Monday, May 7, 2012

My Answer

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have... (1 Peter 3:15)

My Mom has a tumor in her chest.  It's cancer.  We found it almost a year ago (3 weeks after E was born).  She has had chemo, surgery, and radiation.  The tumor shrank some, was partially removed, and then, thanks to radiation, stopped growing.  Hooray!  She'll get another scan in 3 months to be sure that it hasn't grown any more.

So, to sum it up, Mom has a hopefully-dead tumor hanging out in her chest.  (That's the extremely short version.)

Surprisingly, I'm at peace with Mom's cancer.  It's dumb, and I'd prefer for my Mom to NOT have cancer, but I'm ok.  My problem has been what to say if/when people ask me why a good God would allow my Mom to have cancer.  (This is a perfectly valid question, because for those of you that don't know her, she's a pretty AH-MAZING lady.  Try not to be too jealous.  I'm sure you have a nice Mom, too.  If so, then you totally appreciate where I'm coming from here.)

Honestly, for the last few weeks, that question has bothered me, because I've not been able to reconcile the two in a logical way.  God is good, and He loves us.  Mom has cancer.  Hmm...

I know He's good.  I know He's sovereign.  I know He allowed us to find it.  Mom is doing ok (minus the dormant tumor-thing).

Anyway, here's my answer for now*.   *Answer subject to change as I grow closer to God.
Contrary to what lots of popular Christian speakers have said, God does NOT "love me and have a wonderful plan for my life" on my terms.  He does have a wonderful plan.  He does love me.  No doubt there - He sent his ONLY SON to die FOR ME so we could be reconciled.  He makes my paths straight, and He cares for me, and He protects me from evil.


...His plan is bigger than mine, and He will NOT move Heaven & Earth to work according to my plan if it's not best in HIS plan.  In a lot of things, our "good" plans overlap.  But sometimes, sin sneaks in and messes with my plan.  Honestly, though, hard stuff doesn't make me question God's goodness (my perception of God, maybe), because it could be infinitely worse.  It's only by His grace that we haven't been left totally to our own sinfulness to head straight to Hell in a hand basket right now.  He is good, and every good and perfect gift is from Him (James 1:17).  So, I thank Him for His good gifts, and when the consequences of the sin of the entire human race get personal, I hope and pray for Him to redeem it as best He can according to His plan.  Sometimes, my plan will get nixed, and crummy stuff will happen, but, man!  I am so thankful that the full consequences of my sin are not only generally held at bay, but they are genuinely paid for with the blood of Christ.

Here in the death of Christ, I live, and in His power I'll stand.

That is my answer.  For now.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Have you heard about Once a Month Cooking?

The premise?  Cook for a day (a loooong, loooong, day), and then take the month off and eat the meals you made and froze.


No cooking for a month?

No wondering what to prepare every. single. day. ?????

No kitchen clean-up?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!


I was totally sold.

The first obstacle I encountered as I decided to move forward was that my freezer was PACKED.  Unfortunately, making a month of meals takes up a lot of space (they've addressed the space issue and other "getting started" questions here).   

So…through a delightful series of events, we emptied the freezer.

The Lean Pockets were to tide us over until the cooking process began.

Then, I went to the Once a Month Mom website:

Here’s what the blessed women at that site do FOR FREE (they accept donations):

  1. They compile monthly recipes with ingredients that will be on sale during the month.

  1. They test every single one of them.

  1. They create a recipe spreadsheet.

  1. They have done fancy math so that you can enter the number of people you’re cooking for, and the recipes will update automatically.  Love!

  1. They compile a grocery list spreadsheet that updates the same way – based on the number of people.  Double-love!!

Grocery list - it even has a column for the store/cost per unit/quantity/total/& notes!

  1. They give you step-by-step instructions so you don’t have to figure out the simplest way to get from point A to point Z.

The food has to cool before you freeze it.  (Note the three gallon-sized bags of Minestrone soup chillaxin'.)
  1. They provide labels you can print off to stick to each item as you prepare it.
Love the labels!  Super-easy!
Basically, they do all the hard work for me.  It’s fantastic!!!

My favorite so far:
Some of our favorites - waiting to be frozen.  Breakfast pizza, breakfast cookies (they were ok...not my favorite, but I didn't want them to feel badly in the previous sentence), and SOUTHWEST EGG ROLLS OF HAPPINESS!  (Look this recipe up.  You'll thank me!)

Here are the mini menus I tried this week (much faster prep, because there are less to make).  So far, every single one has been delightful as well.

I didn't actually do all of my cooking in one day.  I have an 11 month old.  (See previous post)  Instead, I made two or three recipes every few days.  I doubled the recipes so that I got two meals for each one.  (Actually, they doubled everything for me.  I just told the spreadsheet how many servings I wanted.)  We would eat one of the meals, and then freeze the rest.  On days that are crazy, I don't cook.  I just thaw the food the night before and pop it in the oven in time for dinner.

That worked well, because on the one day I tried to cook for several hours straight, I washed dishes a TON in order to have enough to go around.  On the smaller cooking days, my kitchen looked like this:
This is one of the cleaner days for me.  The Cheerios kept Emily entertained for hours.  The computer had the recipe spreadsheets and This American Life podcasts to keep me entertained for hours.

Here are some of my tips/hints:
  • Buy minced garlic.  18 cloves of mincing gets really old really fast.  Just sayin'.   
  • Ditto with chopped onion.  Buy it frozen.  It’s totally worth the cost.
  • Only use Ziplock heavy-duty bags.  Skimping for pennies results in leaky bags during the thawing process. Ew.  (There are often Ziplock coupons in the Sun. paper.)
  • Do a double layer of aluminum foil over the 8x8 pans (or plastic wrap, then foil) to protect the food.
  • Buy the $0.97 8x8 metal pans at Wal-Mart and re-use them.
  • Read all of their tips and hints.  They know what they're talking about!

Here are 25ish meals, frozen and waiting to be loved.  (There would be more, but we keep eating them.  They're yummy!)