Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Turn off the Auto Pilot

I didn't realize how busy I was, until I noticed I was through the last few weeks getting things done without really thinking about them or enjoying them. Then I knew I was on auto pilot. Hanukkah is so busy because, if you know me, you know that I can't buy cookies, I have to bake them, and I can't not have Hanukkah decorations up, and I can't go through a festival without at least doing one project or craft...etc. etc. And with two little boys, all of this takes about 4 times as long to do!
I wouldn't change that for the world, but I do need to turn off the auto pilot. I went to a MOPS meeting recently (a great organization, by the way) and one of the things that impressed me was a quote the speaker repeated, "Don't let the 'getting things done' take away the 'joy in doing them.' That was so simple and yet very profound! It spoke right to me. I realized that as a fairly new mom and mother of two small children, I run on auto pilot a lot. And then I myself miss what's going on around me. Things go so fast when you have a lot to do that you blink and its all over. I've even found myself thinking,"Thank God that's over!" for an event that was suppose to be fun. What's my problem? I need to "stop and smell the roses," I need to "work to live and not live to work," I need to "have my cake and eat it to," and I need to (insert your own cliche here.)
Well, this message hits home for many people, especially parents. Between carting children back and forth to school, doctor's appointments, play dates, nursery or day care, church or synagogue, grocery shopping, clothes shopping, gift shopping, holiday parties, birthdays and the like, it's a crazy time of year. Actually, at my house, it's always crazy. So take the time to stop and enjoy each other. A good friend of ours told us once that it's not about the quantity of time you spend with your family, it's about quality time.
For Hanukkah we will do our family traditions and I will try to actually enjoy them rather than rush through them. We like to fry tostones. They are a Puerto Rican dish of fried plantains. They are so yummy and we make a point to make them on one of the nights, since the tradition is to fry things on Hanukkah to celebrate the oil that lasted eight days. Of course one day we'll make latkes. Then I make homemade Sufganiyot (jelly donuts), and Loukoumades (fried honey puffs). With little hands to help and a new deep fryer, these should go faster and be less messy...maybe.
Last year, our craft was to make a homemade Hanukkiah. If you don't have a menorah for Hanukkah, I encourage you to make one, especially if you have kids. We'll continue this tradition of making a homemade Hanukkiah every year. I think it'll be a great memory.
I'm even considering adding a family play to act out the story of the Maccabees. Judah wouldn't even have to change his name! Won't that be a fun family tradition? You can have a script for older children or a read along play for younger children so they can just act it out. One of the synagogues we use to attend had a Hanukkah play and it was great fun!
Whether you do projects, or cook special foods, play the driedel game, or just light the candles and say the blessings, focus on spending quality time with your family and acknowledging the provision of the Lord. That is what Hanukkah is all about.

The following two Hanukkiah crafts are perfect for toddlers or young children who cannot light a flame. They can make one of these homemade Hanukkiahs and still participate in lighting a Hanukkah menorah!

Hanukkiah Craft #1:

Items needed:
Felt - to cover foam
9 fillable driedels
hot glue
9 battery operated tea light candles

Cut foam to size about 25 inches long x 2 1/2 inches wide x 2 1/2 inches tall. I used insulation foam which is only about 3/4" thick, so I had to glue three 25" x 2 1/2" pieces together to achieve the final height measurement. I also cut a small 3 " x 2 1/2" piece, and glued it at the top in the middle where the Shammash candle will sit. After all the pieces are glued together, I cut 1/2" holes into the top of the foam where the fillable dreidels will rest. Make sure to space them appropriately so that all 9 fillable dreidels will fit across. My holes were 1" from the ends, with 1 1/2" in between each. The Shammash hole was of course in the middle of the small raised block on top. Cut pieces of felt to coverall the foam areas, leaving holes in the felt where the holes in the foam are. Glue on the felt. Glue on any decoration such as ribbon, or beads. Glue base of fillable dreidels in their holes. Put in a battery operated tea light inside each fillable driedel.

Hanukkiah Craft #2:

Items needed:
Empty Cereal box
8 toilet paper rolls
1 paper towel roll
Felt - to cover rolls
9 craft foam blocks 3/4" x 1 1/4"
9 battery operated tea lights
Craft paint
Tacky glue

roll is meant to be the Shammash candle. Cut the paper towel roll to measure 6" tall. Cut the felt for the paper towel roll to 6" wide and 7 1/2 " tall. Glue felt to paper towel roll. I cut the cereal in half lengthwise in the middle. Then I folded the middle part in, with the inside of the box facing out to create a base for the Hanukkiah. Paint the two pieces with craft paint. After it's dry, glue one end on each base piece. The open ends should slide into each other about 2 inches. 5 candles should fit on top of the outside portion and 4 candles on the inside portion. Glue the foam blocks where the candles fit over them. This just stabilizes the candles a bit. Decorate with stickers or glitter glue.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


"What are your children going to dress up as for Halloween?"  - Someone inevitably asks almost every day.
"Oh, we don't celebrate Halloween," I respond.
Awkward silence.
Why this has to be such an uncomfortable topic for people, I don't know. I am not a weirdo just because I don't celebrate Halloween. I just CHOOSE not to celebrate it now.
My husband and I use to have huge Halloween costume parties. Every year, we would make a big deal about it. We would give prizes for the best costumes. I would sew and sew and sew to make sure we had homemade costumes. I would cook, and buy alcohol and oh, was it a great chance to have a party! So what changed my mind? My faith.
I wasn't trying to impress fellow believers and I wasn't trying to feel better than those people who still celebrate Halloween. As I started to really learn the Word and work towards being closer to the Lord, I discovered that I wanted to please Him.  The more I worked on my spiritual journey, the more I wanted to do what was good in His eyes.
As I started to celebrate the biblical feast days of the Lord, I began to reevaluate the holidays I was already celebrating as a Christian. When I looked at Halloween, it just didn't line up with my faith. I say I believe in God and His son, but then I celebrate a day that is rooted in pagan worship? I started to feel uneasy and convicted.
What is pagan? The American Heritage Dictionary defines a pagan as 1. A person who is not a Christian, Muslim, or Jew; heathen 2. one who has no religion 3. Formerly, any non-Christian.  
Halloween has it's roots as a pagan holiday. It originates from a festival celebrated by the Celtics, who would observe the end of summer with sacrifices to Samhain (pronounced pronounced sow-in), "the lord of death and evil spirits". There are many websites, books and information out there to provide the background about Halloween and how it began. Below, I have sited a few websites if you want to read a more concise explanation.
So, since Halloween is a pagan holiday and is something that is rooted in and customary for non-Christians, then what was I doing celebrating it? How did that effect my witness to others as a believer? Obviously I needed to rethink my Halloween involvement. So I went to the Word of God to find what it says about celebrating pagan holidays.
"When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you." Deuteronomy 18:9-12
 Well, Halloween obviously focuses on witches, divination, magic, and the dead. You see that in the decorations alone. Is it okay to pretend that these things are okay even for one day, one hour, one minute?
"When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?' You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods." Deuteronomy 12:29-31
Carving pumpkins and wearing costumes on this night was part of a ritual for a Celtic god. It was adopted into an American pastime, yes, but it is rooted in pagan worship. If the latest American pastime was drinking blood from goats, would we succumb to that?
"What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? {No,} but {I say} that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?" 1 Corinthians 10:19-22
To me, this verse says: You cannot be a follower of the Lord, a believer, and still celebrate a pagan holiday. No, you will not find the words "Thou shall not celebrate Halloween" in the bible. But you will also not find the words "Thou shall not commit tax evasion" or "Thou shall not smoke crack" or "Thou shall not put laxative in your brother's milk", but I think we can all agree that these things are against the basic commandments set out in scripture.
"...What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.' "The second is this, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these." Mark 12:28-31
There is only one God and His Feasts are what we should follow, not that of another god. Are you showing your love for God and your neighbor as you celebrate Halloween? If you have been wondering how this "holiday" has or will effect your spiritual walk, please do the research into the background and reconsider opening this door to your family and teaching your children about a holiday that is not centered around the Lord, but actually ignores His sovereignty.
I am very grateful to the Lord that we stopped celebrating Halloween 10 years ago. My children have never celebrated it and it is not something we will teach them. I really believe that it will be easier to explain to them why we don't celebrate it, rather than why we do if we still had it as part of our family traditions. That is really what it comes down to: Family. Play dress up with your children to build their imagination, give them a lolly pop or their favorite candy every now and then, make apples with caramel on them for dessert; but it doesn't have to be connected to a pagan holiday. As I discovered, there are always better, even biblical reasons, to have a party!

For concise explanations about Halloween, it's practices, traditions and the rituals that started it all, please go to the following links. I found them to be very helpful in knowing the truth.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Good Deeds

I ran out of gas. It was so frustrating! I had just dropped off my eldest at preschool, but I still had my 2 year old with me. So here I was, 10 blocks from home, and I had ran out of gas. Since I happened to be talking to my husband at the time, and he is a "car guy", he headed to my rescue. As I sat in the vehicle, I was watching vehicles race up behind us, not even paying attention to my hazard lights. I know I was on the side of the road, blocking one lane, but drivers are suppose to be aware, right? Wrong! They were making me so nervous! I decided to get my son out of the car and he and I would wait outside of the vehicle on the sidewalk. This way if they hit the vehicle, we weren't in it. To my surprise, people stopped to try to help. One couple stopped and pulled in behind the van. The man asked me if I needed a ride and offered to push the van out of the way so it wouldn't get hit. I told him he really didn't need to go through the trouble since my husband was on the way and thanked them for stopping. Soon, another couple drove by, then doubled back, and then asked if someone was on the way. My husband arrived a minute after and filled the tank with a little gas and I was on my way to the gas station. Not before I thanked my husband for coming to the rescue when I was so negligent as to not watch the gas gauge. Unbelievable.
As the night progressed I started to wonder, why was I so surprised that people would stop to help? Is it because I wouldn't stop? Do I do good deeds? I began to evaluate myself. I can call someone when they are ill. Maybe even take some food over to them if they are sick or have just had a baby. But these instances are usually people in my congregation and it is normal for us as a body to help each other out. But do I do good deeds for complete strangers? Would I help out someone I don't know? Would I fix things that are not my doing?
The next day I was driving along, and some bagged trash had blown into the street. It was a typical windy Kansas day and a pretty busy street. Then I noticed a woman had pulled off on a side-street, waiting for traffic to break, she ran out into the street and grabbed the trash bag (which was pretty large) and moved it back to the side of the road. Then she got into her car and drove away. Now, that was a good deed. It wasn't her trash that blew into the street, but she took it upon herself to move it so others wouldn't have to dodge it and she may have even prevented an accident. That's nice.
I think that good deeds are different than just being polite. Getting up for an older person to sit down, holding a door open for a woman or your elder, letting a woman and her children go before you in the check-out line are all great things, but that is just being polite. It is still something that needs to happen more and we need to continue to teach it to our children. But a good deed, is something that takes a little more time and effort and you don't get anything in return. Imagine that. A selfless act. It is biblical to do a good deed.
"One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, And He will repay him for his good deed." Proverbs 19:17
I realized that I am so caught up in my own little world that I often don't pay attention to the opportunities right there in front of my face.
Several years ago, my husband and I visited a church in Alabama. They had this program they were promoting to their congregants called CSI:Huntsville. It was so inventive that it stayed with me. They had business cards with CSI:Huntsville printed on them and on the back they said, "You have just been served by a member of ________ church." I don't remember what the CSI stood for, maybe "Charitable Services Initiative" or something to that effect. The idea was for the congregants to use these cards and leave them behind when they would do a good deed. Some of the examples were: paying for the next person behind you at the drive-through, or leaving money with a cashier at the grocery store for a needy family that was shopping and about to check out, or offering food to a homeless person. It's a really good idea isn't it? They were doing something to encourage people to do good deeds to complete strangers. They kept it anonymous, but still let them know that it was a person from a Christian church.
I know the world we live in isn't the same as it use to be and certain people have to be careful to not put themselves into dangerous situations. Single women, children or youth and women with children who are alone should not approach people alone. Basic safety and awareness for you and your family should always be first. But there are effective ways to do good deeds without putting yourself in danger. Plan to work good deeds with groups of people, or just be in a public place where there isn't a chance of you being taken advantage of or harmed. I am going to try to keep my eyes open for safe opportunities to be a witness. Because when we do a good deed for a stranger, it is a witness to that person about the love of Yeshua and how they are just as important to Him.
Leading up to and during the days of awe, Jewish people are being nice to everyone they know, even people they don't know, to ensure that they are written in the Book of Life. As people of the Lord, who believe in His son Yeshua, we are already written in the Book of Life and don't need to fret about not making it to the kingdom. But this doesn't usurp our responsibility as believers to spread the love of Messiah. The Word says it best:

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2

Friday, September 23, 2011

FFF - Fall Feasts Fever

For football fans, fall means FFF - Friday Football Fever. I have come down with a fever, but it is of a different sort. For me, fall ushers in a fever for the Lord's Feasts. The Fall Feasts, also known as High Holy Days, are something I love and are my most favorite biblical feasts of all.
It's like I am preparing to have the ultimate dinner party. When I plan a get-together, first there has to be an invitation. I have to decide who I am inviting and when I will have my party. Second, I clean house like mad (I do have two small children after all). I may even bring out the good dishes, and decorate a little more, like adding little touches here and there; put out the guest towels, add some candles, buy groceries, prepare a meal, make dessert and get the good coffee. And finally, I get to spend time with my guests. At the end of the dinner party, after the last guest has left, I reflect on the evening and hope that everyone had a great time because I did. The excitement for the party started when I was preparing the invitations. It's the anticipation of the party that gives me a kind of "fever" for the event and I just can't wait until the party day arrives.
Eating apples with honey on Rosh Hashanah 2010
For me, the Fall Feasts are exactly like that. Rosh Hashanah is the first of the Fall Feasts. It is the one that ushers in the new year of the civic calendar. It is a time of rejoicing and blowing of trumpets or Yom Teruah.
"Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, `In the seventh month on the first of the month you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation." -Leviticus 23:24
It's also an invitation. The sound of the trumpets was often an announcement of preparedness. (Ex. 19:9, Jos. 6:5, Jud. 7:18) When you hear the shofar being sounded, its an invitation to rejoice to the Lord. What a pleasure and what an honor to have been invited!
Then nine days later, is Yom Kippur. You deny yourself and repent for your sins. This doesn't take away from Yeshua's sacrifice. Actually it makes you more aware of how precious that sacrifice is. You have to humble yourself before the Lord and ask for forgiveness.
"On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the LORD. You shall not do any work on this same day, for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the LORD your God." Leviticus 23:27-28
For me it's like I'm asking forgiveness for my sins and my continuing to sin, thus making my Messiah spill His blood over and over for me. It's sobering. This is the "cleaning house" part. You have to get yourself ready, because the Lord is going to come over.
Medina's Sukkah 2007
Then comes Sukkot, my favorite feast. Evidence points to this time as being when Yeshua was born. When he came to dwell with us and was called "Emmanuel." Sukkot is all about making a temporary dwelling place outside of your home and dwelling there with the Lord.
"Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, `On the fifteenth of this seventh month is the Feast of Booths for seven days to the LORD." Leviticus 23:34
"`You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. `You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.' " Leviticus 23:41-43
Sukkot 2010
The point is, you focus on the Lord and spend time with Him. He is your guest of honor, the one you have been preparing for all these days since you received the invitation. I believe it to be the most enjoyable feast because it is a picture of the wedding banquet between our Messiah and His bride (believers). You don't spend those days watching television, or playing video games or surfing the net. You are outside in your Sukkah. You are spending time with your family, praising the Lord and talking about Him, learning about Him, just acknowledging that your home is not on this Earth, it is with Him. Baruch HaShem! Blessed is His Name!
There are a few family traditions that my husband and I started even before we had children. Now that we do have children, well all the Lord's Festivals have become even more enjoyable. For Rosh Hashanah, we like to eat dessert first, since one of the themes is to usher in a sweet new year. So the order of the meal is backwards and fun! I also make a brisket with fruit and wine that has a deliciously sweet taste. I have included the recipe below. I usually try to make some sort of shofar craft with the children out of paper mache. It's super easy and fun for the children. If they already have their own shofars, making a shofar bag with their name on it is also fun.
On Yom Kippur, the tradition is to right any wrongs in your personal relationships. You try to make amends and ask forgiveness not only from God, but from your friends and family as well. For children, a good practice would be for them to write a list, at least three things that they feel badly about and then they can go to the person and ask forgiveness. It's a good picture about grace and forgiveness that they can learn during Yom Kippur. Then they can understand that only by asking forgiveness can they receive grace from the Lord. (Ez. 18:32, Mr. 1:15)
During Sukkot, we build a Sukkah and invite people over to eat under it every year. Like I said, its the ultimate dinner party because you also have an honored guest; the Lord. So I do tend to go all out, preparing meals inviting guests and just enjoying those precious few days when our focus is on the Lord. We traditionally try to cook Gazpacho, a Puerto Rican dish, every year on at least one of the nights. It is a cod fish and avocado salad that goes great with Puerto Rican rice & beans. (My husband is Puerto Rican and he started that tradition.) On one of the nights while in the Sukkah we have everyone write a poem about Sukkot. It can be about that particular evening or the festival in general. It is so fun to hear all the poems and lyrics that people come up with. I have kept them over the years and it has been a very enjoyable tradition!
I encourage you to take some time to research these feasts for yourselves. Start this year, even if it is your first time, or if all you can do is learn about them, I am sure you will be blessed. Start your own family traditions for each festival so that they become special to you and your children. In a world where there are numerous "holidays" that are celebrated that are not biblically based and may even stem from pagan practices, it is important to instill the Biblical Feasts of the Lord where they belong; in our family traditions and in our hearts.
Yes, I definitely catch a fever this time of year. And you know what? I hope the fever spreads to everyone I know!

Rosh Hashanah Brisket:
8-10 lbs. brisket
1 pkg. dates
6 large oranges
1 c. Manischewitz grape wine
1 pkg. dried plums
1 pkg. dried apricots
Trim off excess fat from brisket. Slice brisket into 1 inch slices all along longest length of brisket, keeping its original shape. Place in roasting pan. Sprinkle dates, plums and apricots over brisket. Squeeze juice from oranges over brisket. Scoop out any pulp from oranges and sprinkle over brisket. Pour wine over brisket. Cover and cook at 350 degrees for 3 hours. Serve with your favorite rice. This recipe is great to usher in a sweet new year!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Torah Tots

One Saturday, it occurred to me that my children are not receiving the Torah. Since they are 2 and 3, they are in the nursery during the Shabbat service, if they are not asleep. Then on Saturdays, I may go to Torah study, but again, they are with a sitter. I realized that I was shirking my duty as a mother. Yes, we read bible story books, but it is not the same as setting aside time to learn Torah and making it special and set apart, which is what Shabbat is all about. Who says children can't be exposed to Torah at that age? Can't a toddler learn something from Moses striking the rock and not getting to go into the promised land? When you read this story with a toddler in mind, life lessons like "use your words" and "no hitting" come to mind. The Word of God itself speaks of the importance of teaching children:

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."  - Deuteronomy 6:4-7 
What does it mean to teach them diligently? In English, the definitions I found were; 1. constant in effort to accomplish something; 2. done or pursued with persevering attention; painstaking. Those definitions in and of themselves speak a lot as to how I am to teach my children the Word of the Lord. In Hebrew, the root word is shanan (שָׁנַן) which mean to whet, or sharpen. Well, this adds another aspect. When teaching them they should be made eager to learn His word and should be sharpened like a tool for the Lord. Wow. I do need to get busy.

So I have made a point to begin giving lessons of Torah to my children in a preschool format. To me, this is the best thing I can do right now. I have been to many Torah studies over the years. I definitely still need to keep my own personal studies up when it comes to learning the word of God. But I believe with all my heart that this is the season for me to teach my children. And why shouldn't it begin now? Anyone who has taught before knows that you end up learning a lot and retaining more when you have to prepare a lesson for children. 
Guillito & Judah painting mezuzahs
The first week we began with Moses and the wanderings in the desert. They now know 1) who Moses is and 2) that he was in the desert for 40 years. Not bad. The next week, we learned a shortened English version of the Shema, we made a mezuzah for their rooms, and learned a song about mezuzahs. The next week we learned about the importance of following God's commandments and the rewards and blessings that follow. Also about consequences when we do not obey. This was focused on listening to your parents also with an emphasis on sharing (Something toddlers need to be reminded of a lot.)
Our homemade mezuzahs
I am getting more and more excited about this precious time I have with my children. And I feel good that I am not leaving it up to someone else to teach my children Torah. I am in charge of them learning about Torah. And hopefully this is something that they will always remember; our special Saturday morning Torah Preschool when we colored together and learn the Word of the Lord. I don't believe any child should be excluded from this beautiful tradition of hearing the Torah. I fail to find the verse where it states you must be of a certain age before learning Torah. After all, Yeshua Himself said, "Let the little children come to me." 
Painting the word "SHARE"
Other verses to consider:

"Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD."  - Psalm 34:11

"We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers That they should teach them to their children, That  the generation to come might know, {even} the children {yet} to be born, {That} they may arise and tell {them} to their children,  That they should put their confidence in God And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments." - Psalm 78:4-7

"and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good and for {the good of} their children after them." - Jeremiah 32:39

"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." - Ephesians 6:4

Friday, July 22, 2011

How Does Your Garden Grow?

My Garden in June
I have never had a green thumb. In fact, my husband has bought me a cactus before as a present, because he knew that I wouldn't water it. That's because he has witnessed me kill many plants before, may they rest in peace. Despite that miserable fact, this year I started to grow a garden. What was the inspiration? My husband brought home a poinsettia plant during the holidays. He knows I like how they look and maybe he thought, the plant is seasonal anyway and destined not to last. But I actually repotted it and kept it alive! Yes, it is still growing beautifully. I can't wait for the leaves to turn red again.
I come from a farming family, although you wouldn't have guessed it. Both sets of grandparents lived and worked on farms. They both had their own gardens, too. I remember my grandfather bringing in things from the garden so my grandmother could make them for lunch or dinner. My mother definitely has a green thumb. She can grow anything and has a solarium in her house full of beautiful plants.
This is the first time I have ever grown a garden and I am having so much fun! I figure if I can grow something, then I can always keep things around that are fresh and edible. I have begun my efforts with tomatoes, jalapenos, bell peppers, mint and basil. My cilantro died. But for my first year, I think it's going okay. When I saw my first budding tomato and jalapeno, a had an unbelievable sense of satisfaction! Now, I have several jalapenos, and bell peppers ripening, I have 3 tomatoes, but with the 100+ degree weather, I fear I may never taste my first tomato. We'll just have to wait and see.
I've also added several plants indoors. Did my thumb turn green? Is it in my genes? No, I believe the Lord gave all of us this ability.

"He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, And vegetation for the labor of man, So that he may bring forth food from the earth..." Psalm 104:14
My first jalapeno
This wasn't just my project. My husband helped design and build the above ground garden container. I wanted an above ground garden container mainly because I know my limits. I don't like bending over or kneeling and I don't like digging into the ground. I love it so much, I may just build another garden spot in another area of the yard next year. My sons love the garden too. We go out each day and water. They both have their own watering cans and outdoor watering shoes and they "help" mommy water. I actually think they get more water on themselves then on the plants. Then, if my husband is home, he joins in the fun. But mainly its a good excuse for all of us to be outside. So he gets the opportunity to play with the boys and swing them on the swing set and sing songs. It's a great time outdoors! I am very thankful for my garden. I have reaped benefits, even before reaping the produce. How does my garden grow? Not with silver bells and cockleshells, but with fun and love and family.
My first tomato
"Then God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, {and} fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them"; and it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good." Genesis 1:11-12

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Lucky or Blessed?

Has anyone ever said to you, "Oh, you're so lucky!" Then I begin to think, "Is it luck or is it blessings?" Do we know the difference between being lucky and being blessed? Things don't just happen in your life haphazardly and for no reason.

I believe this to be true of everything. Here are some of my experiences: Going to the store and finding that last bag of coffee. Or commenting to a friend that I would sure like to have a reliable vintage portable sewing machine and then finding one on Craig's List for half the price as a new one that's not made as well. Surviving a car wreck without injuries. Having enough money to throw a birthday party for my son. Finding something I needed on sale. Going on vacation. Finding and earring that I thought was lost forever. And I could go on and on. But the point is, no matter how big or small, they are blessings from the Lord.

Don't get me wrong, I have my days when I think, "What is going on? I'm just going to go to sleep and start again tomorrow." But I know it is my attitude that needs to be changed. And when I can't change my attitude I have to pray that the Lord will help me to change it. Counting the blessings the Lord has given me and knowing I'm not just being lucky or having bad luck is comforting.

Everything is in the hands of the Creator and He knows what has happened, what is happening and what will happen. How comforting for His people! What a benefit of being a believer in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and believing in His son, Yeshua! You can rest assured that your life has been set according to the will of our Creator. Everything that happens is for His glory. This is sometimes hard for people to swallow, even believers. When something bad happens, it's hard to realize God's covering in your life. But He is there! If is wasn't for His presence, you would wallow in sorrow and the bad circumstances that are taking place, whether it is the loss of a loved one, cancer, poverty, mental or physical illness. Without the Lord, those circumstances would consume you, and you would be submerged into depression, or worse circumstances. I heard a teaching once where the Rabbi commented that most people's first response when they are in turmoil is to say, "Why is this happening to me? Why am I going through this?" Then he taught that our focus as believers should be that we are going THROUGH it. Not wallowing in the problem, but actually coming out on the other side of difficulty a stronger person. And by the glory of God, we live to tell about our situation and how the Lord delivered us from it. I carry that lesson with me everywhere. Praise the Lord for His presence in my life! I know that no matter what comes, with God at my side, I will not be afraid because I am blessed!

"Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6

How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! O LORD, they walk in the light of Your countenance.  Psalm 89:15

O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Psalm 34:8

...How blessed are the people whose God is the LORD! Psalm 144:15

'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Friday, May 13, 2011

To Mitzvah or not to Mitzvah?

So what does it mean to be a bat (bar) mitzvah? Under Jewish law, children are not obligated to observe the commandments, but are encouraged to do so and taught the commandments to prepare them for adulthood. At the age of 13, or 12 for girls, they then become obligated to abide by the Lord's commandments or mitzvot. A public ceremony is called a bar or bat mitzvah. In its earliest form, a mitzvah is the celebrant's first aliyah.
Aliyah (uh-LEE-uh; ah-lee-AH0 Lit. ascension. 1) Reading from the Torah (or reciting a blessing over the reading) during services, which is considered an honor (pronounced uh-LEE-uh). 2) Immigrating to Israel (generally referred to as making aliyah and pronounced ah-lee-AH).
Not having been brought up with Judaism, I missed the opportunity to do a bat mitzvah at age 12. Knowing about my Jewish heritage and learning more about Torah, I became fascinated with the idea of doing this tradition, especially once I was blessed with children. My mom had done her bat mizvah years ago, and I thought it was time for me to do mine. But would it be weird, doing a bat mitzvah at my age, which is considerably past age 12? I could not decide. Then after, mentioning it to our congregational leader, I learned what my portion would be. It was no coincidence. My portion was Emor, meaning "Say" and the readings were Leviticus 21-24 from the Torah, Ezekiel 44:15-24 from the HafTorah, and 1 Peter 2:4-10 from the Brit Chadesha. To me, the portion was about being a parent. And how the Lord is our parent, and only wants the best things for us. We follow his mitzvot, or commandments, to please him. Just the same way we follow our parents rules or respect them, because we love them. Then I learned that my birthday this year was on a Friday, which made it a perfect time to do my bat mizvah, and chant my Torah portion during services. I felt like that wasn't a coincidence and this was the year I could do it!

Linda Medina, Bat Mitzvah, May 6, 2011

Learning to chant the Torah portion was challenging, but very fun. I only chanted the first reading of my Torah portion, which was Leviticus 21:1-15. I learned it the Ashkenazi style, rather than the Sephardic style. After so many years of hearing the Torah blessings and chanting in Ashkenazi, I couldn't wrap my brain around the Sephardic style. I would have had to learn all the blessings all over again. But I do think I will eventually learn the Sepahrdic style, especially since I learned that this is the style that is used in Israel. If doing a bar or bat mitzvah is something you or your children are looking at doing, I would encourage you to study Hebrew first. I already knew Hebrew enough to make out the words, so following along with the recording to learn the chanting was easier for me. It is such a blessing to be able to read God's word in Hebrew. You get a sense of closeness with the Word. And being able to discern the words and their meaning, opens up the scriptures like I never experienced in plain English. Learning my portion was also a blessing because, once I learned it, it would be in my head and I would "sing" it or chant it throughout the day. What a blessing to be able to sing God's word! Even though a bat mitzvah is not commanded in scripture, it certainly doesn't contradict scripture. In fact, it encourages the learning of scripture and committing it to memory. That is actually very scriptural.
"These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart." Deuteronomy 6:6
"You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul..." Deuteronomy 11:18
"But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it." Deuteronomy 30:14
"Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You." Psalm 119:11
I cannot think of a better tradition to pass on to my children. To mitzvah, or not to mitzvah? What could be nobler?

Great online tutor to help learn your Torah portion:
Order workbooks and cds to learn Hebrew:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Spring Cleaning

There are only 11 more days until Passover. I can't believe it. As I look at my kitchen and see all the items I will have to throw out, well it's just crazy. I don't know how my cabinets get so stuffed and full. There is no way my family will be able to eat all this stuff before Passover begins. Food bank, here we come! As I am planning my attack on clearing out my cabinets and making room for more appropriate things for Passover, like Matzah and Matzah meal. I am wondering...did the whole concept of Spring Cleaning come from this Festival? It is Jewish tradition to go through the entire house and clean out the leaven from the home.
"Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses;..." Exodus 12:15
Every inch of the house is scrubbed and cleaned so that not one crumb of bread or leavened item is left behind. (That is something that I will pretend to attempt with two small children, ages 3 and 2, underfoot.) The concept of cleaning out the leaven is an awesome one. In scripture, leaven is often referred to as sin.
"Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." 1 Corinthians 5:6-8
So during Passover, you are to remove the leaven from your home, or take the sin out of your life. You are reminding yourselves of the Perfect Passover Lamb, Yeshua, who died for our sins and made us clean. This year, it occurs to me that this Spring Cleaning should also be a time to make pledges. I pledge to no longer to hoard these baked goods and stock them up in my cabinets like there's no tomorrow and replace them with food that are good for my body. And I also pledge to go through my spiritual cabinet in my soul, remove the sin, and replace it with more love, patience, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, and gratefulness. And since I have made an effort to replace the bad, sinful, leavened things, with the good, healthy, unleavened things, maybe my Spring Cleaning won't be as difficult next year!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Breath of Life

Let me begin this first blog with a little background. I am owner of the on-line store I have been a practicing Messianic Jewish Believer for 15 years. And yet, I am constantly learning more and more and growing in my faith. Praise the L-rd! This post is focused on the Breath of Life. A friend of mine stated during a prayer, "thank you for giving us bodies that move." Wow. As I pondered that thought, I marveled at the fact that not only can I move my body, but that when I wake up in the morning, I am breathing! Yes, the L-rd has seen fit to give me another day. I can get up, hug my children and my husband. I am able to speak and think. I am so blessed! I know this may seem a trivial thing to acknowledge, but really, I think it is very important to remember these basic and fundamental gifts the L-rd has provided to all of us. In the world we live in with a slowing, if not failing economy, with all the rise in crime, and the decline in family values, the spread of pagan rituals, the persecution of believers and missionaries, and so many other things I have yet to mention, we are still blessed. Because the L-rd chose to breathe into our bodies the day we were born. "Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." - Genesis 2:7 This means that whether you are a christian or messianic believer, agnostic, athiest, Jew or Gentile, you were given the breath of life by G-d. So remember, this the next time you wake up and find yourself still breathing. Praise the L-rd! Count your blessings and thank Him! Because a thankful heart is a happy one.