Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I'm on the Road Today...

Today I'm posting over at Desiring Virtue. If you haven't checked this blog out before, it's a wonderful community of Christian women talking about homemaking, recipes, theology and much more. Jessalyn has put together a wonderful group and I'm so happy to be part of what's happening over there!

This time I'm writing about my own testimony. While I've given it in various forms at retreats and church events over the years, this is the first time I can remember actually writing it down to publish. Here's a preview:

I’ve known people who have those amazing, “Road to Damascus” moments in their testimony where in one mighty act, God turned their hearts to Him. God’s grace has worked in my life in more subtle ways so I cannot pinpoint one exact moment where I went from unbelief to belief. For me, salvation has been more of a process than one event.

I was raised in the church. I grew up in a strong and wonderful Presbyterian (PCA) church in Virginia where I found myself surrounded by a church family that loved each other and loved the Lord. It was a lovely place to grow up and to learn, and I don’t think I remember a time when I didn’t believe in Christ as Savior. I did all of the usual “good Christian girl” things like studying the Bible, and reading wonderful books such as Beautiful Girlhood, which made me want to grow up to be the sort of woman I saw modeled for me in the church. However, it was a childhood faith focused very much on what I needed to do and I still had much to learn about who God wanted me to be...

And you can find the rest here at Desiring Virtue.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Vermicelli Anita

I love getting local cookbooks from different places. I pick them up whenever I go on an out of town trip and I've gotten a few as gifts also. This recipe is a favorite of mine from a New Hampshire cookbook called Seafood Expressions that I got as a bridal shower gift. It's very tasty, and none of the ingredients will break the bank either.

Vermicelli Anita

12 oz. vermicelli
2 T. butter
1 1/2 - 2 medium onions, minced
2 cups crushed tomatoes
2 7oz. cans tuna in oil (I splurge and use albacore in oil as it's a little less greasy than the regular tuna)
2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Cook vermicelli in large saucepan.
2. While pasta is cooking, saute onion in butter in a saucepan until soft, over medium-low heat.
3. Stir in tomatoes and cook 5 minutes.
4. Break tuna into pieces, add to sauce and simmer for 5-7 minutes.
5. Add peas, stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
6. Place vermicelli on plates and spoon sauce over it. Garnish with chopped parsley. Add grated parmesan cheese, if desired.
Serves 4, but can be doubled with a slight adjustment to cooking times.

NOTE: I sometimes have trouble finding vermicelli locally, so I will substitute angel hair pasta broken into smallish pieces. That's actually what I did in the batch shown in the picture above.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Safe From the Storm

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!

- Psalm 107:1

Last week saw me through an earthquake, microburst storm, and Hurricane Irene. Yet in the midst of all this, I found myself prayerful and calm. The earthquake was extremely unsettling, tornado-like microburst storms can be sudden and very scary, and I'm sure everyone heard the weather reports of Hurricane Irene. Thankfully, aside from a brief power outage and a little basement flooding, we're fine. Praise God!

I did get nervous on occasion, and we spent a lot of time preparing for the hurricane. However, I can honestly say I felt a calm at the heart of it all. And that calm came from God. I knew that He was with me in the heart of every storm and I felt that deeply. No matter what happened, it would work to His glory and we would be kept safe if that was within His will.

Knowing this brought me a greater sense of peace than I think I would have had living through something like this even 10 years ago. This week has been one of those truly beautiful ones where in the midst of great concern, I can feel Him with me. And as a small child walking beside her Father in a new and scary place, I know I'm safe even if I don't know what we'll see next.

Friday, August 26, 2011


The world tells us youth is magical, and in a way it is. But after that, the world rather misses the point. For in its zeal to make us long to be forever young, it doesn't see or show us the wonderful treasures that come as time goes on.

If I were my young college-girl self, I would never have the confidence I have now. Back then, it was so much easier to listen to others telling me what a should be. Harder to listen to that still small voice saying to me which way I should go even if I was to go places that no one else in my church would be going.

And then there's wisdom. I have been through "many dangers, toils and snares" already with God and I've learned from those. I still have much to learn, but I have grown in wisdom from the girl I used to be. When I look at the older women I have known, I know I have a long way to go. So many of these ladies have stored up a treasure house of wisdom over the years. The mainstream media may place more value on those who look 20, but the real treasures tend to lie behind deeply wrinkled faces.

Somehow I think that the older we get, the more wonder remains for us to discover. Life abounds with treasures and God does not reserve them all for the very young.

This was written in five minutes with no editing for Five Minute Fridays over at The Gypsy Mama.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

On Infertility and Strength

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
- Isaiah 40:31

I keep this verse taped up inside my wardrobe. I have other verses in different places around the house, but those are stories for another time. Every morning as I get dressed, this is my reminder of Him in whom my hope rests. Most days do not start off badly for me, but there are some mornings where I desperately need that reminder of the strength that comes from God.

Everyone has their struggles, and one of the big ones in my life has been infertility. I've been married 10 years, and for at least 8 of those, I have so deeply longed to be a mother. It's not simply that most of my friends both online and off have children of their own. I've always loved working with children and being around children. For years I thought of how much I wanted children and how I hoped they would be raised. I had always envisioned myself as a mother someday and dealing with the idea that it just isn't happening short of a miracle has been quite difficult to me.

It's not a struggle I talk about often. What can I say? I come from a family of stoic and dignified Virginians who would never dream of airing their innermost sorrows in public. And yet, if I am to be real and authentic with my sisters in Christ, I can't pretend that I don't struggle with this issue or that that aren't days when longing just becomes too painful and I can't bear the thought of hope.

And yet, even on the worst days, those sorts of days when I feel horrible sadness and can't even come up with the words in my cries to God, I know He is there. His strength is what carries me through even though sometimes the way is very hard indeed. And I know He has a purpose for me. I may not know what it is entirely, and I'm certain I stumble along the way, but I know He is there. And I depend upon His strength and His saving grace as I walk this often trying road. I do not know where it is taking me, but I know who has me in His grip.

"my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning."
- Psalm 130:6

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Midweek Links - Children with Special Needs

I'm posting a little late today. What can I say? I usually write my posts the day before so that I can edit before I post, but the earthquake yesterday distracted me a bit. At any rate, I read some pieces over the past week that really touched my heart and I want to share them with you.

First of all, I found this blog over at (in)courage and Rebecca's profile of Bethany really moved me. Definitely go read this! Bethany is a very special little girl in Eastern Europe who needs to find an adoptive family. She has special health needs and her case is time-sensitive. Her smile captured me as soon as I saw her picture, and I've been praying for her ever since.

My reading about Bethany drew me next to Reese's Rainbow. I've been reading up on this organization and I'm finding find the work they do to assist with special needs adoption so encouraging! One thing I like about this organization as a Christian is that not only do they seek donations, but they also seek people to pray for individual children until they make it to their forever homes.

When I worked full-time, I spent much of my professional time working with and on behalf of the disabled and elderly and one thing that I noticed is that families with special needs kids work very hard to educate and care for their children. However, many expressed the wish that their children could be integrated into more church and social activities. I have found Joni Erickson Tada's story inspirational and I find her website extremely helpful as it has links to all kinds of resources as well as information on things such as helping children with special needs understand the love of Jesus.

And here are just a few observations I've made about being friends with special needs children and their families from my own circle of friends. Obviously, your friends' preferences may vary so it's something that you may want to discuss with them indivudually.

- Celebrate ALL of the children in the family. Celebrate each child's birth and major events.

- Depending on the nature of a child's needs, there may be a lot of transporation arrangements and doctor/therapist appointments to juggle. If you are able to help with transportation, babysitting or even just bringing by a meal, those are all wonderful ways to love a family.

- Children with special needs are individuals, too. If you get to know a child's individual likes and capabilities, you can reach out to that child more effectively.

- This is one that almost all of my friends mention - their children like to be included in church picnics, Easter egg hunts, birthday parties, events of all kinds. If their child's needs permit it, invite them out.

I'm sharing this with:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Eggplant for Gina

My bloggy friend Gina was asking on Facebook today for eggplant recipes. I get the impression that she wants something a little healthier than my super-cheesy Eggplant Parmesan, so here is a yummy recipe that I got at a kitchen shower back when I got married. The lady who gave it to me put on a note on here telling me that it came from a church cookbook in Virginia Beach.

I didn't have any eggplant on hand, so there's no picture but here's the yummy recipe for...
Eggplant Casserole

3T olive oil
2 eggs
1 onion, chopped fine
1 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/4 tsp. sage
1/4 tsp. poultry seasoning
2 eggplants, sliced
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup rye bread crumbs

1. Grease casserole dish with half of olive oil.
2. Mix eggs, onions, mushrooms, and seasoning together.
3. Alternate layers of eggplant, egg/onion mixture, and cheese, continuing in this manner until ending with cheese on top.
4. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake at 350 for 40 minutes.

A Summery Dinner Salad

This recipe lends itself well to those hot summer days when all one wants is a rather light dinner. The only cooking needed is to prepare the couscous and I tend to either do that the night before or to do it in the early morning before it gets too hot.

Summer Couscous Salad

1. Boil 1 cup chicken broth and then stir in 3/4 cup couscous.

2. Take the pan off heat and let sit, covered tightly, for about 5 minutes.

3. When you remove lid, all or almost all of the broth should be absorbed. Take the couscous and place in a bowl. Mix in about 1/3 cup of Italian dressing (If I don't have time to make my own, I normally use Annie's Naturals. I like my salads not to have very heavy dressing, but if you want more, you can always add more dressing.)

4. Refrigerate the couscous for at least 3-4 hours, or overnight.

5. Now the fun part - add veggies! I do this based on what we have in season, so last night I made this salad with halved cherry tomatoes, chopped up green pepper, and a can of sliced water chestnuts to give it some added crunch. In the spring, I will often do a variation of this salad with chopped spinach and shredded Parmesan cheese.


Monday, August 22, 2011

The Wonderful World of Media?

Over the past few weeks, I've been participating in Media Mondays over at Women Living Well. It's been eye-opening to explore how social media changes our walks with God, affects our health, homemaking and relationships, and generally plays a truly major role in life.

As I think about the main aspects of my life and how media affects them, I have made one major observation: The media itself really is neutral. The benefits or damages brought into my life come about largely as a function of the choices I make. This brings home to me that in media, as with everything, I must turn first to God in prayer and in study, so that I can be equipped to make the best possible choices.

In looking at media in my life, I find many examples of the positives. I can go online and find all manner of good Bible translations and study resources, I can take care of my home more efficiently by employing tips I read online, and I can research all kinds of health, relationship and other topics online. The wealth of information out there can be a wonderful resource!

However, there are also negatives. I enjoy reading blogs and meeting all kinds of wonderful Christian women online. However, one must use discernment as there are also some dangerous places online where one can receive incorrect or even false information. And I think everyone knows that there are all kinds of sites which criticize Christians and Christianity and promote agendas which would not benefit our faith, our families, our marriages or our homes.

And then there is the time issue. Used in moderation, electronic devices and social media can truly enrich our lives. For someone with a relatively small circle of fellow Christians offline, sharing with and learning from others online has been a Godsend. However, if I don't watch myself, I could end up spending all day researching and interacting online, and not get any tasks for my day completed.

Keeping this in mind, if we trust God and think through our media usage choices, media could end up working a huge blessing in our lives. We just need to remember that we use our computers, cell phones, etc... as tools for the glory of God rather than as ends in and of themselves.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Every New Place

Every time I go to a new place, I have to close my eyes. I have to take in the sounds and the smells and feel the air swirling around me. In Florida in July, the air is heavy and damp, I can smell the water and dark green tropical plants and before I even open my eyes, I can feel the steam in the air before I see it. In Venice, water again and the faintly sour tang of the canals mingled with roses from nearby vendors and the sounds of a city bustling to life.

Somehow when I only look with my eyes, I can find the similarities between a destination and my own home. I can trick myself into believing I'm somewhere almost familiar. Yet when I close my eyes and take it all in, I can feel myself sinking into every new place and then when I open my eyes again, I've finally arrived at my destination. And it's new, it's not home and I can start to appreciate what it is as I explore.

This was written in five minutes with no editing for Five Minute Fridays over at The Gypsy Mama.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

And Go Forth

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)

Sometimes we must be still. And we know to rest in Christ, to sit at His feet and to learn how He would have us live. After all, this is a comfort and a reminder many Christians have heard from the very beginning of their believing lives. It's not all rest, though. Jesus has specifically given us commands that involve going forth and acting in His name.

We are to live as His disciples and we are to spread His wonderful message to all the ends of the earth. However, God does not call all of us to the same place. That would be rather inefficient, wouldn't it? And that doesn't even begin to touch on the fact that Scripture tells us that we have different gifts and different roles to play in the church. But we do have a call, as Jesus said, to "teach others to observe all that I have commanded you."

Some of us really are called to the very ends of the earth to serve in various mission capacities in countries all around the world. I have friends who serve with their families in a large variety of different cultures from Kenya to Bolivia to countries so closed I cannot even name them here. I myself was called to Eastern Europe to work with a missionary family for a bit before I finished school and got married.

For some of us, though, the call to "make disciples" brings us out of ourselves and into the lives of those closer to home. Some of us have children and we are instructed in many places throughout Scripture to go forth and teach these children, raising them up to be godly men and women who will live in the same faith that has nourished us. Some of us have been called by God to serve the elderly among us, reminding them of Christ's love and showing them they are not forgotten even in a culture that sometimes overvalues youth. And those of us who are married are called to be keepers of the home, and the Bible tells us the ways in which we can make our homes a haven and a ministry to others.

Resting in Christ and being still is a marvellous thing. And so too is following His command and going forth to live in such way that we can make Christ known!

linked up at

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Midweek Links - Mentoring

For some time now, I've felt the need and the longing for that mentoring from older women that we read about in Titus 2. There are many wonderful resources written by wise women out there in blogland, but as helpful as they are, it's not the same as having a mentoring relationship. I had a wonderful mentor in college, and I miss that so much. Apparently I'm not the only one. I saw this post over at Sarah Mae's blog and while I'm not a mother, I could empathize with that need for community. And the following cry from the heart that appeared there definitely resonated with me when I first read it. (Many thanks to Noble Womanhood for highlighting this dialogue as I missed it the first time.)

Speaking of mentoring, Gina's blog is full of wonderful life lessons from someone with more experience and wisdom than I have. I find the letters feature where she tackles questions such as this one especially helpful. They seem to hit on a lot of those sticky areas that so many of us find our way into, and she handles them with wisdom.

Time-Warp Wife is another blog that I find very helpful and even though aimed at a bride-to-be, I found this advice helpful even for those of us married a little while.

I had originally planned to post this edition of Midweek Links earlier, but set it aside a bit. I'm glad I did and I can't help but see God's timing in it. Just this week, some bloggers whose sites I like and admire wrote a wonderful Titus 2 series and it's well worth reading. You can find more about it here, along with links to all the installments.

And just when I thought it was all about me finding a mentor in my Christian walk, along came this humbling reminder. And it's so true! So often I wonder, "Where's my older woman? I desperately need a mentor." However, I do not often enough go seeking out time with that younger woman who might have some questions of her own. I certainly don't have all the answers but I've screwed up enough times to learn a thing or two.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I Caved (Just a Little)

For a variety of reasons, including my desire to use my time wisely and perhaps avoid online drama, I have limited my use of social media. No Facebook, no Twitter, you get the idea. However, I would like to interact with some of my bloggy friends more. After praying about it and talking to my husband, I've set up a Facebook account. I know myself well enough to know that if I got on Twitter, I'd be there a lot. However, Facebook seems a little more manageable. If you're looking for me, you'll find me HERE.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Book Review: God's Harvard

The Book: God's Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America
by Hanna Rosin

For those not aware, God's Harvard profiles Patrick Henry College, a Christian college in Purcellville, Virginia, founded by Michael Farris. Patrick Henry College in many ways grew out of the classical Christian homeschooling movement and its founder is the head of the Home School Legal Defense Association(HSLDA). Its stated purpose is "to prepare Christian men and women who will lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless biblical values and fidelity to the spirit of the American founding." Though I did not attend the school, I've known several who have and all report receiving a very rigorous education with a strong biblical foundation. From what I've seen and read, Patrick Henry graduates the sort of men and women many Christian parents I know would love to see their children become.

Because I find the school interesting and because I have seen how God has worked in the lives of some of its graduates, many of whom go on to state and federal government service all over the country, I was very interested to read this book. And it is a good read once one gets past the very obvious bias of its author. The author, Hanna Rosin, spent over a year embedded at Patrick Henry and in her book she writes about her interactions with faculty as well as following the student careers of several who attended the school.

On the one hand, one has to admire Rosin for being honest. She is not Christian, and she admits up front that she does not agree with the belief system of the students she encountered. However, this proves a weakness as well. Rosin's lack of understanding of the worldview of those she profiles causes her sometimes to oversimplify people she analyzes. Too often, her descriptions of the school make students and administration sound painfully naive and unable to cope with the moments where their religion intersect with popular culture whether it be modern novels or politicians with whom they do not agree.

In addition, while Rosin gets that students at Patrick Henry are driven, she doesn't seem to really understand what drives them, and I think that's because she does not understand their faith much beyond a rather superficial level. She sees the academic accomplishments of students and remarks on their exposure to high-level government jobs and coveted internships, but she seems at times to see the school and its students as almost freakish. One also gets the sense that the book is meant to be a cautionary tale of Christians living out their beliefs as some dangerous phenomenon infiltrating the United States but even with this tone, I found myself intrigued by the programs the school offers and inspired by what I saw happening with some of the students in the book.

To be fair to the author, while I think she oversimplifies at time, Rosin doesn't make all students sound the same and she does profile the occasional rebellious student. Not surprisingly, she fairly openly sympathizes with the student and professors who revolt even slightly against the school's rules or stated mission. However, the remaining students not only appear very cleancut in her portrayals, but also by turns pitiable or vaguely creepy as she compares them to "mainstream" non-Christian peers. I don't know any of the people profiled personally, but from what comes through of their personalities, I didn't see these students as out of touch at all. More than a few of them seemed smart, articulate and possessed of leadership ability that I predict will take them far in the future.

As I've mentioned, one gets the sense that the author does not like the school's mission or its founder, but she seems to like at least some of the students. As I finished the book, I found myself wanting to know what happened to many of the students such as Sarah Chambers, or Derek Archer, or Aaron and Elisa Carlson after they graduated. I also found myself admiring the school's mission and wishing I could have had so solid a classical Christian education in college. If one can move beyond the occasionally heavily drawn perspective of the author, this book is a very interesting profile of a school of the sort of college that I would love to be involved with and that I think will shape Christian higher education.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Wow - do I have Bubonic Plague?

This week for Media Mondays, we're talking about social media and our health. Here's the good news: Even though working through this series has made me feel convicted about the amount of time I spend online, I'm not on here so much that I've destroyed my health. This is probably due more to God putting people in my life who warned me about tendonitis, back strain and other disorders caused by too much time at the piano (or the computer, nowadays) than anything I'd done on my own, but I'm very thankful for it.

In terms of health, the internet has actually helped me in some ways. I have been able to research medications prescribed to me and when I worked full-time I was able to use it to research health information I was given about clients at work so that I could make better recommendations for them. If you're trying to lead a more healthy lifestyle, there are all kinds of resources to help one craft an exercise plan or locate nutritious recipes.

The internet has also helped me to tend to my husband's and even my pets' health needs. There are a wealth of veterinary websites available, and when one of my cats struggled with chronic urinary tract infections, I was able to ask more intelligent questions of my vet and take better care of my cat because of information I found on various cat care forums. I've also been able to find good at-home remedies for minor ailments (cold, stomach flu, poison ivy,etc..) to help my husband and me when these issues arise. And that's not even touching all the time I spend doing research at fertility and adoption sites.

I have to be careful not to take things too far, though. When one starts reading on a site such as WebMD, it's easy to read descriptions of horrible diseases and then start thinking, "Hey, I feel tired today, and I'm a little out of sorts and I think I might even be bloated..., " and pretty soon, I can spend the rest of the day half-wondering if I might be at death's door. After all, there's the time I wondered if I had cancer, the time I wondered if I had lupus, the time - you get the idea. Obviously, falling into this trap is not healthy.

After having done this to myself one too many times, I find myself being very deliberate in choosing which sites I will visit. There are some that have helpful information, but I know that I can tend to use them as a time waster. I also know that I need to pray over my use of information that I find so that I don't find myself becoming overly alarmed or worse, so that I don't find myself blindly accepting something that is unbiblical in the guise of it being "medical information." However, as I gain more practice in sifting through information, I also find that God has given me more discernment in analyzing what I read and for that I am thankful.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Beautiful Creations

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

Some days it's not easy to see beauty. It's easier to see that heat and humidity make my skin flush and my hair go crazy. Or that I don't weigh what I want to. Or I just plain don't feel good about myself some days.

And then I remember. When we insult ourselves, we insult God's creation. For we are indeed "fearfully and wonderfully made." This is something that has been taught me by parents, good pastors, wise friends, and it is something of which my husband reminds me often. Ridiculous of me to forget, but forget I do sometimes. I suppose it's good I have the reminders. After all, we are God's creation, the children He loves so much that He sent His son to die for us that we might be saved. And there's no way that's not beautiful.

This was written in five minutes with no editing for Five Minute Fridays over at The Gypsy Mama.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Midweek Links - Good Enough to Eat

I found these cucumber recipes via a linkup on At the Well earlier this week. Now, I have a borderline obsession deep fondness for cucumbers, squash and summer veggie treats in general, so I pounced on these recipes and will definitely be using them.

I wanted to make a special "date night" dinner for my husband a few weeks ago because he had just gotten some really good job news. So, I dusted off a trusty steak recipe from The Pioneer Woman. I only make this on very rare occasions but it is all kinds of delicious! My one substitution? Instead of Lawry's seasoning salt, I use a lower sodium spice blend such as one of the blends Penzeys offers.

This is an especially wonderful time of year to visit the local farmers' market. I'm very fortunate because in the area where I live, our markets tend to be cheaper than the local grocery and the produce has much more flavor. The Modern Mrs. Darcy has a guide to the farmers' market full of helpful tips for farmers' market shopping.

I first tried this Dirt Cake recipe from the Women Living Well blog at a picnic where I knew a number of my little cousins would be there. It was a big hit, so I'm definitely keeping it in my potluck file!

Eat well, and have a blessed week!

Homekeeper's Journal

So,what homemaking has been going on here lately? Well, plenty of it! In fact, today is the day for my Great Kitchen Deep Clean. My kitchen is in need of freshening up, so I'm going beyond my usual daily and weekly wipedowns and doing a really detailed cleaning from top to bottom.

And here's what else has been going on:

In my kitchen this week ………. Well, there's the big deep clean. I started early this morning and will get back to it in a minute. I'm starting with the ceiling fan and top of the fridge, and working my way down and around. I've also been cooking up all kinds of fresh produce this week because summer is the perfect time to eat all kinds of fresh, wonderful things. Tonight is going to be tomato salad night, I do believe because I'm almost overrun with cherry tomatoes of all colors.

Around the house …….My next big project is going to be ripping out ugly wallpaper that was here when we moved in and painting the main section of the house.

The family ….. My husband got promoted at his job, so we're very happy about that! I'm continuing to enjoy spending lots of time on and offline with my extended family, and things are starting to settle into a nice routine for us.

New projects …… Well, there are lots of babies on the way in my family, so I have all kinds of tiny little knitting projects to keep me occupied. I also tutor some folks from a local homeschooling group and so I'm working with families on what they will want me to cover. It's intimidating to be trusted with other people's children even if it's only a subject or two, but I'm also finding it exciting!

Ideas …… I have too much stuff and clutter. I think a good sort and trip to Goodwill is in order.

Light Bulb Moments …… When I'm doing what is God's will for me, that "swimming upstream" feeling seems to disappear. That's not to say there aren't challenges, but they're not quite the same sort of challenges as before.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Menu Unplanning

Menu planning is a popular topic, and I love to cook so it's a notion that's crossed my mind once or twice. I'm sure we all know people who have their kitchens organized down to every last grain of rice and can tell you exactly what will be served at each daily meal. I am in awe of the organizational talent there, but I'm just not one of those people.

I have general nutritional and financial goals in mind for managing our resources, but my husband and I prefer to keep things a little more flexible when it comes to the menu planning, or unplanning, as I would properly call it.

I start with certain staples and make sure that we always have a stock of them. These range from flours, sugar, honey, oatmeal, butter, or milk to items such as home-canned tomatoes that we use very often. Every Sunday after church I place a blank sheet of notepaper on the refrigerator. Throughout the week, if we run low on a staple item, I note it on the list.

In addition, there are certain items that we buy every week - cat food, fresh fruit and vegetables(whatever is locally in season), items for my husband's lunches, etc... I go over the weekly coupons and use these in filling in the weekly items on the list.

And then the fun part - the night before my grocery run, I look over our weekly schedule to see how many nights we will be home for dinner. My husband travels for work sometimes and on nights I'm alone, I just eat leftovers. Once I have that figured out, I look through my kitchen to see if there are any ingredients that need to be used up or any ingredients that are on a really good sale at the grocery and I'll use this information to help guide my menu brainstorming.

And where are breakfasts and lunches, you may ask? Well, we like to just put together our own breakfasts in the morning. I just make sure that we have oatmeal, yogurt and fresh fruit on hand. And for lunch, I always make sure we have dinner leftovers as well as items for making sandwiches.

So what are we eating this week? Well, it's the height of fresh veggie season so I'm making a couple of big dinner salads, one of which, a grilled chicken and corn salad, I served tonight. The other is spinach, tomato and grain salad and that's up for Wednesday. I have frozen biscuit dough to use up so I plan on barbeque biscuits(recipe to come) with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes on the side, and I'm rounding the week out with eggplant parmesan and a big peach pie. Thursday night is date night, so we'll have to see what my husband comes up with for that one! :)

This is a little more free flowing that what one will find on formal menu planning websites, but after 10 years of practice, I've gotten good at keeping an inventory of my kitchen which is the main skill one needs for this "method" - and I use that term loosely. It keeps us fed on nutritious meals with a minimum of waste and since those are my main goals in the kitchen, I rather like running things this way.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Friends or Frenemies?

In considering the effects of social media on friendships, my first thoughts are immediately positive. Some of my dearest friends from college and my childhood church are scattered all around the country - and a few have gone into missions and wandered even further afield! Email and Skype are excellent ways for us to stay in touch and I love how technology has brought us closer together.

There are friends from college who have been great sources of encouragement to me and I'm not sure that I would have continued to make the effort to travel across multiple states to meet up with them quite so often were it not for all of our online contact between visits. One of my closest friends has followed her husband through multiple job transfers all over the United States and I've noticed that those of us who stay in touch with her via our little email loop are the ones who still remain in touch offline as well.

Another aspect of social media I'm coming to love are blogs. I lurked for years, too shy to set up my own blog. However, now that I've dipped a toe into the online world, I'm starting to really enjoy the interactive aspect of blogging as I get to know some of the wonderful women out there whose blogs I admire. And I hope that someday I'll even get to meet some of these great people offline as well!

However, as with most other arenas, social media has a flipside when it comes to friendships. I've known friends to have terrible disagreements and hurt feelings over things said on email where it's impossible to take cues from tone of voice, body language, etc... And worse yet, there are times when social media contributes to jealousy among friends, hurting and poisoning those relationships.

Sometimes the face we put forward to the world online shows more of the rosier side of life and I know that at particularly hard times, this has made me struggle with jealousy. It can be difficult in weak moments not to blow right past that 10th commandment and start comparing one's life to others with a feeling of dissatisfaction. After all, so much of the online world looks like yummy meals, beautiful large homes and adorable children. Then again, who would really want to read about and see pictures of that desiccated chicken I burned the other night or the fact that I still have unsorted laundry sitting on my couch?

Because of this, I try always to pray before I comment on someone else's site or post on my own. I don't want to cause others to stumble, and I don't want to fall prey to sin myself and say things out of my own failings that hurt others. After all, I would rather build friendships and grow in faith than play the comparison game.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Broken to be Whole

They say that everyone has an empty space inside them longing to be filled. Some try to fill it with things, others with the search for a "soul mate". However, that God-shaped hole in our lives cannot be filled with anything other than God.

Pretty things are fun every now and again, and there are people in my life that I love dearly. However, none of this would mean anything without God - without Christ dying on the cross for me - without the Holy Spirit in my heart.

Life consists of so many broken pieces and it is in drawing near to God that our broken selves become whole. Priase be to God.

This post was written in five minutes with no editing for Five Minute Fridays. You can find more information here:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Stuffed Zucchini (Vegetarian)

I know I'm not the only person out there who has zucchini taking over their yard this time of year. Even with the deer eating their way through my garden, I'm drowning in them! Now I like sauteed veggies and zucchini bread as much as the next person, but there comes a time when one must start coming up with some variations. I've had zucchini stuffed with heavier meat sauces and that's great in the winter, but for the summer heat wave, I decided to try something a little lighter. It has the added bonus of being healthier as well!

Vegetarian Stuffed Zucchini

Note: As with the vast majority of my recipes, I'm only cooking for 4 but I tend to use simple ingredients so they're easily expandable.

2 zucchini (use fairly large ones)
extra virgin olive oil (I don't measure, but it looks like about 2 T. when I'm cooking.)
about 1/4 cup chopped onion
4 diced mushrooms
Parmesan cheese

1. Steam the zucchini for 10 minutes, and then cut in half lengthwise.
2. Scoop out the insides and place in small bowl. Set aside zucchini "shells."
3. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat and saute onions until soft and golden brown. Then add the mushrooms and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes or so.
4. Mix onions and mushrooms with the zucchini insides and spoon into the zucchini "shells."
5. Top zucchini with Parmesan and place in oven at 350 for 10 minutes. About halfway through baking, add a little more Parmesan.

Enjoy - this is good and it's really easy to make on a busy night!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Midweek Links - John Stott

Last week, one of the theologians whose writing has greatly inspired me went home to the Lord. His name was John Stott, and you can learn more about him here and here. If you have never read his works, I recommend starting with Basic Christianity. Most of Stott's work is more abstract than the practical homemaking advice I get from some of the other books that grace my bookcase, but his exploration and explanations of Christian faith exalt Christ in wonderful ways and help the reader to understand the ideas underlying how we respond to Christ's call in living out our callings as homemakers, daughters, wives, mothers - as Christians.

In their response to the news of John Stott's death, the 9 Marks featured a quote from John Stott's work on their blog (thank you to Jessalyn for introducing me to this helpful website). This description of the conviction one feels when thinking upon the cross is vividly rendered and I found it powerful as well. And if you would like to see more quotes from his large body of work, here are some more.

As I mentioned above, Basic Christianity is a wonderful place to start in reading Stott's work. And there's even a giveaway of this book going on now over at Visionary Womanhood.

And if you're curious to see what John Stott has to say about himself and his work, this 2001 interview is very interesting. And after reading it, I'm now tempted to pick up the books Stott mentions!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My First Award!

Last week I received two unexpected surprises. An old friend of mine happened to be passing through town - so of course we invited her and her baby to stay with us! We had a wonderful visit. Being able to catch up with someone that I've been missing a lot and no longer get to see regularly was such a wonderful blessing.

And then - I got a blog award! I wasn't expecting it, but I was very touched and flattered to get this Verstile Blogger Award from The Atypical Housewife

As I understand it, here is how the award works:

The Rules:
1. Link the person back who awarded you
2. Share 7 things about yourself
3. Answer the following questions below
4. Award this to 10 bloggers

Here are 7 things about myself:

1. I have red hair that is very wavy and a little crazy in its natural state.

2. I have a soft spot for all God's creatures, but especially for cats.

3. Even though major changes freak me out a little, God is good and I have really been enjoying my transition to full-time homemaker.

4. When I was 19, I took a break from college to serve as a missionary in a refugee camp in Eastern Europe.

5. I'm somewhat shy by nature, but I love being around people and learning from them.

6. I am every day amazed that people actually read my blog.

7. I have a major weakness for dark chocolate. Yum!

Name your favorite color-
Green - especially the mysterious dark shades

Name your favorite song-
This changes up a lot, but "Beautiful, Scandalous Night" by Sixpence None the Richer has been my earworm of late. You can hear it here.

Name your favorite dessert-
Dark chocolate mousse. Oh, and if there are berries on top, that would be wonderful!

What ticks you off-
Not too much, but I do get very upset when I see people mistreating the most vulnerable among us - animals, small children, the elderly or disabled, etc...

When you’re upset you-
Pray. I try to have enough sense to pray for wisdom in these situations, but sometimes I stumble there.

Your favorite pet-
I love all the cats in our menagerie. :)

Black or white-
Depends on what it's for. If we're speaking in the abstract, I am thankful that God has washed me white as snow. If we're talking of things to wear, I'd say neither because I like my colors more muted. Think grey or ivory rather than black or white.

Your biggest fear-
Oh, that varies from day to day. Sometimes I fear I will run out of things to write. Since I was actually regarded as quite successful in my "out of the home" job, I sometimes fear I'll be a failure as a homemaker.

Best feature-
Depends on who you ask. My husband would say it's my smile. My cats would say it's my skill at opening cans one-handed with rapid speed.

Everyday attitude-

What is perfection-
Only God, only Jesus Christ, only the Holy Spirit

Guilty pleasure-
Though I read mostly literary fiction, history and Christian nonfiction, I'll admit to the occasional mystery novel or fluffy Christian romance.

And here are ten (10) blogs I want to give this award to. It was hard to choose, but since several of my bloggy friends have already gotten this award recently, that made it a little easier to narrow down. Congratulations!

1. Wildflower Cottage
2. Time-Warp Wife (This blog has been so very encouraging to me!)
3. Desiring Virtue (Jessalyn over at Desiring Virtue is truly a versatile blogger with all kinds of posts on everything from homemaking to theology.)
4. The Chuppies
5. Stop...Have a Chat
6. Our Simple Country Life
7. A Window Into my Heart
8. Daily on my Way to Heaven
9. The Writing on the Wall