wondering. It doesn’t have to be a magazine, of course. Depending on your age, we could call it a Pinterest perfect Christmas, a magazine Christmas or a TV show Christmas. Maybe

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Christian Pacifism – Turn The Other Cheek

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Recently, my youngest son punched another boy in the playground. I was absolutely mortified. But it was worse when I was told “I’m sure your boys settle their problems with fists at home, but it’s just not done here.” It’s not done here, either! While we certainly never claim to any sort of perfection, I am very much a Christian pacifist. This week I want to look at Christian pacifism. Plain people are pacifists. It’s kind of in the definition, if you want to be honest. Amish, Mennonite, Quaker, Hutterite, Brethren or other, those who commit to following a Plain

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Be At Peace With All – The Power of Asking Forgiveness

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My friends among the Old Order Mennonites have a practice that is profound in its simplicity and yet incredible in its effect upon the members and their relationships. For those who may not know, Christians are admonished to “inasmuch as it is possible, be at peace with all” (and many of us really rely on that notwithstanding clause “inasmuch as it is possible”…) Instead of having communion weekly or monthly the way many churches do, they have it only twice a year and treat it with an incredible importance. My Old Order Mennonite friends were shocked when they learned how

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