Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Freezer Cooking

I've never been a huge fan of cooking! I like the end product but for the longest time I could just never figure out how to keep my family filled up without being in the kitchen *all the time*.

Then a friend posted a link to Once a Month Mom. I had heard about "once a month cooking" before but with 2 very young children I never imagined how I could possibly be able to spend an entire day in the kitchen cooking. But when I looked on this site I realized that you can also do 5 or 10 day freezer meal plans and only need to spend a few *hours* at a time in the kitchen to feed your family for 1 or 2 weeks!

This has been a huge blessing to me and my family! (I relapsed for a couple of weeks after being away and totally regretted it!)

This site has such a wide variety of menus: traditional, whole foods, gluten/dairy free, and more. They also have new menus up every month and this is all FREE! 

My first freezer cooking marathon was the Traditional April 5 day menu. This included Spaghetti bread, sloppy Joes, A slowcooker chicken chili, Chicken foil packets, and Pizza Meatloaf. All of these recipes turned out excellently! I doubled each recipe so that I had 10 meals in my freezer and it took me 1 Naptime of prep. and 1 evening of cooking to complete it. I don't have pictures of everything, but I did capture these beauties!

Assembling the Spaghetti Bread

 I used a homemade pizza dough recipe instead of buying bread dough. And I also made it meatless. It would be really good with pizza toppings in it!! My husband wants me to make individual sizes, which would be very convenient if you need a meal on the go!

Assembling the Chicken Foil Packets
These were so delicious. There is stuffing mix, chicken, vegetable, bacon, ranch dressing and cheese all in a convenient little foil! Just throw in the oven and come back a couple hours later and voila! Would be great for singles too! I used frozen chicken breasts and just thawed them ever so slightly so that I could cut them in half. I then used frozen california mixed vegetables. and threw it all in the freezer. So good.

Pizza Meatloaf
 This does not look as good as it tasted....but it was really yummy!

Since then I have been trying to do as much extra cooking as I can once or twice a week. On Saturday I cooked 6 meals in 1 hour! 2 Ham-Pineapple casserole, 2 recipes for Sloppy joes, and A big pot of soup! It is such a relief to not have to cook every day. (For me anyways!)

And here are a few more pictures...

My sweet little boy! Love him!
And a little touch of spring!
linked to Growing Home
              Modest Mom
              Raising Arrows

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Thanking God for the Joys and the Trials

The next letter on my Contentment Acrostic is "T" - and I filled in the phrase: Thanking God for the Joys and the Trials. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, read this post!)

Well we know that it is really easy to thank God for the Joys in life! I am so thankful when my 2 year old hugs me and says "I love you mommy". Or when my little 9 1/2 month old greets me with the biggest 2 tooth grin. Or when I hear them both playing and giggling in the other room! My heart melts and I pray with more earnestness than I ever have, "Thank You Lord! Thank you so much for these little blessings!"

But what about thanking God for the trials in life?
    Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
And let steadfastness have its full effect, 
that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
    (James 1:2-4 ESV)

One thing I have been learning is that each stage of life has it's joys and it's trials...and that's a good thing! James tells us that these trials lead to steadfastness and eventually to perfection! But remembering to find that joy in the midst of it all sure can be a struggle. 

Am I always joyful when my toddler pees in her underwear for the 2nd or 3rd time today!!??
Am I always joyful when the children wake up earlier from their naps than I expected??
Do I always remember the happy moments when baby is teething and cranky??

Paul says:

    I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
(Philippians 4:11-13 ESV)

Even when faced with poverty, imprisonment, lack of food, extremely painful persecution, etc. Paul finds all of his strength and joy in our Lord Jesus Christ and this is his secret to contentment. 
{In perspective, Cranky children seem like a breeze!}

And here is the thing that really hits home for me! 
If I am not finding my joy in Christ alone:
                Rebekah being potty trained is not going to make me more joyful 
                Well-slept children is not going to make me more joyful
                And despite what I may believe during these moments, Having the children all grown up and moved out of the house is also not going to make me joyful.
Finding joy in Christ during all of the crazy ups and downs of life is the only solution. It is the only way to have true happiness. It is the only way to be truly content. 

And, as I have been learning in John Piper's  book "When I don't desire God", finding joy in Christ (even in our trials!) is not just something we should do or something that might be a nice thing to do if we want to be happy...It is something that is commanded! As we can see earlier in Phil. 4, Paul says:  

    Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
(Philippians 4:4 ESV)

If this is a commandment that we need to obey, doesn't that mean that we are sinning when we are not finding our Joy in Christ? When we are not being thankful for the joys and the trials of our life, is it a sin? While it may be a hard thing to swallow, I believe that it is a truth that we must admit. We must confess it and repent of it!

And when we do repent of our ingratitude toward God and when we do start to see the Joy amidst our trials...when we do start to see our trials themselves as Joy...and when we do start to see Christ as our strength and someone to take Joy in...

Then I believe with the help of Christ, 
we have made another step forward 
on our Journey to Contentment.

              Growing Home
              Modest Mom

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Journy to Contentment - Part 4

I began a series ages ago about contentment... and my intention was to write every Tuesday about my personal journey to contentment (which is certainly not over!) and I sort of wanted to keep that going.

My last post was about offering a humble heart before God as a means to contentment. Today I want to address Greed.

"Discontentment makes rich men poor 
while contentment makes poor men rich." 
Benjamin Franklin

Take a moment to think about everything that you have: All of your possessions: house, furniture, decorations, knick knacks, car, money, clothing...Family: husband, children, parents, siblings...Other Relationships: Church family, elders, friends...

Now realize that none of it actually belongs to you!! It all belongs to God and he is gracious enough to loan it to you. 

With that kind of thinking the next logical thing to realize is that because everything we have has been graciously lent to us, what right do we have to complain and covet about what we do not have!?

And yet, how often in my life do I covet what another has. How often do I become discontent with my house, clothing, car, relationships etc. as though I actually deserved better than what I have! How often do I get those overwhelming "urges" to just go to Walmart or Frenchies not because I truly need something but just because I want something...something...Not sure what it is that I want, but I just know I want something.

Linda Dillow in her book Calm my Anxious Heart reminds us that our Heart Attitude is the issue. She quotes this scripture:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, 
where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19-21
"Ask yourself: Where is my treasure? Where is my heart? Simple questions, yet the answers define who you are and what you are living for...You can quickly identify where your heart is if you will survey the things you own and answer this question: Suppose this treasure were lost, destroyed, or stolen tomorrow. Would I miss it to the point that it would harm my trust in God, my contentment, or my relationships? If the answer is Yes, then your treasure is on earth."
{Side note: During Family worship last evening, I was reminded that our treasure should be Christ and His Word! It is worth far more than silver or gold or jewels.}

I really love this book and enjoyed it so much when we read through it together at our monthly Ladies Fellowship Meetings. In this chapter on greed Dillow gives several practical strategies for rooting out greed in your own life. Here is one that really stuck out to me.

"Cut the Ropes"
Greed is like a large weight attached to you by a rope. Look around your house and ask God to show you where to cut the ropes. 
                 Are there certain items that you tend to cling to or are just simply never contented with? 
                               Give them away! 
                 Are there catalogs or fliers that cause you to covet? 
                               Throw them out!
                 Are there certain friends that give you the greedies?? 
                                Stay away from them! 
                                (Or pray a lot before visiting them if staying away is not an option)

As Matthew 18:8 says "And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire."

A personal area that I always seem to be discontented with is my clothing! I have drawers and a closet stuffed full and yet can never seem to find anything to wear! And I always want to buy more! So my goal this week (after I return from a visit with my Mom, Sister, Brother-in-law, and Brand New Nephew!!) is to go through all of my clothing and give most of them away... And pray that God will make me content with what I have.

Do you have a rope to cut? or perhaps one you have cut in the past? May the Lord continue to convict our hearts of these things. This world is not our home.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Lord's Day

(A Lord's Day Evening prayer taken from Joseph Pipa's book The Lord's Day)

Most Holy God,
May the close of an earthly sabbath
              remind me that the last of them will one day end.
Animate me with joy that in heaven praise will never cease,
              that adoration will continue forever,
              that no flesh will grow weary,
                            no congregations disperse,
                            no affections flag,
                            no thoughts wander,
                            no will droop,
                            but all will be adoring love.
Guard my mind from making ordinances my stay or trust,
                                         from hewing out broken cisterns,
                                         from resting on outward helps.
Wing me through earthly forms to thy immediate presence;
May my feeble prayers show me the emptiness and vanity of my own sins;
Deepen in me the conviction that my most fervent prayers,
             and most lowly confessions, need to be repented of.
May my best services bring me nearer to the cross,
             and prompt me to cry, 'None but Jesus!'
By the Spirit give abiding life to the lessons of this day:
May the seed sown take deep root and yield a full harvest.
Let all who see me take knowledge that I have been with thee
             that thou hast taught me my need as a sinner,
                            hast revealed a finished salvation to me,
                            hast enriched me with all spiritual blessings,
                            hast chosen me to show forth Jesus to others,
                            hast helped me to dispel the mists of unbelief.
O great creator, mighty protector, gracious preserver,
                           thou dost load me with lovingkindnesses,
                           and hast made me thy purchased possession,
                           and redeemed me from all guilt;
I praise and bless thee for my sabbath rest, my calm conscience,
                                                                               my peace of heart.