January 30, 2013

Chile Rellenos Casserole

Chile Rellenos Casserole with Grass-Fed Beef
For starters, I had to google chili vs chile, cuz I've always written 'chili', as does my Mom. I think of 'Chile' as the country. And then there's the Red Hot Chili Peppers band. So what's the verdict? The Spanish word is 'chile'. 'Chili' is the American version, having gotten started from Chili con Carne.

Back to my Mom . . . she's made Chile Rellenos Casserole for years. It's thee best! I put it in my cookbook. Tho I have all her ingredients right, my instructions are too vague. But I'm going to mess you up some more in this post cuz I still didn't follow her instructions, which I recently asked for again.

We have company. I made the rellenos for supper, along with what our company always request and call, "Killer guacamole". But I wanted to add our great grass-fed ground beef. I googled chile rellenos and after 6 google pages . . . they were all made with milk and flour! I knew my mom used chicken broth and masa harina for the thickening. So I returned to her recipe and added the beef. I'll tell you her recipe, and too, tell you what I did, changing it.

My Mom's Chile Rellenos Casserole Ingredients

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1 27oz can whole green chilies
1lb grated cheese - like a mix, but moreso jack - I used pepper jack
7 large eggs
1 cup chicken broth
5 Tb Masa Harina
4 Tb parmesan
1/2 Tb baking powder
3/4 tsp salt

The chilies are opened out and make up 3 layers in a 9x13 baking dish with grated cheese between. Then the rest of the ingredients are mixed together and poured over the top. Bake until set, about 30-45 minutes.

Marinara Sauce
Simmered and put on top last 10-15 minutes of baking-
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped onion and garlic clove sauted in some olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp oregano

Browning grd beef and onion
NOW, what did I do? I started browning 1 lb of ground beef and added 1 onion chopped, eventually adding several minced garlic (I always add more than any recipe calls for!!!).

Now I don't use canned chilies. That would sure be darned easy!!!! But oh the taste . . . and the fragrance of the vehicle every late summer . . . when I get a bushel of chilies and have them roasted. Once home, I freeze about 3 chilies per little baggy - that's about the equivalent of 4oz of chilies. And don't remove the blackened skins. I remove those as I use them. So for this recipe? I had to slip the blackened skins and too the seeds of seven baggies of chilies!

Roasted Anaheim Chilies I freeze every Fall - removing skins and seeds

And then I start the layering of chilies and cheese. I added half of the browned meat in the middle layer. Then added a 15 oz can of diced tomatoes and 1/2 cup of chicken broth to the 1/2 of beef left in the pan to start cooking down to add at the end. I added 2 Tb of the masa to this mixture as well as my mom's suggested spices . . . Except I don't usually have marjoram, so added extra oregano (I find them rather similar).

Bottom layer of green chilies

Added 1/4-1/3 of the grated pepper jack cheese
Another chile and cheese layer with browned grd beef and onion

Added can of diced tomatoes to 1/2 of left beef mixture to cook down

Third layer of chilies and cheese. Added last of grd beef with tomato mixture to the top and more cheese
Whisked together eggs, 3 Tb Masa, 1 Cup chicken broth, salt and baking powder and poured over the rellenos layers
I added my Mom's parmesan cheese suggestion to the very top.

We had this heated up for lunch today and it was even better!

I have made my own fresh Masa. If requested, I could post the recipe. It's a soaking of corn kernels in pickling lime water all day or night, and then ground fine. It's usually left fresh for corn tortillas and tamales. I've not tried drying it. I just freeze it in small useful portions. If you've ever had fresh corn tortillas from fresh masa . . . to die for!!!!!!

Shared with: Frugally Sustainable, Food Renegade, Make Your Own Monday, Holistic Squid, Works for Me Wednesday, Whole Foods Wednesday, Thank Your Body Thursday, Tasty Traditions, Traditional Tuesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Real Food Wednesdays, Simple Lives Thursday, The Homestead Barnhop, Clever Chick Barn Hop

January 24, 2013

Dyed Clothes

Linen blouse over t-shirt and 2 knit scarves
I like to dye stuff. I've been dying stuff since I took textile art classes as a teenager. I've been a second-hand-store fanatic since high school, thus second-hand clothes. My kids clothes were often over-dyed second-hand clothes. One lady told me my young kiddos were dressed European-style. I'm guessing it was all the bright deep colors I dyed rather than the pastels that dominated the styles long ago.

So when I hunt for treasures, I'm not so interested in the colors. I look for style and then fabric composition - polyesters/ acrylics won't dye. I also get dyeable clothing and material from Dharma Trading Company (lots of great tutorials). In fact I've got an order ready to complete since Monte's geology partner is coming next week and is hoping for more dyed t-shirts and socks.

A favorite book
I start by having everything prewashed and damp. Then soak in a soda ash/ salt mixture in a 5 gallon bucket I keep at the ready in my greenhouse by the sink.  The solution proportions are: 1 gallon hot water to dissolve 1/2 cup of salt and 1/3 cup of soda ash. This can keep indefinitely. Let the damp stuff soak for at least 15 minutes. Dye molecules attach to this quickly - called "striking". I almost always dye now using what Jane calls "Low-water method" rather than a huge amount of dye water. Depending upon what I'm dying quantity amount I either make up 8-16 oz squirt bottles, but more typically a qt container of dye, using only 1 tsp-1 Tb of dye.

Squeeze/ wring out the soaked articles and then scrunch, fold, pleat or make rings. I rarely rubber-band or tye (excepting when over-dyeing a 2nd or 3rd time).

Stainless Steel table, in my greenhouse - Dawson found for me at a Yard Sale

Scrunching socks

Then put scrunched socks in plastic bin

Pleating linen blouse

Pleating center and scrunching 2 ends of blouse

Choosing dye colors

Socks, T-shirts, Linen blouse ready to dye

Dye mixed up in quart containers

Pouring on dye

Poured dye to puddle

Stacking so not a lot of air exposure to sit overnight (or 3 hours at least)

Rinsed and washed, soda ash soaked and ready for 2nd dye of dark blues
Same dyes - Linen took the dyes darker

T-shirt for Monte and matching socks

Garden Seeds/ Speaking/ and Family

One of My Veggie and Fruit Gardens
What to write! Lots has been happening and I've not found breathing space yet. And what to title this post . . . I think I'll ramble, and maybe then an idea will formulate.

Right at the moment? I'm researching my favorite seed catalog and Monsanto. Monsanto bought Seminis - a large, maybe the largest organic seed company - in 2005. There's blogs being written, "Don't let Monsanto into Your Garden!" No matter where you buy your seeds, a large amount of the vegetable seeds come from Seminis. You have to look closely if you're concerned about all this. There's a lot of posting out there that are mainly around the year 2010 - so old. Check for currant info. I'm only researching my seed company.

Why Johnny's? I think I said it in my last post - they breed most of their own seeds. They are a short cool growing season area as am I. I've used their seeds for 30 years. At my altitude of 8000 feet, their seeds work for me. When we moved here I was told I can't grow tomatoes or winter squash, but I do. I have to trick Mother Nature tho. I'm giving up on peppers, eggplant, and okra. I don't know why I keep trying.

Johnny's is now completely owned by their employees and they are a member of the Safe Seed Initiative - which states that they do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered or modified seeds or plants. I know that over the years they have been phasing out these kinds of seeds. So with that knowledge, I still have to order my seeds.

When I wrote my last post, we were in Grand Rapids, Michigan, speaking at their Midwinter Homeschool Conference. Monte and me have not been speaking in that arena for over a decade. We did homeschool our kids all the way thru, till they went to college. When Monte wrote Romancing Your Child's Heart, we were doing parenting seminars, but haven't been doing that for quite awhile as well. We were told by many last weekend that we need to return to speaking; that our message needs to be heard. And we do have lots of messages, having lived a rich life! We'll see what the future holds . . .

Once home, we did our annual visit to Denver's National Stock Show. Little Emery and me have birthdays close together in January and have started the tradition of going to the Stock Show together. He picked his colors and made himself a rope this year. Little Scout rode a pony. Saw lots of animals, spun wool . . . Saw the typical chicken egg production, and glad we're raising our own chickens again. Visited with the spinning and weaving demonstrators (which I used to do a lot years ago). We met friends for a great lunch. Then visited the art exhibit before the little munchkins needed to leave for naps!

Scout on Pony

I spoke at MOPS yesterday. Been a Mentor Mom for 13 years.

I'm going to do a post on what I dyed just before leaving for Grand Rapids and ended up wearing. Actually every day I wore something I dyed, and scarves I knit. In spare moments I knit - always have knitting along wherever I go.

January 17, 2013

Garden Seeds

The gardening catalogs started rolling in around Christmas. January is always the month I begin planning this year's garden and order seeds. Since my growing season is short, I start a lot of plant varieties in my greenhouse. Before I had a greenhouse, plant flats sat by a southern window in my dining room. Because my growing season is cool, I order most of my seeds from Johnnys Seeds, since they are bred for cooler climates and shorter growing seasons. I've been ordering them for almost 30 years.

Johnny's has a great interactive page of seed calculators, seed starting dates and planting dates. Once I've put my last frost date in the space provided on the seed-starter calculator, I copy it and keep it on a clip board. I'll write all over it each year, so I have records of all my doings.

I draw diagrams of all my planting areas adding in each year, what's alive and well, and what's died. They are so full (and colorful as I use differing ink) that I'm about needing to neatly redraw them - maybe on a graph paper. I have started creating some pretty nice 3-ring binder notebooks, trying to organize all my notes and stuff. And my clip board starts getting too full. Especially with the almost 30 years of stuff!

Have you started this process too?

January 15, 2013

A New Page Added

Our 1st Album Cover

I've done a lot of work . . . The new page under my blog's Banner is My Basket of Products. There's my cookbook and Monte's books. His Secret of Singing Springs is hot off the press! It's his first novel. I describe the products on that page.

And too, we created two albums years ago. Monte wrote the music and our kids and I sing with him. I tear up when I hear my current 24 year old Dawson singing when he was 4! So we've finally captured the songs from those albums and combined our favorites into one. It's a free download and you can listen before downloading.

January 13, 2013

Landfill Harmonic teaser

This video has been floating about the internet for awhile. I love it! I'm hoping it gets viewed a lot. When it came through my Reader, being posted again, I thought I'd post it too. And add a bit about my son's instrument creations. Dawson has been making steel cellos. He came up with the idea as an extra curricular project in a Music Appreciation class. We still have that first smaller cello at our home. After that one he's made several other full-size cellos tweaking it for sound improvement. The first of those he sold to a Canadian musician and teacher. Two others have gone to the Piano Guys - here's the song it's featured in most, and the in the last couple minutes of this one. And here's him playing it on youtube, and then his cello playing friend, playing it better (in our home) (he's not a cello player, but a violin player). He wouldn't mind more sales . . .

Our son Dawson's Handmade steel cellos

Thanksgiving music - like the "Saw"

January 12, 2013

NEW DOCUMENTARY: We Are What We Eat [topsoil erosion food organic mon...

Short and Sweet. We all can do our little part. What am I doing?

I buy organic. I garden, making compost I scatter on all my garden beds every year. I get non-GMO chicken feed for my chickens. I buy grass-fed meats. I buy raw milk. I buy pastured butter and cheese. We fish for our fish, or buy from I Love Blue Sea . . .

My compost bin

My chicken coop

One of my veggie/ fruit gardens
Greenhouse gardening
Fermenting foods

Our cellar in process with home-made wines, etc

"Artificial manures lead inevitably to artificial nutrition, artificial food, artificial animals and finally to artificial men and women." - Sir Albert Howard (1873 - 1947), English agronomist

January 11, 2013

Martha, etc, and Homemaking Beyond Maintenance

As I sit here typing, I can see this picture before me on the wall. "Can I "loose" myself as did Mary?
Now the title of my blog, one of my workshop titles is "Homemaking Beyond Maintenance". If you look for it on Amazon it will tell you it's a book not yet in print - so my title and me as the author is there ... waiting ... I've been meaning to write that workshop up into a book. People have requested it over the years.

I mention Mary and Martha. We've all heard countless times about Mary making the 'better choice' in sitting at Jesus' feet. Martha is often denigrated. Housekeeping for several decades became denigrated (though Martha Stewart helped turn some of that around).

I've sat with that scripture often. First I notice, in conjunction with other scriptures, that Jesus often returned to this home in Bethany. Martha always welcomed Jesus into their house and made him feel at home. Martha practiced hospitality well.

Then, it seems Jesus is reprimanding Martha after her requesting that Mary leave listening to Him at His feet and help her in the meal preparations. But in looking closer, I see that Jesus' only complaint is that Martha was 'so distracted and worried by many things'. He didn't mean for Martha to stop preparing the meal - instead, He meant for her to open the eyes and the ears of her heart to be present to Him in what she was doing.

I used to have a book that had some subtitle like "More of Martha to be More of Mary" (that's not it, but like it) - the point being, that maybe if we plan well in our home keeping, we'd be able to also just sit at Jesus' feet. I've taken the time as a Domestic Engineer to research the tools of my trade and how to wield them skillfully.

Martha was engaging in her tasks in a self-preoccupied state that took her awareness away from Jesus' presence. We need to go about our tasks in a state of God-consciousness. Home Keeping can be a labor of love as I use my head, hands and heart in creating a home, moving beyond mundane maintenance into the realm of creativity. In all that I do, am I reflecting the Image of God?

As Mary Englebret says, "Like whatever you do".


New additions to my message came about having sat with the Proverbs 31 woman scripture. I've heard so many talks, messages, and sermons on the passage. Many joking about a "super human woman". My take? As a weaver, spinner, and one who tries dying just about anything, I now see that scripture differently. This is no just practical, just pragmatic lady. This lady is extravagant

From an OLD calendar of mine. My hands are skilled with these tools.

Being clothed in scarlet and purple and linen is extravagant, because those colors are very hard to get from nature - royalty colors. And linen is a hard cloth to produce and of good quality. This is beauty, and an overflow of her heart. She gives freely, and is creative, and hospitable beyond family - to community and the world. She works willingly with her hands in delight.

I could go on-and-on on this subject since I've been asked to speak on it on-and-off over the past several decades. Kathleen Norris spoke on the subject and it was printed into an excellent little booklet, The Quotidian Mysteries - Laundry, Liturgy and "Women's Work"

Brother Lawrence in his kitchen
Another person I mention is Brother Lawrence (his book is - The Practice of The Presence of God). When he joined a monastery he had visions of holiness. Given the kitchen as his work domain was demeaning to him. Eventually he realized, as Jesus' statement to Martha, he could find more pleasure in the kitchen than in the gathering sanctuary, as his state of being ever present to God was Worship. 

And that's what Kathleen Norris says, "Whatever you do repeatedly has the power to shape us," to transform us. What we dread as mindless activity can free us, mind and heart . . . It is a quotidian mystery that dailiness can lead to such despair and yet also be at the core of our salvation. 

God is inviting us to play!

Shared with: Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop, Frugally Sustainable, Simple Lives Thursday

January 7, 2013

Distaff Day

My Spinning Wheel
In days of old, today, which is the day after Epiphany, women returned to their spinning after the holiday season of Christmas. I know of this day because I have a spinning wheel and enjoy spinning yarn from wool. And in this world of spinning, I enjoy the little tidbits of history I learn.

Proverbs 31:19 uses the word distaff: "She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hand holds the spindle". It's been written about thru the ages, and Chaucer classed this art among the natural endowments of the fair sex: "Deceit, weeping, spinning, God hath given to women kindly, while they may live". (We've come a long way baby!)

If you wanted clothing to cover yourself, beyond wearing fig leaves or animal skins, a fiber would need to be twisted into a thread. Then it could be crocheted, knit, or woven into a textile material. The twisting of fiber probably was discovered about the same timing as fire, the lever, and then the wheel.

With industrialization we don't have to spin anymore. This puts spinning in the category of 'heirloom art'. Why would anyone want to spin? I like it because it's fun and relaxing. I can even do it while watching movies. Heirloom art brings us into the process of creating. Heirloom by definition means something of value that is passed down through the generations. Not only its beauty but the fact that your hands created it gives it value.

I have demonstrated spinning at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, and other places. It seems men and boys are more fascinated with the process than females, but I think it's because of the workmanship of my spinning wheel - it's beautiful. I had a man watch for a long time and ask me, "How many miles do you figure you're doing with your feet treadling? How many yards of thread in say a minute, or hour? How long would it take you to get enough and make me a sweater?"

People in days of old didn't have many idle moments, and spinning was one of those very necessary jobs. Hand-held distaffs and spindles were the beginning. Leonardo da Vinci probably made the earliest drawings of the spinning wheel's design. The distaff is different from my spinning wheel. It's used primarily for spinning flax, which is a very long fiber. Once the flax plant is soaked and pounded and the fibers teased apart, they can be woven into linen. It's a much more difficult process than making wool or cotton thread, and it's harder on your hands.

In many cultures, a drop-spindle is still the primary tool, even used by kids walking to school. In our early American history, the colonists were required to give England a quota of yarn and woven material. In order to meet that demand, many single women were taken into households to spin - thus the name "spinster".

Shared with:
Or So She Says, Six Sister Stuff, Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop, Frugally Sustainable, Simple Lives Thursday, Clever Chicks Barn Hop, Homestead Barnhop

January 6, 2013

Stir-Fry Trout and Veggies

Monte just sent me the recipe he made (actually 'we') for supper. We have lots of fish in the freezer, caught by us, friends, and relatives (I'll occasionally buy something special from I Love Blue Sea). My favorite fish is Monte's pan fried recipe, but with so much fish, he thought he'd try stir-fry. So I looked for what veggies existed in the produce bins and pantry and got the veggies ready. Monte of coarse said "yeah" or "nay" as to the suggested choices.

Stie-Fry Fish and Veggies in cast-iron wok

January 2013 Stir Fried Trout

One 18-inch trout-
Fillet and remove bones and skin,
Cut into 3/4 inch wide strips along grain of meat.

Prepare vegetables for stir fry:
1 onion
1 red pepper
About he same amount of :
Yellow cauliflower

In a cast iron stir fry pan add:
Olive oil and heat
Add fish and touch of salt
Season to taste with:
Ground pepper
Lemon peel
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Lightly fry fish turning carefully and often
Remove and set aside.

Add more olive oil and stir fry vegetables in stages
1st cauliflower
2nd onion, pepper and mushrooms
3rd kale
Season with Kirkland organic no-salt seasoning

Add trout back in and turn several times mixing well.

Serve and top with sprinkles of:

Grated Kerry Gold cheddar cheese
Feta cheese crumbles and
Fresh-squeezed lemon

Serve with glass of homemade ginger ale mixed with kombacha.

Vanilla Extract

My homemade vanilla extract with whole beans cut in pieces in vodka
I'm writing this post to put stuff I've researched in one place. I wish I started this long ago when I made my first batch of homemade vanilla extract. 

I grew up next to Mexico and often used Mexican vanilla. I still have a bottle and looked at it - pure imitation! Most vanilla in stores contains added sugars, so not pure. It need not be organic since it's grown in forest loam and no real pests (would this be a 'so far' statement?).

My first two batches were with Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans. One with vodka, which I'm now using, and the second with rum, which is still brewing. "Bourbon" means, or came from, former French Bourbon Islands (now Madagascar). The beans are not started in bourbon, but in Hot water as opposed to drying in hot sun, which Mexico does. Drying produces a tough, woody product. The hot water method is preferable, giving us a soft, pliable bean. There are varieties of curers though - from 'single source' farm cured, to curing houses that take in all sorts of beans.

My current research question is Grade A vs Grade B? From one site -
  • Grade ‘A’ vanilla beans (also called gourmet or prime). These beans are oily and moist. There are about 100 to 120 grade ‘A’ beans (6-7 inch) per pound (7.5 per oz). This vanilla is visually attractive so it can be a feature ingredient in gourmet cuisine. 30% – 35% moisture content.
  • Grade ‘B’ vanilla beans (also called extract beans). This vanilla is less moist and less attractive. But don’t worry, because the flavor isn’t in the water. There are about 140 to 160 grade ‘B’ beans (6-7 inch) per pound (10 per oz). 15% – 25% moisture content.
So which bean grade do we use for our homemade extract? Grade B. Wouldn't the 'gourmet' be better? Think about it . . . With grade A we're paying for appearance and water!

'Split' bean denotes fully ripened beans - some beans will have this minor split end

Now on to the making of it. I don't know if I'll like the rum variety - vodka is the only neutral alcohol. And too, there's grain made vodka, which is now more traditional, and potato vodka, which used to be the traditional method of making it - which still exists if you need to use this type of alcohol.

You can see the tiny vanilla bean seeds floating in the vodka
This next batch I'm making will be made with Madagascar Bourbon Planifolia Vanilla Beans - Grade B and 40% (80 proof) vodka.

Now for the ratio. To make Vanilla Extract you must use 0.8oz (6 beans) per cup of alcohol - but that's the recipe for those with mechanical extraction means. For us hand/ homemaders we should probably use 7-8 beans (1oz or 30 grams) per 8oz or 250 ml cup of alcohol. If you go for less than 6 beans, you're just making flavored booze. With 1 lb of beans, I'm going to make a gallon+ of extract.

Okay, we've got the bean and alcohol amount . . . What is the process? Most recipes will tell you to split the bean vertically and put in the jar. Some will say to scrape out the seeds and still put it all in the jar. I did find an obscure recipe, and it might have been on one of the actual bean selling sites, where they suggested just cutting the beans in 1/2-1 inch increments and put in the jar. So that's what I do. I figure there's a smaller portion of bean and with the occasional shaking over a couple month period, a lot of the seeds are going to work their way out.

And I already mentioned it, but the soak time? At least 8 weeks, but 6 months even better. If you're going to gift it in smaller jars, strain into smaller bottles. But don't do this before at least the 8 weeks. Keep your brew in a dim spot that's not too warm. Shake periodically. I put mine in screw top empty wine bottles and am just using the vanilla from there without straining.

Some sites will tell you to reuse the vanilla beans once strained and add a few more new ones in. I suppose you could, especially if you strained yours at 8 weeks. I've not tried that yet.

1 Gallon of vanilla? you might ask! Do you own a bakery? So what do I regularly use my vanilla in? Yes, for typical baked stuff. But I make water kefir, brewing a new 1/2 gallon every 1-3 days, depending on use (like we drink more in summer) and my favorite flavoring is vanilla. It reminds me of cream soda.

This will be the year of gifting Homemade Madagascar Vanilla Bean Extract. I've seen some cute bottled packages! I'd love to hear feedback on other's experiences.

Shared with: Six Sister Stuff, Or So She Says, Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop, Frugally Sustainable, Simple Lives ThursdayHomestead Barnhop


My wet felt piece fashioned after Fabriano's Epiphany piece

The 12 Days of Christmas are now over and this day, Epiphany, we remember the wise men of Matthew coming from afar following a star to find a child who they recognize as a king. 

They came bearing gifts very strange and foreign to us. I still love the image in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever of the Herdman's dragging a ham before the manger. That was like the widows two mites to them; or the little drummer boy in the song; or the girl of Mexico bringing all she could find - weeds, which turned red (poinsettias). From Bible studies we've learned that frankincense, gold and myrrh were costly gifts fit for kings (for life and burial!).

The art piece is by Fabriano. I change out art on an easel in my house. I like making friends with art work. Art touches me, often judging me. 

There was a phenomena in the sky with three planets close together: Jupiter, Venus, and Mars. This is why the Magi traveled.The explanation for the Bethlehem Star story I like best describes this planet conjunction. Pisces is associated with the Jewish people in astrology, and within its constellation was a conjunction several times in 7 BCE of Jupiter and Saturn, and then Mars joined them. Saturn was known as representing Mesopotamian deity who protected Israel. And Mars symbolized war.

Christians are afraid of astrology and think it evil. Astronomy and astrology combined are the science of observation and interpretation. In 7 BCE there was no astronomy other than astrology. In Genesis we're told God made the stars for 'signs and seasons'. And here in Matthew God is bringing astrologers into Jesus' story.

Were there exactly three wise men? We are told of three gifts. The book Ben Hur names three kings and opens with a dramatic description of how they might have met and traveled together to Bethlehem, but there could have been a whole entourage.If you were dramatizing the whole Advent season with nativity figures, your wise men would be off (afar) in a distance in your house progressing to Joseph and Mary - who would in December be progressing by Donkey to Bethlehem. And baby Jesus and the Shepherds wouldn't show up until Christmas Eve or Christmas day? Many, don't do gift giving until this Epiphany day.

What ever came of these strangers in Jesus' story? Jesus began his ministering when he was 30. Were the shepherds and magi still alive? Did they hear of Jesus? In the silence of 30 years, I often wonder if the shepherds thought that night a bizarre event, maybe even embarrassed about their extravagance ... maybe the most passionate thing they ever did in their life. I like to wonder and ponder.

The Epiphany story is a remarkable story of grace. God doesn't need anything from us - he is the Creator of everything. Here God is receiving gifts. The pagan astrologers were not religious insiders. This is a reminder to me that God is at work in the strangest places, and in the people I least expect to respond to him. I want my eyes to be open to the potential and possibilities of God's grace. God's grace is at work far outside the arbitrary boundaries I construct.
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