“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Friday, January 29, 2010

Frugal Friday recipe- Parmesan & Black Pepper Crackers

In an effort to stay frugal, now that Anthony is the only one supporting us, I am dedicating Fridays to "living well on less." I even bought a book! "Miserly Moms" by Jonni McCoy. I have to admit, most of Jonni's advice I already knew. Unlike Jonni, I came from humble beginnings. Penny pinching was a way of life. Unfortunately, I have found myself accustom to to frequenting Starbucks and other wasteful endeavors. Granted, I've never been a crazy spender. I am pretty low maintenance. But alas, I need to cut back.

Anthony and my biggest money wasters is eating out. As busy as we've been, it is easier to grab something then to plan something. This is changing. Since, I have Friday's off I plan to do some meal planning for the next week. I thought you may be interested in my epicurean discoveries. So, I'm making Friday's..."Frugal Friday's". I'll share my "money saving" adventures every week.

I've been wanting crackers. Kinda silly craving, huh? Unfortunately, I want those really-yummy-expensive-kind-that-you-only-buy-at-speciality markets. I decided to see if I could make some myself. So, I did. They're pretty good.

I made Parmesan & Black Pepper Crackers.

Here's the recipe:

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 Tablespoon black pepper

1/2 cup parmesan cheese (grated)

1/2 cup warm water

3 Tablespoons olive oil

In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, salt, parmesan cheese and black pepper. With dough hook attachment in place, add the water and olive oil. Mix the dough until it forms a ball. Add more water if needed. The dough will not be too sticky but not too dry. Once a ball is formed, take out of bowl, rub the ball with oil and let rest for 45 minutes covered with plastic wrap.

After 45 minutes, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Then take the dough and cut into 4-6 balls. On a floured surface use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a thin strip. The dough should be very thin. Next, cut the dough into strips and then squares or any other shape you desire. Place the squares on a greased baking sheet, with a fork poke each cracker several times to prevent air pockets. Brush lightly with more olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt*. Pop into the oven and bake until golden brown approximately 8-10 minutes. I turned my crackers halfway through baking to crisp both sides. Also make sure to watch them because they burn easy. You may find your oven bakes faster or slower than mine.


*I thought about sprinkling the crackers with parmesan, but didn't. If you do, let know how they turned out.

The original recipe was from 101cookbooks.com. I adapted Heidi Swanson's version.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Freedom of Simplicity

For a while now, I've been thinking about the discipline of simplicity. Haven't heard of it? Well, in the United States, it's not the most popular teaching. Lately, we've been hearing more about "Prosperity Doctrine." Richard Foster (1981) says, "Contemporary culture is plagued by the passion to possess" (p. 3).

Isn't that still so true?

I've been thinking about slowing down and appreciating what God has already blessed me with and be content. In the process, I want to become completely dependent and obedient to God. Foster (1981) explains that the Old Testament reveals two "radical" truths about simplicity. The first is "Radical Dependence" and "Radical Obedience." Becoming dependent on God causes us to put aside our independence. Instead of saying, "I can provide for myself". We have to say, "God, I will follow you and trust you". "Radical Obedience" is completely paying allegiance to God and Him alone. By radically obeying God, we are free to lay down our heavy burdens and stresses of life. We no longer strain and strive to get ahead or obtain wealth. Our goal becomes one of submission. The result is peace and...


Yes, blessing. Foster (1981) shows how over and over again God gives generously to His children. God gives His obedient children material blessing, too.

Doesn't that bring us right back to "Prosperity Doctrine?"

Well, no. The reason is simple: genuine obedience changes our hearts. Material blessing is no longer our focus. Foster (1981) explains, "Once this inner disposition has taken over our personality, material blessings cannot hurt us, for they will be used for the right purposes" (p. 20). We realize that the material blessing we receive is for the good of the community, not just us.

This is my desire- for God to transform my personality. May I be as faithful as the man with the 5 talents who invested his gifts wisely and gained 5 more talents (Matt. 25:14-30). Yet, may I be so radically obedient to God that my focus is on Him and not how he blesses me.

How about you? Are you willing to be radically obedient and dependent?

Foster, R. (1981). Freedom of Simplicity. San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins Publishers.

Verse of the week

Our women's group at church is focusing on scripture memory for the year. Our pastor's wife, Sherree, has called it "Live it 52." I am finding that every verse, I mean EVERY verse, has been meaningful and perfect for the week. I don't know how she picked 'em, but she did a great job. I guess the lesson is that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16 & 17, NIV).

Well, this week's verse is Psalm 32:8:
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you" (NIV).

Again, this verse is just the encouragement I've needed this week. This is my last week of work and although, I believe I'm doing the right thing (stepping away). It's a little scary. Did I tell you that the job is now full time with benefits? Yes, full medical, dental and vision. Oh, and it pays about what I made at my old job plus room for a few raises (not boasting, but I did pretty well at my last job). Yet, I did not quit my old job to work as a program coordinator. I left to follow God's calling to become a Marriage and Family Therapist. So, that is what I am doing.

God WILL watch over me. He WILL counsel me. He WILL teach me the way I should go. Thank you, God for this opportunity to step out in faith and serve you. You are my comfort and source of strength.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Living with your Best Friend

I live with my best friend. His name is Anthony and well, he's my husband. Believe me when I tell you we weren't always as close. You can ask him and he'll tell you that I'm not the easiest woman to live with. (Our son, Ryan, will vouch for him). However, I've been changing and so has Anthony. We both started taking responsibility for our own behavior. (What a novel idea, right?) Nevertheless, when we started doing that and becoming honest with each other- our relationship changed.

In my line of work, I hear about many marriages on the brink of divorce. Some of the problems that are shared are similar to what Anthony and I experienced early in our marriage. Let me give some examples: putting the other spouse down, criticism, etc.

What made the difference?

Why can I sincerely say he's my best friend?

Honesty. Truth. Sincerity.

I'm not talking about just with the other person, but with you. How many times have we gotten in a fight with our spouse over something when it really was about something else? We yell at our spouse for not helping around the house but we really are yelling at him or her because we don't feel respected or loved. We feel threatened by some past fear (abandonment, lack of security, lack of significance, etc) and we get in a fight. Instead, if both people could actually say what is going on, then intimacy could blossom. It takes two people willing to get past their own fears and hang-ups to actually be real with each other.

Here's a self-test of how you are communicating with your partner. Dr. John Gottman (2007) calls it the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Test because if you score more than two true items, there is a chance your marriage is heading for the end. You and your spouse should take the test and answer true or false.

When We Discuss our Issues...

I have to defend myself because the charges against me are so unfair.

I often feel unappreciated by my partner.

My partner doesn't face issues responsibly and maturely.

I am just not guilty of many of the things I am accused of.

My partner has a lot of trouble being rational and logical.

We keep hurting each other whenever we discuss our core issues.

My partner has a long list of basically unreasonable demands.

I don't feel respected when we disagree.

My partner often acts in a selfish manner.

When we discuss our issues, my partner acts as if I am totally wrong and he/she is totally right.

This test may be an eye opener for you (or your spouse). Yet, there is hope. Change CAN happen. Are you ready? It starts with you...start getting real.

Gottman, J. & Schwartz Gottman, J. (2007). And Baby Makes Three. NY, NY: Three Rivers Press.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It's either this or that way

I'm in grad school. I'll be finishing as soon as I complete all my internship hours. Recently, I took a big leap of faith and resigned my position working for the Baker County School District so I could focus on my internship at First Baptist Church Jax FBCJAX This leap was fraught with a complexity of emotions. I was listening to Enya's "Anywhere Is" and I could identify with the lyrics.
I took the turn and turned to
Begin a new beginning
Still looking for the answer
I cannot find the finish
It's either this or that way
It's one way or the other
It should be one direction
It could be on reflection
The turn I have just taken
The turn that I was making
I might be just beginning
I might be near the end.

Can you relate?

Well, this week I've been buoyed by some great verses:
Proverbs 16:3 Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed (NIV).
Psalm 25:4-5 Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

May God give you encouragement, too, as you face the many turns that take you "either this or that way."

Friday, January 1, 2010

Being Mindful

Have you noticed how people complain about being busy, but in reality, it sounds like they are bragging? Being busy and stressed out is worn like a badge of honor. You aren't somebody unless you are going non-stop. Is it any wonder this attitude is so prevalent when Corporate America jokes, "If you aren’t stressed, you must not be working hard enough.” Personally, I am tired of being stressed. A few years back, I developed a workshop called "Taking Care of Yourself.” ( Click here to go to my upcoming training page )The training was just as much for me as it was the participants. While putting the materials together, I began reading more about mindfulness. Being mindful is counter-intuitive to our culture. I discovered a good definition by Jon Kabat-Zinn (1994). He explains, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” I began realizing that I was driving along in automatic missing the wonderful opportunities I could be experiencing. As I see it, being mindful is taking life out of automatic and start driving in manual. When you do this, you have to listen to every hum and acceleration of the RPMs. You begin to be more in tune with your own personal "engine.” Well, enough of my car analogy...you get the idea.

This morning I was reading my devotions and being mindful was the topic- except they called it, "Practice the Presence.” I saw it as taking the concept of mindfulness and moving it up a notch. Practicing the Presence is not only about being mindful of ourselves but also becoming mindful of God's presence in our life. The author of the devotion said, "We need to give God a time slot in our lives every day, but even more than that, God needs to be a presence in our lives all day long, every day" (Ortlund, 1994). The author and her husband began to be "mindful" (my words, not hers) in being present with God. Her husband set his watch to go off every 15 minutes so he'd stop and think of God. She wrote the words "Jesus" on a piece of paper and placed it on the floor by her bed. Every morning when she got up her attention was on Him. Through the process, she began to become more aware of God in her life.

This New Year 2010, I want to be mindful of the moment and most importantly of God's presence in my life. My next step is to consider what I can do to remind myself to rejoice in God's presence all day long. What about you? What will you do?

Consider Psalm 89:15, "Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD" (NIV).

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life (p.4), New York: Hyperion.

Ortlund, A. (1994). Practice the Presence. In Couple's Devotional Bible. (30) Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.