Lord, anything but……

 

Some women put together a list of qualities their man must have before they would be willing to date them. For me, it was 3 things I would not, could not accept in a husband and a future life together.

I said Lord, give me a husband and he can be anything but…

He cannot be younger than me.

I am not sure why but at the time I decided this, I think I felt that the guys I was friends with were already so immature that going any younger would be more like babysitting than a relationship. Only I wouldn’t be getting paid! Also, who wants to be the ‘older’ woman?

He can be anything but….

He cannot be a Mennonite.

Ok, I know this sounds harsh and judgmental but you have to understand that I grew up outside the church and in a densely populated Mennonite community. Everyone was somehow related and the ongoing game of ‘Mennonite Bingo’ – trying to figure out who you were related through, was nauseating. Names like Peters, Klassen, Doerksen and Funk were so common it was comical. Since I didn’t understand the difference between the Mennonite denomination and the Mennonite heritage, I lumped it all together and said no thank you.

And he can be anything but….

He can not now nor ever be interested in vocational ministry.

The thought of marrying a pastor was so terrifying that this was an iron clad statement. To know why this paralyzed me so, simply visualize your pastor. He is an amazing man, right? He is wise and thoughtful, endlessly patient. His passion and fire is contagious and he speaks with a conviction that takes your breath away while encouraging you to your knees. Now think of his wife. She is soft spoken and demure while managing to raise their six adorable and perfectly behaved children. She is his rock and it’s obvious that they are equally matched in their scholarly aptitudes while she maintains her submissive role. She is an incredible and gracious hostess, able to balance her Sunday school duties while running the women’s ministry events and quilting with the seniors mission circle. She always looks perfect, not a hair out of place and her fundraiser cookies are always the best seller.

Simply put – I knew I could never measure up.

I think you may know where I am heading with this but I will share with you that my husband (drum roll please) is a year and half younger than I am and was born into a Mennonite family. He is also a pastor at a large Mennonite Brethren church.

Those that know me tend to chuckle at how I got here. Everything I said I couldn’t or wouldn’t do is what God gave me. It is a testament of my weak trust in Him and how He has blessed me in spite of myself. I wish I could say I learned my lesson, that my faith is unshakable and my trust immeasurable.

But it’s not.

I have grown but I am still growing. There are times I echo the words of Isaiah and say “Here I am Lord, send me.” And other times I whisper “here I am Lord, send me anywhere but…” It’s a process, one that continually brings me to my knees and makes me wonder how God can be so loving and patient with a grumbling Israelite like myself.

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Skor Trifle

In my husband’s roll as a youth Pastor we have the privilege of serving alongside some incredible, dedicated volunteers. These people give of more than just their time – they truly love these kids and go above and beyond to show them that they matter. They teach their lessons, they join in on the activities and some even attend kids school activities to show support. We are blessed to work with them and God is using them in the lives of students more than they will ever know.

A few times a year we come together as leaders and it’s always something I look forward to. Sometimes its appreciation for their service, other times its team training and equipping. A few days ago we had the chance to start off the year with some fellowship, calendar planning as well as equipping these servants to lead well. We utilized the church facility, spruced our cafe up with a few easy and inexpensive decor pieces and ordered in some delicious BBQ.

My husband wasn’t sure what to do for dessert and I offered to make it. This is something I never do because although I can cook I am not a skilled pastry chef or even dessert diva. I was genuinely nervous it wouldn’t turn out. After all, I was making something I have never made before and, until we all sat together, I hadn’t even tasted it! The verdict? IT WAS A HIT! Some of the ladies asked for the recipe so I will try and remember what I did and share it with all of you. It was very easy so if you are looking for something yummy to bring to a ministry kick-off event or want to bless those you serve with, I recommend you take this!

Skor Trifle

1 Package Chocolate cake mix (or scratch if you prefer)

1 Package Vanilla cake mix (or scratch if you prefer)

1 Tub cool whip (soften in fridge)

2 Packages white chocolate instant pudding

3 Cups milk

1 Cup strong coffee

½ Cup chocolate syrup/sauce

6 or more Skor bars (the more you use the more popular you will be!)

Make both cakes as per box instructions. Let cool and then break up into bite-size pieces.

Make pudding as per box instructions but substitute your cup of coffee for 1 of the necessary cups of milk. Refrigerate.

Crush Skor bars in a plastic bag. I gave my son a toy hammer and let him go to town! DO NOT substitute baking ‘toffee pieces.’ Trust me, its worth it to do the work yourself with the Skor bars!

Layer the bottom of a trifle dish with half of your vanilla cake. Layer pudding mixture, then layer cool whip and follow with a dusting of Skor bar. Next layer chocolate cake and pour over chocolate sauce and top with Skor crumbs. Layer cool whip. Next is more vanilla cake and another layer pudding of mixture. Finally a top layer of cool whip aesthetically sprinkled with Skor. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Serve and don’t expect left over’s unless you double the recipe, as I did!
Hopefully you have a chance to bless someone in your life with this wonderful treat!

House Rules

I have a two year old. I don’t know why he is referred to as a ‘toddler’ because he has been steady on his feet since he was 10 months old. But nonetheless, a toddler spends his days making me laugh, occasionally making me cry and pretty much testing the limits of his world while testing every last nerve of mine.

Mike (my fantastic husband) and I are pretty much on the same page when it comes to general house rules. For example, jumping is only allowed on the ground, manners are a must and crying is completely acceptable while whining is not. We try to avoid yelling unless it’s in a situation that could cause harm. All in all, timeouts are a way of life.

As any parent knows, the two’s can be tough. So I decided it was time to figure out our house rules. It isn’t so much to point my kids to; after all they can’t yet read. But something for me to focus on as I imperfectly model the qualities I want them to have.

I don’t want house rules that say “No hitting. No spitting. No kicking.” These are an extension of the bigger picture and, to be honest, I hope that this goes without saying in our home. (I recognize that there may come a time in our lives where that is necessary for our kids but we are not there yet). I want to instill core values which are so much more important to me than a ‘no shoes no shirt’ policy. But regardless of what I have written on a wall or on a poster board I have decorated with my kids, I am their example. They look to my husband and I to see what is and what is not acceptable. I am with them 24/7 and they will mirror all my good and my more prevalent bad. They watch how I treat their father, how he treats me and how he leads our family.

I have decided to post 3 simple rules from Micah 6:8 on a dry erase board on our wall. (I have a bigger and better crafting project in mind for this but I currently don’t have the time or funds to see it to fruition). Here is how it sits today:

 

As my kids grow and can understand more we can expand on these and add others that I want to be edified in our home like:

Love Jesus

Encourage one another and share in others joy

Have fun and laugh

Be bold with others and broken with Christ

Remember that you are beautifully and wonderfully made.

Be a giver and share everything

Always forgive

Be respectful

Be compassionate

What are your house rules?

Fairness & Frustration

ate

I know the world is not a fair place. I get that we are ruled by a government who worships at the altar of moral relativism. I fully understand that becoming an ‘idol’ is the new American dream. And I don’t expect those that we have culturally placed on pedestals for their artistry will have their lives, hearts and minds aligned with Christ.

I get it. But I am still frustrated.

Let me tell you why.

There is a feminist girl-group in Russia that has been put in jail. I hate even typing their name because I think it’s vulgar but you can find their shock-value title as well as details of their arrest here.

I don’t think these girls should have been arrested. I agree that the location of where they chose to express themselves was in poor taste but I don’t think a charge of ‘federal hooliganism’ is warranted nor a two-year sentence in Russia’s notoriously rough prison system. It may be ethnocentric of me but I think that thumbing your nose at the government is your prerogative as long as you are prepared to deal with the consequences.

The outpouring of support for this girl-power trio has been high on celebrity endorsement. Sir Paul McCartney, Bianca Jagger, Bjork, Robert Smith and Mischa Barton are among celebrities tweeting their support. But none has been more vocal then fellow feminist shock-performer, Madonna. “I call on all those who love freedom to condemn this unjust punishment. I urge artists around the world to speak up in protest against this travesty. They’ve spent enough time in jail. I call on ALL of Russia to let Pussy Riot go free.”

There is another story that is making a small ripple in the media. It’s about an 11 year old girl in Pakistan. There are conflicting reports, some saying she has Down Syndrome others say she does not. But we know for sure that she is illiterate and she and her family are part of the 1% of Christians in the Islamic country. And she too has been arrested. But instead of a two year prison sentence locals are demanding that she be burned alive in order to teach her a lesson. Her crime? It wasn’t a planned out political satire in an inappropriate place like the trio in Russia. She was just a little girl cooking and using paper for her fuel. Never spending a day in school, unable to read the words on the paper – she unintentionally used pages from the Quran, the Muslim holy text.

Not a peep nor a tweet from those who have rallied in support of the unjust actions of the Russian government. And not a word from the Queen of the cone brazier. No celebrity stardust has been sprinkled to illuminate this story to the masses. All is quiet while an 11 year old girl, likely to have special needs, sits in jail and may be facing execution for the accidental burning of a faith she doesn’t share.

And I am frustrated.

I know I shouldn’t be surprised at what gets the world’s attention and what injustice slips past without notice. But time and time again I am discouraged by it.

Thankfully I can find peace in Pslam 13

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

 

$9 + 1 Crockpot = 4+ Family Meals

I love being a stay-at-home mom, it brings me more joy than I thought possible. But just like anything worth doing, it comes with sacrifice and challenges. For us, a big struggle is staying within our tight budget so I am always looking for ways to cut our grocery bill while providing nutritious and delicious food for my family. So this morning as I was contemplating the day’s meals, inspiration struck! On Facebook two family members posted unrelated things that turned into magic on our plates and in our wallets!

First was a post about our current weather. I know most people think it rains 12 months out of the year in Vancouver. Well, it doesn’t. It rains for about 9 months, pausing for June, July and August heat waves, and then back to more grey skies and precipitation come September. (Personally, unless I am by the beach or lounging poolside, the heat is not my favorite and I genuinely prefer a rainy afternoon).

To try and keep our little apartment home as comfortable as possible, I avoid turning on the stove or oven. This is difficult for me because I LOVE to cook and I feel limited and bored with what I can do on the BBQ after 3 months of oven-avoidance.

The second post was from my sister-in-law looking for Crockpot ideas and one of her friends posted about a whole chicken in the crock pot. GENIUS! I had never thought to do that before. To be honest, for all my joy of cooking, I have never cooked a whole chicken before. I get kinda grossed out at the thought of the insides – even if they are in a ready-to-toss baggie. But, against all odds, I had purchased said slimy whole chicken and put in the freezer a few weeks ago.

That’s when the magic happened. Could I put the whole, frozen chicken into a Crockpot thus avoiding the melting heat of my oven and enjoy a delicious family meal? Could it be that easy?

Ladies and gentlemen (well, probably mostly ladies but if gentlemen are reading this, welcome here!)

IT WAS THAT EASY! And not only was dinner fantastic but I have enough leftovers for chicken and egg salad pitas for lunch tomorrow and chicken and cheese quesadillas for dinner. If that wasn’t enough. I am currently brewing up some homemade broth that I will use for multiple dishes in the fall.

Here is what I did. I don’t follow recipes myself, which explains why I can cook but not bake, so I call this a recipe(ish). I know this is a long post but if you want to use one dish to make at least 4 family meals for about $9.00, its worth the read!

Tonight’s Dinner – Rotisserie Style Crockpot Chicken

I had a frozen whole chicken on hand but fresh would work the same, just adjust cooking time.

Before I froze my chicken I took out the bag of innards. It was well sealed and didn’t give me the yuck factor I had imagined. Since I am nowhere near brave enough to cook that up, I threw it away. (If you have a feline friend I think cooking the contents of that bag for them would make you very popular). I also cleaned and dried the chicken before sealing into a freezer bag and popping it into the freezer.

I rubbed the outside of the chicken with paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder and thyme. I wanted to stuff the cavity but since it was frozen, and I was too impatient to wait until tomorrow to cook it, I decided I would have to break the sacred rules of the slow cooker and open it up a few hours into the cooking process to fill the cavity with moist-making goodness.

Here is the secret to the rotisserie style, wonderfully crispy skin in a Crockpot:

Wipe the inside of the cooker down with oil or spray your favorite non-stick. Ball up a few pieces of tinfoil to lift your chicken up out of the moisture that will drip during the cooking process. This makes for perfectly crispy skin. DO NOT ADD LIQUIDS! Put the top on and set your timer.

Because I was using a frozen bird I set the temp to high to ensure I was able to kill off any salmonella. (It’s probably a good rule of thumb to start any chicken, frozen or not, on high for the first hour or so to get the temperature hot enough to cook safely).

About 2 hours in I opened the Crockpot, something you are usually told to never ever do, and I stuffed my little birdie with onions and an orange with the peel on and sliced in half.  (I would have preferred an apple but I didn’t have any on hand. Dare to experiment!) It was hot but manageable to stuff by using tongs. Back into the Crockpot she went for another 5 hours.

I took it out and the meat was so tender- it literally fell apart while I let it rest. I used latex gloves and did the ‘carving.’ I separated the meat into 3 equal sections – one for dinner and 2 for tomorrow. The bones and skin went back to join the juices in the Crockpot. I discarded the orange from the cavity. We enjoyed this simple but delicious meal with a quick Caesar salad.

COST:

Whole chicken – $5.60

Romaine Lettuce – $0.79

Tomorrows Lunch – Chicken & Egg Salad Pitas

Since I have a few errands tomorrow I decided to make this up tonight so it was ready to go. I had 3 left over hard-boiled eggs in the fridge from a previous meal so my chicken salad became chicken & egg salad. Waste not, want not, right? I shredded the meat with my hands, (so easy when the meat is that tender) added the peeled hard-boiled eggs and mixed it all together. In went about 3 celery stocks and a medium sweet onion, diced. (Sweet onions are about the same price as your normal yellow onion and they are easy to find, at least around here. They make a HUGE difference in your meals and I highly recommend them!) Add about a quarter cup of mayo (I use hellmans light because it makes me feel better about being me) and 2 tbsp of Dijon mustard along with a handful of chopped fresh (or dried) parsley and dill weed. I added a sprinkle of garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste. If I wasn’t so full from dinner I would have eaten it all right then and there. Into a container and into the fridge. I took out some whole grain pita pockets from the freezer and tomorrow it will be like when Harry met Sally… only starring chicken salad and a pita pocket…

COST:

Leftover chicken – $0.00

3 Eggs – $0.63

Pitas or bread substitute – $0.65

You don’t have to use Pitas, you could easily put this on bread or a bagel. Just use whatever you have on hand. If you don’t have celery, throw in a bell pepper. The more you can use up what you have already spent money on, the more you will save in the long run.

 

Tomorrows Dinner – Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas

The third and final portion of chicken was also shredded and added to a small diced onion and red bell pepper. I added a touch of salt and pepper and a dash of chili powder. I want my two year old to eat this meal with us so it couldn’t be too spicy. I grated about 2 cups of marble cheese (again, use what you have on hand) and tomorrow I will mix everything with 1 avocado (I put the peeled avocado into a zip lock bag and give it to my son to squish the be-jeebees out of it). I will mix it together until smooth. If it’s not quite smooth enough for me to spread onto the tortilla I will add a touch of Greek yogurt or you could use mayo as a substitute. Not exactly a traditional Mexican recipe but we like it. I use corn tortillas. I purchased a bag on my last grocery trip in Washington and they are SO much cheaper than here in Canada. I got a bag of seventy small corn tortillas for under $4.00 (which is like $0.06 per tortilla or $0.12 per quesadilla!) I just make a sandwich out of the mixture, using the tortillas in place of bread.

Heat up a touch of olive oil (or whatever cooking oil you use) in a non-stick pan and place the quesadillas on the pan. A few minutes per side should make them a bit crispy and the insides warm. You can serve with salsa, sour cream or guacamole.

COST:

Leftover chicken – $0.00

Avocado – $0.40

Cheese – $0.50

Future Meals – Chicken stock

A love of cooking and the use of stocks go hand in hand so I often find myself reaching for a carton of store bought chicken, beef, or vegetable stock. I have decided to make my own and store in the freezer (freeze in muffin tins and then transfer into a storage bag for each ½ cup portions). This gave me the perfect opportunity and since I already dirtied the crock pot I decided to make my stock in there. (You could save up your chicken carcasses and make a big batch when you have more to work with but I decided to go for it with a smaller batch).

I added about 6 cups of COLD water to my Crockpot filled with the leftover chicken bones, fat and skin. I added the aromatics I had on hand (onion, carrot, celery) and a had a few tomatoes that were going to go bad on me so I cut those in half and added those as well. Remember, you are going to suck the life out of these vegetables – not eat them – so cut them roughly and large if at all, leave skin on rather than peeling. I have a bag in my freezer that I add things to as I am chopping produce for other meals – like pieces of onion root, the ends of carrots or leftover leaks. The contents of this bag will eventually go into a stock and make it rich, flavorful and full of depth by using something that would have ended up in the trash, saving money. Add more water if necessary to cover all the bones and veggies. I put the lid on and I plan to let it simmer on low overnight.

In the morning I will to strain the liquid and let it cool in the fridge so I can skim off the fat before placing it in the freezer. Since I know homemade stock is stronger and more flavorful than store-bought, therefore you often need to use less, I am not sure how much I will end up with from this one chicken but I am guessing enough for 2 big soups and a dozen or so ready to grab ½ cup options. Remember that the stock will be darker than the store bought variety. Aside from the fact that it doesn’t have the sodium and chemical preservatives from its tetra-pack cousin, it will also be darker in color because it’s made from a roasted chicken rather than raw chicken left-over’s in the factory.

Well there you have it. I did not expect to do this all today, and I certainly didn’t expect to blog about it but I hope my culinary adventure can bless your budget and your family as it did mine! In the words of my 2-year old:

Thank you God for my food and my many blessings, AMEN!

Speak Well

This past weekend my husband and I celebrated our seventh anniversary. We didn’t do anything exciting; in fact, we saved a date night for later this month to celebrate. With little kids, you take babysitting when you can get it!

In seven, years so much has changed in our lives. When we married we were bible school students living in a tiny apartment in a small college community, a great distance from family and friends. In retrospect we hadn’t known each other that long and if we are honest, we didn’t know each other as well as we thought we did. I didn’t know how to cook and we often wondered if we would make rent. We didn’t have cable or cell phones, we were a 20 minute drive from ANY shopping and we spent almost all our time together, even many classes.

As a newlywed, we were given ample advice. Some was requested and some not-so-much. But I remember being told one thing that has stuck with me for these 7 years and I will strive to maintain for 7 more. It was simply this:

Speak well of your husband.

It is so easy to sit with a group of girls and bond over your shared story, even if that story revolves around your husband’s forgetfulness, thoughtlessness, messiness or any other unattractive attribute. We usually don’t set out to do it, but we do. And even if your husband never knows what you say it can be immensely damaging to your marriage. In the same way, if you speak well of your husband and he never knows what you say, it can be incredibly beneficial for your marriage.

You can ask my dearest girlfriends or my family and I am confident they would attest to the fact that when I speak of Mike, it is usually glowing. My intention is not to boast of our wonderful relationship or mask the imperfections, of which there are many. My goal is that if Mike was to overhear me, he would blush a little bit. He would whisper to me later, ‘aww shucks hun, that was sweet of you to say.’

(Full disclosure: Mike has probably never said ‘shucks’ in his life, but it’s the picture I get in my head!)

When I do confide to a friend about our struggles it is because I have his consent to do so. If I unintentionally share more then I had intended, I seek my husband’s forgiveness. It’s a commitment that I made and I have found that the more I do it, the more I don’t realize I am doing it. Its second nature and even though it probably gets annoying to those I am closest to, I am so pleased I can bless my husband in this way – even if he never hears a word of it.

Mythical Saturday

A few weeks ago I was in the grocery store while my husband took the kids to the park. Moms all over the world can understand why I was taking my time, reading labels and looking up and down aisles I usually have to bypass in order to change a diaper or hurry home for a nap. I was savoring some time to myself even if it was doing a mundane task.

There were these two young women, probably in their mid-to-late twenties, chatting and shopping together for what I gathered was a dinner party they were hosting. They were immaculately dressed in high end clothes, perfectly highlighted hair and their finger nails shined as though they had been steeped in jewels.

I know what you are thinking. That I must have been green with envy.

I guess I would have been had I had the chance to soak in the moment and compare my flip flops to their designer heels. I didn’t have a chance for that though because one of them said something that made me stop in my tracks.

“Stay at home moms are so lucky. It’s like every day is a Saturday!”

I knew right then and there that these women were childless. Not because of their perfectly toned tummies and barely existent hips. But by the sheer fact that no mom, stay at home or work out of the home, would ever say that. When you are a mom, there is no such thing as a Saturday. Saturdays have gone with the way of the unicorn. They are mythical periods of time in which one sleeps in until 10, leisurely does their nails while they catch up on a favorite show and then maybe heads to relaxing late luncheon with their nearest and dearest. But for moms, like Atlantis, Saturdays have been lost.

I said nothing and they continued shopping around me, like I wasn’t there. And I wasn’t. We live in different worlds and for a moment I saw into theirs and one day they may see into mine. For them it’s an elaborate dinner party with sassy cocktails and pan-seared scallops. For us its whole wheat rotini, for which I have a coupon. My world is barely managed chaos. Its messy and its loud and some days keeping everyone dressed, fed and clean (myself included) is mission impossible.

And I wouldn’t trade a second of it.

I am constantly covered in baby vomit. But my daughter is fed and is growing.

My toddler likes to sing songs at the top of his lungs. And I have been blessed to hear his first cry, first coos, first words and I hope to hear many more of his silly songs.

Its not easy. It’s not picture perfect. It leaves little time for a mythical Saturday. But its a blessing. Don’t get me wrong, I am no saint. A morning to myself to sleep in would be heavenly! A pedicure would be pure bliss. But when it comes down to it, those girls were right. The world calls it luck, I say I am blessed. And everyday with my husband and kids is better than any ‘Saturday’ without them could ever be.

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Images by Perfect Moments Photography