what is my knee-jerk reaction?

I’ve often heard it said that hindsight is 20/20.  I completely agree.

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading through old journals and was able to see where I have grown in my understanding of a very real struggle in our life throughout the years.

That struggle is my response to our financial/material circumstances.  I have often had a “knee-jerk reaction” to the times when I feel our family has a “need” and I cannot see how in the world it will be met.  My natural inclination was to panic, and try to figure out how to bring in more money to our household.

While I think that supplementing the family income can be a wonderful thing, I have my doubts that doing so because of a “knee-jerk reaction” is a wise way to go about it.

These are a few things I have learned, especially in this past year, that have changed my perspective on how to respond to our family’s “needs”.

  1. God is our ultimate source of provision.  He might use our career, He might use our creativity and hard work, He might use our church family, or He might use a stranger or a situation to provide what we need.
  2. I have had to redefine “need”.  While I might think that we need a large bag of yummy looking fresh fruit for our family, I have learned that sometimes that need is met by receiving a batch of pears that are almost “gone” and picking through, cutting off the rotten spots and using the good parts.  Maybe they won’t receive a whole pear each, but instead, they get chunks of pear to eat with their yogurt.  Instead of “needing” a whole loaf of French bread to go with soup, I can use just a couple of crusty rolls by slicing them, drizzling with olive oil and toasting under the broiler.  It is sufficient-and pretty darn nice, if you ask me!  Maybe instead of purchasing brand new gifts for our boys this Christmas, we will be able to find them each a gift from one of the thrift stores in our area.  Maybe we don’t need to keep the thermostat at 65 to keep the house warm, but we can stay warm by lowering the thermostat and wearing an extra layer (or two!).
  3. I need to feel confident in the role I play in my household.  We have chosen to be a one income family so that I could stay home and take care of the children and the house.  I fully embrace the fact that Chris’ role is to bring in the paycheck, and I get to stretch it as far as it will go.  I think that having confidence in the role that I have chosen helps me avoid the “knee-jerk” reaction of thinking it is my responsibility to bring in more income.  When those times come that I am paying bills and buying groceries and I don’t see how to make things work, I pray for creativity as I juggle our budget and take one day at a time.
  4. The one day at time concept is one that I learned this past year while we were unemployed for several months.  I am a planner.  And while this can often be a good thing, it has often interfered in my ability (and choice) to trust in God’s daily provision.  If we need dish soap today, I will go ahead and purchase it.  I no longer stress that if I purchase what I need today that I won’t be able to get what we might need next week.  He has never failed to provide exactly what we need, and just when we need it!  We often turned to Matthew 6:25-34

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing,  yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

I also love this passage from the chapter of Proverbs, verse 8-9

    “Second, give me neither poverty nor riches!
    Give me just enough to satisfy my needs.
For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say,“Who is the Lord?”
    And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.”

It all boils down to trust.  When we find ourselves in a seemingly impossible place, between our income and our needs, I no longer experience the knee-jerk reaction of panic and scrambling for what I think we need.  Trust in who God is and what He does keeps me hanging on even tighter to my role as homemaker and ask for the creativity and perseverance that I need to accomplish what He wants me to accomplish.  As I focus on being here for my boys and taking care of our home, He has never failed to take care of us, nor will He ever!

Meal Plan

A meal plan for the next little while…

BREAKFAST

  • Monday-cold cereal, muffins, fruit
  • Tuesday-oatmeal, muffins, fruit
  • Wednesday-eggs, bagels, fruit
  • Thursday-oatmeal, muffins, fruit
  • Friday-granola/muesli, muffins, fruit

LUNCHES

  • Monday-peanut butter and honey, veggies, pretzels
  • Tuesday-pita pizzas/burritos/quesadillas, veggies
  • Wednesday-meat sandwich, veggies, chips
  • Thursday-soup/salad, bread/muffins
  • Friday-tuna/egg salad sandwich, veggies, pretzels

DINNERS

  • freezer meal (busy day)
  • crockpot meal
  • meatless meal
  • soup meal
  • meatless meal
  • nice meat meal with dessert
  • leftovers or ramen noodles

PRE-MAKE

  • muffins once a month (take bag out of freezer the night before)
  • make large batch of granola/muesli once a month
  • slice and bag all veggies once a week
  • every two weeks, make up a bunch of quesadillas, burritos and pita pizzas and freeze
  • make biscuits and cheesy bread/freeze until ready to bake
  • double recipes like baked spaghetti, chili, rice and black bean bake, other soups, etc

5 of my favorite “bulk” foods

I have purchased in bulk for several years. One reason being-it was often cheaper to do so. Another reason was that it made sense to purchase large quantities for our family of seven. Now, I love the convenience of having certain items always on hand.  These are some of my favorites…

  • OLIVE OIL..I started out purchasing one bottle at a time from Aldi.  But those days are over.  I now purchase the gallon jug at Sam’s Club.
  • RICE…I used to keep only brown rice in the house, but I broke down last week (after borrowing some twice from my friend) and purchased a 20 pound bag of basmati rice.  If you’re gonna eat white rice, at least eat basmati.  It is lower on the glycemic index than other white rices.  I felt I could justify an occasional meal with white rice since we eat so many other whole grains.  Anyway, I now have two types of rice in the house.
  • BEANS…the bean that I keep in stock is the pinto bean.  It cooks up nicely, and is very versatile.  Sunday supper is rice and beans.  I chop up whatever veggies are in the frig (tomato, green pepper, zucchini, green onion, white onion), put out the cheese and sour cream or Greek yogurt and everybody dives in and makes up a yummy bowl of rice and beans!
  • GREEK YOGURT…this is a relatively recent addition to our kitchen, but it has definitely become a staple.  My husband loves it with fruit and granola for breakfast, we have started using it in place of sour cream, I just used it yesterday to make a creamy caesar salad dressing, and I also use it in baking.  I love it when some thing I love is also good for me!
  • PARMESAN CHEESE…and I’m referring to shredded Parmesan cheese, not the cheese that Kraft makes.  I make a lot of Italian-type dishes and so I am frequently pulling the Parmesan cheese out of the frig.  Just like my olive oil, I used to buy small containers at Aldi, but now I purchase a large container at Sam’s.  They add just the right tanginess and texture to so many meals.  (right now, I could SO eat a whole bowl of pasta with a drizzle of olive oil and a (big) sprinkle of Parmesan cheese!!)

We do keep other bulk items on hand (wheat berries, popcorn, butter, rolled oats, coconut milk, spices) but these are a few of my faves.  Now, I’m off to make supper for tonight…lentil soup with crusty bread!

Recipe for "loving to cook"

Several years ago, cooking was not something that I even remotely enjoyed.  I (usually)did it, but only because I loved my husband and children.  It was a dreaded task, that at times my husband tackled after getting home from his job.
One day, in a desperate attempt for clarity in my goals as a wife/mommy/homemaker, I asked my husband to prioritize five aspects of my daily life.  I needed his thoughts on what he was needing from me, his helpmeet.  His number one request was that I made dinner every night.
And that day, many years ago, started the journey toward becoming someone who loves to cook.
These 5 things were key ingredients in the transformation:
  1. I began to make out (and use) a MENU.  At first, we just rotated through several of our favorite meals.  I didn’t try anything new.  I was just trying to get dinner on the table for my hardworking husband.
  2. As I started looking at more cookbooks and magazines (I was really into Taste of Home during those years), I was overwhelmed with all the meal choices that lay before me.  So, I started  SCHEDULING THE MENU, meaning I assigned certain types of meals to different days of the week.  For example, Monday-soup, Tuesday-chicken, Wednesday-meatless, Thursday-beef, Friday-pizza night, Saturday-fish, Sunday-meatless.  Through the seasons and the years, the schedule changes, but my method has remained the same.  Although I was trying new recipes, I still didn’t love cooking.
  3. A few years ago, I discovered how much fun it is to cut veggies when you are using SHARP KNIVES!  Go figure, right?  We were at my parents, and during that visit, I purchased the same brand that my mom had in her kitchen.  After several months, the knives became dull and the thrill of slicing veggies was wearing off.  But, voila!, one day while shopping at our local whole foods store, I found a knife sharpener made specifically for this brand of knife.  Woohoo~I’m a happy chef again!
  4. And while it has its drawbacks, the MEDIA has been a huge source of learning for me.  Between Food Network (boohoo! we are canceling in two months!) and some great blogs I have found, I am learning about different types of food and cooking techniques.  And when one understands what they are doing, I believe they tend to enjoy it more.  Now, making dinner is also my hobby.  I love putting on music and cooking my little heart out!
  5. The last thing which contributes to my love of cooking is the ability to be SPONTANEOUS.  As I am expanding our food horizons and keeping more ingredients on hand, I am discovering how much fun it is to come across a recipe and then discover that I have everything in the house I need to make it.  For example, I never used to cook with onions or red wine, but now that I keep these things on hand, when I come across a yummy recipe like this, I can make it right then and there…and that, to me, is fun!

It has taken several years, and lots of trial and error, but I can now officially say, “I love to cook!” (and I’m pretty sure my husband is REALLY, REALLY happy about that!)  Next week, I’ll share my favorite bulk foods to keep on hand!

Feelin’ Brave!

After discovering Iowa Girl Eats about a month ago, I have been speedily adding new recipes to my menu. She is a such a fun writer and a great cook, I want to cook every single thing on her blog!

Chinese food was on today’s menu. In the past, I’ve always used bottled stir fry sauces, dipping sauces, etc. But not today! No way! Her directions made cooking “from scratch” so very simple.

So, with her excellent instructions guiding me every step of the way, I made this absolutely delicious meal for lunch. Very easy beef and broccoli, baked crab rangoon and sweet chili dipping sauce were devoured by my very appreciative family!

Today

Today…

the kids are all doing school peacefully (for the most part)

my husband is away on a business trip and won’t be home until tomorrow night

the dog desperately needs a bath.

I am working on the menu for the second half of the month. I have recently discovered a new food blogger. {Iowa Girl Eats} I am planning on using several of her recipes-yummy!

my landlord is fixing some things around the house before work takes him to CA for several months

I am anxious to find out if this steroid injection into my SI joint will relieve my pain

my heart aches for my dear friend, who just lost her 20 year old nephew in a rock climbing accident. I wish I could carry some of her pain for her.

I dream about eternity. The new heaven and new earth. Sights and sounds and colors that are beyond my wildest dreams. Perfect fellowship. To be forever in the presence of the great I AM. I can only imagine.

Catching up!

My computer has been at the “computer hospital” for over a month now. And probably a couple more weeks before I get it back. They fixed the original problem, but when my husband went to pick it up from the store, we found out that they had put on a defective keyboard. And they actually thought we would be okay with that! Umm, no. Not okay with that. At. all. So, we sent it back and they told us it would take about two weeks to get it back (but that is also the time frame they gave us the first time it was sent out!) I am trying (and often failing) to be patient…

In this past month, I have come to realize how much I rely on the computer. I balance our checking account, pay bills, use recipes, communicate with people, listen to music, check the weather, shop the local grocery store ads, get directions for places, and more… In addition, our children’s schooling is all online, so I’ve been trying to share their computers with them at the same time they are trying to do their lessons-not exactly convenient.

All this to say, I am thrilled that my husband found me an unused computer at his work place that I can borrow until I get mine back from the store! It has been wonderful! I feel connected and able to do my “job” now that I have this tool in my hands.

It has been over a month since I wrote last, but it feels like much longer. Some of the things that have happened are…

our youngest son celebrated his 11th birthday-I really love that kid-so thankful to God for him!

all my kids went in to the dentist and only two came out with cavities. Yes, the goal is zero cavities, but it was an improvement from the last visit-so I was happy. We found a dentist that we really love. I thought I would never find someone as good as our previous dentist, but Dr. Luther and his office staff are amazing!

my daughter and I went down to Wauwatosa to pick up my mom, who came up for a short visit. We spent the night down there, with some friends of my parents that I hadn’t seen in years. It was so nice getting to visit with them. On our way home, we stopped at the outlet mall in Oshkosh, where I purchased a 14″ stainless steel skillet that I’ve been thinking about for several months-I am loving it!

this is what I have learned about stainless steel cookware. I do not need the heat near as high as I do in my hard anodized cookware (learned that one the hard way), and so far, it cleans up beautifully! (Tip from my mom: if needing to clean a pan that has lots of hard, cooked on food, place a clean dryer sheet in the pan with some warm water. Let is soak for a while, in our case, overnight. The next morning, it will wash up beautifully!) We’ve only needed the dryer sheet method once-since I discovered the whole “lower heat” thing!

for spring break, we went down to visit my siblings in Indiana. And it was so. much. fun. I have been so blessed to live nearby two of my sisters since we first moved back to Wisconsin. But one sister lives in Indiana. And while we try to get together at least once a year, it is not nearly enough. It was just wonderful getting to spend that time with her. So between our girlie visits and fun times spent with my brothers and their wonderful wives and kids, we had a week that was absolutely heavenly. And I mean it-I cannot wait until we have all of eternity to be together!

my kids are doing great in school…we are scheduled to be done around the end of May. I think that all of us are looking forward to summer break.

we continue to watch my cousin’s baby boy, who is absolutely precious! The kids are so good about picking him up and handing him to me, since my back doesn’t allow for that right now. He is smiley and talkative, and he loves his cousins!

my back continues to heal, more slowly than I would like. It truly has been a patience-producer. There are so many things that I want to do (simple things…like reaching into my cabinets, or grocery shopping, or scrubbing the shower!) that I cannot yet do. My physical therapist says that I am doing great, right on schedule, and that I will soon see the light at the end of the tunnel. So, I just keep plugging away at my therapy, and trusting that God knows how long this healing process will take.

Through all these past several weeks, I have pondered so much what eternity will be like. Knowing that the best that this earth has to offer, whether in loving relationships or the beautiful creation around us, is nothing compared to the glorious new heaven and earth that await us. It is just something that I love to think about, and that encourages my heart many times a day!

Their are two holidays that I love…and by that I do mean holy days. One is Thanksgiving-not mandated by God, but certainly a time that I love to reflect on His faithfulness. The other is this week-this Holy week. I cannot help but get goosebumps, tears in my eyes and a heart that feels like it will burst when I contemplate what Christ did for me.. The cross~I think that is where the tears come in . But the goosebumps and bursting heart…how can you think of that glorious morning when He rose from the grave, conquering death itself, without being in awe?

I wonder how many more Easter Sundays we will celebrate before we are taken up into heaven and get to see those precious nail-pierced hands and feet. I cannot think about that without tearing up. Oh, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

I know these thoughts are a bit random and scattered, that is truly a reflection of this woman’s life right now. A lot going on, but desperately wanting Him to always be in every detail.

Spaghetti Squash

On Saturday, I baked up three spaghetti squashes that my sweet neighbor gave to us and used them instead of pasta for the Mediterranean Chicken that I made that night. Although I’ve read about doing that, I’ve never had the foresight to cook up the squash before we had a pasta meal. But being intentional paid off…I prepped the squash, let it cool (and sit for part of the day) and when evening came, I just scraped out the strands and sauteed them in EVOO with salt, pepper and a little crushed pepper flakes, then topped it with the sauce I had made. It turned out to be a very tasty dish that earned 4 stars with my family.

Several years ago, I started asking my family to rate our meals. The scales goes from 1-5….

5 means “I LOVE this! I could eat this once a week!”

4 means “This is good…I’d eat this a couple of times a month!”

3 means “Having this dish once in a while wouldn’t be so bad.”

2 means “I’ll finish, but only so that I can have dessert.”

1 means “please don’t make me eat this…I’m going to vomit”

So, while I could eat curry every week, my dear husband could not. He has given it a 3, and so I know that at least I can have it once in a while, and he knows that (thankfully) I will only serve it once in a while. We’re both happy!

Today, in my attempt to save money, I am looking online at all the online grocery ads, and making lists and will be making a menu off of what is on sale. Honestly, I do not love this…but I’m praying that eventually the savings I’ll see will keep my heart from dreading this weekly chore.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Breadsticks, Pumpkin Seeds, and a Great New Book!

Our ISP thinks they have discovered and corrected the issues that we’ve been having with our internet, so hopefully I can continue posting on a daily basis for the rest of this monthly challenge.
On Wednesday, instead of purchasing garlic bread from the store, I decided I would make Parmesan Breadsticks by hand. I made them with 100% whole wheat flour, but next time I think I will use spelt flour, and maybe add a little white flour, to soften the flavor.

On Thursday, my son wanted to make Chocolate Chip Cookies (and he makes VERY good chocolate chip cookies). But, alas, we didn’t have any more brown sugar, and no money with which to buy some. I suggested that he make the brown sugar, like we did growing up in South America. All you have to do is add molasses to regular sugar and mix it up real well. My son and husband, who aren’t huge fans of molasses cookies, were a little dubious, but I insisted that it would be just fine! I helped him get it started, then left for choir practice. When I got home, I asked my hubby how the cookies were. He said they turned out great!!!

On Thursday, I noticed that our neighbors were carving pumpkins and I asked them if they liked to roast the seeds. She said that she wasn’t going to because she was the only one in her familythat really ate them. So, I asked her if I could have them, and she very kindly shared them with me! I let them dry overnight, and then roasted them in the morning with 2 Tb. of butter, salt, pepper, cayenne and Cajun seasoning. (They can be addicting)

And now, that great book I mentioned…
My mom passed on a book to me a while ago, called “Having a Mary Spirit…allowing God to change us from the inside out” by Joanna Weaver. She also wrote “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World”, and my girlfriends and I worked through that book several years ago.

I believe that the Spirit kept whispering to me to pick it up and look at it. I had recently finished reading through the Old Testament, and I was praying about where I should study next during my morning time with the Lord. I don’t often use books for that purpose, but I was strongly impressed to pick it up and look at it. And when I did, I knew that He was indeed wanting to teach me something about Himself through this study. Here’s a little of what I’ve been reading.

“I can’t imagine anything more terrible than getting to the end of my life only to discover that God had so much more in mind for me-more freedom, more joy, more peace, more true effectiveness. And I had missed it all, simply because I refused to change.”

“Continually striving, yet never arriving. Hoping, praying to be different, only waking up to find you’re not as far along as you’d hoped to be. Sometimes feeling like you’re right back where you started-again!”

“If I could just be good enough and do the right things, then I would please God. But in my heartfelt desire to serve and honor the Lord, I fell prey to the same lie that deceived the Pharisees so long ago. The lie that holiness is up to us.”

“To think that Christ gave us so much only to have us experience so little brings tears to my eyes.”

“Satan wants me-and he wants you!-to be so constantly preoccupied with what we’re not that we never get around to realizing all that God is.”

The verse that I am memorizing…

Philippians 3:12-14 “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do, forgetting what is behind and straining toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

and the song that we are learning in choir, which plays itself over and over in my heart, reaffirming what I am reading and learning in the mornings…