Monthly Archives: October 2011

Meditation Monday – An Attitude of Gratitude

Focus. Such a difficult thing to maintain in life! I’ve decided that it’s humanly impossible to simultaneously focus on goals + family + purposeful living + seizing the day + finances + friends + grocery shopping + keeping a clean and organized home + what’s the in thing to do according to Pinterest + being involved in additional ministries God’s called us to + keeping up with all of the awesome blogs out there + weekly favorite TV shows + jobs + playing with our children + reading + okay I have to stop now because I’m getting stressed out! I mean really, really overwhelmed.

God’s been really stretching me lately, and it hasn’t been pleasant. I’ve heard some ugly things come pouring out of my mouth and mentally slapped myself for thoughts that are just plain self-centered. As I reflect, I’m seeing that I need to work on my attitude of gratitude. I have so much! Both material and immaterial, yet I’m not focusing on what I have. I’m focusing on where I’m lacking, both material and immaterial.

This frail, fleshy shell that houses the almighty power of the Holy Spirit is just seeing the flaws when it should be seeing what I’ve inherited, and it’s of an eternal worth. So I choose to make gratitude and God’s mercy my focus this week. I believe that in doing so, the rest of the things I need to accomplish over the next seven days will fall into place.

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”                                                                   ~Psalm 107:1

Don’t forget to choose your own focus verse for the week and share it with someone else!

It’s a Beef Stew Kind of Night

One of my absolute favorite fall meals is beef stew. Growing up, I got excited when we had roast for Sunday lunch because I knew that the next night, we would have stew with the leftovers. Well, we don’t have roast much around our house because it turns out that while my man and I enjoy a nice roast from time to time, we both just love stew more. So, thanks to my mom’s guidance and some trial and error over the years, I’ve come up with an easy beef stew recipe that speaks comfort to our souls and stomachs on cool fall evenings. Okay, who am I kidding? We have it year round.

To make it even better, it’s a crock pot meal. Who doesn’t love that?

Here’s what you need.

1 package stew meat (I watch for this stuff to go on sale. It’s wonderful because it’s pre-chopped and only requires opening the package and throwing it into the crock pot. Even when it’s not on sale, it costs around $4 per pack, which isn’t bad considering it makes enough for dinner plus leftovers.)
5 medium/large potatoes, peeled & chopped
3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 medium onion (If I don’t have an onion on hand, I just add onion powder or the dehydrated chopped onions you can find in the spice aisle)
1 heaping Tbsp. minced garlic (The kind in the jar because it’s way easier.)
4-5 cups beef broth (Here’s my money-saving tip. If you don’t use bullion granules to make your beef or chicken broth for recipes, let me recommend you give it a try! A jar of bullion makes 30 cups of broth and costs between $3-4. Broth in a carton-enough for one recipe-costs $1.50-$2 minimum. You do the math. And I promise the flavor of the finished product is not compromised.
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Thickener:
1/2 c. corn starch
1/2 c. water

Directions:

1. Peel and chop your vegetables and add to the crock pot. While you’re working on this, go ahead and put 5 cups of water in the microwave for about 4 minutes, or until boiling. This will make the bullion dissolve as it should to make a tasty broth.
2. Add the stew meat on top of the vegetables. Many recipes say to coat the meat in flour and fry before adding to the crock pot. I used to do this, but one time I forgot, and it turned out tasting just the same. Plus, the meat was more tender. My philosophy: why add an extra step and dirty more dishes if I don’t have to?
3. To make the beef broth, add about 2 Tbsp. of bullion to the boiling water. That’s the amount that seems to work the magic for our taste buds, so adjust as necessary to fit your taste. Stir until the granules are dissolved.
4. Add the remaining ingredients, minus the thickener ingredients, to the pot.
5. Cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 3-4 hours on low.
6. Just before getting ready to serve, mix the corn starch and water together in a small bowl. Then add small amounts at a time into the stew until it reaches the thickness you desire. It can be as soupy or as thick as you like. I don’t usually measure the cornstarch, so you might need more if it’s still more like beef soup than stew.
7. Add more salt or pepper to taste if desired.

Enjoy with some fresh bread or biscuits. This is one of three dishes that my son readily gulps down, so hopefully it will be a success in your household as well.


Reach for the Moon

If there’s one thing I could go back into my childhood and regain it’s my innocent faith and outlook on the world. Over the years one matures into an adult, this point of view inevitably gets replaced with memories of disappointment, victimization, prejudice, or harsh realities of a sinful world. This is why God keeps children handy, to give a balance to a tainted point of view.

I’ve been brought to sweet, mommy-realization tears in recent days as I watch a certain Little Man  build up as much excitement as his two-year-old body can contain when the end of the day has arrived. He has come to learn that once bath time is approaching, the moon has awakened for the night. He then asks earnestly, “See moom?”

It’s pretty much impossible to turn down an adorable request like that, so out we all go to find that pale beacon in the night’s sky. The other night was especially poignant when Little Man pushed his way out the door, ran with all the speed he could muster, and reached up urgently with all the strength he could muster to “Chatch Moom.”

Wouldn’t you know it, he just couldn’t seem to reach that elusive moon on his own, so he turned to Daddy. Perhaps with Daddy’s help he could catch the moon. Daddy quickly and deftly swooped Little Man into his arms and threw him up in the air. With the most precious smile and look of hope in his eyes, Little Man threw his hands up into the air and grabbed with all of His strength.

Instead of showing disappointment when he didn’t actually touch the moon, as I feared, he appeared even more exhilarated. My jaded adult mind couldn’t comprehend it at first, but then God began to show me why. It was not that my son needed to actually touch the moon to feel satisfied, he just needed to know it was okay to try. What I would have viewed a failure, he viewed as a fun adventure with a different, more exciting outcome. Being given the opportunity to commune with his father, to be caught by his strong, sure hands, was far more precious to him than his original dream to catch the moon. In fact, since the moon was not caught, it can still be something we can reach for.

This mommy who struggles with feeling average and unable to do anything of significance has once again been humbled by my child. If he can accept that reaching for the moon is worthwhile, why shouldn’t I? If he can find contentment in discovering a different kind of success than he originally pictured, then I can learn to do the same.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a moon to catch.O LORD, our Lord,
         How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
         Who have set Your glory above the heavens!
  Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
         You have ordained strength,
         Because of Your enemies,
         That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.
 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
         The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
         And the son of man that You visit him?
 For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
         And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

~Psalm 8:1-5


 

Meditation Monday – Where is my Treasure?

I started a lengthy explanation of why I chose this verse as my focus verse of the week, but God has impressed on me to just let the verse speak for itself to whomever may take the time to look at it. I’ve been a bit discouraged lately, and this is the passage that the Spirit keeps running through my head when I ask for God’s help to persevere and refocus. May it minister to your soul at least half as much as it is mine right now!

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Easy Lasagna Recipe

Some days I feel like I’m the only one who goes through a routine like the one I’m in when it comes to menu planning and making dinner. Just looking online for recipes gets me all excited because there are some seriously delicious things to eat out there! There’s just one problem – I have picky eaters in my house. Am I alone in this sometimes miserable condition?

There are days when I’m at peace with it. But then I get into a rut where I’m making the same five things and we’re all burned out on our options. Then I let myself go there – guilt sets in. There are zero super foods in my refrigerator, the only meat my son has eaten all week is chicken nuggets (if those truly count as meat is something I’m still trying to decide), and we’ve had rice of some sort for dinner two nights this week.

Here are the facts for this household when it comes to food. We’re not a model family for anyone looking to hire poster families to promote healthy meals or fast food for dinner. We enjoy a light meal as much as we do a fried one. In fact, as much as we like fried chicken, I’ve yet to successfully make it, so I rarely deep fry anything for the simple fact that it is disastrous when I do. I do my best to keep balance in what I serve; I’m a fan of moderation. Trying to be healthy for every meal just leads to stress for all of us and ultimately fails in a big way, so we do our best to keep things balanced.

Having said all of that, it’s been a rough week of cooking. Going into Wednesday, I was batting 0-2 for successful dinners. Not that what I made was bad, it just didn’t fly with my picky eaters. They tried, but it takes some time for them to accept a new recipe, so I knew that all of us needed a break for our third dinner of the week. My impromptu menu change resulted in a classic I love from my childhood: lasagna.  I can’t go wrong because it meets all requirements of an ideal meal for all of us (Hmmm…except Little Man who is particular about the type of noodles. If they’d only been spaghetti noodles, he’d have been happy. We’re working on it! Sigh!)

Our ideal meal:

1. Easy and quick to make. (Yay for me!)
2. No extra anything. (No overabundance of cheese or tomato chunks for my husband.)
3. Inexpensive! (Hooray for our tight budget! I spent no more than $8 on ingredients, and it makes 12 servings, so I have lunch taken care of for a week plus another quick meal if we need it another evening this week.)

Ingredients:

1 box lasagna noodles
1 lb. ground beef or turkey
2 15-oz cans tomato sauce
3/4 tsp. salt 1/2 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. onion powder
3-4 cups shredded cheddar cheese (or whatever kind you have on hand…I used half cheddar, half mozzarella)

1. Boil lasagna while browning meat. If you choose to use ground turkey, which is what we prefer, I recommend browning it in a skillet on the stove and adding in some chopped onion. I’ve found that ground turkey is much more flavorful when prepared this way.)

2. Make the sauce by adding to the skillet the tomato sauce, garlic, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and onion powder (adjust as necessary if you added chopped onion to the turkey) to the skillet. Bring the sauce to a boil then reduce to medium low heat and allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Set up your assembly station! A greased 13×9 pan, cooked lasagna, meat sauce, and cheese. Place 3 lasagna noodles in a single layer across the bottom of the pan then spread sauce over them. Sprinkle cheese on top and then repeat the process by layering in the same order.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Keeping it Simple

I believe that the average female mind is wired to complicate things. I see it in my own life as well as so many other women who are willing to be honest about their struggles. We get involved in too many things, try to make everyone happy, and over-analyze a friend or family member’s response or lack of response. We struggle to be the perfect wife, friend, mom, sister, or employee known to mankind. In the end, where do we find ourselves? I don’t know about you, but I usually end up curled up on my bed with a tear-soaked pillow and a handful of used tissues attempting to piece together where I went wrong.

One of the reasons God gave me my son is to see how much fuller a simpler way of life can be. American culture applauds a busy schedule, being over-worked and under-paid, and sleep deprivation. It fantasizes over the complex relationships of celebrities and their families while encouraging a barrage of filth to enter our minds everywhere we go. While the average American is being encouraged to go green to save the environment, an even greater amount of pollution is entering our bodies through the entertainment, advertising, and atmosphere of both public and private places. We complicate our lives by trying so hard to be a responsible citizen who conserves water and recycles paper, but are we putting as much diligence into our awareness of potential threats we’re imposing on our hearts and minds?

I would have challenged this way of thinking in years past. What’s the harm in looking through those magazines? I hear that kind of talk at work, so what’s it going to hurt if I hear it on TV? “I need to see it to understand the world,” I used to think. “In order to reach the lost, I need to know where they’re coming from.” In reality, I see now how much I was complicating things. I learned to love and accept things that were just not okay to embrace. I was not thinking about God working in my life; I was trying to fit in with the world.

The magnitude of how lost I had become before God gave me a humble, simple life as a mother hits home with me each time I look into the innocent eyes of my son. When I know to turn away from an offensive commercial, he can unknowingly view something that will forever tarnish his memories. When I turn away my eyes in disgust at billboards at certain stores in the mall, his pure mind is emblazoned with the image. I have come to look at life through the eyes of a child again, and I’m grateful. It requires me to evaluate whether or not the television really needs to be on or if I truly have to go to certain areas in the mall. If it’s not good for him, is it actually necessary for me?

God continues to prod my heart on this matter through a simple song I’ve been teaching Little Man over the past couple of weeks. It goes like this:

Oh be careful little eyes what you see!
Oh be careful little eyes what you see!
For the Father up above is looking down in love,
So be careful little eyes what you see!

Oh be careful little ears what you hear!
Oh be careful little ears what you hear!
For the Father up above is looking down in love,
So be careful little ears what you hear!

The following verses urge us to:

Be careful little mouth what you say!
Be careful little hands what you do!
Be careful little feet where you go!

Such a straightforward message complete with toddler-friendly hand motions has spoken to my heart in a magnificent way. What if the world put this song to practice? The effects of purposefully thinking before watching, listening, talking, doing, and going everywhere would change the world without a doubt. While I may not have much influence in the world as a whole, I do have a great deal of influence in the world of my family, church, friends, and most importantly the little boy I’m raising to hopefully change the world for Jesus.

I didn’t come up with this on my own. Here’s what Jesus has to say about the matter.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. ~1 John 2:15-17

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.              ~Romans 12:2

I’m not saying to form a compound in a remote area somewhere near the North Pole and avoid the world at all costs. There must be a balance; we need to be aware of how the enemy is working, but keep it simple. If you spend too much time in the presence of evil, you will find a comfy spot to settle in and fall in love. I’m learning to make my exposure to the world purposeful, and I’m grateful for such handsome motivation. Linked up at:

 

Meditation Monday

How’s your week looking? Are you wondering how on earth you’re going to get through the massive to-do list? When will sleep happen? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just pencil in a bubble bath? Ah, yes.

I’m a details kind of person, and that is not always a good thing. In fact, most days I think it’s a curse. If only I could get past the details, I could envision the finished product. Alas, by the time I begin picturing the finished product, I’m so stressed out by all that has to happen in order to get to that point, that I have worn myself out before I even start.

I’m grateful for all of the ways that God has worked to mold this character trait into something a bit more promising than disastrous. The right people and circumstance (although I thought they were all wrong at the time) have helped carve out a balance, yet I still struggle from time to time with letting my mind go into “Oh my goodness! I’m out of control!” mode.

That’s why God showed me this verse at this time in my life. Oh how I need to remember and believe it!

“I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:2

Now it’s your turn! What verse will be the focus of your week? I challenge you to pick one and write it down where you will see it frequently throughout your day. Already done that? Now share it! God’s Word is powerful, and is the greatest gift you can give to someone else. Share your verse with someone this week. Leave it in a comment on this post, send it in a card to a friend, call your sister and tell her what God’s shown you today. Don’t just sit on the gift you’ve been given. Spread the Word – you’ve been commissioned to do so.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”         Matthew 28:19-20