Saturday, December 20, 2014

Would you have spoken up?

It was such a typical conversation.  I wasn't surprised to hear it.  But my reaction did surprise me.

I was at the farmer's market today with Esther to buy some bulk honey for some Christmas presents I plan to make.  Now, the critical information that you need to know here is that Bloomington is a very liberal, crunchy, atheistic town.  And in our much beloved liberal, crunchy, atheistic town (and we really do love it here) the farmer's market is like the Sunday worship where all the like minded people meet on a weekly basis.  So being as such, it was no surprise that there was a table there to protest some deer killing going on at a local park that is apparently over-ridden with deer.

I happened to be by the table for a minute and overheard a very passionate conversation going on.  Two women and a man were going on about how pro-life people only care about babies inside the womb, but after they are born, they couldn't care less.  Their words oozed with pride at how much they clearly cared for children and how right their stereotype was.

Now, I have heard statements like this before, and I usually don't speak up, because I doubt that my opinion can change anything.  But as they went on and on, my blood began to boil as I though of the years of my life that I have spent in full time service to kids (out of the womb!!) in need through foster parenting.  In fact, I have met many foster parents over the years and know for a fact that there are many more pro-life foster parents than pro-choice.

I decided that living in the town that we do, their stereotype had probably never been challenged, so without much forethought of what I was going to say, I spoke up.  "Excuse me, I don't think that you can say that all pro-life people don't care about babies after they are born.  My husband and I are foster parents and have sacrificed a lot to serve children in need.  We care about children both in and outside of the womb."

Their response was to play this off, that I was the exception to the rule.  But I stood fast.  I wanted to ask them how many of their liberal friends had sacrificed years of their lives to serve foster children, but instead, I just said, "No.  Its not even most pro-life people who don't care about babies outside of the womb." To which they finally backed down to saying that some pro-life people don't care about babies outside of the womb, since "they wont vote to give more money to schools".

We ended the conversation cordially, they asked about Esther, she gave them her favorite line ("I'm free") and after a minute she and I walked away.

Some thoughts from this interaction:

1. Money is different than your time and your life.  It is one thing to vote to give a little more of your paycheck to kids in need (especially when the brunt of the money is going to come from someone else's paycheck and not your own.)  It is a vastly different thing to sacrifice your time and your life to serve kids in need.  Children in need usually come from broken homes.  They don't need money so much as positive relationships, true mother and father figures in their lives.  But most people would rather throw a little money at them and feel like they did a good thing to prevent these children from starving, when in reality the real starvation is for love, not food.

2. Evangelism - As I walked away from the conversation, the man followed me.  He stopped me and asked how many kids we have.  I told him that we have two biological children and have been able to serve six foster children.  He told me (this is pretty much an exact quote) "I am ok if you have two biological children as long as you don't have any more."

Um, excuse me, when did it become polite conversation to tell someone else how to run their family?  But I wasn't surprised to hear his opinion on this.  You see, in our culture, anyone but Christians are allowed to share (even push) the tenants of their religion.  For the man I talked to today, the gospel of his self-made religion is all about abortion, politics and family size.  But if I had turned around and tried to share the Biblical gospel with him?  I would have been seen as pushy and intolerant.  This is a double standard and Americans needs to wake up and see it as such.

3. Deer vs. Babies - The irony didn't phase me, but people, can we please all notice that they are giving their time to protest a few deer being killed, but celebrate babies being killed?

4. Did my speaking up make a difference?  Should I have even said anything?  This is a question I discussed with Alex after we got home.

In the end we came to the conclusion: yes, it was a good thing.  Honestly, I do think my words affected the two women.  They even thanked me for sharing my thoughts before I walked away and seemed to truly take in the things I said.  I probably didn't change their mind, but they might think twice before loudly sharing their opinion on this topic again.

But more than changing people's opinion about politics or even abortion, I want people to hear the true gospel, that Jesus Christ died to save sinners, including prideful baby-haters like them, and prideful rule-lovers like me.  And I didn't get to share that with them today, but we prayed for them that this conversation will prepare them to hear gospel and accept it in the future.  Who knows, maybe God will even allow me to be the person to share it with them.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Year Ago Today

A year ago today we arrived in Bloomington, having moved here from California.  We were a bit beat up and battered: our incredibly difficult 4.5 years was topped off by an even more stressful moving process.  The week of our move was one of the hardest weeks of my life.

But after that week we finally got here.  We didn't have a home yet, but God graciously provided one within a few days.  We were fortunate to already have a good, welcoming church, but didn't yet have any good friends.  We had hopes for our new town, new church and new life, but didn't exactly know what to expect. 

When I look back on this year, there is a verse that very clearly describes what God has done in our lives:
"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 5:10-11
Our "little while" was our time in California.  Though painful for 4.5 years, it is but a blink in the light of eternity.  And God is gracious, because after our time of suffering, he has used this year to "restore, confirm, strengthen and establish" us.

A lot has happened in this past year.  We added another member to our family.  We moved twice (with a third move planned for next month).  We made friends, and will say a sad goodbye tomorrow to one of the families we have become closest to, who are making their own big cross country move.  We have grown in our love for God and holiness.  We have grown in our abilities as parents.

But most of all, I thank God for rest.  Not every moment has been easy, but much easier than it has been for a while.  I am thankful for a time of spiritual recovery, as we get ready to jump back into the battle.

Because, as John Piper says, "Life is war".  And times of rest are just preparation to get back into the fight.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

My Simplified Winter Meal Plan

I have been feeling a need of recent to simplify my meal planning and prep, and in effort to do so I decided to make a 4 week meal rotation that I am going to use for the next few months.  Having my meals for the week already selected makes life much easier.
Photo Credit: Janine on Flickr
I had a few main goals when making this rotation.  First (as usual), I wanted to pick meals that are healthy and loved by my family.  All of these are "made from scratch" as this is healthier and cheaper than boxed foods.  Esther is picky, so mostly I try to pick meals that Alex likes (it would be impossible to please her!).  Alex, like many men, isn't a big fan of soup, but I have soup every week in this rotation because these are all meaty, hearty, yummy hubby-approved soups (I asked!).  We like a lot of ethnic foods (Indian, Thai, Mexican, etc) and this meal plan reflects that.

Secondly, I wanted meals with easy prep, with a focus on crock pot meals.  The hours between nap time and dinner tend to be hard so I wanted to make this easier by picking meals I could at least start earlier in the day.  I find that soup can be made mid afternoon, and left on the stove to be heated up right at dinner time.  Some of these meals I will make 2 pans of and freeze one, or at least double the sauce, crust, etc and freeze it to make life easier next time I made it.  Along the same lines, most of these meals only require one or two pans/pots to be used, which also makes things simpler.  I just can't do a main dish with 3 side dishes... too much clean up, especially right now while we don't have a dish washer!  Lastly, I picked meals that are good winter meals: lots of soups/stews, casseroles, and other hot, hearty meals.

You might notice that I tend to rotate through meats: most weeks I have one dish with each beef, chicken, fish, sausage and one meatless.  I know I'm probably weird, but I just like including each of these in our various meals each week for variety.

A few notes.  First, we have dinner with our small group on Sundays, so I only planned 6 days worth of dinners each week.  At the bottom I did list some ideas for small group meals for when its my turn to make the main; meals that are easy to make in large batches, generally liked by most adults and kids and able to be transported.  Secondly, I linked recipes where I use them on line, but many of these are meals that I make often enough that I don't really use a recipe, I just know how to make it.  But you can always try google or pintrest for some recipe suggestions!  Third, whenever it says rolls, I use an ABi5 sourdough recipe which makes life so easy and seriously fresh baked bread is sooooooo yummy.  Once you go ABi5 you never go back.

So, here it is.  I hope it helps you to simplify your life or at least inspires you to try something new!

Week 1
1 Beef Enchilladas with guacamole (this recipe for the sauce)
2 Crockpot seafood paella
3 Pesto chicken pasta (frozen pesto from last summer's bounty- yum!)
4 Pumpkin Sausage soup with rolls
5 Greek Chicken Pizza (w/ sourdough pizza crust)
6 Spinach and Swiss quiche

Week 2
1 Beef Lasagna
2 Fettucine Alfredo with baked salmon (This recipe for the sauce.  Shh... don't tell bean haters it contains beans.  They will never know.)
3 Crockpot Coconut Indian Chicken (This recipe is so easy I wish I could do it weekly, but I am afraid we'd get burnt out)
4 Beef Chili with rolls or biscuits
5 Sausage, onion, mushroom and olive pizza (w/ sourdough pizza crust)
6 Black Bean Tostadas

Week 3
1 Crockpot Tex Mex Quinoa (with ground beef)
2 Brazillian Fish Stew over rice
3 Crockpot Tiki Masala Chicken
4 Sausage and Gnocchi soup with rolls
5 Pizza with Beef sausage (w/ sourdough pizza crust)
6 Broccoli and Cheddar Quiche

Week 4
1 Beef Burritos
2 Salmon Casserole (like tuna casserole but made with salmon instead)
3 Thai Green Chicken Curry
4 Hungarian Goulash with rolls
5 Sausage, onion, mushroom and olive pizza (w/ sourdough pizza crust)
6 Spaghetti Squash casserole (basically this recipe but with spaghetti squash instead of pasta)

Small group meals: Chicken Enchiladas (this recipe for the sauce but I made the enchiladas themselves differently), sausage breakfast casserole, lasagna or stuffed shells, chicken and dumplings.

What are some ways that you have found help to simplify your meal planning?