The New Challenge
A lady in my Bible study introduced me to a new cookbook she had been using. I’d read and cooked my way through two previous volumes by the same authors, so I decided to give it a fling.
One challenge I face at our home is cooking the proper amount. When all the children are home, it’s a challenge to remember what quantities I need for hungry boys and girls. When they are not here, the opposite is true: I make too much.
As you may remember, I’ve had a few trips south of here to first, visit my new granddaughter, and second care for her while her mother made subsequent trips to the hospital for issues relating to her birth. Having frozen meals in the freezer was a big boon to my husband and his sister, who comes to stay in my absence. She is the ‘emergency’ back up, ready to run for a prescription or an errand if need arises.
They have feasted on the frozen meals. There is a list attached to the side of the refrigerator. All the frozen meals have been placed in the same freezer section so all they have to do is find the item of their desire on the list and then locate it in the freezer. It’s a little like ‘grab and bake’ menu.
So, as I have been cooking my way through recipes that feed 6-8 people (enormous servings sizes). I’ve done one of two things: either I make the recipe as it is written or divide it in half. The deciding factor is usually the quantity of the ingredients. It’s harder to divide a 10 oz. jar of Rotel tomatoes, so I would likely just make the entire recipe.
Now, I have to decide how to preserve what we will not consume in a meal. I could make the recipe in two separate containers, dividing it equally. Or I might make it in one and then transfer it to another container.
My children have suggested that in heaven, my mansion will have two things: shelves covering one wall of every room; and storage containers filling each shelf. The fact that I like organization is no surprise to my family, who may not have the same tendency. I abhor looking for something when I need it. I want it to be in its proper place, to be found, and used.
That said, I have lots of storage containers for freezing but not nearly enough that move from the freezer to the oven. So, I’ve had to become creative in manners of storage.
I’m not keen on using aluminum (including foil) containers for much, whether it is cooking or storage. So, I’ve learned to line my glass or plastic storage containers with parchment paper, add ingredients, freeze, then transfer to a freezer bag.
Obviously, parchment paper lines the container. I’ve experimented with a couple of manners to get the corners to fold just right. The two favorite ways to make a flat piece of paper into a square is to cut a square shape out where the corner is, fold up the ‘edges’ and voila, a ninety degree angle forms a corner. The other way is to cut slits so the corner edges fold around one another creating a corner. If I have something very liquid, I use the latter method, creating more support at the corners.
I freeze my food in the parchment paper lined container. Once it is firmly frozen, I put the frozen container in warm water for just enough minutes so the parchment releases from the container, remove it, and put it in a freezer bag for storage. This preserves the food item; forms it into a shape for stacking in the freezer and/or returning it to the appropriate container for defrosting and reheating; and it in leaves my container for another project. I try to use standard sized containers: 8x8; 9x13, etc.
When my apple tree is in full production in the fall, I use a similar system to make frozen apple pie. I put the desired quantity of apples plus the seasonings into a plastic bag, lay the bag in a pie pan and freeze it. Once it is frozen, I remove the pie pan and stack the ‘pie ingredients’ in the freezer. When I’m ready to bake, the frozen fruit easily slips into the pan, now filled with crust, ready to defrost and bake.
These, folks, are my fast food options. Dietary restrictions prevent our family from ‘eating out’, so eating in, with quick and easy options are our modus operandi. Maybe you can glean from what we need to do to have fast food on hand, ready to go.
Our yard has several kinds of strawberries in it. One variety is called ever-bearing. The idea is that fresh strawberries are supposed to arrive through the season. They should start in June and create blossoms which develop into fruit till fall. Sometimes that works. Other years, it is not as dependable, because of the rainfall and other elements.
Last year I made a big mistake when I planted my garden. I had decided to try my hand at pole beans. These are green beans that vine. I bought bamboo stakes and anchored them in a tepee arrangement and dutifully planted seeds at the base of each of three poles. I also grow bush beans. These grow slightly less than knee high, like a mini-hedge. I decided more bush beans would be a good idea in the last 4’ square, waiting for deposits of seed.
I used my hoe to create trenches in which to lay the beans: four rows spaced about a foot apart. The beans were buried a few inches apart, with visions of a nice little plot of green beans that would produce enough green beans for weekly enjoyment.
I finished covering the seeds pushing the dirt with my hoe, and turned the top of my seed packet down, only to realize I had just planted 16 feet of pole beans. I contemplated whether or not I should dig all the seed back out of the ground. It must have been the end of the day because I decided leaving the seeds in the ground would be a good experiment. Besides, fencing was on two sides of this particular corner of the garden.
Fast forward many weeks and considerable growth. It became apparent more support by way of fencing would be necessary for the vines meandering in the air, searching for support to climb. I found a big piece that could umbrella over the rows and another to create a stop at the end for the vines.
Through the course of the summer, the pole beans bore so many beans, we could not keep up. We ate them often. My neighbors enjoyed them. I froze them weekly. Still the beans kept producing. The more I picked the more would be there the next trip to the garden.
They were delicious and we are going to enjoy beans all winter long! At one point, as I was picking beans, I thought, ‘these are ‘ever-bearing’”. They didn’t stop. They just kept on giving and growing and blossoming. As the blossoms developed less frequently, I decided to prune the vines and let the plants slow down. They had done yeoman’s duty in production. Eventually, the cooler temperatures stopped them altogether.
These beans reminded me of God’s economy. The more we give, the more He seems to give us to use to bless others; to produce more; to share and to experience. It’s the kind of economy I want to grow into. My little experiment was productive . But next year, I’m going to pay more attention to the label before I plant 16 feet of green beans!
Are you ever irritated with the mundane, the little things that can go wrong in your life? Everyone experiences those little inappropriate timings, bumps in the road that raise our ire and make us feel sorry for ourselves.
It happened last week at our house. I came home from my Bible study to learn we didn’t have water. I wasn’t worried. We endured the flood of 1993 with no water for what seemed like a long time. We have a 40 gallon water heater in the basement from which we can draw water for washing dishes. We found a case of bottled water for drinking. We reserve the dehumidifier water for watering plants and I suppose if I boiled that and let it cool we could use it for handwashing. I was thankful I’d done the last load of weekly laundry just that morning before departing.
It was an inconvenience really. I hoped the men who were working to fix the problem were not clock punchers who were keen to get home on a Friday afternoon…a weekend without water would be a bigger inconvenience. They were able to remedy the problem before the weekend arrived.
And then, I sat down to check my email. I’d sent my Hollywood son a package with 3 newly tailored shirts to him. They were not delivered on the day the USPS promised they would be, so I was keen to know if it happened just a day late. And, my email account would NOT turn on. My saved password didn’t trip the right switch. When I typed in the security code I use, it did not work. Technology baffles me so in my head, it either works or it doesn’t. Restarting the computer didn’t fix the problem.
These little bumps in my road are nothing compared to the life of Paul: shipwrecked; whipped; despised for what he believed and feared by Christians. Do you ever stop and consider the biggest inconveniences we experience in our lives are nothing compared to those of the persecuted? And, are we so comfortable we never give a thought to scripture memorization so if the Word isn’t available to read, we have it memorized to give us courage and strength to travel whatever road is before us?
It gives me cause to ponder. It makes me think when our lives are so full of conveniences like running water and electricity to operate our gadgets and electrical equipment, we don’t have a clue what is really important.
I don’t know what your week or your weekend holds. I don’t know what mine holds either. But, I do know this. I want to spend a lot more time with the Lord today while I am able. I want to spend more time hearing his voice. I want to spend more time reading and rereading His Word so it is inscribed on my heart and mind. I want to be prepared for the days ahead so even minor inconveniences are nothing more than a bump in the road. Only He can infuse me with the patience I need for those disruptions in my life that are nothing more than an inconvenience. Only He can prepare me for the urgent issues that may come my way. Only He is the source of my every need. He is the Living Water. He is the Message I want to emulate.
I don’t know what your favorite dessert or meal is. I don’t know that I have one. I’m fond of anything that ‘melts’ in my mouth. Something that has a smooth, delicate texture on my tongue and slides over the taste buds like melted butter. I like silky textures that inspire repetition for the tactile and flavor of a bite.
So when Rebecca R. said to me, ‘Isn’t it DELICIOUS?’ All those sensory issues popped into my brain. Smooth. Silky. Soft. Pleasant. Long lasting. Repetitive.
I had been in the church nursery in a far-away city, holding my sweet nugget of a granddaughter. She is soft and sweet, cuddly, and precious. As I held her near my chest and her head snuggled into my neck, there was a secure feeling in my heart. She was relaxed and trusted my embrace to keep her warm and safe. There was an innate trust in every fiber of her being.
Just the day before, it had been less calm. Something created a tummy ache which caused her to flail her arms; pull up her legs and push them out over and over. Her cries were pathetic pleas for someone to make her feel better. She wanted to achieve that nirvana of peace and quiet but she could not do it on her own. We took turns rocking, soothing, comforting, bouncing, jiggling, swaying to settle her upsets and do something, anything to help her succumb to calm and peace. Whatever ailed her seemed to disappear in time. Sleep, once found, smothered her cries and the next day, all the dismay had disappeared.
As a grandmother, I want to protect her; teach her the ways of the Lord; be gentle and kind, patient and silly with her. But right now, in the very vulnerable moments of infancy, I just wanted to hold her and enjoy her scent. I wanted to cradle her head in my hand and be reminded of the silky texture of new hair. I never wanted those moments to end.
As we rocked, it occurred to me that the posture of my granddaughter, eyes closed, peacefully resting in my arms is the same posture God wants me to take with Him.
But the reality is that when things seem out of whack from my perspective, I might be the one flailing my arms and crying out, demanding, never ceasing that He fix what troubles me. I may not really know the root of the problem, but I know I want SOMEONE ELSE to fix it. And, once I find my sense of peace and calm, I can relax and know that He will take care of things from His perspective.
He wants to hold me securely near His heart. He wants me to trust his grip. He wants me to feel safe in His arms. He also wants to be patient and gentle with me. He will pick me up when I fall if I let him. He wants all the things for me that I want for my granddaughter AND MORE.
He wants more because He can see more. He wants more because He offers more. He wants to savor our trust in Him. We are a sweet fragrance to Him when we take the ‘I’ll trust you wherever you lead me.’
‘Taste and see that the Lord is good.’ Indeed, He is delicious.
Leaving on a Jet Plane
Our little miss arrived in late July. We have had the daily ‘grandparent fix’ via text message. Pictures of our daughter passed out in fatigue on the couch, baby in her arms, in a milk coma.
Photographs of wet hair, post bath. There are dozens of new outfits and several different sleep positions from surrender to side sleeping.
My jet leaves early in the morning for a few days ‘south’ to see our little granddaughter. I’m not certain what to expect. I’ve never been a grandmother before. I hope it involves lots of holding and rocking. She is too little to know or remember and I’m old enough to never forget. The memories will linger long after I’ve returned.
Life has been chaotic at our household. If you read the paper, you know what has been happening in our life. One thing leads to another. An interview lead to an article. The article lead to a host of phone calls and more baton passing to keep up with Matt’s daily schedule and cares. We have had drop in company and more requests for interviews. Political candidates have found their way into our living room and even Matt’s bedroom.
There are no complaints because all our efforts, whether near or far are for the higher good of someone in our family. I can hardly wait to do things for my daughter so she can get more than an hour of sleep here and there. Of course, taking a turn holding the baby will be high on the list, but I envision yard work, dusting, dish making, dish washing, clean up, laundry, and comforting my own little girl, now a mommy. And, I have baby socks on one set of knitting needles and dish cloths on another for the girl who has her own apartment for the first time.
Back home, David will continue to field the requests for information and single handedly care for Matthew. The laundry is completely done. There are more meals in the freezer than he and his helper can possibly eat in the few hours I’ll be gone. The garden has been closely harvested so they should not need to worry about anything.
So, what? We are family. That’s what we do. We give. We move. We encourage. We share. We might laugh or cry together or apart. We roar for the needs of each one in the family. We see needs and we meet them. We work together. We don’t stop. We find new ways to communicate and express our love.
The real church is also a family. We are forming new family units in just a few days. Whether you are single, a couple, or somewhere in between, you are welcome in our family. We will embrace you with open arms and open hearts. We will empathize with you and show the Light of Christ in our words and ways. We will roar for your needs, pray for you, rejoice with you in times of good news and cry when there is pain. We stick together because we are family.
Mark the date: August 29 at the church. Plug in. Find your family. You will be glad you did.
Foot and Mouth Disease
Our two year old nephew recently contracted hand and mouth disease. Who knows where he found it or where it found him? I only know it comes with blisters and discomfort. My children never experienced it and I was very little help on what to know, do or expect.
Yet, I find that Christians suffer from a similar disorder. It isn’t intentional and it often comes from a big heart and a desire to comfort. It’s called ‘foot in mouth’ disease. We have probably all done it. I could lead the pack of those who have said things I wish I could retract. My mind is full of embarrassing comments I’ve made, with great intentions but poor results.
Words spoken are like toothpaste squeezed out of a tube. It isn’t easily returned to its proper place. This is the time of year it is good to work with children on how to phrase comments in a positive fashion and even practice before returning to school.
As we love one another, we must also learn to listen to the heart behind words. I’ve often MEANT one thing but said something that could be understood entirely different.
Having had medical tragedy in our family, here are a few of the things we heard:
Somehow, the Lord protected our hearts from the words and we understood people were trying hard to express their care and love to us.
One of my dear friends had the best comment, one I have often repeated, ‘I don’t even know what to say. There are no words.’
So, let me give you some additional suggestions when you don’t know what to say. Here are some others:
If you know someone who is going through a difficult time (tornado, flood, medical tragedy or diagnosis), hugs are always welcome and convey great love and compassion. Shared tears do as well. Assurances of prayer are kind if they are done.
Practical ways of love: meals, yard work, repairs that your skill can offer, encouragement, a card indicating you are thinking of them.
These skills we need to hone and use regularly. Our family of Lifehouse is excellent at stepping up to the plate and hitting a home run. Let’s remember that ‘neighboring’ can involve any and all of the above. It’s the hands of Jesus at work in our body?
The Second Epiphany
A few weeks ago, I shared my view of the Father’s heart of love for his son and how it impacted me. But a few days ago, a second epiphany came into our household. There were additional tears. They haven’t really stopped. Sometimes, they spring into my eyes before I realize what is happening.
We were old when we started our family. We were older still when our youngest was born. She is the only married child and the closest in proximity to our home. She and her husband live 6 hours from us so we only see them a couple of times a year. They work at a church and she has another job, so they virtually work 6 days a week. It’s hard for them to peel away.
We had a surprise visit from them Thanksgiving weekend last fall. They were driving home from Illinois and detoured through Iowa before arriving in Missouri to deliver a book. The title was BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR, WHAT DO YOU SEE? It was a nice addition to our children’s literature library but the inscription made it particularly special.
Inside the book, we read this: “Grandma and Grandpa, Please read this book to me when I come to visit. Love, Baby N”. We jumped for joy.
Since that time, we have prayed nightly for Baby N. We have prayed for the spirit of this babe to be receptive to the saving grace of Jesus. We have prayed for a safe and healthy pregnancy and delivery. We have prayed for wisdom and direction for its parents. We have covered all the bases for which the Holy Spirit lead us to pray.
The due date came and went. The date of the induction was set in case the baby didn’t get in gear on the doctor’s schedule. We prayed more. We prayed for strength and courage for the parents and for the hospital staff. We prayed for safe travel.
Early Sunday morning, we had a call to announce the trip to the hospital. We prayed all night. We prayed all morning. Twelve hours later, we got another call announcing thirty minutes till they could ‘push’. We prayed all afternoon. My soul ached as I prayed. I could do nothing BUT pray. Hours passed with no announcement. We agonized over what we didn’t know. We continued to pray without ceasing.
Eventually, a brief text arrived, ‘Baby girl. All is well.’ And, we fell to our knees, with tears streaming down our face in praise and thanksgiving for answered prayers. I cannot stop being thankful. Every time the miracle of this baby comes to my mind, tears well within my eyes.
This isn’t about a baby, folks. Though, we welcome our first grandchild with open arms and open hearts, keen to make memories, even if they have to be by snail mail and Face Time.
The epiphany is the ‘crying out’ to God. The epiphany is that this journey was exactly what God wants from us. He wants us to cry out to Him, day and night; night and day. He wants us to cry out when we cannot see the outcome or even the future. He wants us to trust the Holy Spirit to lead and direct. He wants to be first in our lives and He wants us to trust Him, regardless. Trust if the outcome isn’t what we had hoped; Trust if the outcome is everything we desire; Trust if we have to wait; Trust if the answer comes immediately.
Recently, I read in a daily devotional of the manner gratitude opens doors to the Father’s heart. And, this is part of the epiphany, too. Our gratitude in the midst of the situation (not necessarily FOR the situation, but in the middle of it) opens the door to the Father’s heart in ways we cannot imagine.
It will be awhile before we get to hold this little miracle in our arms. We have each written letters of introduction to her; letters her mom can put in a book and she can read as an adult. They are letters of the importance of family ties but more importantly, that the family starts with Jesus. They are letters to plant the seeds in her heart that she is loved from the moment of her conception; we have prayed for her spiritual and physical growth and development; for strength and grace, mercy and compassion for her parents as they rear her; and for her very own personal question to guide every decision in her life: ‘Does this please God?’
We have no greater gift to give her. The closing sentence in my letter went like this: ‘We can hardly wait to share with you all the ways God has sustained us throughout our lives.’ This is our call. This is our mission. This is what pleases God. Especially, when it requires ‘calling to God.’
Her name is Clare Hudson Neyens. She is perfect. She is the image of her mother. And, we love her already.
It’s a love-hate relationship in my refrigerator. Celery is good for so many things: it adds flavor and crunch to many a dish. It’s a great snack because it holds peanut butter or cream cheese. It’s health benefits surpass what we know. But, if it isn’t used quickly, it’s a beast to keep fresh forever.
Maybe you have tried the many methods of keeping it fresh and crisp before it turns brown and soggy. There are paper towels in the plastic bag; specialty containers to keep the moisture at bay, or just leaving it in the cellophane sack in which it is stored at the store. The last has become my favorite. Once I’ve used some stems, I might even wrap a paper towel around it to absorb some of the extra moisture that leeches out. It’s the moisture that promotes rot and decay.
But, today, I want to give you some of the nutritional benefits of the lonely celery plant. It’s a powerhouse for goodies for the body. Primarily, it is high in moisture so it’s a great hydrator (and it spoils quickly unless stored in conditions that manage that moisture).
A, B, C, K are more than letters of the alphabet. They are all nutrients in the mighty celery. But, really the phytonutrients which are anti-inflammatory and antibiotic in nature and improve intracellular communication and boost immune systems are its real winning points. They help repair DNA from damage from toxins in our environment. Think, anti-cancer and anti-heart disease.
Besides the hydrating benefits, it’s a known aid for weight loss. The fiber keeps one full longer and often the desire to eat is quenched with more water intake. These are both met with celery. Add reduced inflammation which is great for anyone with arthritis or other inflammatory issues. The fiber keeps things moving through the system. If heart burn or acid reflux are issues, celery helps with that, too.
Other issues it can aid in alleviating include: managing diabetic symptoms; cardiac health; relief from migraines and asthma; helps prevent cancer and improves immunity; reduces blood pressure and cholesterol; prevents urinary tract infections in women; and helps reduce swelling and pain around joints; improves eye health and prevents macular degeneration; has a soothing effect on the digestive system.
In the heat of the summer, include celery as a snack. Make ants on a log for children. Cut it up and add it to a casserole. Cook it in a soup to be chilled before serving. Eat it between meals, during meals, and before it spoils. But, eat celery. It’s cool, refreshing, and inexpensive.
I walked into the kitchen. Immediately, I could tell something was not right. Fragrant breakfast smells wafted through the air. It should have been a pleasant scene. Something was off.
Lines etched the face of the fellow at the table. Weary was his expression. Tears fill his eyes. His shoulders shook with sadness. Droplets wet his face. Words were unnecessary. I already knew.
“Is it a hard day, already?” I asked.
He nodded in ascent. No words can comfort the grief of a father’s heart. I didn’t try. I held him and let him weep. We have had the conversation before.
“I miss my son. I cannot express how much I miss him. He was so much like me.”
I could not disagree. They were alike. They touched one another in a unique way. The ‘Bull Moose Club’, I called it. They were always wrestling, talking, hugging, playing games. It was a father-son intimacy. There was a give and take; question and answer; push and pull; experiment and discipline. It was unmatched in the yin and yang of a relationship.
The day before I had seen a preview of this duress. Our son had a ‘gang of guys’ with whom he sang in show choir, played golf, basketball, baseball, and football. They continue to rally around him to urge his recovery, remind him of their everlasting friendship, and share the story of their lives. They bring their girlfriends and babies to see him. They have become adopted children to us.
They had come to celebrate the big ‘3-0’. They have all passed the same land mark. It was an opportunity for them to remind him their friendship had not waned. We spoke from our heart to these men and their feminine companions. It was a teary day for all of us. We told them we were living our son’s life vicariously through them. They were all he wanted to be: entrepreneurs, dads, athletes, sons, brothers, uncles. We were adopting each of them as sons and daughters because of their strong relationship with our son.
I was reflecting on how to encourage my husband. Each of us grieves what we will never know in his/her own way. We grieve for what Matthew must endure each day. We weep for what might have been. As I tried to find words of comfort, the image that flooded into my mind’s eye dropped me to my knees.
This is the way my heavenly Father reacts when He longs for relationship and there is no response. He weeps. His shoulders shudder. Maybe he even looks weary. For, He longs for the intimate relationship with His sons and daughters. Our rejection, our ignoring or not listening saddens His heart. Like one whose love is spurned, he suffers from our rejection. He aches. For His heart is to love and our response to Him, regardless of our emotion, does not dilute His love.
He aches for having the fine gifts He desires to give, rejected. He sorrows that we thumb our nose at the test to make us stronger. He bristles as our eyes roll in rebellion because we want to do things our way. He is sad because of our arrogance and lack of humility.
His desire is for us to run into his open arms. He wants us to wrestle mentally and physically with difficult questions and situations. He wants to accompany us on the journey, giving us advice to help; encouragement to keep going; strength to finish the race. He desires hearts and minds willing to learn and be nurtured in kindness and gentleness. He wants us to depend upon Him for wisdom and courage.
Oh, that I would know how my response would lightened the heart of my Father. The desire of my heart is to run to Him in joy and in sadness; to share with Him my glee or disappointments. To feel His comfort and hear His voice soothe my fears.
What a visual my husband has given me for the great, undying, deep, abiding love of a father for his child. Never do I want to disappoint my heavenly Father or cause Him this kind of pain.
Summer is in Full Swing
Maybe I’ve rung this bell before: school is out and the herd is restless! If you are a parent, you have already been dealing with the new ‘summer schedule’. Your job forces you to alter the schedule, keep everyone happy, well fed and hydrated.
Victoria Prooday recently wrote an article on what children need in their lives to become healthy individuals. Many times, whether from cultural norms, exhaustion, or laziness, we parents become the enemies of ourselves and our children. Rather than focus on all the things parents do wrong, I want to share with you her suggestions for how to best meet the needs of your children.
There are no guarantees this will be easier or will make life smoother. It is a list of what children need for normal, healthy growth and development.
“If we want our children to grow into happy and healthy individuals, we have to wake up and go back to the basics. It is still possible! I know this because hundreds of my clients see positive changes in their kids’ emotional state within weeks (and in some cases, even days) of implementing these recommendations:
2. Teach responsibility and independence. Don’t over-protect them from small failures. It trains them the skills needed to overcome greater life’s challenges:
3. Teach delayed gratification and provide opportunities for “boredom” as boredom is the time when creativity awakens:
4. Be emotionally available to connect with kids and teach them self-regulation and social skills:
We must make changes in our kids’ lives before this entire generation of children will be medicated! It is not too late yet, but soon it will be…”
**This story was written by Victoria Prooday, a registered Occupational Therapist, Psychotherapist, founder and clinical director of a multidisciplinary clinic for children and parents. It originally appeared on her website.
I’ve included her website (above) so you can read the entire article if you would like.
As parents, we made our fair share of mistakes (it’s how we learned) but we also did some things right. We also didn’t have much of the technology available today to use, limit, or navigate. Our children (as adults) have thanked us for limiting the video games, electronics, etc. They used to complain that we lived in ‘the dark ages’. Now, we observe how they view life and are grateful we used some of the techniques mentioned in this article.
Each family will make decisions that work in its situation. Each will be different. Use what works for you! And enjoy the summer because the bells for school to start will be ringing before we know it.