Lessons from My Childhood: Waste Not, Want Not

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Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

Yesterday, after all our guests had gone home, my husband and I were cleaning up after Sunday Supper. As I peered into the roasting pan, I saw the remnants of a delicious Easter meal, but I was also flooded with memories from my childhood. Growing up, it was an everyday occurrence to have folks over to our home. No invitation necessary, just drop by. (By the way, I miss that!) Our doors were always open and guests were always welcome. It was easy to set another place at the table. And no matter what, there would always be enough to eat.

My daddy was born right in the middle of The Great Depression. And I didn’t realize just how much his childhood impacted my own, until my husband and I began our quest to live a more simple life. You see, my folks were “recycling and reusing” long before it became a catch-phrase in our society. Growing up, we were taught never to waste, to think outside-of-the-box when it came to additional uses for ordinary items, and shown how to fix things, instead of tossing them aside because it needed a minor repair or to purchase the latest model.

While my momma was the cook, my daddy was the cleaner. After a big meal–be it turkey, ham or roast–he would meticulously package up the leftovers. Of course, our guests always had first dibs. And Daddy would package up bundles for them to take home. Then, with whatever was left, our family would use in sandwiches, soups and such throughout the week. But he always made sure to use EVERYTHING, even if that meant sticking a ham bone in the freezer.

Today, I don’t even consider throwing out a ham bone. Come on, now! Do you even realize how much flavor is in that appendage? Throw it into a pot with some dried beans, bay leaves, onions and seasonings. Then, fill it up with water and simmer for a good, long while, and you’ve got Soul Food at it’s finest. The only other thing needed is a piping, hot pan of freshly baked cornbread. Now, that’s some good eatin’!

But what about all that luscious goodness left in the very bottom of the roasting pan? You know, all those bits and pieces of ham and the rich, flavorful stock. Well, that makes the best cooking liquid for Jambalaya, risotto, gravy to smother over biscuits, even soup! Or freeze it in an ice cube tray to add extra bursts of flavor to most any dish. Oh. My. Yum.

This is but one simple lesson my folks taught me. There are many, many others. Some of which I haven’t always embraced. You see, there was a time early in our marriage, when my husband and I were sucked into the vortex of “keeping up with the Joneses”. About a decade ago, we realized we couldn’t keep up with them. But more importantly, we didn’t even want to keep trying. It wasn’t worth the time, effort and expense, not to mention debt.

Upon that revelation, our overall philosophy of living changed and we began to incorporate those changes into our daily lives. This didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it’s still taking place, slowly and day by day. Yet, it was then that I began to embrace what had been modeled to me by my folks: It’s okay to be different, to have less, and to live within one’s means.

As I’ve gotten older, it’s become more and more apparent that we live in a disposable society…be it resources or relationships. But my folks taught me there was another way to live: be generous, be frugal, be wise. These lessons will never go out of style. And I will carry them with me always. For this and so much more, I am very grateful.

But what about my ham leftovers? Well, I hear my kitchen calling my name. Something amazing is about to happen with those leftovers and that ham bone! And I can only imagine that it’s gonna be oh, so good!

It All Began with an Order at Starbucks…

latte-love My kids remember everything. Absolutely everything. And they don’t let me forget anything. I mean, anything. Sometimes, this can be annoying. But in this instance, it was endearing. For had they not, we would have missed out. And it all began with an order at Starbucks.

Nearly six years ago, we packed up our family and all that we owned (or what could fit into the moving van) and moved from Colorado back to Washington State.  Leaving behind secure jobs, stable incomes and very dear friends, we knew that God had called us back to this area to live, minister and plant a church.

Although we moved back to a familiar area of the state, much had changed in the time we’d been away. It helped that we knew our way around town, but we were still getting to know a lot of new faces. And his was a face my kids remembered…they just knew it. But they just couldn’t remember from where.

Then, one day, I ordered a latte at the drive-thru at Starbucks. As I rolled my window up, pulled around to pick up my order, my kids shrieked from the backseat when they saw the barista, “Momma, we know him! That’s him!”

“Him who?” I asked.

“That’s the guy that always makes us laugh at Fred Meyer’s! You know, the checker guy! What’s his name, Momma? We should invite him to church!” said my 5-year old son from the backseat.

Having only been back in the area a few weeks, I honestly had no idea who or what my kids were talking about, especially if it involved an occurrence during a shopping trip. You see, I am not a fan of shopping. As is the case with shopping with young kids, or at least my kids, I just did my best to get in and get out without anyone melting down, having an accident or me losing my mind. But this day, well, it was different. This was the day that we introduced ourselves to “Checker Guy”.

When he opened the window to hand me my latte, my son said, “Mom, ask him if he works at Fred Meyer’s. I know he does, Momma!”

To appease my kids, I did ask him. And he confirmed that he did, indeed, work at Starbucks and Fred Meyer’s.  And on that day, he went from being “Checker Guy” to Michael, or Mr. Michael to my kids. And from that day on, we were now dubbed the “J-Family”.

During those first few months back in town, we saw him frequently at both places. Eventually, he learned our first names, too. This made our kids’ day and greatly impressed me and my husband. I mean, can you even imagine the multitude of people he must come in contact with each week? Seriously!

Whenever we saw him at Starbucks, we’d say hello. And if we were grocery shopping at Freddie’s, the kids always made sure that we only checked out at his register. Over time, through short conversations here and there, we shared that we had moved back to plant a church in town. He said to let him know when we began having services because he’d like to attend. And he did. As well, he and my husband got together for lunch. Through our interactions, he began to share parts of his story with us.

And even after our church plant was closed, we continued to see him around town, usually at Fred Meyer’s. It became a joke with him that if Jon and I where there alone, we must be on a date. For some unknown reason, our in-town dates always ended up there. I know, how romantic! It always amazed me how a conversation with Michael went from 0-100 in five or ten minutes. And, as typical, I would always end the conversation saying, “We really need to have you over for dinner sometime!”

After a while, we stopped seeing him at our Freddie’s. Jon discovered he’d been promoted, and was working at another store close by. One evening, we were on a date and dropped in to pick up a few things. Michael was working that night, so we chatted for a bit.  Things were continuing to look up for him. He was on the management track for the company, and the very next day would find out if he would get his own store to manage.

Before we left, we got his number and told him we’d be praying for him. The next day, I texted him to let him know we were praying for him, and were anxious to hear how it went. When Jon saw him a few weeks later, he told him he got the job, and we may not see him much because the store he would be working in was further south.

That was a year ago.

A week ago, I was in the store where I last saw him, and wondered how he was doing. Wanting to send him a text, I looked in my phone for his number but it wasn’t there. Unfortunately, when I got a new phone my contacts didn’t transfer. I had no way to get in touch with him. But I distinctly remember saying a prayer for him as I walked out to the parking lot.

Which brings me to last night….

Late last night, I opened up my computer, launched Google and headed to Facebook. This was the first thing that I saw on my newsfeed:

Today I learned that an old friend took his life over the weekend. While I wasn’t super close with him over the years, as our lives split paths, I still saw him every now and then while he was working, and randomly a few other times. Michael was ALWAYS nice, super energetic, joyful, and encouraging. The last time I saw him we had a deep and encouraging conversation in the middle of Whole Foods, where he told me about his past and how free he had felt from all his struggles. This was about a year ago. Needless to say, it was shocking to hear the news. It’s so sad that this happened, but no matter what I trust God. Michael, you will be missed by many.

Immediately, as I read it, my heart sank. I didn’t know for certain, but as I put the pieces together (similar ages, high schools, churches, etc.), it became clear to me, she was referencing someone that I knew. To be sure, I private messaged her and my fears were confirmed: It was our Michael that she was mourning. As I closed my computer, tears filled my eyes, and all I could think was,

“Michael, we never had you over for dinner!”

Why am I sharing this? I share it as a reminder to myself (and maybe to you, too) that everyone has a name: the post man, the ticket taker at the movies, the bank teller, the garbage collector, the little old lady down the street, the grocery clerk, and yes, even the barista at Starbucks. We just need to take the time to ask what it is and then, call them by their name. Since they usually wear name tags, they make it easy for us! :-)

But not only does everyone have a name, everyone has a story. A story to share with others, maybe even you. It might be in little bits and pieces, here and there or, perhaps, all at once in one long sitting. And the parts of someone’s story that you are privileged to hear and to hold….Ah now! Those are gifts. Sweet gifts that are not to be forgotten. Or taken lightly. But remembered and valued and cherished.

And to think it all began with an order at Starbucks. I am so glad my kids knew everything and pestered me to find out “Checker Guy’s” name.

Michael, the last page of your story may have been written this weekend, but you will continue to be a part of mine and my family’s story. In such a short time, you taught us so much. You made us feel welcomed in a new community. From you, we learned the importance of calling others by their name. You blew us away by remembering random things we shared. You really listened. You made a difference. You impacted lives. And you will be missed. One more thing: We will have that dinner one day! Save a spot at the table for us, okay! Because we know where you live!

It’s on like Donkey Kong: Scripture Memory

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Every week, my pastor-husband, Jon, memorizes the entire Scripture passage for which his sermon is based. Every. Single. Week. This is on top of his other work and family duties and responsibilities. And each Sunday, he recites the passage to the congregation in story-form.

It’s powerful and engaging.

And inspiring.

And convicting.

And sickening. (No, not really. Well, maybe!)

This week, I got to thinking about it, and realized that he has probably memorized more Scripture in the last six weeks than most of us have or will memorize in our entire lives. Wow! Oh, of course, it’s not a competition. But it’s still a WOW!

I wondered, “How in the heck does he do that?” as if it’s some special skill or gift out of my reach. But Scripture memory is not a spiritual gift or something that only a few people can accomplish. It’s an ability that requires patience, persistence and commitment. I mean, we memorize phone numbers, addresses and other day-to-day information. Not to mention movie lines, the menus at our favorite eateries, and the stats for an entire team of baseball players. Right? Uh-huh. I’m picking up my toes, too!

If that can be accomplished, if our brains can take in and recall that needless information, then God’s Word can be memorized and ‘hidden in our hearts’. (Psalm 119:11) Right? Right!

I mean, it’s not that I can’t memorize. After all, I am a musician. Memorization is sort of a job requirement. No, seriously, it is. I mean, I have memorized thousands of pieces for cello, piano and voice. I’m talking page after page after page of music notes. One after the other.

And, good grief, the lyrics that I still have stuck in my head from nearly two decades ago. It’s insane! I was required to memorize music for church, productions for school and work, and other performances over the years as a professional singer. And get this: most of those lyrics weren’t even in English, my native language, but were written in Italian, Spanish, Hebrew, Russian, French and German.

So, I thought, “Jada, what IS your excuse?” And you know what? I don’t have one. I got nothing. Nada. Zilch. Other than simply not doing it, not setting aside time for it and not making it a priority in my life.

Do I think God’s angry at me? NO. Do I think Jon’s a ‘better Christian’ because he memorizes Scripture and I really don’t? No. But I do think it’s a worthy pursuit and a discipline that I need to engage and activate in my life.

As I have thought about it, it’s not that I haven’t tried to memorize God’s Word. Or that I don’t have a few memory verses stored up in my noggin. But I know I can do more. Not because it’s expected of me or because I have something to prove (to myself or others). And it sure ain’t because there’s some reward waiting at the end of all this.

No, it’s because as Christ-follower, I know and believe that God’s Word, the Bible, is my instruction manual for my life. As such, I need to have more of it internalized, memorized, and ‘hidden in my heart’.

His Word is life.

His Word is love.

His Word is truth.

And I want more of that floating around in my brain to recall on crazy days, during tough times and to share with others who might need encouragement or guidance. So, that’s my personal challenge: Memorize God’s Word. Period. I have all sorts of tools afforded to me. Now, it’s time to take them out and use them. Set aside the time and make it a priority. And just get ‘er done!

If we don’t keep learning and growing, we aren’t truly living. Or so ’tis my belief. My soon-to-be-40 year old self has some work to do, eh? First, the 5K challenge and now this! By the way, those two could go hand-in-hand, I believe! So, with that, I will be memorizing the book of Philippians. And, now, I’m off to get started!

[Recipe] Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

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Thai Chicken Noodle Soup


Ingredients:

  • 1 T coconut oil or butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 can baby corn
  • 4 oz tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3 T lime juice (Tonight, all I had was lemon, so that’s what I used.)
  • 2 t red curry paste, or more to taste
  • 3 T fish sauce
  • 1 lb chicken breast, thinly sliced on bias
  • 8 oz rice noodles, prepared according to package directions, drained an drizzled with sesame oil (to keep from sticking and for flavor)
  • Garnishes: cilantro, chopped peanuts, bean sprouts and lime wedges (squeeze lime juice over soup).

Directions:
In a stockpot, heat oil or butter over medium heat. Add onions, red bell pepper, garlic, ginger and cilantro, cooking until softened. Stir in chicken stock, coconut milk and honey and bring to a simmer. Stir in baby corn, tomato sauce and peanut butter. In a bowl, combine lime juice, red curry paste and fish sauce. Stir into soup. While continuing to simmer, add chicken and cook 5 minutes, or until done. Before serving, taste test. Need more salt? Add more fish sauce. More spice? Add more red curry paste. More sweet? Add honey. To serve, place a mound of noodles in each bowl, then top with soup. Garnish with the items of your choice.

King Cake, Baby!

Jada B. Swanson:

Mardi Gras is Tuesday, March 4 th! Are you gonna make a King Cake? Check out this recipe!

Originally posted on Jada Swanson:

King Cake, Baby!

Even though I’m a Louisiana Girl, I’ve never made a King Cake. That might have to do with the fact I perpetually make horrible things when it comes to baking. However, something happend within the last year, or so. Whenever I bake something, it’s actually edible. No, seriously, it is!

Perhaps, this is due to actually following the recipe. DUH! See, when you are predominantly a cook, you can toss this or that into a dish and know it will work. Well, usually! Not so much with baking, though. Consequently, I’ve had many, many, many disasters in the kitchen when it comes to baked goods. Just ask my husband, bless his heart!

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Silence & Solitude: A Mom’s Perspective

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“In a world with so much noise and clutter, we need to create space to listen to God’s voice. Let solitude and silence be your allies, not your enemies. May they be our deep friends, and not awkward visitors.Invest in your soul. Take time to read the Scriptures. Pray and listen. Go for a walk. Soak in God’s presence.”
–Eugene Cho, pastor

Today, as I read this quote, I thought, “Yes!” But as a momma, I know how hard it can be to practice silence and solitude. I mean, seriously, when you have little kids, is it EVER quiet?!?! I don’t know about anyone else, but the early years of parenting were extremely difficult for me. So much so that we’ve (affectionately) labeled them the “Dark Years”. I needed sleep whenever and wherever I could get it.

With the best of intentions, I would sit down to read my Bible or to pray, and I’d fall asleep. Instead of showing myself grace, I would get upset. But I realized, God knows exactly what I need. So, perhaps, that nap was a gift from my Abba Father! I began to “rest” in the Lord! Indulging in those naps without feeling guilt. Realizing life wouldn’t always be like this. One day, the kids would grow up, begin to sleep more consistently, and life would get back to “normal” (Whatever the heck ‘normal’ is, right?!)

And guess what? That one day did happen. Our children did get older and eventually, we found our family’s rhythm of life, so as to speak. In doing so, we also discovered other rhythms we desired to implement into our lives: spiritual disciplines like silence, solitude, Sabbath, simplicity, and others.

We began taking these “disciplines” more seriously. Not as rules to follow or rigid to-do lists to check off, but as rhythms of grace that drew us closer to the Father and helped us to slow down our lives. We discovered we were able to live more intentionally, more purposefully.

Along the way, I did find silence and solitude. At first, it was difficult to sit for ten minutes, much less and entire hour in quietness and stillness, but it did happen. And I discovered the enormous benefits of resting in the Lord, waiting patiently for Him.

Being still.

Quiet.

And listening for His still, small voice.

To be sure, we don’t have it all figured out. This is a lifelong journey. But Jon and I have realized the importance of purposefully practicing the spiritual disciplines. Together, we are creative to carve out time in each of our schedules to prioritize these practices. Occasionally, we even take a one- or two-day retreat by ourselves while the other stays home with the kids.

So, Momma (or Daddy), show yourself some grace. But, PLEASE, don’t throw in the towel. God loves you. He earnestly desires to spend time with you and to reveal Himself to you, so that you might experience His deep, deep love. Throw out the rules and rest in the Lord. And if you need it, take a nap. It really is a gift!

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone.” (Psalm 62:5)

 

Your Turn:
Do you practice the spiritual disciplines? If so, which ones? Are there others you desire to incorporate into your life?

Next steps:
Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation by Ruth Haley Barton
Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster

[Recipe] Mrs. Janet’s Banana Pudding

Mrs. Janet's Banana Pudding

Mrs. Janet’s Banana Pudding

My college years were life-changing. No, seriously, they were. While attending Louisiana Tech, I met and made life-long friends. As well, I was ‘adopted’ by a family from the church I attended while in college. Twenty-plus years later, my college family, The Moore’s, and I still keep in touch. And they hold a significant place in mine and my family’s hearts! They’ve been a part of my life’s journey for so long, I can’t remember them not being a part of it.

A year or so before my husband and I got married, my college family moved from North Louisiana to Florida. Ironically, their home was located in the same town as the graduate school my husband was attending. Over the last ten years, he has been able to stay with them while in town for his on-site classes. It’s been so nice for him to be able to connect with and get to know these special people.

This summer, Jon will graduate with his doctorate degree, so we are flying to Florida to celebrate the occasion and to visit my college family. We are all looking forward to this because it’s been a long time since we have all been together. In fact, the last time we were all under the same roof, my son was two-years-old and my daughter was only three-months-old. Time has flown by far too quickly. But this summer, memories will be made! And we can’t wait!

If you’ve read my blog for even a little while, you know I’m a believer in the sacredness of shared meals. And this family and I shared numerous meals, made many memories and had some significant and sacred conversations while sitting around the dinner table.  This week,  I was reminiscing about Thursday nights with my kids. What’s so special about Thursday nights? Well, every Thursday night while I was in college, I’d head over to my college family’s home to have family dinner and watch Must See TV on NBC. Oh, and wash clothes. I always needed to wash clothes! :-)

In their home, I experienced love, acceptance and grace. Much more was shared than merely a washing machine or food. They shared their very lives with me and many, many amazing meals and recipes that I still cook and enjoy today! One of my favorites is Mrs. Janet’s Banana Pudding. I made it the other evening, and my kids devoured it. My son even declared it his favorite dessert ever! I hope you try it and enjoy it as much as we do!
Mrs. Janet’s Banana Pudding 

  • 1 box of vanilla wafers
  • 5-6 bananas, sliced
  • 1 large box of vanilla or banana instant pudding
  • 16 oz. of freshly whipped cream (or 1 container of Cool Whip)

Directions:
1. In a bowl, mix pudding as shown on box.
2. Gently fold in whipped cream (or Cool Whip) into pudding.
3. Pour a little of the pudding mixture into the bottom of a trifle bowl.
4. Layer vanilla wafers, bananas, and pudding. Making sure to end with pudding.
5. Top with crushed vanilla wafers.
6. Refrigerate until ready to enjoy!