{April} Meals for a Month and Menu Planning 101


mealsforamonth

Well, as y’all can see, I haven’t menu planned since January. Still, we’ve eaten; I’ve just been winging it! It helps that during the winter months, we eat a lot of soup. So, leftovers have been plentiful! However, it’s time to get back to planning out menus. My husband and I both work, as well we share in the responsibilities of home schooling our kiddos. Over the years, we’ve discovered that menu planning provides a bit of sanity in our lives. Plus, it allows the kids to help out with preparing meals.

On Facebook, a few friends asked me how I go about menu planning. Now, keep in mind, we all have different personalities and strengths.With my menu planning, my nerd flag is flying high! I keep a grocery list on the fridge. Whenever we run out of something, whoever notices it first is kindly asked to write it on the list. This helps me to keep track of what we need, specifically when I find an item on sale. (Rarely, do I pay full price for things. You can read more about that HERE.)

As well, there are so many things to take into consideration when you begin to menu plan: What is your food budget? Have you created a price list? Pantry/Freezer Inventory? What foods do you and your family enjoy  eating? Do you regularly have folks over to share a meal? And how will you menu plan?
There are so many ways: paper/pencil (calendar or notebook), digital (calendar, document, blog, etc.); by the week, every two weeks, by the month; rotate only a few family favorite meals, or include some new and different recipes .

Personally, I like to menu plan by the month. Even though I like lists, order and structure, when it comes to cooking, I like it to be a bit more spontaneous. So, I don’t dictate which day we make specific meals. Well,  unless it’s a Sunday, and we are having folks over after church. On those occasions, I always stick to the K.I.S.S Method (Keep It Simple Sister). Then, the choices for lunch are some sort of crockpot soup, Spaghetti and Meatballs or Jambalaya.

With menu planning, I begin by taking an inventory of my kitchen pantry, fridge and freezer, as well as my overstock pantry and garage freezer. Having an overstock pantry and garage freezer allows me to take advantage of sales on items that we use regularly. In no way am I an ‘extreme shopper’ or ‘hoarder’. However, I do like to manage our food dollars wisely and stretch them as much as I can, in order to have a well-stocked pantry and freezer with healthy foods for a variety of reasons. Obviously, I like to feed my family nutrient-rich, real foods with the occasional treat and splurge thrown into the mix. But this also makes it possible for our family to regularly invite others into our home for a meal, to share our bounty with those in need in our community, and to have ingredients on hand to quickly put together a meal for folks in our church who are sick, expecting a baby, or who simply may need an evening when they don’t have to cook!

So where should one begin when starting out meal planning? Well, there are probably a million and one ways, but I complied a few of my ideas. Here ya go:

1. Begin by taking inventory of what you have on hand, so you know what you have to work with, what needs to be used up, and what items need to be purchased. By doing so, you will be throwing less food out, but also will be able to purchase those regularly used food items at their best prices, instead of at the last minute when they aren’t on sale.

2. Then, decide how you will create your menu plan. As I shared, I make up a monthly menu plan.Some folks do it by days of the week. Keeping in mind their personal schedule, as well as their family’s schedule.

3. Decide how you will categorize your menu plan. I like to compile my menu plan by categories.  The categories I use are: Soups/Stews, Meatless Meals, Poultry, Seafood, Beef/Pork, Freezer Meals (When I make certain soups and sauces,  I double/triple the batch to have some to stick in the freezer.) I also include a category for Vegetables, Side Dishes, and Salads, Breakfast, Baking and Snacks.

4. Use any and all available resources that are available to you. Some of the meals I make I know by the back of my hand. No recipe needed. But my kids or husband may need one. So, I still try to tag a recipe, or let them know which cookbook to find it. I also take advantage of Pinterest (Check out my boards HERE), AllRecipes  (I appreciate this site because there’s an area that allows you to put in the ingredients you have on hand, and it supplies you with a few recipes using those specific ingredients.), along with treasured recipes, which I keep in a notebook, and well-loved cookbooks that I have collected over the years. (Recently, a dear lady from our church passed away and her daughter gave me some of her cookbooks. These are gems and treasures to me!) There are so many other resources to choose from, use whatever you like and those which help you the most. 

5. Create you menu plan. From the pantry/freezer inventory that was created, you can easily see what items need to be purchased to round out the menu. For most of us, we have to weekly or bi-weekly purchase produce and dairy items. However, once you get into a groove of purchasing regularly used items at their lowest prices, you will begin to have pantry staples and even some freezer items on hand because you purchased them in bulk when on sale. This has made my menu planning so much easier.

You’ll notice on my menu plans, there are more meals than there’s month. I do this so we have variety and options. As well, since we are fans of leftovers, there’s usually at least one night each week where leftovers are on the menu. Another option is “CAN DINNERS”. A friend from church gave me this idea, which simply means, everyone CAN have whatever they CAN find and/or make. (And they are responsible for cleaning up any dishes and/or messes they make.) This appears on the menu at least once a week, too.

6. But mostly, please know that all of this is trial and error. What works for me may not work for you. Over the years, I have implemented various strategies before landing on one that really works for our family. In a few years, we might go with something else. Who know?! And some recipes may sound good when you read them, but once made aren’t what you hoped they’d be. Others ones, you and your family will greatly enjoy, and they become part of the regular rotation. As well, some months, you might purchase a new food item that everyone loves it. But the next month, you realize you wasted some money and have to throw the item out! It’s okay! Still, if I can suggest something: be bold to try new things! There are so many amazing food items, combinations and recipes to try.  Each month, I try to include a few new ones.

If you have young kids, one thing we did that I think was beneficial was to have our kids pick out one new vegetable and fruit to try each time we went grocery shopping. This expanded their food pallet, and they were more apt to try something new because they had selected the item. If I am making a new recipe, they have to eat what is served. Sometimes, they don’t like it. But more often than not, when I make it again (and again), their tastebuds get used to it, and it becomes a normal flavor and food item they recognize.

If you have other questions, I can’t promise that I have the answer, but I will try to help or point you in the direction where you might find the answer. Happy Menu Planning!

{April} Meals for a Month

Soups/Stews:
Slow-cooker Pumpkin & Black Bean Chili (CP), Creamy Tomato Soup,  Mama’s Pot of Beans (CP),  Chicken Noodle Soup, Zuppa Toscana

Meatless Meals:
Mujadara,  Sloppy Lentils (meatless Sloppy Joes), Chili Cheese LentilsPinto Beans & Cornbread (CP),  Shakshuka,

Poultry:
Hawaiian Chicken (CP), Moroccan Chicken Thighs w/ Lemon & Olives*Chicken and Dumplings**,  Herb-Roasted Chicken Thighs, Slow Cooker Sticky Drumsticks (CP), Uzbekistan Chicken Plov (This is an amazing dish! Try it! I use whole thighs, instead of cubes.)

Seafood:
Red Curry Poached Cod,  Butter-Basted Halibut Steaks with Capers, Cajun Shrimp Cesar Salads, Honey-Garlic Salmon, Salmon Burgers with Caper & Sun-dried Tomato Aioli, Grilled Shrimp** w/ Brown-Rice Cakes with Sautéed Fennel, Broccoli Rabe, and Ricotta

Beef/Pork:
 Crockpot Roast Beef w/ Vegetables* Homemade Chili-Cheese Hamburger Helper**, Spaghetti with Meatballs and Red Sauce**, Pasta Carbonara, Kale, Sausage, Lentil Skillet**, Homemade Lasagna**

Freezer Meals:
Turkey-Sausage Gumbo, Chili, Vegetable-Beef Soup

Vegetables,  Side Dishes & Salads:
Roasted Broccoli, Sautéed Broccolini, Carrots, Roasted Brussels Sprout, Green Beans**, Scalloped Potatoes, Sautéed Kale w/ Garlic, Corn**, Honey-Dill Carrots, Butternut Squash Risotto, Couscous Pilaf, English Peas**, Quinoa, Wild-Rice-and-Quinoa Pilaf With Pecans, Green Onions, and Dried Cranberries, Spinach Salad w/ Raspberry Vinaigrette, Tossed Green Salad w/ Balsamic Dressing, Middle Eastern Carrot & Feta Salad, Veggie Tray w/ Hummus, Baked Butternut Squash

Breakfast:
Pancakes, Smoothies**, Hot/Cold Cereal, Eggs/Bacon or Sausage, Fruit with Cottage Cheese, Baked Oatmeal, Homemade Muffins and Fruit, Sweet Potato Scones**, Toad-in-the-Hole, Slow-Cooker Steel Cut Oats (CP)

Baking:
Homemade Aussie BitesNo-Knead Bread, 30 Minute Rolls, Grasshopper Brownies, Pumpkin Bread, Zucchini Bread, Pear Cobbler**

Snacks:
Quinoa Bites, Veggies and Hummus,  Sliced Apples and Peanut Butter, Monkey Plate (fruit), Granola Bars, Cheese, Energy Bites (NaNa’s recipe), Smoothies, No-Bake Cookies

(CP)Crockpot Recipe
**Ingredients in kitchen freezer

The Secret Life of Pastor’s Wife (or Husband): Holy (h*ll) Week!

Picture Credit: Public Domain Pictures I’m sure some of you cringed at the title of this post. Even still, this is truth for many pastors and their families.  In addition to regular work and family schedules, the additional services and programs can quickly turn Holy Week into Holy (h*ll) Week!  Most pastors and their families dread church holidays because they are anything but celebratory or relaxed. If truth be told, they’re exhausting, and not just for the pastor-parents or spouses, but also for the pastor-kids.

A few years ago, our family found ourselves in this place. Passing one another like two ships in the night on the hamster wheel of ministry: going and going and going. Just like the Energizer Bunny, only not so much. We were tired! No, we were physically exhausted. We read our Bible and we prayed, but spiritually, we were dry. Actually, personally speaking, it was more like completely and utterly parched. We laughed when we read the verse, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” That just wasn’t our reality as we navigated the journey of ministry. Still, we continued to keep at that pace.  Erroneously justifying it all by believing since it was “for Jesus,” then, it was okay.

But, one day, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “If this is what vocational ministry is all about, we don’t want any part of it! There has to be more to life, more to ministry than this. What’s this business about ‘missional living’? Heck, we don’t even see each other, much less our neighbors because we are never home! We are always at church! Something’s got to change.” And something did: We did! In fact, many things changed.

We realized Jesus never called pastors to sacrifice their marriages and/or families at the altar of ministry. And that boundaries weren’t  merely nice, they were necessary. No, actually,  imperative. Even if others didn’t respect them or understand them. We discovered we could love and serve our church and community with our whole hearts without burning out or ignoring our marriage and family. After all, what good is it to have a thriving ministry if our marriages and families are dying and going to hell in a hand basket?

Oh, yes, something changed! Our hearts changed. Our schedules changed. Our jobs changed. Our ministry philosophy changed. Our priorities changes. And while change can sometimes be a four-letter word, in this instance, it was a welcomed oasis in the desert that was our lives during that season.

Since then, we have been on a mission to simplify all areas of our lives, but especially the excessive busyness around holidays. Now, some may say the holiday schedule that pastoral families face just comes with the territory. Others may think our efforts to bring about change is futile. Still, simplifying is our goal. (Have you read the book Simple Church written by fellow La. Tech Alumni, Eric Geiger and Thom Rainer? If not, definitely one to pick up!)

It’s our desire to change the paradigm both within our nuclear family, but also within the church(es) that we serve. You see, we don’t believe that busyness = godliness. And we have vowed not to sacrifice our marriage or our family at the altar of church ministry. Ever. It’s our belief that effective, Kingdom-impacting ministry doesn’t have to result in complete and utter exhaustion for anyone: pastoral staff, lay people, or even the congregation.

Although we we are proactive to guard our family time and purposefully include ‘white space’ on our calendars, the nature of our jobs requires that we work church holidays. As pastors’ kids, our children know the days leading up to holidays can be all-consuming for the parental units, and not really family-friendly, if truth be told. Easter Brunch doesn’t happen around here. (Well, unless, they’re noshing on the free donuts in the foyer at church.) And Christmas Eve dinner is usually take-out in between services. But this year, instead of Chinese food, I actually cooked. Well, my crock pot did: Vegetable Beef Soup! Our holiday traditions may not be of the Normal Rockwell variety, but we still try to make them fun for our kids because they have not one, but two, pastors for parents!

Due to the nature of my job(s), I work several evenings a week either at church or in my music studio. As such, I’ve never attended a Maundy Thursday service. However, I just found out that my last three piano/voice students are unable to attend lessons today; so, after 6PM, I’m free! In texting back and forth with my husband, we have put together a Maundy Thursday service and dinner menu for our family this evening.

Lamb (Pesah): No lamb in the house, but I’d already defrosted chicken legs. So, baked chicken, it is!
Bitter Herbs (Maror): Covered! Thanks to the big ole bag of mixed power greens in the fridge.
Unleavened bread (Matzah): Well, in a pinch, saltines crackers are gonna have to suffice.
Wine: Instead of grape juice, the kids will have Martinelli’s Apple-Cranberry. That’d be a good substitute, don’t ‘cha think?
Haroset (Charoseth): Now, this sounded complicated at first, but I discovered it’s simply apples and cinnamon with raisins tossed in. Got it! Tonight, it just might be cinnamon-flavored applesauce and raisins. :-)

This evening, we want our kids to know–now more than ever–as much as we both adore our vocational roles as pastors and the church we serve, we are their parents first. And they are our priority. Along with an improvised Passover Meal, we are creating a Maundy Thursday service. With a simple internet search, I found a few service templates to pick and choose from, in order to create our own family service. Two elements that we are including are Communion and foot washing. Our kids are familiar with Communion, but foot washing will be something new for them. Jesus instituted this ordinance for His disciples, to illustrate His willingness to unconditionally serve and love us. In washing our children’s feet, I hope they realize our love for them, but more importantly, the depth of Christ’s love for them.

Easter Sunday is just around the corner. For our family, the buzz of the alarm will go off early in the wee hours of the morning to begin a day of work and service.  But this evening, we are going to slow down, simplify and savor the moment. And as parents, we are going to serve our kids and share with them The Story that changed our lives, the gift that was freely given, and the grace that continues to flow over us even though we don’t deserve it. To us, training those two up is of more importance than having a church filled to the brim on Easter Sunday or any other Sunday, for that matter. Sometimes, we have to take a step back ourselves, ya know, to regain perspective of what matters most.

So, to my ministry friends, I know this week has been full and, quite possibly, frantic for you and your families. It is my prayer that you, too, can slow down, simplify, and savor the reality of this week. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

The Secret Life of a Pastor’s Wife (or Husband) #2: Pastors’ Kids (PKs)


bronze-children-statues
When I began dreaming and brainstorming about “The Secret Life of a Pastor’s Wife (or Husband)” series, my intention was to honestly and lovingly portray the realities of ministry life–the good, the bad, and (sometimes) the ugly.  What I desired most was for my friends in ministry to be encouraged. To know beyond a shadow of a doubt, someone saw them, heard them, loved them, and was praying for them. That was it.

In fact, the first post was written after having conversation after conversation (online and in-person) with pastors’ spouses who were barely treading water. Ready to give up, throw in the towel and be done with ministry. A few, even, wanted to be done with their marriages. This was not okay with me. And it shouldn’t be okay with the Christian church either.

And it definitely wasn’t my intent (or ambition) to go global. Although I thought I was writing to a confined audience,  I guess I sort of ‘struck a nerve’.  Up until the first installment of this series, I could probably count on one hand who read my blog. But this series has been viewed by people all over the world. I don’t share that to boast. I share it because this is obviously a topic that needs to be addressed. Somewhat of an ‘elephant in the room’, I dare say. So, I am either a little brave or a whole lotta crazy, but I say, “Pull up a chair, and let’s talk!” How about it?

The second installment of “The Secret Life of a Pastor’s Wife (or Husband)” is about Pastors’ Kids (PKs). After I posted a ‘teaser’ on my Facebook page, I was overwhelmed with responses, private messages and even face-to-face conversations with pastors, pastors’ spouses, and even fully grown pastors’ kids (PKs)! These folks thanked me for opening up this ‘can of worms,’ and encouraged me to write about this topic. I wasn’t surprise to hear from these folks; I knew they were out there. Many of whom desire to share their stories and experiences, even what worked and didn’t work while either raising or growing up a pastors’ kid (PK). (Some will be anonymous contributions, of course.)

However, there were a few conversations that did surprise me (in a good way). Over the last few weeks, I have been contacted by church members and Christ-followers from various parts of the county, even right here in my little neck of the woods, who desire to better understand the “Fishbowl Life”. Not to have ammunition against the pastor’s family, although that’s always a concern. (Just being honest here, folks!) No, they truly desire to better understand this life, so they might discover ways in which they can lovingly come alongside the pastoral family in order to offer support and encouragement. From our conversations, it was evident they want to see their pastoral family thrive, not merely survive while living the “Fishbowl Life”.

So, after giving it some thought, I have realized this topic, Pastors’ Kids(PKs), is one that needs to be addressed more fully than a simple, solitary blog post. Therefore, over the next year, each of the following points, which are listed below, will be a topic for an individual blog post (or more, depending upon who would like to contribute). Some will be written by me. Others will be written by pastoral spouses (husbands and wives). But I am most looking forward to the ones which will be written by adult pastors’ kids. Folks who  faced the realities of Fishbowl Life and lived to tell about it! Some of their stories will be heart-warming. Others will be real, raw and to the point. But it’s my belief that we need to hear them all.

The following is a list of topics that will be addressed in this series. Of course,  we might add a few topics here and there as it seems appropriate and necessary. If you would like to be considered as a contributor for this series, specifically this installment, please contact me HERE. Thanks! 


1.Family Boundaries:  The importance of giving your family your best, not your leftovers. No doubt, when one (or both) parents serve in vocational positions of ministry, the reality is that the work schedule is untraditional with various evening commitments and emergency situations. Even still, there can be a rhythm to the ever-changing rhyme of the work of ministry. 

2. Get REAL! Realistic expectations versus unrealistic expectations for PKs: Due to one or both of their parents’ pastoral roles, PKs may be in a highly visible place. Yet, they are not the “Christian poster child” for proper and pristine behavior for all kids within the church. This momma won’t allow that sort of pressure to be placed upon my kids! :-) 

3. Church Wounds. We all got ’em: How to navigate them and heal, express hurt and anger in healthy ways and move forward in freedom without losing one’s faith. As well, discussing when it might be time for counseling or other professional support. 

3. Friendships. We all need ’em: Teaching our kids that all relationships require taking a risk, especially those within the church (Hey, it’s true!) So, we’ll discuss the importance of developing genuine friendships inside of the church, but also the importance of encouraging PKs to maintain relationships with friends outside of the church.

4. Not Yo Momma’s (or Daddy’s) Church: Dispelling the myth that kids are the ‘church of the future’. Instead, helping them to embrace the reality that they are the church RIGHT NOW, and letting them know their value, worth, and importance within the Body of Christ. 

5. Developing a Servant’s Heart: Demonstrating and instructing our kids in the ways of servanthood and stewardship. Not because they are PKs and are ‘supposed to’. Rather, because they are part of the Body of Christ and are truly delighted to do so. Helping PKs  learn the importance of stewarding their time, talents and resources from a young age, so that when they become adults, it’s a natural part of their expression as Christ-followers.

6. Personal Mission: Pastor-Parents, it’s your responsibility and privilege to help your kids discover, develop and deploy their unique personal mission within the Body of Christ and in their daily lives into every area and relationship. Helping them to realize the church isn’t merely somewhere we go on Sundays, it is WHO we are everyday. And ministry is a way of life, 24/7.

7. Real and Raw Faith. It’s Caught more than taught: Pastors and Pastors’ Spouses: Our kids need to see us living lives of authenticity and integrity before God and others. They need to see a real-life faith journey, up close and personal. One where the spiritual disciplines are embraced and practiced. Where we model a life of prayer and study of the Word, inviting our kids to join us. Creating opportunities to engage in conversations where no topic is off-limits, and all questions are welcomed.  To be sure, it’s gonna be messy, and that’s okay. Our kids need to see us work through struggles and successes. Admitting when we’ve messed up. Asking for forgiveness. And lavishing grace upon ourselves and others.

{January} Meals for a Month

mealsforamonth

New year, new menu plan. Not forgetting to mention that I almost completely fell off the menu planning wagon during the month of December. December is always a super-full month, and we had quite a bit going on between work, music performances and fun family and friends events! Nevertheless, it’s time to get going again. For me, menu planning really does help me get dinner on the table, especially those evenings that I work. Not to mention, having a plan truly does save our family a lot of money when it comes to food.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was planning this menu, I almost forgot that I’d be out of town for a quasi-work trip. Let me clarify: It’s only a quasi-work trip because although I will most definitely be working (thanks to my mobile office: satchel full o’ files and my handy dandy laptop.), in reality, I am merely tagging along so I can hear my super-awesome husband speak at a conference! And y’all know when you go out of town, there’s all sorts of lists to make and things to plan and prepare….and food to use up! Because if you don’t you come back to…..A GIFT!

I know you know what I’m talking about. At one time or another, you all have received the gift of which I speak. You know it: the stinky fridge gift. It’s that funky, nasty, moldy, gross food that you forgot to use up before you hit the road. Uh-huh! Ain’t nobody got time for that mess. In order to make sure I didn’t come home to that nice little stinky surprise, over the last few days, I declared it to be an eat-whatever-is-in-the-fridge-night for most every meal. Therefore, we have been eating some interesting combinations for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And ya know, some weren’t all that bad. But others? Well, bless my poor family’s hearts! And I mean that in the most sincere way possible, not in the Sassy Southern way! Remember, I’m southern, I know all about the real meaning of that particular phrase!

Seriously, my family has been ever so gracious to eat whatever I put in front of them. So much so that there is practically nothing, nada, zilch left in the innards of the refrigerator. You think I jest, but if you were to look into my fridge, you wouldn’t see much. In fact, other than the goodies that I purchased for a shower I am hosting after church tomorrow, about all you would find is a few eggs, a bag of carrots, two or three apples, a grapefruit, a container of plain yogurt and half a carton of almond milk. Oh, and condiments, lots and lots of condiments.

Basically, it’s empty! I mean it’s one thing when your kids say, “There’s nothing to eat!” But when you find yourself saying that, it’s not good! And we all know what that means! It means I am going to have to make a serious grocery run when I get home!  Yea?!?!?! Costco will be seeing my face! The Shopping Queen, I am not, so I will have to make sure I select non-peak hours for that little adventure!  I mean, my family has to eat, so I will be brave and take on the Food Zoo for their sakes.

Although my fridge may be bare, both my pantry and freezer are full. Therefore, the January’s menu primarily consists of items contained therein! So that’s sort of makes me wonder: How long could we go without a trip to the grocery store? Hmm…maybe I should find out! Nah, the kids need their fruits and veggies. Actually, we all do. My tribe goes through a serious amount of produce each month. So, I won’t get away with not shopping for too long after we return home.

Anyhoo, here’s what we might be eating the month of January! I say might because even though the planner-me is thrilled by this plan (both the creation and execution), the rebel-me deviates from the plan quite often! I find it’s rather freeing to kick the plan to the curb. And, well, since my Word of the Year for 2015 is FREE, I might as well continue to go with that theme, eh!? :-)

You’ll notice that some of the recipes are mine, but most are recipes that I found online and include ingredients that I have on-hand in my pantry and freezer! Some, we eat and enjoy all the time. Others, we have never tried before, and may not try again depending upon how they turn out. Let me know if you try any of these and what you think.

Soups/Stews
:
Clam Chowder, Creamy Tomato Soup,  Mama’s Pot of Beans*,  Chicken Noodle Soup (substitute turkey)

Meatless Meals:
Mujadara,  Penne with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic & White Beans

Poultry:
Moroccan Chicken Thighs w/ Lemon & Olives*Chicken and Dumplings (substituting turkey),  Herb-Roasted Chicken Thighs, Slow Cooker Sticky Drumsticks*

Seafood:
Red Curry Poached Cod, Roast Cod w/ Garlic Butter,  Butter-Basted Halibut Steaks with Capers, Crawfish Étouffée, Cajun Shrimp Caesar Salads

Beef/Pork:
Crockpot Pork Tenderloin*, Crockpot Roast Beef w/ Vegetables* Homemade Chili-Cheese Hamburger Helper, Swedish Meatballs, Spaghetti with Meatballs and Red Sauce*, Grilled Steaks, Pasta Carbonara, Kale, Sausage, Lentil Skillet

Freezer Meals:
Turkey-Sausage Gumbo, Taco Soup, Caribbean Dump Chicken Meals

Vegetables,  Side Dishes & Salads:
Roasted Broccoli, Green Beans, Sugar Snap Peas, Carrots, Roasted Brussels Sprout, Green Beans, Baked Potatoes, Sautéed Kale w/ Garlic, Corn, Honey-Dill Carrots, Parmesan Roasted Butternut Squash, Couscous Pilaf, English Peas, Quinoa, Various Salads, Brown Rice, Veggie Tray w/ Hummus

Breakfast:
Pancakes, Smoothies, Hot/Cold Cereal, Eggs/Bacon or Sausage, Fruit with Cottage Cheese, Baked Oatmeal, Homemade Muffins and Fruit, Sweet Potato Scones, Biscuits and Gravy, Toad in the Hole,  Shakshuka, Breakfast Bread and Fruit, Toad-in-the-Hole, Slow-Cooker Steel Cut Oats* (use homemade pear butter)

Baking:
No-Knead Bread, 30 Minute Rolls, Maple-Bacon Sugar Cookies, Pumpkin Bread, Banana Bread/Muffins, Zucchini Bread

Snacks:
Quinoa Bites, Veggies and Hummus,  Sliced Apples and Peanut Butter, Monkey Plate (fruit), Granola Bars, Cheese, Energy Bites (NaNa’s recipe), Smoothies, No-Bake Cookies

*Crockpot Recipe

[Word of the Year 2015] FREE

For several years now, I’ve selected a Word of the Year. Last year, my word was STILL.  However, in reality and in practice, 2014 was more like a stand-firm-and-don’t-give-up-or-give-in sort of year. In some ways, I suppose that is a variation of the meaning of  the word ‘still’. Nevertheless, it was not the connotation or  the interpretation that I had expected or anticipated at the beginning of 2014.

Up until yesterday, I hadn’t really given much thought to a Word of the Year for 2015. That is until my friend, Sarah Bessey, posed a question on her Facebook page. Then, I took a few moments to ponder what it might be. As I recalled the events and experiences of 2014 and began to identify the areas where I would like to see growth, development and transformation in 2015, one specific word kept appearing before my mind’s eye.

What was the word? Well, it was…

metal-chain-link

The word free has a variety of meanings. Here are the ones that stood out to me:

-not under the control or in the power of another; able to act or be done as one wishes.

-release from captivity, confinement, or slavery.

-not controlled by obligation or the will of another: felt free to go.

-not bound, confined, or detained by force.

-not obstructed, restricted, or impeded.

-not taken up with commitments or obligations.

-to make free; set at liberty; release from bondage, imprisonment, or restraint.
to release, as from restrictions.

For me, there is so much, personally and professionally, that is wrapped up in this one word: free from fear; free to be my authentic and unique self; free to move forward in my pastoral calling; free to dream big dreams; free to make mistakes; free from perfection and control; free from other people’s opinions, unrealistic expectations, etc., etc.

So, my friends, 2015 will be a year in which I embrace freedom in all areas of my life. I am excited to see where this leads me in the coming year, what I will learn and discover about myself and how God will use all of this to transform my life and to fulfill his purposes.

In the coming months, I’ll be sharing more about what I’m learning and discovering about my 2015 Word of the Year: FREE. Already, I’ve found a few songs that relate to this word and theme (links provided, take a listen): (Come and Fill My Heart by Avalon, Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave, Free to Be Me by Francesca Battistelli, Break Every Chain by Kim Walker, Where the Spirit of the Lord Is (acoustic version) by Chris Tomlin, and Freedom Reigns by Jesus Culture.

As well, I’ve been reflecting upon various passages in the Bible along with specific verses, which I hope to memorize over the course of the next year.

It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us FREE. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
(Galatians 5:1)

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be FREE.
But do not use your FREEDOM to indulge the flesh;
rather, serve one another humbly in love.

(Galatians 5:13)

So if the Son sets you FREE, you will be FREE indeed.
(John 8:36)

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is FREEDOM.

(2 Corinthians 3:17)

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you FREE.
(John 8:32)

Live as FREE people,
but do not use your FREEDOM as a cover-up for evil;
live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone,
love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

(1 Peter 2:16-17)

What about you? Do you choose a Word of the Year? If so, please share in the comment section or provide a link to your blog.
Happy New Year!

The Secret Life of a Pastor’s Wife: Gimmie A Break!

Before you read this, please know this is NOT about me, personally; my family, specifically; or anyone you think you may know in your own sphere of influence. It’s written generically out of my sincere concern for and extended time spent in conversation with many friends in ministry, specifically pastors’ wives. This is the first installment of a new series entitled, “The Secret Life of a Pastor’s Wife”! 

how-i-see-myself
For nearly two decades, I have personally served in vocational ministry in various positions in and outside of the local church and para-church organizations. Fifteen of those years have been spent married to a man who is also a minister. And after I said, “I DO”, I was branded with the lovely label of pastor’s wife! Whether I asked for it, wanted it, liked it, or not, it was now mine.

Over the years, I have discovered this label comes with a lot of baggage in the form of expectations: those we place upon ourselves and those placed upon us by others. But this label also comes with a gift: a sisterhood of sorts. A unique group of women, many of whom I am honored to call dear friends and Soul Sisters. Some of whom are hurting, and who have been deeply wounded by folks who should be extending grace, instead of grudges. It shouldn’t be this way, especially in the church alongside of other Christians.

So, I’m stepping out on a limb with this topic, but it’s necessary because many of my friends are in a place where they are lonely and feel as if they have no where to turn. Because the place where they should be able to turn, the church, is the very place their wounds have been inflicted. If you attend a church, if you call yourself a Christ-follower, may I please make a suggestion: Give your pastor’s wife a break!

Seriously, cut her some slack. Let go of the preconceived ideas of who you think she should be and what you think she should be doing, and simply allow her to be herself. She may disappoint you. She may offend you. She may not be everything you think a pastor’s wife should be. But guess what? She is a child of God with her own unique gifts, passions and callings that may have little, if anything, to do with the expectations you place upon her or the job to which her husband has been hired to do at your church. For many pastors’ wives, it seems that instead of being seen as individuals, we are only seen because of who we happen to be married to. Sound like fun, huh? :-)

Contrary to my unique life, where BOTH my husband and I are ordained pastors and serve on pastoral staff of a local church, most pastors’ wives are not employed by the church in any capacity or position. And they simply see themselves as merely another church member, who desires to serve the church as God directs. In fact, many pastors’ wives have their own careers and are not personally called to vocational ministry at all. However, these women sincerely desire to be supportive, loving, and encouraging wives to their pastor-husbands. As I would hope any wife would desire to be, regardless of her husband’s vocation. That’s good for the relationship, eh?

My pastor-husband and I have come to the realization that all relationships require risk-taking, purposeful and strategic investment and at times making the decision to initiate difficult discussions. Our marriage relationship, various family relationships, and, of course, friendships are made up of imperfect humans and, therefore, they tend to be M-E-S-S-Y. Over the years, we have learned (and, to be honest, are still learning) how to navigate friendships both in and outside of the church. But we can honestly say, we’ve met some of our dearest and trusted friends at the various churches where we have served. Even though we are pastors.

Personally, our family is in a very unique situation. We are acutely aware of this reality. You see, we are serving on staff of a church where we’ve previously served (nearly 15 years ago), and are living in a community where we have lived for nearly ten years (with a move out-of-state in between appointments). Consequently, we have a developed network of friends in and outside of the church where we serve. That’s not typical!

And most pastors’ wives don’t have this luxury. Many move to places they may not have personally chosen, but know it’s where God directed their pastor-husband and, consequently, their family. Routinely, their husband’s job takes them to new communities where they know absolutely no one. Not a soul. And they feel all alone. Instantly, the are installed as a member of a new church with folks who have attended for years and years, if not decades and decades. Don’t get me wrong: It’s great to have longevity of attendees in churches. But it’s not always easy for the new kid to find their place. Sounds awesome, huh?

So for those of you who attend church, can I share a little secret with you? Pastors’ wives are some of the loneliest people in your congregations. Why? Remember when you were a little kid and had to walk into a new class at school, or ask to play with a new group of kids on the playground? That was hard. Well, it’s hard as an adult, too. Maybe even more so. And, especially, when you are walking into your husband’s place of employment week after week, Sunday after Sunday. A place where everyone knows you, but you don’t really know anyone. And the reality is, they really don’t know you either. They simply know who you are: the pastor’s wife.

It would seem making friends is easy, but that’s not really the case for pastors’ wives. You see, the definition of friend takes on a new meaning. Seriously, it does. As a pastor’s wife, you wonder if your definition is the same as someone else’s. Or if the person who’s befriended you has ulterior motives? Or when, not if, people will begin talking behind your back because of something you wore to church (or what your kids wore)? And pastors’ wives always have an internal dialogue going on inside their heads. Usually, it’s wondering how (or if) they should address the attacks made against their pastor- husband? (And yes, we know we should keep our mouths shut. Still, gosh darn it, it hurts!) So, if you ever see us with one of those permanent smiles on our face, well, it’s probably because we are trying our best to use our filter. And not say something stupid that could get our husband fired. Or, sometimes, it could be there to keep from crying because someone just said something astronomically hurtful.

Or have you ever had a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, followed by this question: Is this friend going to leave the church disgruntled over a decision made or because they are dissatisfied with the pastor’s leadership? The pastor who happens to be your husband. Or had to ask yourself the question, “Do I have enough money to go out with the ladies from church AND still be able to afford childcare for our date night this month?” Then, spend days agonizing over the decision because you know the church ladies already think you are rather stand-offish. Surely, they will not understand if  you say no. But the monthly date night that you budget for is a lifeline for you and your husband. You both need it. What do you do?

These all questions that I have had, personally, or that other pastors’ wives have shared with me, specifically. And there are more. Many, many more.

And as crazy as it sounds: There are many pastors’ wives who have been instructed not to have friends within the church where their husbands serve. (Now, I won’t even tell ya what I think about that, but I am sure you can imagine!) Think I am joking? I’m not! Totally serious! There are actual courses taught at some seminaries and bible colleges, specifically about how to be a pastor’s wife! And, heck no! I didn’t take those. But I’m sure those of you who know me in real life already knew that!  I’m a square-peg-round-hole-sorta-gal, who has a name, a job of my own, and a life outside of church! And I my pastor-husband supports and loves this about me!

But seriously, dear friends, church attenders, and fellow sinners of which I am a mighty fine one. (Praise the Lord for forgiveness and grace, right!?), if your pastor’s wife comes off aloof, you do know there is more to the story.  There is always more to the story. (And you may never know the entirety of her story and that’s okay!) Perhaps, she has been wounded. Or maybe she’s going through a difficult season in her marriage, as a parent, with extended family, or at her own place of employment. Or maybe she’s duking it out with God over some significant spiritual question or doubts. Pastors’  families are not immune to heartaches or trials, ya know?

Or maybe your pastor’s wife is simply scared. Or shy. Or exhausted. I mean, does your husband’s job require that spouses attend most, if not all, work-related events? Or expect them to cover a position in the event that someone else doesn’t show up? Yea, I didn’t think so! And for the record, my pastor-husband has never and would never expect that craziness of me. But some pastors do AND, worse, yet, some churches do. Please don’t be that church!

And if you are that church that expects the pastor’s wife to be at every event, function, and festivity: For the love of everything good and holy, help a sista out. Heck, help a brotha, too! Consider covering the costs of childcare, travel or registration fees. Because you do realize the pastor’s wife is not an employee of the church. Therefore, she is not being paid for the time spent at those events and functions you expect her to attend. And lemme tell ya: there are many, many events she’s expected to attend.

Honestly, most pastors’ families are not able to budget for all of these extraneous expenses and unexpected expenditures. And it puts major stress and strain on a marriage! (Trust me, I know about this one!) If your pastor’s wife is not attending all of the events, retreats, or gatherings, this just might be the reason. Or she might actually have an honest-to-goodness work commitment at her actual job! And that could entail anything from changing a kid’s stinky diaper, wiping a snotty nose, sitting in a cubicle staring at a computer screen, or educating some of today’s smartest and brightest brains! Or, perhaps, she just needed a mental health day. Nothing wrong with that!

But being a pastor’s wife is not a job. It just isn’t. Please don’t make it that. Don’t treat your pastor’s wife like she’s her husband’s secretary (Unless, of course, she is.) Or assume she’s privy to the inner-workings of the church, such as the details of board meetings, private counseling sessions, or the logistics of the many church events.  On Sunday mornings, she would love to simply be warmly greeted and told, “It’s so good to see you at church today. We are very glad you are here!”

If you know a pastor’s wife, treat her like a normal person. Be friendly. Pray for her. NO! I mean, REALLY pray for her and her family. None of this gossip-via–prayer-business.  Get on your knees and go to battle for your pastor, his or her spouse and their children. They face battles of which you have no clue and probably never will. And for the record: they know all about the permanent bull’s eye on their backs. It’s a constant reminder that everything they do is seen, heard and meticulously discussed by others.

Who is your pastor’s wife? Well she’s many things. She’s a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a (insert hobby enthusiast), a (insert career choice here), but mostly, She’s simply a girl, married to a boy, and she earnestly loves God and is fiercely searching for her unique place in his enormous family. Please let her discover that place on her own without any additional pressure. Trust me, she already places enough pressure on herself.

And to my Secret Tribe of Pastors’ Wives and Women in Ministry, I love you. I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to meet many of you face-to-face. But for the ones who I don’t meet this side of heaven, know that you are regularly in my thoughts and prayers. And can I encourage you with a word: Don’t strive to be the best pastor’s wife you can be. Instead, simply press on in this journey towards Christ. Striving only to know him more while learning how to live and love others as he does.

I leave you with a passage from Philippians 3: 12-21 (The Message):

12-14 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

15-16 So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.

17-19 Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites.

20-21 But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.

{November} Meals for a Month

mealsforamonth

OH MY WORD! Where did October go? Hmm..I find myself saying that at the beginning of each new month! Seriously, though, it seems this past month literally flew by in a flash! So much so, I am carrying over a few meals from October to November because we didn’t get around to preparing them!

Why? Well, we hosted a couple of large-scale meals and events in our home in October, so we ate quite a few leftovers from those. As well, since it’s soup weather, I threw out the menu plan and opted to make several varieties of soup, which provided several meals for our family and plenty to share with others, too!

This month, we are looking forward to eating comfort foods and family favorites. Not to mention, spending Thanksgiving with our family in Montana for a few days! Although I am not preparing Thanksgiving dinner, I do hope to purchase a turkey because Turkey and Sausage Gumbo is a staple around our home during this time of year! Plus, the bones make an incredible broth, which I use in a variety of soups, stews and risottos. (Which reminds me, I must make a Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto this month!)

Do you have comfort foods & family favorites that you are looking forward to preparing and sharing this month? If so, what might they be? 

Kids in the Kitchen:
Homemade Pizza,  M & M Cookies (Jamison), Chocolate Peanut Butter Overload Cake (Jadon: didn’t get to make it last month!)

Soups/Stews:
Clam Chowder, Lentil Chili,  Pork Green Chile Stew, Gumbo, Thai Chicken Noodle SoupCreamy Tomato Soup,

Meatless Meals:
Mujadara, Sloppy Lentils (meatless Sloppy Joes), Chili Cheese LentilsPenne with Roasted Tomates, Garlic & White BeansPinto Beans & Cornbread

Poultry:
Moroccan Chicken Thighs w/ Lemon & Olives*Chicken and DumplingsTurkey Quinoa Meatloaf, Herb-Roasted Chicken Thighs

Seafood:
Crawfish Étouffée, Fish Tacos, Roast Cod w/ Garlic Butter, Hake Fish Filets with Olive Oil, Lemon & Butter, Butter-Basted Halibut Steaks with Capers, Broiled Salmon with Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette, Butternut Squash Risotto w/ Blackened Shrimp

Beef/Pork:
Crockpot Roast Beef w/ Vegetables ,  Mama’s Pot of Beans, Homemade Chili-Cheese Hamburger Helper

Freezer Meals:
Chili, Bolognese Sauce, Taco Soup, Dump Chicken Meals (2)

Vegetables,  Side Dishes & Salads:
Roasted Broccoli, Green Beans, Sugar Snap Peas, Carrots, Roasted Brussels Sprout, Green Beans, Baked Potatoes, Sautéed Kale w/ Garlic, Normandy Vegetable Blend, Corn, Honey-Dill Carrots, Parmesan Roasted Butternut Squash, Couscous Pilaf, English Peas, Quinoa, Various Salads, Rice, Veggie Tray w/ Hummus

Breakfast:
Soaked Oatmeal Pancakes, Smoothies, Hot/Cold Cereal, Eggs/Bacon or Sausage, Fruit with Cottage Cheese, Baked Oatmeal, Homemade Muffins and Fruit, Sweet Potato Scones, Biscuits and Gravy, Toad in the Hole,  Shakshuka, Breakfast Bread and Fruit

Baking:
No-Knead Bread, 30 Minute Rolls,  45 minute Cinnamon Rolls, Maple-Bacon Sugar Cookies, Pumpkin Bread, Banana Bread/Muffins

Snacks:
Quinoa Bites, Veggies and Hummus,  Sliced Apples and Peanut Butter, Granola Bars, Cheese, Energy Bites (NaNa’s recipe), Smoothies, No-Bake Cookies