Friday, October 24, 2014

Nourish ~ To Nourish Us as We Age

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 24. To see the rest of the series click here!

I was reading a blog early in the summer when I came upon this quote:
“Every life creates an atmosphere. The air around some people is charged with rage. The air crackles, stretched taut, waiting for the lightening strike. Another person, another atmosphere: anxiety and tension, or fearfulness and excessive caution, or recklessness and indifference....I live in eager anticipation and hope."
I loved it. As is my habit, I chased down the person who said it and the book from which the quote originated and there I met Jean Fleming and the blessing has been all mine since that day. 

Jean Fleming is the author of many books but the one that nourished the socks off of my summer is called Pursue the Intentional Life.  I opened to cover and read the forward which was written by a woman who had been mentored by Mrs. Fleming and her words made me lean in with anticipation to the pages that awaited me. 

Arranged in short chapters, Pursue the Intentional Life was the book I woke up each morning looking forward to opening. I underlined, copied quotes in a special journal I reserved only for this book, I read quotes aloud to my Man, I texted my Mom and sisters about it, I may even have Instagramed a page or two. 


I discovered during my reading, that the incourage.com book club was featuring Mrs. Fleming and her book in a weekly book club And that videos of the book discussions were available ONLINE (here) and I could watch them at my leisure! Woot!

Long before I finished reading the book, I realized that it would be necessary to read it again. I NEVER READ A BOOK TWICE (except for Charlotte's Web which I’ve read 4 times now) but I needed this one to sink deeper into my heart. The morning after I turn  the last page I missed the company of my new friend and her wisdom. I forced myself on to the next book in my stack, but it wasn't the same. Pursue the Intentional Life had set such a high standard of "this applies to my life completely" that any other book was unable to grip my focus. 


What makes Pursue the Intentional Life so compelling is that it is so important for women of all ages and I think that the earlier in her life it gets into a woman's hands, the greater will be her benefit. When Fleming turned 50, she decided to place before herself a goal to be the best "old lady" she could be. She understood that being a lovely "old lady" was not going to happen accidentally and thus she determined to be intentional on her journey particularly as it involved aging. This book then, is what she calls her "Old Lady File.” 


Covering topics like what it means to be a life long learner, how to deal with changes that increasing age deals us, growing sweeter through bitter times and so many many more. Click here and the click on the words “Look Inside.” 

CAVEAT: The book is currently out of stock at Amazon.com! It is available for Kindle. Barnes & Noble has the paperback edition here and the Nook version here. 



"God is not asking me to number my days to increase my pace but rather to examine my route, not to increase my efficiency but to see where I must make course corrections in heart, character, and actions." 

"Who knows the challenges ahead? But in them all, I want to trust His grace, trust that He can reveal Himself in me when I'm barely hanging on, trust that when there is almost nothing of me left, He will show up most powerfully."

~Jean Fleming~

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Nourish ~ Making the Wheels Turn More Smoothly

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 23. To see the rest of the series click here!

I was a Girl Scout. I am a Girl Scout? I’m never sure on that one. I used to be a Girl Scout but... is one always a Girl Scout in the same way that one is always a Marine? I still use many of the skills I learned in scouting in my current occupation, much more than I do any of the skills I picked up in college and I still consider myself a college graduate. 

One of the things that I still remember because I was/am a Girl Scout is how to handle a knife. 

Did you know there was a proper way to handle a knife? There is, and much of it involves what you’d expect: how to close a folding knife, how to be safe while using the knife, the direction of the cut you should make. What you wouldn’t expect is that part of the handling of a knife involves saying “Thank You” when you have firm possession of a knife that is being handed to you. 

Know why? To keep you safe. When you say “Thank you.” The person handing off the knife knows for sure that you are alert and secure in your grip. Who knew? (Besides the Girl Scouts, I guess.) 

Sometimes it seems that manners are as old fashioned as my Girl Scout sash and we might think that they are equally as useful. 

Please don’t be fooled. Manners are vital to our 2014 lives. I’m not talking about which fork to use at a fancy restaurant (though that knowledge will surely come in handy some day) or even the proper way to address a greeting card to a widow or a single lady (also good to know). I’m talking about the basic, ground level manners. 

I’m campaigning for the simple manners that say, “Yes ma’am” instead of “Yep” ; for “What did you say?” instead of “huh?” ; for “Mom, I need your help in the next room, can you come here please?” instead of “HEY MOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMM! HEEEEEYYYYYYYYYYYY” (I might be setting the bar a bit high on that last one). 

Why is it important? Because manners are about making others more important than self. Manners are about acknowledging another person or persons and helping them to feel valued and comfortable. Manners are more than acting polite in proper situations . Having manners is about being polite, because it is who you are in real life. I’m big on manners, not because I want my kids to seem better than everyone else. I’m big on manners because I think that my kids need to be the best kids that I can teach them to be so that they can travel through life as smoothly as possible. I mean to nourish my kids with manners so that they can in turn nourish others.

Manners grease the wheels of relationship. The person who answers his boss while looking him straight in the eye and says, “No sir.” will surely travel further in his job than the person who is looking down at her phone and answers “Uh-uh.” The teenager who knows not to speak with food in her mouth in a dinner interview for an internship will likely go further than the one who talked with a jaw full of salad. The person with a firm handle on manners will be taken much more seriously than the one who thinks that manners don’t matter anymore.

I heard recently that one should never have two sets of manners, one for public life and one for home life but that manners were equally important in both realms. I disagree a little. If you have to choose (which you don’t) I’d say manners at home will make your life so much more pleasant and so much more ingrained in your person, that using manners in public will soon become second nature. 

We have lots of work to do in the manners arena around these parts adults and children alike, so we practice sometimes, imagining situations and conversations and working on best responses. Sometimes, we have a scrimmage in the manners game when we have company over for dinner. There is no better way to see where improvement is needed than to invite others into your home! 

Manners are extra effort but I feel deeply that to teach them to our children is to give them an inheritance that will serve far better than a large bank account. Start with the basics: look the person who is speaking to you in the eye, answer completely "Yes" or "No", speak clearly, put cell phones away when others are talking. Highlight one action each week or every two weeks until everyone is succeeding, then add another. Keep it up until you would feel comfortable approaching the Queen of England...oh, no please don't do that. That certainly wouldn't put many folks at ease in your company and really, the comfort and value of others in your presence is the goal. 

Be gracious with slips of manners. We are ALL works in progress!

Manners: What Others Are Saying...



Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot. ~Clarence Thomas

The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any. ~Fred Astaire

The test of good manners is to be patient with the bad ones. ~Solomon Ibn Gabirol

Good manners have much to do with the emotions. To make them ring true, one must feel them, not merely exhibit them. ~Amy Vanderbilt

You can get through life with bad manners, but it's easier with good manners. ~Lillian Gish

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. ~Philippians 3:2



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nourish ~ Some Pages for Your Soul

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 22. To see the rest of the series click here!

When I need some nourishment I often turn to a book or two or three and do my very best to get lost in a story. When I need to learn about how to nourish my soul I ask my Man, who has read a lot about this lately, for some book recommendations. 

Some pages to nourish your soul...

Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg 

My Man has been repeating a line from this book for months, it goes something like this:

"You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life."



The publisher's description:
In an age of materialism and consumerism that tries to buy its way to happiness, many souls are starved and unhealthy, unsatisfied by false promises of status and wealth. We’ve neglected this eternal part of ourselves, focusing instead on the temporal concerns of the world—and not without consequence.

Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion by Wayne Cordeiro

This book is full of practical ideas on how to to replenish yourself. The author also includes his own story of burnout and depression and what he learned as a result. My Man has read this one twice and has benefitted each time.


Publisher's description: 

In Leading on Empty, Wayne Cordeiro candidly shares his experience with the hope that it will encourage others headed down the same path. He was able to get back in touch with his life, get back in proper balance, and allow God to reenergize his spirit in a way that propelled him forward to greater levels of service. Learn from his experience how you can continue a fruitful ministry. Better yet, take advantage of Wayne's helpful advice early on and avoid burnout altogether.

Thirsting for God: Spiritual Refreshment for the Sacred Journey by Gary Thomas

I've written before about Gary Thomas. I like his style. He writes on many topics including marriage, fitness, and spiritual growth. My Man says that Thomas mines the wells of old authors that most of us aren't familiar with today and shares with us the deep wisdom that is to be gained from writers past. 


From a reviewer: I find myself inspired and challenged not just in thought but in deed! He makes a good case for quoting many of the ancient classics that while you might not always agree with the author's whole theology, you can still be enriched by the passion that drove their pursuit. This book is full of practical helps to direct you towards a growing walk with God characterized by both devotion and action.

Replenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul by Lance Witt

This book addresses the problem of how one gets depleted and provides practical ways to combat depletion. One of the best chapters is entitled, "The iPhone and Your Soul." Highly recommended especially if you are in a leadership position in any area of your life.


From the publisher: Every leader functions on two stages-the front stage or public world, and the back stage or private world. One cannot lead successfully front stage when one is completely depleted back stage....Replenish helps leaders focus on the back stage, the interior life, in order to remain spiritually healthy.

It would never have occurred to me to read a book about my soul and its nourishment. I'm so glad it occurred to my husband because I've seen how beneficial the information contained in these books has been to him. I was also sitting near as he read them almost without blinking, soaking in all that there was to learn and sharing with me from time to time the highlights, often saying, "You'd really benefit from reading this chapter." or "Listen to what he says about..." 

Here's your chance to learn what my Man has learned and to read some of the books that are soon to be on my "To Be Read" stack.


“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Nourish ~ Words Between Mouthfuls

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 21. To see the rest of the series click here!

You’ve gathered the whole family for a meal— a real, honest, sit-down-in-the-chair-pass-the-potatoes affair. You’ve not had a chance to gather everyone for at least the last two weeks but here you all are and all of a sudden this family of yours which is normally the furthest thing from quiet, can’t think of anything to talk about. You know if you can’t think of something soon bickering or complaining is likely to break out and then all of your efforts toward a real, honest, sit-down-in-the-chair-pass-the-potatoes meal will be ruined. 

You break out the “How was school today?” only to hear a chorus of “fines” in response. If you are like me, you might ask "How everyone like their food?" which, if you are like me is a bad idea because, if you are like me, anything short of a standing ovation is gonna be a disappointment and be sure, there will be no standing ovation, after all, you just got everyone to sit down!

During an average week in our world, we can count on a sit-down-around-the-table family dinner on Tuesday evenings. We may be able to pull off another real meal on an additional night of the week every now and then, but mostly all other meals happen around the kitchen island and often are missing a family member or two or three. For this reason, I don’t like to squander opportunities for family discussions around the table. 

Some of my fondest memories of growing up happened around the table during dinner time and I want the same for my own family. So I’ve accumulated a trick or two to keep dinner conversations positive, productive, memorable…so that our time around the table proves to have been a nourishing one.

Our “go-to” conversation starter is Best Thing/Worst Thing. Everyone is called upon to share the best thing and the worst thing that happened to them throughout the course of the day. It’s always interesting to compare what the adults consider the worst thing with what the six year old shares. 

The responses to this exercise provide a guage on what kind of a day your family members actually had. If the best thing in their day was finding clean underwear in their drawer in the morning, that child might need a little extra TLC before the day ends. If the worst thing that happened to your teenager on a given day is that they didn’t see anything interesting on Instagram, you can assume that their day wasn’t so bad. Best Thing/Worst Thing also goes a long way to helping you know your people. One evening Meg shared that her Best Thing of the day was “Pasta for dinner!" I made a mental note and then an actual note so I’d remember. 

Another useful tool we use from time to time comes to our table from the folks at American Girl. Table Talker cards are the size of business cards, each with a question printed on them. Though brought to us by a company that caters to young girls, the questions are excellent for men, women, boys and girls alike.



Each week the older kids are responsible to find and be ready to discuss 1 or 2 current events. Often the time these events are discussed is during dinner. This is probably my favorite type of conversation. I always enjoy seeing what topics the kids have chosen to talk about. Often my Man and I are familiar with the issue from our news consumption during the day and we can easily participate in the discussion and then expose the younger girls to the issues on their level.

Many other resources exist to aid in the quest for sparkling dinner conversation including this small book from Karol Ladd called Table Talk.



A post called The Family Part of Family Dinner from the blog Dinner: A Love Story {here} discusses how the authors' family handles dinnertime conversation challenges. I like their ideas.

If you are in need of more conversation spark, try this link for a colorful and creative conversation spinner from Real Simple magazine.

I suspect that you won’t need this many resources, though because by the time one or two questions have been asked around the table in our home, the kids are bubbling over with things to share and have to be encouraged to take turns speaking. 

Once they are warmed up, my Man and I have the very best time of all soaking up all that there is to learn about these characters who share our table, our food and our lives.

"...getting dinner on the table often feels like the easy part; it’s the conversing and communicating — the family part of family dinner — that often prove more elusive." ~Andy Ward, Dinner: A Love Story

Monday, October 20, 2014

Nourish ~ On the Feeding of Others

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 20. To see the rest of the series click here!

I’ve been in a season of life for the last few years in which my biggest felt role, the one that I feel like I devote the majority of my time to, is feeding my family. Happily, I enjoy this role most of the time except for when I’m not feeling well. My older kids have learned to step in and take over when this happens and I’m terribly indebted to them in that situation. As I sit on the couch and listen to the goings on in the kitchen where food is being prepared without me, it often occurs to me…

…most people do not have back up cooks at the ready when they are ill! 

Even in the past year when I’ve not been feeling well I’ve been blessed by friends who’ve brought food to my family. My illnesses were not serious at all and yet the food came and it was a blessing. It relieved the problem of actually putting food in mouths but even more, it relieved my mental challenge of “what am I gonna feed them tonight?” 


Having been both on the providing end and on the receiving end of “The Feeding of Others” equation, I can speak easily of the blessings of both. I come from a long line of “food takers,” otherwise known as people who, when they hear of a bad situation or an event to be celebrated  in the life of another, immediately think that no matter what, food will make it better and so set into motion plans to “take food.” 

Not everyone comes from such a heritage. Others are “being there” kind of folks and they have my utmost respect. I don’t know how to “be there” quietly and thoughtfully. I know of such people and they have, by their “being there” ministered to me in deep and meaningful ways and I’ve watched in awe as I’ve seen them minister to others around me. 

I’d rather make you cookies than hold your hand because while I’m holding your hand, my mouth will be moving and words will be coming out and very likely they will not be saying anything remotely helpful. Please…do you like pie, can I make you a pie? I’ll drop it off to you and because it’s food, we’ll both feel better, right?


Everyone can nourish others according to their own personality, absolutely.  I will argue, however, that we are all also able to nourish another person with a meal and maybe not even an entire meal but something warm and …yes, nourishing.

I realize that sometimes it's the little things that might keep us from taking a meal to someone like: "How does one go about it in the first place?" or "I have no earthly idea what kind of food to take to a family." My biggest challenge is finding their home to deliver the food but eventually I find the right place and usually I've learned a new area of our town as well...I still get lost frequently in my town after all these eleven years!

When I find out about a family or an individual who needs a meal that I can provide, I get the phone number and give a quick call or text to either the person who is in need or their spouse or family member. I call them and simply say, "Hi Sally, I heard you've broken your arm, how are you doing?" Sally will tell me how she is doing and then I will say, "I have dinner for you tonight, I'll bring it at {what ever time works for you... see note below for a suggestion}.”

At this point in the conversation the person on the other end of the line will say "THANK YOU," and you will say "you are welcome, see you later today." And that will be it. Sometimes, however, the person on the other end of the line will say, "Oh, I'm not really in that much need, you don't need to worry about that.” 

DON'T BELIEVE THEM! 

Tell them you already have dinner in the works and that you'll be there later to deliver. (You DO already have it in the works simply by having made the phone call!) **Dinner time can be a challenging time to deliver a meal while at the same time attempt to feed one's own family. One solution we've found is to try to have food ready early and deliver it "pre-baked" (if that is an option) and let the family receiving the meal put it in the oven at the optimal time for them.

Now that you've promised dinner...WHAT TO FIX?

I am NOT the authority on this matter but am happy to tell you what I usually do. It's very plain and simple:

1. A main dish - casseroles work well here or a simple pasta dish. Often I make a chicken casserole, or a baked spaghetti, or a pot of soup. DO NOT, however, think that everything must be homemade! I have also delivered a grocery store rotisserie chicken or two AND I've been the receiver of those wonderful grocery store rotisserie chickens and oh how we've loved them!!


2. I like to include a vegetable of some sort with a meal but I don't always, sometimes I don't have any on hand and sometimes it doesn't go with the meal (like with soup). I usually pull a frozen microwave steam bag of veggies (or two if serving more than 4) from the freezer, and cook those and put in a take out dish. In the summer a simple bag of salad is a great way to go. If I don't have veggies to include, sometimes I'll take potatoes or pasta salad or rice if I have that.

3. Sometimes I'll send bread. Most times I buy a loaf of french bread from the store and deliver it right in the bag it came in. Sometimes, a simple loaf of banana bread or corn bread is perfect to round off a meal.



4. Dessert...really, we should have started with dessert. From a batch of cookies from the bakery at the store to a homemade pie. ANYTHING is good when you don't feel well or when you are working hard to recover.


Don't feel like you must do it all. Any portion of the above is better than nothing. There have been many occasions in my little world where I'd have appreciated anyone who came to my house and put together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Sample meals:

Baked pasta, salad, loaf of bread, pudding
Pot of soup, cornbread or corn muffins, chocolate chip cookies
Total Store Meal: rotisserie chicken, loaf of bread, potato salad (or macaroni salad) cheerful cupcakes from the bakery, or fruit salad.

More meal ideas {especially soups} can be found by clicking on the Recipe Box tab at the top of this post or by clicking here. I also like to page through my cookbooks with an eye for "take out food" to get fresh ideas.

One final note: When I deliver a meal, if there are extra hands available, I bring them to help carry the food to the door, however, I don't let them come into the home where we are delivering the food. ALSO, I try to drop off the food and get out of the way. Those who are ailing or even healing often aren't up for making conversation or even for coming to the door. I try not to get chatty...;-) .

Ok, TWO final notes: Sometimes the best time to take food to someone isn’t when they are sick or recovering but when you just want them to know you were thinking about them. I receive thoughtful deliveries of goodness frequently from friends and family and even from my Man which knock the flip-flops right off of my feet. It doesn’t have to be a lot to be a source of nourishment in the life of another. 


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Nourish ~ Easy Sunday Soup

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 19. To see the rest of the series click here!

This is one of my favorite soups to fix ahead and have waiting on us when we come home. It’ll work great for your Sunday lunch or a weeknight dinner. All you have to do is brown a pound of sausage and toss it and all of the other ingredients into your slow cooker (or, if you don’t want to wait, toss it all into a soup pot and heat on the stove!).


Ingredients:

1 pound ground sausage (leave out sausage for vegetarian option)
1  19 oz. bag of frozen tortellini (cheese or meat, your choice)
1 small bag of fresh spinach 
2 cans of diced tomatoes (Italian style if you prefer, plain if you do not)
3-4 cups of chicken stock (2 cans if you’ve not made your own) (use vegetable stock for vegetarian option)
1  8 oz. block of cream cheese, cut into chunks



Instructions:

In a skillet, brown and drain sausage and then add it to the slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients, set slow cooker on low for 5 hours.


To round off our soup, I grab a loaf of fancy bread from a bakery to dip into the broth. 

Slurp-worthy soup!

Enjoy!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Nourish ~ Grin A Little...

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 18. To see the rest of the series click here!

Near the end of summer something interesting happened amongst our family: a subgroup was formed and it became known as "The Cool Guys." I'm not much for cliques and was certainly surprised when one developed within my own family. 

I do not remember exactly how it was that the Cool Guys began, though Meg and Kate (not the cool guys) could probably tell me. They are more than slightly miffed about being excluded from the club. 

I had my doubts about the morale of our gang as Cole and Molly walked around calling themselves "The Cool Guys" but each time I prepared to end the whole thing something would happen to show me that there was a benefit or two to be gained from their collaboration. 

"Molly," I would say, "you have to eat those vegetables." 
She would take a long suffering breath. 
"Go ahead," Cole would say in her ear, "it's what The Cool Guys do." 
And those veggies would fly down the hatch, lickety-split! 

“Molly, here’s the best way to add those numbers.”
She didn’t believe me. 
Later…
“Mom, look at this trick for my math that Cole showed me.”
It was the same thing I’d tried to tell her but apparently it was more understandable in “The Cool Guy” language.

Time and again that "It's what the cool guys would do" line delivered by the big brother made my job much easier and so, The Cool Guys live on. 

Since its inception The Cool Guys have existed under an informal charter but just a few days ago Molly decided that things need to be made more official. 


Looking at Cole she asked, "Hey, who's in charge of the Cool Guys?"

Cole answered, "I'm the captain of The Cool Guys Molly."

"Then what am I?"

"Oh you are the second in command. It's a very important job. "

"Wow!" she said, sort of impressed with her newly defined role. 

The Captain was pretty impressed with himself too but for much different reasons. He loves thinking he's pulled a fast one on Molly. 


"So," reasoned Miss Second in Command, "that means if you die, I'll
be in charge of The Cool Guys, right?"

The Captain might have grinned too soon. 


Happy Saturday!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Nourish ~ Don't Wait for the Empty Nest

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 17. To see the rest of the series click here!

My man and I stood shoulder to shoulder at the bathroom mirror one morning getting our selves ready for the day. I might have bemoaned an ache or a pain as I tried to shake the morning stiffness from my bones. "We've got to do our best to stay as healthy as we can," he encouraged, "we want to have energy left for adventures when we become empty nesters! "


It was a sweet thought but...

"You realize I suppose, that we are 42 years old and we are the parents of a six year old...our empty nest is such a long way off.


 I'll be happy if by the time we reach that point in our lives if we can at least roll our wheel chairs side by side down a mall."

The reality is that we feel healthy now at 42 so why not sample a bit of what an empty nest might feel like once in a while? Why wait until the children have all flown the coup to turn our focus toward nurturing our marriage. 

This is so much easier to post on a blog than to put into real-life practice.

Since our return from sabbatical in August, my Man and I have struggled to piece an evening out together. Our greatest successes toward dating have been settling down on the couch after the kids have gone to bed and watching an episode or two of a suspenseful tv show. Even 45 minutes on the same couch helps us to make a stronger connection to one another in this season where we spend very few evenings in the same building let alone in the same room.

Another of my favorite mini-dates is when school is winding down for the day and I get a text from my Fella asking if I'd like to ride with him to grab a fountain drink. Our usual destination for these beverages is a whopping 1/2 mile from our home and from his office so our trip there and back takes all of 15 minutes but it's absolutely better than nothing at all and though brief, our little beverage jaunt is effective as a connector in our week.

Tonight [Thursday night], the stars have aligned and it looks like for the first time in a sweet forever I'm headed out to an official mark-it-in-the-records movie date with this Man I've adored for the greater part of two decades. There will be popcorn. There will be large sodas. There will be candy {Runts to be precise}. If the folks at the theater decide to turn on the movie all the better but if they don't I'm pretty sure I'll be equally content just to sit there by my guy in the dark and just be. 



“Friendship is a deep oneness that develops when two people, 
speaking the truth in love to one another, journey together to the same horizon.” 
~Tim Keller

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