Monthly Archives: May 2013

“Crazy Love” Parenting? (Prayer #11)

What are you doing right now that requires faith? God doesn’t call us to be comfortable.  He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through (Chan, 124). 


I don’t want to just raise “nice” kids.  Ones who don’t swear and attend church on Sundays.  I want to raise spiritual risk-takers.  Bold, joyful, vibrant children of God.  Ones that aren’t intimidated by what life or the world throws at them.  Ones who love others deeply and make an impact in the world at large.  How do we get there? 

I’ve continued reading Tim Kimmel’s book “Grace-Based Parenting” and came to a section that addressed this very issue.  Much of what he shares reminds me of Francis Chan’s writing in Crazy Love, another awesome book about living a life of faith. To me, Kimmel’s thoughts here provide for a philosophy of parenting Crazy-Love (or Francis Chan) style.  Here is what I’ve been challenged by this week:

Safe Christianity is an oxymoron, like “jumbo shrimp.”  Living your life sold out for Jesus Christ has never been a way to enjoy a safe life.  It may be a way to enjoy a good life, but not a safe one.  That’s because Jesus isn’t safe, but He is always good.  On the inside of His goodness (read “grace”), He offers a safe haven for a dangerous life to be lived out (113).

(Children) need to spend the early years of their lives watching their parents live on the front lines of culture.  But as your children get older, you need to allow them to experience spiritual dilemmas that enable them to trust in Christ and to strengthen their hope in His goodness.  There are risks.  We must put our confidence in a God who would not bring anything unpleasant into our children’s lives except for those things that He deliberately desires to use to mold them into His image.  This overriding certainty should guide us as we make decisions on how to grow our children’s hope into a strong hope (113 – 114).

Seeing the word “risk” and assuming it is “reckless” is a convenient cop-out for people living in safe, fear-based Christian circles.  That’s because they know full well that to effectively raise kids on the front lines of the world system would require a much more spiritually savvy parent.  You can’t dump your children on the front porch of the religious professionals or educators and think you’ve done your duty.  You can’t prop them up with evangelical clubs or youth programs that have them doing a lot of biblical calisthenics and think they are somehow prepared.  You might actually have to lead them across the battlefield yourself.  It is not an easier form of parenting—just better.  In the long run, this way produces spiritually strong and sound children (Kimmel, 117).

If anything, “safe Christianity” isn’t about a relationship with Jesus Christ; it’s about a relationship with a Western, middle-class caricature of Jesus Christ.  Raising safe Christian kids is as much a product of middle to upper-class wealth as it is anything else.  These protected environments don’t allow a system of spiritual antibodies to develop within the character of the child.  This produces a generation of people who must stay within a spiritually sterilized environment in order to thrive.  These are nice systems that produce nice kids who marry nice kids who go to nice churches and hang out with like-minded nice friends (117-118). 

To many Christian parents, the idea of developing their children’s faith is like teaching them to swim on the living room rug.  They don’t want them to learn how to swim in the water because they could drown.  So these children don’t really learn how to live out a strong, adventurous faith; they just know how to go through the motions (120). 

Grace-based parents don’t make it their aim to raise safe kids.  Instead, they want to raise strong kids. Spiritually safe kids seldom get to see just how wonderful and powerful their God really is.  Spiritual safety is a prescription for spiritual impotency.  The good news about raising strong Christian kids is that you get safe kids in the process.  They know God’s love, they’ve seen Him work, and they understand how to appropriate His power (121).

So if I want bold, strong kids who love Jesus with their whole hearts, there are no easy how-tos or a checklist to follow . It will involve taking risks, being uncomfortable at times, and possibly even danger, along with a fierce dependence on God.  It means our family has to get out of its comfort zone.  We can’t be focused on safety or keeping our kids insulated from the world, those who believe differently than we do, or pain and difficulty.  It may not be the easiest path, but it has the best chance of our children knowing and experiencing a loving, trustworthy God who is active in their lives and the world around them and for them to also develop a tender heart towards others.
___________________________________________________________
Dear Lord,

Help us as we parent to not prioritize safety over cultivating faith and strength in our children.  Give us spiritual eyes to see what You’re doing in our children’s lives and to work alongside You.  And when we can’t see what You’re doing, give us the faith to trust that You are working for good in their lives.  Thank you that we can trust that you will only allow painful or difficult things into their lives to grow them and to mold them into who You’ve created them to be.  Show us how to encourage, strengthen, and walk with them through uncertain and hard times. 
Help us to be uncomfortable with being comfortable.  Give us hearts that yearn to live large, to risk, and to bring glory to You.  Remind us to be stepping out in faith daily.  Give us courage to step outside of our comfort zones and to prompt our children to do the same.  Help them to see that their faith is a lived-out, all-encompassing adventure, not just something they do for an hour or two on Sunday mornings.  Show us how to teach our children to be wise as serpents, but innocent as doves. 
Please make us spiritually savvy parents.  Develop within us discernment and wisdom in how to educate our children, how to process their experiences with them, and what to expose them to, and what to shelter them from.  May our children experience your love, your grace, and your faithfulness as we serve others in our local community and around the world.  Give us the strength and motivation to get out of our comfortable house in the comfortable suburbs and roll up our sleeves up and get busy for You.  May our children’s hearts break for those who are hurting around us.  Give them compassion, insight, and a willingness to get involved in others’ lives no matter the cost or how messy it may be. May their tender hearts spur them on towards serving others and seeking You, the only one who can redeem horrible situations and heal brokenness. 
Jesus, remind us when our hearts are feeling disheartened or overwhelmed by “how vulnerable our children are, how evil the world can be, and how destructive Satan is, that you are MIGHTY, that you are POWERFUL.  And that You have the first word and you’ll have the last word!”  (Kimmel, 116). 
In Jesus’ name, Amen

Washing the Washer? (Wet Paint)

How many of you deep clean your washing machine regularly?  I see one, two…four hands in the air.  Wow, that many.  Good for you!  You all probably keep spring cleaning checklists, right?  Me, not so much…until recently, I hadn’t been deep cleaning my washing machine and I don’t have laminated spring cleaning checklists…maybe I should, but I don’t.   Ryan even has a photo on his phone of me vacuuming since I do it so rarely.  That’s something he enjoys doing, me not so much.  It works well for us. 
Anyway, I had never even thought about cleaning the inside of my washing machine.  The outside, yes, but the inside?  What would you clean it with?  And why?  Wouldn’t something that has soap and water running through it constantly be inherently clean?  

Well, add into the equation a child with eating issues.  Eating issues and a very sensitive gag reflex.  Let’s just say our washing machine and our wet vac ended up becoming two of our most used machines the past few years.  And our washing machine started to smell.  It was GROSS.  I ran some bleach through a full hot water washing cycle but it didn’t do the trick.  I was at a loss.    

Then a few months later, I stumbled on the following link on Pinterest:  How to Clean Your Top Loader Washing Machine.  At this point I was willing to do anything to address the issue.  And this didn’t sound too hard or expensive.  It would just take some intentionality and time.  About two hours.  That didn’t seem to be asking too much to rid me of a problem that was driving me crazy.

Here’s the quick and “dirty” (I couldn’t resist) on cleaning your (top loading) washing machine:
·         Fill up your washing machine with hot water.  Add a whole quart of chlorine bleach.  Let the machine run for a few moments, then let it sit for an hour.
·         Next, let the washing machine finish its longest cycle.
·         Fill the washing machine a second time with hot water.  This time add a quart of white vinegar.  Let the machine run for a few moments, then let it sit for another hour.
·         Again, let the machine do its longest cycle.
It worked!  The smell went away.  And after giving the outside of the machine some attention,
we had a pristine washing machine, inside and out.  Awesome! 

The above link states that your washing machine should be cleaned like this twice a year.  I

know I’ve done ours more than twice a year because its needed it. 
What about you, have you ever deep cleaned your washer?  Any additional tips for those of us
who are new at doing so?

Resisting or Running from Difficulty? (Jesus Calling)

I had just read this devotional about a week ago and was challenged by it.  Had the opportunity to apply it yesterday and failed miserably!  Despite God showing me clearly just this week that He provides generously for our family, I struggled to trust Him with an unexpected financial situation yesterday.  Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Do not resist or run from difficulties in your life.  These problems are not random mistakes; they are hand-tailored blessings designed for your benefit and growth.  Embrace all the circumstances that I allow in your life, trusting Me to bring good out of them.  View problems as opportunities to rely more fully on Me.

When you start to feel stressed, let those feelings alert you to your need for Me.  Thus, your needs become doorways to deep dependence on Me and increasing intimacy between us.  Although self-suffiency is acclaimed in the world, reliance on Me produces abundant living in My kingdom.  Thank Me for the difficulties in your life, since they provide protection from the idolatry of self-reliance.

John 15:5, 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, Ephesians 5:20

Blessings 1738 and 1739!

Gratitude arises from the lived perception, evaluation, and acceptance of all of life as grace—as an undeserved and unearned gift from the Father’s hand. 

 Brennan Manning (24)


I am speechless.  For those of you who know me, that’s not an easy thing to do.  But here I am, blown away by God’s mercy and blessing on our family, again!  Twice this week, I have glimpsed God’s provision in beautiful ways.

The first blessing is Rocco.  No, I’m not pregnant with a baby boy!  He is our new dog.  Ryan has wanted to get another dog since Oliver died.  I needed some time to grieve the loss of Oliver.  We had talked about getting a bigger dog, but hadn’t figured out what we wanted.  Ryan was lobbying to get some sort of bulldog.  I thought they were cute, but they seemed really expensive and have a lot of gas, slobber, health issues, and are known to snore.  Both of us love labs but wondered if they shed too much.  And we’ve both adored Boxers, but wondered if they’d be too high energy for our lifestyle.  Ryan shared that he wanted a dog that was already potty trained.  I love puppies but wasn’t looking forward to that aspect of getting a new dog either as I’m still knee deep in potty training and diapering our kids.  And maybe in getting a slightly older dog, we may know their full grown size.  But if we were to get a dog from an animal shelter, we couldn’t know for sure how big the dog would grow to be or how it would get along with Zoe and our kids. 

So the other day I was getting my haircut and my hairstylist and I started talking dogs. I shared that one of our dogs had passed and we’ve toyed with the idea of getting another dog.  She shared that she is not a dog-person and had two dogs until recently.  They just gave one of their dogs to her brother to keep and were looking for a good home for their second dog, Rocco.  Rocco is a four year old, lab/boxer.  He’s great with kids, laid back, and has really short hair.  Our hairstylist and her family brought Rocco over to our house on Sunday night to see if it’d be a good match.  And it was!  

So we’re now the proud owner of Rocco.  It’s so fun seeing each person in our family fall in
love with him.  Evan and Zoe love running around the backyard with him.  Makenna
mostly loves watching him zoom by her, but has also gone up and pet him.  Ryan and I are
delighted at the joy and energy he brings to our family.

Rocco is Blessing #1738 and what’s so amazing:
·         Rocco was FREE
·         We know his age and full size
·         We know he has a long track record for getting along with children
·         He’s got short hair
·         We love the breeds he is and we got the best of both of them in his temperament and size


And although Rocco isn’t a bulldog, I couldn’t have picked a more perfect dog for my husband.  I feel like this was a beautiful blessing not just for our family, but especially for Ryan. 

On a sidenote, it is CRAZY how big Rocco is compared to how small Zoe is.  I knew Zoe was a small dog, but check out the kennel size difference!  And we’ve never had to make sure that toilet seats are down, food is kept high, etc. because our past two dogs were height-challenged!  : )  We had to laugh when Rocco drank out of our kids’ water/sand table the night he came to visit! 

And Blessing #1739?  Let me share a little background information first.  A few months
ago, the person renting our house in the Springs begged for us to do something to the
backyard.  When I lived there, it had grass, but in recent years, it has turned to dust.  We
felt that we should do something for our tenant, but knew it would mean dipping into our
savings.  But we’re called to love our neighbor and who is closer than someone living in
our Springs house?  So, we’ve started to make plans for getting that done.  Then last week
we got a call that the tub down there is cracked and they think it’ll cost $1300 to repair it. 
Not only is that way more than we planned to use on the backyard, we were floored
because that tub was replaced just a few years ago.  Ryan immediately thought about our
budget and got stressed.  For some reason, I had peace in this situation…that it would all
work out.  
In the midst of this, I’ve also been trying to figure out how to pay for feeding therapy
going forward.  We have made so much progress (YAY!), but still need Nissa’s help.   And
while Ryan had peace that God would provide for this need, this is where I was anxious.
Why?  After wrestling with our insurance company this winter to get them to continue to
cover Evan’s feeding therapy, I’m tired.  I’ve come to dislike the bureaucracy and all the
paperwork and having to figure out how to get everything right within their system to get
it covered.  So while the insurance situation is resolved for the time being, our medical
grant that subsidizes the cost, is expiring at the beginning of June.  We had begged for an
extension as we still have money left in our grant account and hadn’t been able to receive
feeding therapy for six months of the last twelve due to things outside of our control. 
The grant was clear: no extensions.  We could reapply like a new applicant once our
current grant expired. 
Okay.  I can do that. 
Then I pulled up the grant application and checklist. 
Oh boy, had I forgotten how detailed and thorough this application was!  I was dreading
it.  Absolutely dreading it!  But if that’s what I needed to do, I was going to do it.  I had
taken baby steps to start the process but mostly started praying.  I’ve been trying to go to
God first with my concerns instead of just getting busy and trying to figure it out all by
myself. 
Then yesterday, during feeding therapy, Nissa had a brilliant idea.  About a month ago,
she shared the exciting news that the county’s early childhood group had set aside some
funding to cover kids who had eating issues but had “aged out.”  This was great news
considering that special education services in preschool can’t address this need and for
families like ours, it’s our number one priority.  I was so excited for all the families out
there who needed this financial help and had similar issues to ours!!!!  Awesome! 
As this conversation occurred before we found out that we couldn’t extend the grant,
neither of us considered it being an option for our family.  Then yesterday Nissa
connected the dots.  Duh, we could ask for funds from the county for this case!  It cracks
me up that neither of us thought of this before yesterday.  And today she called with the
news that our family has been accepted to get some funding from the early childhood
group!  And even better yet?  It will be easy to pay out.  This past year has involved A LOT
of paperwork, documentation, and multiple submissions to two companies.  And while
we’ve been so thankful for our feeding therapy being covered,  Nissa and I have had a lot
to stay on top of to make sure nothing fell between the cracks.  This new funding source
does not require all the rigorous hoop-jumping.  So not only will our feeding therapy be
paid for, it will be done in a much less stressful way.  That’s Blessing #1739…heck, the
decrease in hoops and extensive paperwork should be its own Blessing… #1740! 
*********************************************************************************

As Brother David Steindl-Rast notes, “The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful, it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”

G.K. Chesterton once remarked that the worst moment for an atheist is when he or she feels grateful and there is no one to thank. -Brennan Manning (33)

 

I love books that draw me into a story of suspense and intrigue.  I also love books that challenge me to think and grow.  But the past few years, I’ve shied away from the books that cause me to really evaluate things because, honestly, I had no extra emotional, intellectual, or spiritual energy to give.  So, it felt really good this past week when I finally felt at the place where I could pick some of those books  up again.  I’m re-reading Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning and reading Grace-Based Parenting—Set Your Family Free by Dr. Tim Kimmel for the first time.  Am thoroughly enjoying both books. 

I wanted to share from the Kimmel book today as it has been speaking my language when it comes to how I want to parent my children.  It’s putting words to my hopes for our family.  Kimmel’s voice in this book is down to earth, inspiring, and in the world full of all sorts of parenting advice, it’s a breath of fresh air…

“One of the primary roles that God gave Christian parents is to create adults who reflect His heart.  A family is, without doubt, the most effective vehicle to produce the kind of people who can move confidently into the adult world and have a redemptive impact on their culture—that’s what we are supposed to be doing” (11-12).  

“Grace-based parents spend their time entrusting themselves to Christ.  They live to know God more.  Their children are the daily recipients of the grace these parents are enjoying from the Lord.  If you watch them in action, they appear to be peaceful and very much in love with God.  They are especially graceful when their children are the hardest to love. 

(Attitudes or messages towards your children from this stance are): 

    • “You are a gift from God, go make a difference,” 
    • “You may struggle doing the right thing sometimes, but you’re forgiven,”
  • “If it feels good, examine it” (19). 

When it comes to God, they feel the need to seek Him more every day.  Most of the time, they’re grateful people. Grace-based families are a breath of fresh air.They process their day-to-day life with an air of confidence that comes from knowing God profoundly loves them.  The key characteristic of grace-based families is that they aren’t afraid.  They are especially unafraid of all the evil around them. 

This changes the way children view their parents and the choices they make on their behalf.  It also gives children a much more attractive view of their parents’ faith.  Parents who operate by grace instead of by a checklist or popular opinion are a lot easier for their children to trust.  And when a child’s world is falling apart, he is more inclined to turn to parents whose primary description is “grace”.   

Grace-based parents have a keen awareness of their feet of clay. They understand their own propensity toward sin.  This makes the grace and forgiveness they received from Christ much more appreciated. It stirs them to love and good deeds for the right reasons. They aren’t driven by guilt and a need to do penance. The last thing they want to do is stand in judgment of struggling people. They see themselves in these people and understand just how much of God’s love they have received.  They are more inclined to want to love these people and care for the genuine needs of their life.

I’m urging you to raise your children the way God raises His.  The primary word that defines how God deals with His children is grace.  Grace does not exclude obedience, respect, boundaries, or discipline, but it does determine the climate in which these important parts of parenting are carried out. 

You may be weird and quirky, but God loves you through His grace with all of your weirdness and quirkiness.  You may feel extremely inadequate and fragile in key areas of your life, but God comes alongside you in those very areas of weakness and carries you through with His grace. You may be frustrated, hurt, and even angry with God, but His grace allows you to candidly, confidently, and boldly approach His “throne of grace.”  His grace is there for you when you fail, when you fall, and when you make huge mistakes.

This kind of grace makes all the difference in the world when it’s coming from God, through you, to your children. 

Children brought up in homes where they are free to be different, vulnerable, candid, and to make mistakes learn firsthand what the genuine love of God looks like.  Grace frees you to take cues from God on all the big decisions you face in raising your kids. One of the characteristics of God’s grace is how much latitude He grants within His clear moral boundaries to make choices. Grace allows you to tailor your parenting style and decisions to the unique bent of your child. God is a God of variety and He deals with us accordingly (Kimmel, 19-21).

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

I want to be a grace-filled parent.  I want our kids to know that they don’t have to be perfect, that I’m a sinner just like they are and are forgiven daily, that they can make mistakes.  And sometimes I wonder if me saying those things (and having a decorative sign on the family room wall saying those things) gets drowned out by my strong personality that wants to “get it right”! 

 

IN THIS HOUSE, WE DO SECOND CHANCES,
WE DO MISTAKES, WE DO GRACE, WE DO REAL

 

WE DO I’M SORRY’S, WE DO LOUD REALLY WELL,
WE DO HUGS, WE DO LOVE, WE DO FAMILY!

So, all that to say, I’m excited to continue reading this book because I think it will help flesh out how to do that in practical ways.  My guess is that it will also help me identify beliefs and attitudes that I need to challenge or change in order to be a grace-based parent.  We’ll see!

Speaking of which, I really liked this blog post tonight We are THAT Family–What I Want My Kids to Know About Sex.  I loved the honesty and grace in the words.  I hope that someday, when we’re having these conversations with our kids, our children will sense the same spirit in our words.

It’s Monday, so we’ll end with a prayer:
Lord,
Help us to have an attitude of grace in our house.  Show me how to accept your grace fully, in a
way that allows me to let go of my failures, my regrets, my insecurities.  Thank you for loving me
with my quirks, my doubts, and my anger!  Thank you for working in my weaknesses and
failures.  Help us as a family to cultivate a love for others and a passion to make a difference in
this world.  And may we be motivated by your grace to us, not because of guilt or trying to
accrue spiritual “brownie points.” 
Lord, may our house be a house of forgiveness, true forgiveness, where resentment and hurt do
not linger.  May each of us be quick to say “I’m Sorry” and “I forgive you.” Help me to not get so
focused on my children’s behavior and wanting to get this parenting thing right that I miss giving
grace.  Thank you that true grace flows from You to me to them.  Help me live out grace in my
marriage too.  May grace overflow!  May we be a breath of fresh air in this world!    
Thank you for being a God of variety….that we all don’t have to parent or raise our kids the
same way.  Help us remember this as we raise our children, that they may experience you in
different ways, that You may speak to them uniquely, and you may call them to something
totally different than us.  Help us to delight in the variety and differences and not be threatened
by them. 
In Jesus’ Name, Amen

WET PAINT…The Pantry Challenge?

So confession time.  I’ve had a boxed thai dinner mix sitting in my pantry for YEARS.  If I remember correctly, it may have moved with me from Chicago to Colorado Springs in early 2005 and then moved with us from Colorado Springs to Denver in 2007.  It proceeded to hang out in our pantry for several more years until I tossed it out in 2010 or 2011!  What a waste of money and space!  I hate wasting money, I hate wasting food but didn’t want to make it because it was way past its expiration date. 
One thing I’ve started to notice as I’ve started to coupon and watch our pennies is how much food we truly have and how much goes to waste.  Not just the thai dinner mix, but also leftovers in the fridge and produce going bad before we are able to eat it all.  So in the past few years, I’ve really worked on wasting less.  And since I have a stockpile of food (you save money purchasing things proactively—when it’s on sale and you have a coupon vs. reactively—when you’re craving something that night or the recipe calls for it but it’s not on sale and you don’t have a coupon), I’ve needed to have a better understanding of everything that sits in my pantry.  I’ve also started to write expiration dates on my items in my stock pile so I can use them chronologically and write on containers in my fridge when I opened or started
I’m not one of those couponers who buys everything that’s on sale or a good deal.  I mostly use coupons to save money on things we already eat or use.  Occasionally I’ll buy a new product that is a great deal, but for the most part, I stick with our regular grocery list. 
Enter the Pantry Challenge.  What is this you ask?  Well, I found the concept on a blog I read occasionally called Life as Mom.  This blog is full of great ideas for saving money, eating cheap but well, and family life.  I’ve gleaned a lot from this blog the past few years, but one of my favorite things is the Pantry Challenge.  Check out these links to read more from the source: Preparing for the Pantry Challenge and Lessons Learned from Pantry Challenge.
Basically every year the Life as Mom author takes a month and “eats down” her pantry.  Why?  She identifies three reasons she does so: 1.) to use what we have, 2.) to rotate stock, and 3.) to save money.  Because, let’s be honest, we often forget what is in our pantry. 
Another reason I like this challenge is because it also challenges one to be creative.  One of my favorite shows is Chopped on the Food Network.  If you’ve never seen it, you’re missing out.  The show involves four chefs competing for a $10,000 prize.  They are given four random ingredients and a set time to come up with one cohesive, delicious, and good looking dish.  They do this for an appetizer, a dinner, and a dessert with a chef being eliminated at each stage in the meal.  I liked the idea of the Pantry Challengebecause it has a Chopped vibe to it.  What could I make with black beans, cheese crackers, and canned pumpkin?  Kidding, its not that severe, but it does make you think outside of the box to use what you have in your pantry.  And it’s not a far leap to add a “freezer challenge” and “fridge challenge” into the mix. 

I didn’t do this challenge as structured as Life as Mom, but occasionally I will take a week and intentionally “eat down” our freezer or pantry.  It’s made me much more aware of what we have, but also better at meal planning too. 
What can I make with quinoa as it’s been sitting in our pantry? 
Oh yeah, we have Nebraska steaks tucked away in the corner of the freezer, let’s have that for dinner…
Wow, I still have four meals sitting in my freezer from my last freezer meal endeavor… that’s four meals this week! 
And the more I am intentional about using the food we already have, the less likely I’ll impulsively spend at the grocery store or choose to get takeout…both cheaper and healthier for our family…
So, how about you… 
  • How well do you know your pantry contents?  Your freezer? 
  • What strategies do you use to make sure you are utilizing the food you already have in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry?
  • What is the longest time you have held onto a food item? 

WET PAINT…The Pantry Challenge?

So confession time.  I’ve had a boxed thai dinner mix sitting in my pantry for YEARS.  If I remember correctly, it may have moved with me from Chicago to Colorado Springs in early 2005 and then moved with us from Colorado Springs to Denver in 2007.  It proceeded to hang out in our pantry for several more years until I tossed it out in 2010 or 2011!  What a waste of money and space!  I hate wasting money, I hate wasting food but didn’t want to make it because it was way past its expiration date. 
One thing I’ve started to notice as I’ve started to coupon and watch our pennies is how much food we truly have and how much goes to waste.  Not just the thai dinner mix, but also leftovers in the fridge and produce going bad before we are able to eat it all.  So in the past few years, I’ve really worked on wasting less.  And since I have a stockpile of food (you save money purchasing things proactively—when it’s on sale and you have a coupon vs. reactively—when you’re craving something that night or the recipe calls for it but it’s not on sale and you don’t have a coupon), I’ve needed to have a better understanding of everything that sits in my pantry.  I’ve also started to write expiration dates on my items in my stock pile so I can use them chronologically and write on containers in my fridge when I opened or started
I’m not one of those couponers who buys everything that’s on sale or a good deal.  I mostly use coupons to save money on things we already eat or use.  Occasionally I’ll buy a new product that is a great deal, but for the most part, I stick with our regular grocery list. 
Enter the Pantry Challenge.  What is this you ask?  Well, I found the concept on a blog I read occasionally called Life as Mom.  This blog is full of great ideas for saving money, eating cheap but well, and family life.  I’ve gleaned a lot from this blog the past few years, but one of my favorite things is the Pantry Challenge.  Check out these links to read more from the source: Preparing for the Pantry Challenge and Lessons Learned from Pantry Challenge.
Basically every year the Life as Mom author takes a month and “eats down” her pantry.  Why?  She identifies three reasons she does so: 1.) to use what we have, 2.) to rotate stock, and 3.) to save money.  Because, let’s be honest, we often forget what is in our pantry. 
Another reason I like this challenge is because it also challenges one to be creative.  One of my favorite shows is Chopped on the Food Network.  If you’ve never seen it, you’re missing out.  The show involves four chefs competing for a $10,000 prize.  They are given four random ingredients and a set time to come up with one cohesive, delicious, and good looking dish.  They do this for an appetizer, a dinner, and a dessert with a chef being eliminated at each stage in the meal.  I liked the idea of the Pantry Challengebecause it has a Chopped vibe to it.  What could I make with black beans, cheese crackers, and canned pumpkin?  Kidding, its not that severe, but it does make you think outside of the box to use what you have in your pantry.  And it’s not a far leap to add a “freezer challenge” and “fridge challenge” into the mix. 

I didn’t do this challenge as structured as Life as Mom, but occasionally I will take a week and intentionally “eat down” our freezer or pantry.  It’s made me much more aware of what we have, but also better at meal planning too. 
What can I make with quinoa as it’s been sitting in our pantry? 
Oh yeah, we have Nebraska steaks tucked away in the corner of the freezer, let’s have that for dinner…
Wow, I still have four meals sitting in my freezer from my last freezer meal endeavor… that’s four meals this week! 
And the more I am intentional about using the food we already have, the less likely I’ll impulsively spend at the grocery store or choose to get takeout…both cheaper and healthier for our family…
So, how about you… 
  • How well do you know your pantry contents?  Your freezer? 
  • What strategies do you use to make sure you are utilizing the food you already have in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry?
  • What is the longest time you have held onto a food item? 

The Sacred Mundane–(Prayer #9)

This is my fourth Mother’s Day, but if feels more like my third because the first one was a blur.  And this Mother’s Day was an interesting one.  I got a really sweet text from one of my brothers sharing his thoughts and feelings about me as a mom.  It was totally unexpected and it brought tears to my eyes.  And my husband, knowing that one of my love languages is words of appreciation, got me the perfect card and personalized it by adding his own meaningful words.  Then I had moments enjoying my two children yesterday, nothing huge, just doing life, but savoring them! 

It was also heavy.  I’ve been thinking a lot about how others experience Mother’s Day, both in good ways, but also in hard ways. Yesterday, on Mother’s Day, two children lost their mom to cancer.  Their father said goodbye to his wife until they will meet again in eternity.  I’m speaking about the Thibado family.  Their Mother’s Days will never be the same again. 

I had a hard time experiencing yesterday without thinking about them.  And I had a lot of time to think because a stomach bug landed me in bed for a good portion of the day.  I prayed a lot, but I often felt like I was struggling with what words to pray because the situation was so sad. 

It also brought me back to how valuable my time is with my children because life is short and we don’t know what tomorrow holds.  And as everyone tells us, their childhood will fly by so fast!  That being said, I really want to value and savor every moment I’m a mother because it is a gift.  And yet, I often struggle with the monotony of keeping house and caring for two kids 24/7.  Its ordinary, its repetitive, its mundane.

This weekend, Glennon Melton (she writes the Momastery blog) shared a post called “The Sacred Order of Motherhood” and it really spoke to me.  To me it felt like an adapted-for-Mom version of Brother Lawrence’s “Practicing the Presence of God” if you’ve ever read that.  Here’s a quick excerpt:

“It’s a monk’s work. Mothers are like monks. We do manual labor. We serve others. We nurse the sick. We feed the hungry and comfort the sad. We sing. We teach. We pray and practice, practice, practice patience. The work of a mother is repetitive. We fold the clothes, we wash the bowls, and we sing the same song and read the same bedtime story night after night.

But that work is our prayer. We express our love through service, so that service becomes a spiritual discipline. As mothers, we devote our lives to love and ask for nothing in return but peace and joy for our children.

So, mothers, the next time someone asks, “What did you do today?” Please take the time to answer accurately. You did not “clean the bathroom.” This response would be like Annie Leibovitz saying, “Oh, I stood around and pushed some buttons.” No. Today you did the holy work of raising human beings. With each word spoken or unspoken, with each offering of forgiveness, you show your children what it means to be brave and kind. The mundane becomes holy, the ordinary extraordinary.”

Check out her entire article here.

I loved what she wrote.  It didn’t ignore the mundane, it revealed it’s true value.  So, today, I’m going to pray a simple prayer about the basic ins and outs of being a mom.  My prayer is based on some thoughts from Jodie Berndt in her book Praying the Scriptures for Your Children (I think on page 195).  She shared that she prayed the following things about being a mom: “I ask God to give me time with my kids, as well as an eagerness on the part of all of us to spend time together.  I ask God to help me see discipline as a gift rather than as a necessary evil.  I ask God to show me how to point my kids toward Jesus Christ.”  These are simple but profound.  They remind me of the value and importance in the-day-in-and-day-out of being a parent.  The sacred mundane.  Let’s pray.

________________________________________________________________
Lord,

Help me to prioritize time with my kids.  Help me to put aside the to-do list, the computer, the TV, all other distractions, and to truly enjoy them.  Empower me to get done what I need to get done and not guilt myself when I don’t juggle everything perfectly.  Lord, give all of us an eagerness to spend time together and bring peace and joy to our times together.  May our children feel cherished by us and may we each appreciate the strengths and quirks each bring to the table. 
Father, give us the wisdom to know that discipline is a gift, not a necessary evil.  Instill in us the strength to discipline our children for their own good.  Give us your perspective on discipline and help us be creative in figuring out what consequences work best for each personality.  Help us work together as partners in disciplining our children.  Remind us to present an united front for our children and to address disagreements about discipline and consequences behind closed doors. 
Jesus, show us how to point our children to you.  Not just with our words, but mostly with our actions and love. Highlight opportunities for us to talk to our kids about You and Your sacrificial love.  Thank you that our church, our families, and many of our friends will also point them to You. 
In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

The Most Expensive Brownies, EVER (Wet Paint)

My sister, Shannon, told me about a Paleo candy bar her friend made the other day that was DELICIOUS and shared that they seemed much healthier for you than other bars or sweets.  I’ve seen the word “Paleo” all over, especially on Pinterest, but had no clue what it was.  Shannon told me that it was low-to-no-carb, no-gluten, and non-dairy which interested me because I avoid dairy and as I’m trying to lose weight, the low-carb thing might be a good thing.  That was the extent of my Paleo research!  Well, a bit more, the other night I was at Natural Grocers and overheard a woman tell another woman that the Paleo lifestyle is “eating how cavemen ate”.  Huh? 

Anyway, I was intrigued by Shannon’s experience so I looked into Paleo candy bar recipes on Pinterest.  Then I remembered that I had also seen Paleo Brownies so I checked out those recipes too.  Interesting that cavemen ate candy bars and brownies, right?

I thought I might as well pin both recipes and decide later which one to try out.  One night when I was in the mood to experiment in the kitchen (and had a hankering for dessert—let’s be honest, that hankering happens pretty often), I checked in with Ryan to see what he was in the mood for.  We both agreed that the brownie option sounded better so that’s the direction I headed.  Here’s the original posting for the recipe I used:  Easy Peas-y Paleo Brownies.

I didn’t think much of the ingredient list when I first read through it.  Then I ran to pick up the two ingredients I needed and it started to sink in.  Here’s the ingredient list, see what sticks out to you:

Ingredients:

1 cup pure maple syrup ($8.35)
¾ cup natural cocoa powder (had in our pantry)
1 cup almond butter ($8.79)
2 tsp vanilla extract (had in our pantry)
½ tsp baking powder (had in our pantry)
½ tsp salt (had in our pantry)
1 egg (in our fridge)
¼ cup dark chocolate chips (in our pantry)
So those of you who know my thrifty, couponing ways are probably thinking, “why in the heck
did you go ahead with these brownies?”  Well, two reasons, 1.) I was curious about how in the
world you’d get yummy, “healthier” brownies from these ingredients and 2.) I was now
cravingbrownies!  But look at the prices of the two of the ingredients I ran to get, they total
$17.00!  The syrup was 8 ½ ounces and you needed to use 8 ounces (one cup) in your recipe. 
The recipe called for about half of almond butter in the container I bought.  So I guess you could
say that the almond butter cost $4.40 for this recipe….but that is still $12.00 brownies!  My
thoughts…they’d better be worth it!
Directions:
I’ve included the recipe’s instructions with my own comments in italics.

 1.) Heat syrup on low heat on the stove. Stir in cocoa powder over low heat until smooth. This was weird.  At first my cocoa powder just sat on top of the syrup.  It kind of looked like an oil spill!  Even stirring it round and round, it just hung out on top.  I decided to “fold” the powder into the syrup and that seemed to help the two ingredients mix together.

2.) Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients until thoroughly mixed.  Adding the salt, vanilla, and baking powder didn’t seem like a big deal, but adding the large amount of almond butter was very interesting!  It was a big glob that required a lot of stirring to blend in, but eventually it disappeared into the dark batter.

 

3.) Pour into an 8×8 baking pan greased with olive oil or coconut oil. Or spray Pam on it quickly.  Bake at 325F for 40-50 minutes.  Why is the temperature underlined?  Well because I added 100 degrees to it…yep, I cooked our EXPENSIVE brownies at 425.  And even when it smelled like something was BURNING in the oven, I didn’t think anything of it…just thought, “huh, must be the weird ingredients cooking which makes it smell different”…it probably didn’t help that I was juggling cleaning the kitchen, putting Evan to bed, putting Evan back in bed (2x), and keeping an eye on the brownies at the same time!  I guess I’m lucky I didn’t burn down the house, right?

4.) Use a toothpick to make sure it’s cooked through. I could definitely SKIP this step, ours was not just done, but OVERDONE!  Cool before cutting/serving. For us, I needed to make sure I cut and served it BEFORE it cooled and hardened!

So how did it all end? 
Ryan was game for trying out the messed-up, expensive brownies!  And I was definitely going to
try them because I wasn’t going to make them again after realizing how much they’d cost!!!  They
were not going to go to waste. 
The square portion was an edge piece we each tried, the lumpy portion was the chewy stuff from the
middle of the pan! Ice cream brought some moisture to drier-than-normal brownies…
We were both surprised that the brownies were still good.  They were more cakey than they
should have been but the middle part of the brownie pan was moist and chewy, in my opinion,
yummy!  There was also a slightly bitter taste at times—likely from some of the edges burning. 
But maybe we’ll just call that a dark, dark, dark chocolate flavor or a hint of espresso?  Maybe
not.  In the end, Ryan concluded that the $2.00 brownie mix bought at the local grocery store
was just fine for him.   
After all of this, I went back to the original posting to see if anyone else had concerns about how
much it cost to make these brownies and I found some interesting things in the comment
section.  Some suggested using honey or agave nectar instead of syrup not just for the cost
effective element but also because either may be lower on the glycemic index.  The author also
said that instead of using almond butter, you could use any other nut butter, including peanut
butter, which sounded not only cheaper and definitely yummy to me.  So we’ll see, I might take
another shot at Paleo Brownies, using this recipe with the adaptations, or try out another recipe
found on Pinterest because just because I have to avoid dairy shouldn’t mean that I have to give
brownies up, right?
And for those of you who are wondering how many calories were in these brownies made with
so much syrup and almond butter, someone in the comments section indicated that there may
be as much as 1730 calories in the whole pan.  That seemed crazy to me, but Ryan calculated
that it’d probably be about 200 calories per serving.   
Ever had a Pinterest idea go wrong?  Would love to hear about your experience.  I’ve heard there
are actual blogs devoted to these types of adventures! : )