Providence in Breast Milk

This month is World Breast Feeding Month. In honor of this most important part of life I have a wonderful story to share!
I have always been blessed with a copious supply of breast milk. I am talking huge supply, easily enough to feed three or four babies instead of just the one that I usually birth at a time. This has led me to have a huge stock of frozen milk in my freezer that takes up quite a bit of room. When I had my third son I was so overrun by supply that I knew we had to get rid of some of it. I filled out the application for the local hospital to be a donor but they never called me back! So I started looking at other options. I knew that a couple in our church was in the process of adopting a child but I didn’t really know them that well. Turns out just being an acquaintance didn’t stop me from cold calling them one day to offer breast milk, if they wanted it (kind of an awkward thing to offer). I am so glad I called! She was just at crunchy as I was and was so excited to be able to give this to their baby. Their daughter was born premature and was having a hard time with the formula in the NICU, once she switched to breast milk she didn’t have the issues with reflux and was thriving! So exciting!

Fast forward to my most recent child. Once again my freezer is full and I was telling my husband we are at the point that we need to do something with the extra milk we have stored. I was praying that God would send us a family that could really use this precious gift. Some friends of ours here were talking to my husband the subject came up. Their sister and her husband are adopting a baby girl in September and would be so blessed by having breast milk to feed her.

So God has put two families in our path both who have adopted, both have baby girls and both of those babies are born in the same state! I just know that God is so good and I am so excited to be able to be a small part in the lives of these families.

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A few weeks ago…

A few weeks ago two things happened to me that helped set the course for my upcoming year.  I encountered a stranger, who was either lacking in command of semantics or was a master, and I also took my children to the Omaha zoo. It is hard to imagine how these two events could come together to form some kind of palpable teaching moment but I am amazingly adept and connecting seemingly unrelated things.

One: The Stranger

The weather has been unseasonably warm in Nebraska this last month which prompted a family bike ride one Thursday morning. While we were stopped for a water and trail mix break (where my kids pick out all the M&M’s so I am left with only the healthy raisins and peanuts to eat) a woman comes by walking her dogs. We make some small talk about the weather and other “safe” subjects when she asks me if we are on spring break. I told her that we home school so, no, we aren’t on break. Her reply, “Oh, so school is always out for you.” I must admit this comment kind of got under my skin mostly because my philosophy on education is that, especially for us, school is always in. I try to never let a learning opportunity pass by without involving my boys in some critical thinking so it kind of irks me that someone would assume that our day involves mostly field trips to zoos and theme parks and, when not doing that, we are just watching TV (educational, of course!). Not even close.

Fast forward to our trip to the zoo (I know how it looks!)

Two: Henry Doorly Zoo

If you have never been the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, NE, is really quite amazing. We bought a membership this year so on a Friday we loaded up to head to Omaha to see what we could see. I, by nature, am a shameless eavesdropper. I can’t help it! I have supersonic mom hearing and part of listening in is how I keep constantly aware of my surroundings (this is what I tell myself anyway but I digress). Besides, I am completely convinced that the zoo is one of the top places where the ignorance of the American public is very blatant. Case in point, we are standing at the fence of a lovely African animal, namely the Okapi. An animal that most people are not aware of if not for an American zoo, in fact. With a brown upper body and zebra stripes down the back haunches its a striking and interesting creation. We are standing next to a mom with young children, not so different from myself, who is questioning out loud what kind of animal they are looking at. “I have never seen one of those before. I am not sure what it is. It must be some sort of hybrid animal…it looks like maybe a deer mixed with a zebra. It definitely has to be part zebra, look at its stripes.” This mostly one sided dialog with her child went on for quite some time, too long, in fact. It seems to me that it takes more of an effort to fabricate a story about the origins of an unidentified animal than to back up 15ft and read the very information sign that the zoo provides at every animal exhibit. But maybe she wasn’t headed in the way of the sign. Too bad, it is a treasure trove of knowledge.

Then, a little later in our zoo outing, we come to an exhibit that contains reptiles from the swamp in the American south: alligators, gar, a variety of turtles, etc. In one corner of the tank, up against the viewing glass, two alligators are biting at a turtle…barely. A woman in the crowd is in hysterics, looking up the zoo telephone number to report it and trying to usher her children out of the building so they won’t witness anything “horrific”. She did stick around for a few minutes, though, commenting to anyone who would listen that, “They are eating him!” (To which my five year old is countering, “No, the aren’t! It would be way more exciting if they were”) and “I can’t believe they would put animals together that could eat each other” (To which I am countering, “Why not? Nature does all the time”) By the time she got out of there we had quite an audience listening to our inadvertent comedy routine!

So there is a point, right? Barely.

After the barbed comment on home school and zoo experiences I really started thinking about education. Although I am a proponent for home school and really love how it works for our family, I don’t view it as superior to educating your child outside the home. What I really think is critical is how parents are involved in their childrens education. Do they actively “teach” when opportunities arise? Or do they completely delegate that responsiblity to an outside institution? More than memorization of facts are we teaching our children how to think critically and how to find information they don’t know? The mother at the okapi exhibit doesn’t have me convinced. Are we nurturing curiousity so that learning something new about our world is fun and exciting or are we shielding them from anything we can’t, or won’t, explain? The mother who had obviously never seen an episode of Wild Explorer doesn’t give me much confidence.

For me, raising critical thinkers who try to seek out logical progressions and new information when they want to know about something is more important than being able to answer ten questions on a multiple choice standardized test correctly. In that week, the zoo and a stranger confirmed for me that I want to take on homeschooling for another year because I really don’t think that someone else could do it better than me at this point. This is true for ALL parents, no one is more effective at teaching your child than you! Don’t let the formative years pass by while you wait for them to be “school age”. There are always opportunities to learn something new and if you don’t take them you will end up in someone’s blog or as a facebook status. Just saying.

Stepping off soap box now…..

While we wait

Lately I have been dreaming of spring, literally. Green grass full of clover and bees, colorful flowers decorating the landscape, the smell of warm, fresh turned earth, and gentle, relaxing breezes fill my head in the night. A change of seasons would be good for my soul right about now. Not just the weather (although who talks about anything but the cold grip that winter has on the majority of the country as we post pictures of snowmen peppered with knives with captions saying, Die, Winter! Die!) but also this season of waiting.
I think I dream of spring because I am ready for change. I feel tired most of the day and completely exhausted by the end of it. My children can out-maneuver me in any kind of physical capacity which makes me feel defeated as a mother (when you have all boys keeping up with them physically is important!). I feel like I can barely manage my daily household responsibilities and it feels very much outside my normal realm to not be able to keep up! But God is showing me things in this season that make me realize it is better to embrace this time of dependence instead of closing my eyes and praying that it ends.

Here are a few things I am learning:

1. “For everything there is a season, a time and a purpose under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
This season WILL end. I know it seems like it never will. A few more days carrying a baby can seem like a few more months when you are limited in what you can eat, how much you can drink, an achy body and limited, restless sleep at night. But there are many things to be thankful for. I have this time now to spend with our other children  before the arrival of a new baby and carrying a baby to full term is a blessing that many women are denied. I always try to remind myself that I would rather be tossing and turning at night instead of sitting next to an incubator in a NICU. This is a season of slowing down, I mean growing a human is kind of a big deal; I shouldn’t expect to keep up! The sweet snuggles in the mornings when I get up with our two-year old, listening to my middle child tell stories from his amazing imagination, or finishing reading “The Island of the Blue Dolphins” with my oldest at night are the things that will, most likely, be put on the back burner for a time. I am really working on fully being present in the now.

2. “Hear my cry, O God; Give heed to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:1
From where does my rest and comfort come from? Often I find myself seeking it apart from God. Foolish, I know, but that’s what I do. My mind doesn’t seem to have enough focus to really dig deep into the Word but I am trying to get what I can. A few verses a day that remind me of the promises of God, a good devotional by a mom whose story gives me hope or even just spending time in prayer while meditating on what I have memorized. These are the things that are my source of strength and rest and sustenance even in little tiny sips.

3. “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” 2 Corinthians 10:5a
I don’t know about you but the end of pregnancy/postpartum makes me a bit emotionally unstable (if you ask my husband he will tell you this is the understatement of the year!). It is not something that I enjoy, the ups and downs swinging on the pendulum of moodiness. I don’t think this ever was an issue with my first two children but the added stressors of raising babies has significantly changes how I react. I was blindsided by these raw emotions during my third pregnancy and postpartum. Looking back I can clearly see how much it affected me but at the time I just did what I needed to do and felt like a crazy person on the verge of tears while I did it. It is not a good place to be.  As I wait for this baby I can see some of that creeping up on me. On minute I am so chill remembering that babies come when they come basically taking the usual granola approach to childbirth that I love. The next I am crawling into bed at night, almost crying, thinking, “Why am I still pregnant?” But these thoughts and mood swings are honestly not honoring to God. How can I acknowledge His sovereignty and question His perfect timing? It is something that I wrestle with but going back to this verse from Corinthians to take every thought captive is a timely reminder of living what I believe.

As far as I know no one has ever been pregnant forever. I also know that when I am at this point ‘pregnant forever’ does seem like a very real possibility and Discovery Health will soon be calling to run a special on my condition. I have seen God orchestrate so many things in my life and that of my family, especially lately, that I know He has a perfect birthday picked for our newest addition. While I wait for that day I will also patiently wait upon the Lord who knows whose plans are always good. Until then take heart all you mommas who are waiting. There is no better time than this season to press into God.

Simple and delicious bierocks

Growing up in SW Kansas there is a staple food that everyone knows: bierocks. These hand-sized pockets of meat and cabbage were a favorite (and still are!) in our family. My grandmother would buy them from the local organizations or personal friends and serve them hot on any kind of occasion that warranted feeding a lot of people but not being held slave in your own kitchen.

Now, ten years since moving from the Sunflower State, I regularly make them in mass quantities to feed my family and to freeze for a quick, pop in the oven, kind of meal. Here in Nebraska I have heard them called runza or “cabbage burgers” but until I live as many years here as I ever did in Kansas I can’t think of them as anything but bierocks!

Many people ask me what recipe I use and even though I don’t really post recipes to my blog I thought I would archive some photos (harder than I expected as I was cooking solo with flour-y hands and trying to weild a camera) and actually write something down to share the love of bierocks with those I know!

Bierocks
Before starting I preheat my oven to 350 degrees, both to cook the bierocks and to warm up my kitchen to make the yeast happy.
The amounts below will yield about a dozen bierocks.


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For the dough you will need:
This yields enough dough to make about a dozen bierocks.

2 packages yeast
1/2 cup warm water (between 110 and 115 degrees to activate yeast)
1 cup warm milk
1/3 cup butter, softened
4 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar
*If using unsalted butter add 1 tsp. salt
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1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water. Set in a warm place.
2. Add warm milk, butter and salt (if needed) to the yeast mixture; let stand for 10 minutes.
3. Add flour and sugar. Mix until just blended. Cover bowl with saran wrap and let double for 50 to 70 min, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

Filling:
1 lb ground beef (I use lean beef. You will have to drain the grease if using a fattier meat)
1 med onion, finely chopped
1 cup of sauerkraut (I love the Bubbies brand!)
1 TBSP caraway seeds (0r to taste)
Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
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Cook your hamburger and onions. Adding seasonings as they cook, unless you will be draining or rinsing your meat then wait until after that step. Add the kraut after meat is cooked through, mixing thoroughly. Set filling aside until the dough is ready.

Constructing your bierock:

1.  Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead a few times, adding flour if too sticky. Let sit for about 15 min to relax the dough.

2. Once ready take about a handful, roughly smaller than a baseball. Press with your palm into a circle of use a rolling pin, whatever is easier.
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3. Turn and flip your dough, rolling or pressing until your circle is about the size of your hand.
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4. Spoon about a 1/2 cup of filling into the center of your dough circle. Use discretion here as to what will fit. If you overfill your bierock it will bust open when baking, under filling just leaves you with a lot of dough!
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5. Fold and tuck the edges of the dough to encapsulate the filling. Making a pocket!
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6. Place the bierock folded side down on a parchment lined baking sheet.
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7. Bake your bierocks for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
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8. When golden and brown remove from oven and let cool. Transferring to baking racks. Enjoy right away or put into freezer bags and save for later.
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If heating from frozen, place in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes until warmed through.

The best part of this recipe is that if you have leftover dough, which I always try to make happen, you can scramble some eggs with cheese, maybe a little bacon or sausage and make a breakfast version! So delicious!

Simple and easy for a weeknight meal. Enjoy with spicy mustard, salsa, ketchup; whatever suits your fancy!

Judgement or Conviction?

I used to think that most oft quoted verse from the Bible was John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whomever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (This is probably fairly naive on my part considering I was once in a discussion group in college where a young man gave credit to a Bob Dylan song for the idea that the last shall be first and the first shall be last. I really couldn’t help myself when I blurted out, “Stolen from Jesus!”)

Lately, though, I am starting to think that not very many people actually know this verse. There is one that almost anyone can quote to you: Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

I have thought quite often about judgement in two ways.

The first being the times that I have felt that I am being judged. Most of the time I have felt this way is because of personal conviction. That’s right. I said it. It’s not judgement, it is conviction. What I am doing or how I am acting is not lining up with God’s standard of righteousness. Unfortunately, my sinful nature doesn’t always respond rightly to conviction. Instead, it stiffens its resolve and proceeds to rationalize all the reasons that my actions and attitudes were justified. I cling to my pride and self-righteousness so as not to address the tougher, more emotionally draining, issue of repentance.

Scripture encourages us to respond rightly to the fellow believers who would help us to see our own sin. We all have a spiritual blindness when it comes to our own failings. Sin first deceives us! We rationalize our sin into it fits our self-righteousness perfectly. No being uncomfortable or humble before a righteous God. I think this stems from the original rebellion and pride that came when Lucifer shook his fist at God and declared, “I know what is best for me!”

Hebrews 3:12-15 says:
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said,

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

If we profess Christ it is our job to encourage other believers in their growth. This includes allowing them to do the same for us with a right and responsive attitude. Hardening our hearts, ignoring the conviction in us because it is “hard” to deal with and admit to will only lead to a numbing of our spirit. We will no longer be able to see that sin in ourselves and our self-righteous selves will be bolstered.

The second way in which I have contemplated judgement is when I have been accused of being judgemental. We are in a time when standing up for the things that are good and right and true are seen as an archaic and hateful way of thinking. But God’s standard never changes. It is the world that changes, wanting more and more to be left to its own desires and pushing out any indication that they might be wrong. It’s shouldn’t be so shocking, really, as Jesus himself told us to expect this. It is the way of the world, so to speak.

When we as believers are accused of judgement and condemnation the first thing that we should do is check our hearts and motives to be sure that we are not, in fact, doing what they say. However, there is a difference between standing up for righteousness and loving the things that God loves and sitting in judgement on the world. God sets the standard for holiness. He has laid out for us in black and white what he expects and through His son Jesus only are we able to even come close to growing in righteousness. We can never be good apart from Christ.

Speaking boldly of Christ will elicit reactions from those who do not know the truth of God. The cross is offensive. Our words do not bring condemnation, though. We are already condemned by sin. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18).

Speak the truth in love but do not water it down so it won’t offend those who do not have ears to hear. Bring the gospel to those who need it most and love them as Christ has loved us. And when you are accused by the world as being a judge remember that there IS a judge and someday we will stand before Him so we should hold fast to what He requires of us while we are but sojourners here in the flesh. Ours is not of this world but of the Kingdom of God!

As Romans 2:29 says, “No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.”

That is the the only praise and, alternately, judgement that should matter.

MMXIII

The week between Christmas and New Years usually feels like no man’s land to me. The festivities have ended, the tree is down, and I am so over sugar and carbs I can’t even think of eating one more in celebration of something. We aren’t big New Years eve people, either. I loved it when we lived in Mountain time because I could watch the ball drop in New York and be in bed just after 10pm. In fact, even before we had children my husband and I have set the alarm for midnight just for one sleepy kiss and then back to bed. Even though it is not a date I ring in with over the top festivity I still get excited for the beginning of something new. I can set new, big goals, put them freshly on a list for posterity’s sake, and reflect back on things that have been accomplished and examine myself, thus setting the standard for things to come.

1. In 2012 my goal was to write and post something to my blog at least once a week. It wasn’t a complete failure. I had 21 posts (almost two per month!), not too shabby. The biggest thing I take from this is that I would like to refine what is posted and how I format content. Having a blog that thousands of strangers read is an incredible amount of work and I am sure that I don’t have the time or the drive to seek that out at this point in my life. For now I am happy if my family members and few Facebook friends stop by to read every once in a while.

2. I focused a lot last year on finding ways to enjoy my children more. We made some incredible memories with a road trip, saw amazing things in our home school journey and I also am learning to know them individually and learning to manage my time so that each one gets individual time and attention. This spring we are adding our fourth boy which will make this particular goal challenging in several aspects. I will be divided by four instead of three. Except I don’t think divided is the most accurate word because it implies equality and the demands of a newborn will inevitably take some precedence over the needs of the other siblings in the equation, at least for a time. I am, truthfully, apprehensive about this especially as I feel that I can spin a bit after the birth of a baby. I just don’t really feel like myself and it can take me a while to get back to normal. I plan to be more aware of this and try to keep some balance in my life this time around. It is incredibly trying when it catches you off guard.

3. In my attempt to build this relationship with our children it has also come to my attention that at times the dynamic of my marriage becomes a hazy background, losing ground to the everyday demands of children and life. I wish I could say that I can do this all on my own volition but the hard truth is that I am a wretched sinner and my husband is as well and together (without Christ) we would be an incredible train wreck. There are some practical things I am seeking to change (this blog has a great 30 day challenge for wives). Ultimately, though, I am laying down my own self, knowing I will fail every time I try on my own and I pray that God will keep tilling up the soil of my heart and showing me areas where He wants control. One thing I know for certain is that we are committed to this marriage, our family and to God and that we will succeed because of that no matter the trials we create for ourselves or are called to endure.

4. Personally I am still working on the BBC’s Top 100 book list. Last January I had read 64 books and right now I am on number 77! I am determined to keep at this list until its completion. We shall see if this happens in 2013. There are some great picks on this list and I encourage reading for everyone so this might be your year to pick one up as well.

5. And last, but certainly not least, I am putting the weight loss cliché resolution on my list. I want to lose the baby weight I am so amply putting on and be ready for a sprint triathlon, a 5k or even just a really long walk by the fall. Since I didn’t have any kind of big blowout for my 30th birthday this last year I am making it count for my 31st by getting back into shape and having a much deserved glass of champagne! Even better an old friend is volunteering to do this with me which makes me so happy because I have loved seeing our friendship rekindled and growing through the last year and, hopefully, into the future.

I am anticipating a new year. It brings some big things for our family some that I can fully disclose like a new baby and some that are waiting to be revealed. Shhh! I always try to remember, though, that aside from these big things it is the daily commitment to pick up my cross and die to myself that is really what is important (Matthew 16:24). To apply what Paul says in Acts 17:11, searching the scripture daily like the Bereans to see if what is being taught is the truth of the Word. And the God would keep my heart soft, guarding it from complacency that I might fully live for His Kingdom and not my own. Here goes. With grace and peace and love, Happy New Year!

Premier Celebration of Advent

Since having children I have searched, mostly in vain, to find Christmas traditions that will last in our family. These things have included how we do presents and actually celebrate Christmas. My goal has always been to stay within the bounds of what we believe, which is that this is a time of year to rejoice in the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and that being with our family and giving to those who have true need is the best way to do this.

In years past I have tried to set some guidelines in place in an effort to ward off the Mammon-palooza that is the secular Christmas. We have given only three gifts to each child as a reflection of the three gifts that were brought to Jesus by the Magi. However, last year even that small number felt excessive. I changed up the guidelines this year and each of my boys is getting one gift. Yes, that is right, just one. We have a some books and activities in our nights of Advent and that counts as two. For the third we “get” to give. This year we gave to an organization called Samaritan’s Purse. They have a catalog full of ways to give in the most practical ways while also sharing the love of Christ. Our boys loved some of the unique ways we could give by buying livestock, or blankets, or a bible. (For more information go to www.samaritanspurse.org)

This year I also decided to do an Advent Calendar. The word advent comes from the Latin adventus and means “coming”. During Advent we celebrate the anticipation of the coming of Christ. This year my calendar was pretty basic. I had a snowball garland in my box of seasonal items so I took white envelopes, filled them with scripture, a treat and an event for each day. It was pretty primitive but it worked and as we took down envelopes I hung up the Christmas cards we had received in the mail. Next year I would like to make something more permanent and aesthetically pleasing that I can pull out annually.

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The most amazing part of doing Advent is seeing the excitement in my children as we gather together as a family in the evenings to open up a new envelope. Most of the things we do are very simple and cost little or no money:

  • Reading a book together (I bought about 10 books just as gifts for our library and some nights the boys were able to pick one to read.)
  • Pairing a Christmas book with a movie or just a movie (How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Carol, The Polar Express, Velveteen Rabbit, Elf). We sometimes added treats that went with the book, too.
  • Make and decorate Christmas cookies
  • Attend a community (read free) Christmas concert
  • For Christmas Eve we are reading the events of Christ’s birth as told in Luke
  • Make a gingerbread house
  • Drive around in our pajamas and look at Christmas lights
  • Sing Christmas carols (my husband plays along on the guitar)

It doesn’t really matter what it is we are doing, the point is that we are doing it together and that is something I want our children to hold onto and remember and, ideally, pass down to our grandchildren. I feel like this year we have found a good place between getting and giving but I anticipate that in the future as we grow in Christ we will have the desire to give of ourselves more and more. At least that is what my hope is.

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