Silence and Struggling

I have, obviously, been quite silent on here lately. I shared about our exciting month of May, but beyond that I have just been kind of stuck with what to write about. Menu plans get old after a while, especially when I am not really mixing it up with too many new recipes. And then no new recipes on the menu means I don’t have any new recipes to share in a post.

I am reading (and it is taking me forever – finding quiet time to read is hard!!) Sally Clarkson’s Own Your Life. WHAT A BOOK! Never have I felt such conviction while reading a book (outside of the Bible, that is). Sally shares, chapter by chapter, about “living with deep intention, bold faith, and generous love.” It seriously has gripped me on several occasions…almost like a smack across the face would.😉 She really gets real about cutting the crap, not feeling sorry for ourselves, and getting out their and living Christlike.

Throughout the year, I have ups and downs (as I assume all moms do). Motherhood can almost make you feel crazy at times. You get into a good rhythm and feel great about your schedule and the kids’ behavior and all that you can accomplish in a day (which probably isn’t that amazing compared to most people, but still…).

Then you have an upset – someone gets sick. A child, for no apparent reason, acts out in the most annoyingly ridiculous way. Your husband has a bad day at work and it spills over into home life. Plans get cancelled. Last-minute plans or appointments come up and you aren’t all that thrilled with it. And a hundred other scenarios you can imagine…

Life just goes nuts.

And I just can’t recover.

I try the old routine – doesn’t work. I try a new routine – doesn’t work. I try reading other mom bloggers’ ideas and implementing them – doesn’t work. I completely shut down and then blow up on anyone that ticks me off – that works, but ends up making it all even worse afterward!

And I am led back to my Bible and the reminder of contentment. Philippians 4:12 says “…I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,…” and then following verse (13) goes on to say “I can do all things through Christ…” Obviously, contentment is only found in Christ. Duh! Somehow I forget that every.single.time. And I also forget that contentment does NOT equal perfection. 

God has NEVER promised this life would be a breeze, that motherhood would be overflowing with amazingness 100% of the time (if only!!), that marriage would be completely fulfilling every second of the day, or that we would ever have it all figured out! In fact, I can guarantee we will never have it all figured out. Only God will. While that should make me content – I don’t have to figure it all out!! – I find myself frustrated and unfulfilled when I cannot figure it all out.

Thankfully, each time I fall into one of these ruts, I am drawn back to God. It is like He taps me on the shoulder to ask “remember Me? I’m still here.” I don’t have to keep going on my own – in fact, I shouldn’t have ever been doing it on my own. Those routines, or lack of, was all me trying to just carry on as if I can do life by myself. When things are going well, I forget that it is because of God – HE is guiding and leading and directing. And I get all caught up in my awesomeness….and then I fall hard, and it hurts. A lot. And then I remember I can do nothing on my own but “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

NOTHING amazing in this life is because of anything I have done. I simply have to lean on God, follow Him where He leads and HE brings about amazing things. And sometimes things aren’t amazing. And it isn’t necessarily because He is punishing me (unless I have made a poor choice…not that I’ve ever made a poor choice or anything…), but He is refining me. He is leading me through the struggles and the challenges to help me to learn to rely on Him.

Life can’t be all roses and sunshine. How would we learn anything?! We would never know what it is to fully trust in the Lord. Sin exists, so life will have bumps and valleys and tough times. But God is faithful and will ALWAYS be right where we need Him to be. I can lean on Him. The struggles and challenges will still be there, but I won’t have to go it alone! He carries me through it. I will still experience the challenge, but I have the ability to experience peace and contentment throughout the difficult time. A peace that is ONLY available through Jesus.

And, let me tell you, it is AMAZING peace. I don’t think I would be writing all this if we had not gone through all the financial stuff last year. What a year! So many times we could have just put our heads down and quit. Just given up. But God, in His awesomeness, kept providing and showing us He was there. Each time we thought it was too much or too awful or too embarrassing, God would shine a little light on the situation and show us a blessing. He continued to provide and answer prayers (not always what we asked for, but turns out it was much better that what we thought would be best!). He continued to show us He was in control. And here we are, a year later….and so much wiser in our faith. Arthur and I have grown closer to each other and the Lord. I love being able to be one of those people who says “let me tell you about the time the Lord provided…” I love hearing those stories from people, and now we have a story! It really was not pleasant to go through, but I am grateful for the perspective and experience it gave us.

I feel like I am rambling now.:)

I just haven’t had a whole lot to say lately. I was in a rut with the kids. Kinda still am. I lose my patience ALL THE TIME with them.

We have a chore system (finally!) that seems to be working; we’re only on week one, so these nice feelings may change in a week or so.😉 My husband is almost done with another online Bible class (praise the Lord! that was a challenging class!!). And I am finding my groove as a homeschooling mom (only took me like five years).

Life is good. Yes, there are still challenges and a lot of not-so-great days with my temper, but life is still good. God is good. He is refining me, working on me to make me pure, wanting me to reflect Him in my reaction and give Him praise in every situation. “These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (I Peter 1:7 NIV)

If you know Jesus, then you know how good He is. No matter what the trial, He is still good. And He will carry us through it – yep, we’ll still go through it, but we are not alone.

If you don’t know the Lord, I am praying that someday you would. (Today’s a really good day to meet Him, by the way!) He did so much for you and I. And He wants you to get to know Him. So, let me tell you about the time the Lord provided…

 

Menu Plan

Breakfast

Cinnamon Roll Baked Oatmeal

Eggs or Cereal x 2

Waffles, fruit x 2

Pancakes, fruit x 2

Lunch

Simple Orzo (recipe later this week or next)

Quesadillas

Leftovers x 2

PB&J x 2

Snack lunch

Dinners

Chicken, Wild Rice and Broccoli Casserole

Pizza

Spaghetti

Fried Rice

Hamburgers and Hot dogs, chips

Corn Fritters, corn salad (lots of corn! lol)

Chicken and black bean nachos (build-your-own)

One Pot chicken, rice, and veggies

Crockpot Lasagna

Snacks

Blueberry Cream Biscuits

Apple Scones

German Apple Strudel

Fruit

May’s Adventures!

Well, well, well. Long time, no see.:) SO much has happened in the last few weeks; blogging has really had to take the back seat.

My husband was in a car accident in early May. His car was  not repairable, and we had to deal with that whole issue of total loss and settlement. Thankfully, the insurance of the gal who hit him took care of everything and very kindly gave us a wonderful settlement. So, then we had to get him a new car. Again, thankfully, we found a really great deal and were able to put down more than 50% of the purchase price. We haven’t had a car loan in over 5 years, so we were hesitant to get into that again….but, since we were able to put quite a bit down, the monthly payment was not awful at all.

We got about two weeks out from that and our van (that I drive) started acting up. Braking sounds, shifting sounds, stalling when parked. No bueno. We had taken it in once right before the accident, but the car guy couldn’t hear anything and didn’t see anything wrong. So, we kept driving. Last week, as the kids and I were driving to go get some flowers for our front yard, the car stalled. Thankfully, I was able to pull off the busy road as it was slowing. I waited a few minutes, and it started back up again. I dropped it off on Wednesday at the car place and went two whole days without it! Stressful! The weather was beautiful, though, so the kids and I just played outside and had no appointments or anywhere to be.

God has really been so obvious in all the details of the crazy happenings last month. He has shown Himself in so many ways in each situation. My husband’s accident happened just up the street from our house. His destination was about an hour away, but the accident happened close to here. Our neighbors were just about to leave but were so gracious in cancelling their plans to help us out that night (picking up Arthur from the hospital, helping me with the kids, etc). Had they been gone already, I don’t know what we would’ve done. And if his accident had happened further away, that would have been even more scary and challenging.

The other driver’s insurance responded quickly and politely. I used to work in liability claims; I know the kinds of claims adjusters out there.:) We were able to work with one who was on top of his company’s best practices and really hustled to get it settled. We had to pay out-of-pocket for a rental initially, but the timing worked out for my husband to take the van a few days to work and the rental was only needed for 2 days. We incurred ZERO costs after all was said and done!

Usually, I feel like we have a million appointments (doctor, dental, or others) or places to be. Both the week of his accident and the week of my van troubles, we had nowhere to be. Any other week, we would have been scrambling to find a car or a babysitter or help, but God’s timing is always perfect and He helped me see how He is always in control.

Honestly, I don’t think I will ever understand how people go through life without the Lord. There are no coincidences. There is NO WAY the universe aligns just so, in order to have all these things come together.

At our moms’ group at church, we revealed our Secret Sisters (we have a name for someone to pray for or give little gifts to…in secret, from September to May) and the gal praying for me ended up being the woman who mentors me in another program at church. She was given my name by the person in charge of the Secret Sister program….someone who had no idea that Karen and I were connected through another group.:) Karen already knows a lot about me and was able to pray for specific things and situations; her little gifts were absolutely a blessing and perfect for the challenges we faced this past year. To say that her getting my name was a coincidence is just crazy. God knew how much I would need her, and He placed us together for a second time. She and I have really grown a lot closer and have such similar stories right now in life.

Life is not perfect because I believe and trust in God. Challenges still happens. Loss still happens. Financial struggles DEFINITELY still happen.😉 Kids still misbehave (I have a little boy yelling “stupid” upstairs right now). Dinner still gets burned from time to time. I am still grouchy occasionally (yes, I am going to claim it is just occasionally) and fly off the handle with my kids.

BUT, here is what is different: I have God. I have the CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE with me. He is in control – knows all, sees all, and is everywhere. He offers me a peace that I absolutely cannot explain and have never received from anything else in this life. He offers a promise that no one else can deliver. He offers a salvation that required so much on His part and so little on mine. He tells me that there is nothing I can personally do to earn His love and an eternity in Heaven with Him. HE handles it all. My only job is to believe and accept it.

I have had this discussion several times in the last month….

So, if I believe and trust in the Lord. If I live my life morally and according to the Bible – full of love, hope, and peace. If I enjoy life, with the hope for an eternity with my Savior. If I die and find out I was wrong….what have I lost? Absolutely nothing. I simply lived a great life full of love and peace and hope.

If you do not believe or trust in the Lord. If you are not filled with the love, hope and peace of God. If you then die and find out YOU were wrong…what have you lost? Absolutely everything. You missed out on the best life here on earth. AND you have lost the best life in eternity.

So, while the month of May might have been a struggle for us….it was definitely full of peace, knowing the Lord was in control. I worried so much less because I knew that regardless of how hard it got financially, He was in control. He is going to take care of us. Will it always look like I want it to? No. Will the timing always be what I expect/hope? No. Will it work out like I imagined? Not always. That doesn’t mean He is a mean God or that He can’t handle it. It means His plan is not the same as my plan, and that is totally ok. He sees the big picture, so I would rather go with His plan that my own.:)

 

Menu Plan

What a wild 48 hours we’ve had! Thankfully, I had my menu planned out on Thursday evening, and I am able to fall back on that while we go into an unexpectedly busy week!

Breakfast

Eggs x 3

Cereal x 3

Pancakes

Lunch

Rice cooker mac and cheese

PB&J x 2

Leftovers x 3

Grilled Cheese

Dinner

Sloppy Joes

BBQ Pork and brown rice

Spinach Pesto Fusilli

Split Pea Soup

Homemade Pizza

Bacon brown rice risotto

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

So, nothing real exciting in our menu. Just extremely happy to have it planned out. Are you trying anything new on your menu this week? Would love to hear about it!

 

Recipe: Toads in a Hole

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Lily recently read the book Toads on Toasta cute book about a fox and toads. The fox tires of his normal meal of toads, and a mother toad is trying to save her baby toads from being eaten. She creates a ‘toads in the hole’ recipe that doesn’t include toads. The recipe is found at the end of the book, but I changed it a bit after failing with following their recipe. I had to toast our bread first, so the egg did not make the bread all soggy and then burn. Maybe it’s just me and my poor cooking skills, but toasting the bread first was the only way I could get this to work! It was a fun recipe and the kids liked seeing the end result. The egg cooked (with runny yolk) inside a piece of toast was just awesome to them! Next time, I think we’ll put some jelly on the little cut-out piece.:)

(Side note: ever since being pregnant with my second or third child, I cannot stomach eating a runny yolk. I have to break mine and cook it completely. I tried it with this recipe and it worked great! So, runny or cooked, the yolk works either way in this recipe.)

Toads in a Hole

1 piece of toast

cookie cutter (all I could find was my heart-shaped one real quick that morning!)

1 egg

two pinches Parmesan cheese

butter or lard or grease

  1. Cut out a hole/shape from the toast. Heat pan and melt a little butter or lard (we use saved bacon grease) on medium heat. Place toast on hot pan.
  2. Crack egg and carefully (like right over top the toast) pour out of shell into the toast hole. Add pinches of Parmesan cheese (if breaking your yolk, mixing the cheese into broken yolk is super yummy).
  3. Cook until egg sets well. Flip egg and toast over CAREFULLY to cook opposite side.
  4. Once cooked to your preference, Remove from pan onto plate. Serve with toast cut-out alongside. Yum!

Menu Plan

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I cannot believe it is May!! This year is flying by. This week we stay fairly busy, so I can keeping the menu simple but filling. Typically we eat Aldi’s Take & Bake for pizza night, but it costs $11 for 2 of them to feed us. That is a pretty good deal since they are extra-large sizes, but in an effort to save a little more $$, we will make our own pizzas this week. I did grab some easier lunch items for Arthur’s lunch and quick things for the kids and me – frozen pierogi’s, deli ham, and some frozen shoestring french fries (a treat!). AND, goldfish crackers were on sale at Meijer for $1 a bag (as part of a mix and match “when you buy 5” deal)…so we grabbed six bags for snacks! We usually just grab cheese crackers at Aldi, but the boys like the fish shapes so it was something different and cheap.:)

Breakfast

Breakfast Bake (new recipe for us)

Eggs x 2

Cereal x 2

Muffins

Pancakes

Toads in a Hole (Lily found this recipe in a book – it’s just an egg cooked in the hole of a piece of toast but a fun name!)

Lunch

Leftovers x 2

PB&J x 2

Pierogi’s

Buttered Noodles

Ham sandwiches

Dinner

BBQ Pork Sandwiches, Salad, Green Beans

Mac and Cheese, carrots and ranch, fruit

Homemade Pizzas

Chicken Broccoli Rice Bake, Salad

Spinach Pesto Fusilli, Cooked Carrots, Rolls

Bacon Brown Rice Risotto, Green Beans, Carrots and ranch

Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches, Salad, Apple Slices

Snacks

Smoothies

Fruit

Brownies

Apples and PB/Nutella

 

 

Rice Cooker Mac and Cheese??

We love, LOVE, LOVE macaroni and cheese! But when you have to feed seven people (one of which is a runner that seems to have an endless pit for a stomach!), it makes it ridiculously hard to keep it on hand. And then, when you try to eat healthy…that kinda means you shouldn’t be buying the fake boxed stuff at the store, even if you have a serious love for it. Sure, there’s the organic kind and they have sales to acquire them pretty inexpensively. But, let’s face it – it is still not really healthy because it has additives and preservatives to keep it shelf stable. For us, eating “healthy” means getting away from boxed stuff – we’re not 100% on top of that, but we avoid the boxes if we can find a homemade alternative.

Anywho, back to my point: We LOVE mac and cheese. I have been making our mac and cheese homemade for the past few months – elbow macaroni and then a roux made into a cheesy sauce. Yum! We mix of the different types of cheeses to find new, yummy flavors. I am not very knowledgeable about cheeses, so we just wing it and make up some combos. Our favorite for grilled cheese sandwiches is gouda and havarti; our favorite for mac and cheese is gouda, havarti and white cheddar. Mmmmm. And sometimes, if I make it a mac and cheese casserole, I throw some cream cheese in the sauce, too, to keep it super creamy.

About a week or so ago, I received an email from a blog I follow, Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures. (I know I have talked about her recipes before, but I absolutely love her site/blog! She has so many delicious, family friendly recipes. And she has allergy-friendly options and gluten-free options, as well.) The email was about her post on Mac and Cheese made in the rice cooker. ?!? At first, I was thinking “oh how dry that must be!” but after I read the post and saw her pictures, I decided to give it a try. It was so incredibly delicious – I have made it about 3 times since I read the email.:) It is the perfect recipe for an easy, quick lunch because the rice cooker does all the pasta cooking for you. There’s no stirring to make sure it doesn’t stick or boil over or anything! I love it. AND, because you cook the pasta in chicken broth…it gives it some extra yummy flavor! Then we add in our delicious cheese combos and it becomes an amazing, deliciously simple meal.

So, here’s how I did it (mine is 1.5 times her original recipe because we eat so much, but her recipe is perfect if your family isn’t quite as big as ours!):

3 cups elbow macaroni

21 ounces chicken broth

1 cup plus 2 TBSP milk

3 cups shredded cheese (I have been using a combo of gouda and white cheddar)

  1. add macaroni and broth to rice cooker and cook!
  2. When rice cooker finishes, remove lid and add in milk and cheese, stirring til cheese is melted. Place lid back on and let warm for 5 minutes or so. Turn off cooker and serve!

Some things you can add in: bacon crumbles, ham pieces, shredded chicken, ground beef and tomatoes (for a “cheeseburger” type of mac and cheese) or anything else that sounds yummy!

Have you tried mac and cheese in the rice cooker? Was it fantastic or a flop?? Please share!