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Joy! The Choice and the Feeling.

My insomnia is back.

A few weeks ago, this would be a terrible thing. It was in the night watches that my dark thoughts would spin; endlessly looping in my mind. All the problems and difficulties in our lives would swirl around creating a hurricane of depression in my brain, leading to conclusions that were just more destructive and discouraging than anything. Yes, there were thoughts of leaving my husband, of suicide, of just walking away from everything. None of these are actually options for me… or choices that I would make, but the perpetual thoughts were there. I felt like I couldn’t stop them, couldn’t escape them, and for the life of me, couldn’t just go to sleep. Even for the time I was on medication, the nighttime battle was there.

I’d get up and pace to the couch where I’d cry and pray and beg for rest. Usually, the sun would start lightening the sky before my exhausted body would finally fall into a short nap before it was time to be up and back to taking care of the family.

I love my husband, but he didn’t understand. I love my children and my current role as stay-at-home mom, but didn’t find joy in that.

I’ve said before that I would battle it, that I would fight it, that I would choose to be happy and content with where I am. That would work for a time, but not for long.

My post a few weeks ago was about the basic idea of capturing thoughts. It’s an old spiritual discipline that I’d forgotten… but the basic idea comes from 2 Cor. 10:4-5:

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments (imaginings) and every pretention (assertion) that sets itself up against the knowledge (truth) of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  

Pretty much, although I don’t have control over the thoughts that enter my brain, I do have the authority (“divine power”) to tell them to go straight to the pit of hell where they belong.

So I have been.

And you know what? I’ve had an awesome last few weeks. Yes, there’s moments of sadness (our home church’s women’s retreat is this weekend and I wish I was there with my friends… the coastal town where my family lives had a fireworks celebration on the cliffs that my kids would have adored…), but I can acknowledge my sadness without STAYING there. Moving on to the next thing, fixing the eyes of my heart and mind on Jesus and the joy that He’s given me in my day-to-day life. Even if I still can’t go to sleep, I remind myself to meditate on scriptures, sing songs to the Lord in my head, count my blessings, or even just get out of bed and spend some time reading my Bible until I’m tired enough to go back to sleep.

This has been so helpful. I can FOCUS on my kids, and I’m realizing anew what a total delight they are… and I can’t imagine enjoying them more or better if we lived anywhere else. I can wrap my head around the reality that we’re having ONE MORE, and she’s going to just add to the happy chaos that is our home. I can see my husband as a man, not my SOURCE of joy or happiness, but as my partner as we try to figure out our lives and family.

So today, when I was reading Psalm 9 in my quiet time, my spirit shouted “YES!” to these verses:

I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart; 
I will tell of all Your marvelous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in You;
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High!

Basic Crock-Pot Beans

The last few days have been PERFECT writing days… gloomy skies, wind whipping around the windows, rain pattering down in sporadic spurts… my kids are currently obsessed with LOTR (a habit I have fostered, nurtured, and whole-heartedly endorsed) so there has been lots of movie watching and role-playing. Which has obviously gone straight to my uterus, because we discovered we’re having a baby girl today, and have decided her middle name will be Éowyn (YAY!!!).

So naturally, I was NOT writing. I was reading. =)  In my defense, it was an amazing soon-to-be-published novel. And I will gloat more that *I* got to read it before you did when it’s all official like (because I’m just competitive like that). Anyways, all the reading, LOTR, and rainy weather have made me eager for low-maintenance, low-cost dinners. And while on the phone to a dear cousin who struggles (as I do) with meal planning for a hubby who NEEDS to know what’s for dinner (“Um…. peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?”), I decided to post the easiest dinner to make in the whole world. It includes a tool (Crock-Pot) and skill (cooking beans) that you MUST have to be an adult, in my opinion.

You’ll need to start in the morning and gather:

  • at least 2 pounds of dry beans (we prefer black or pinto beans)
  • a big onion
  • several cloves of garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • (Opt.) cooked meat (bacon, ham hocks, etc.)

Rinse the dry beans in a colander, removing funky looking beans (sometimes you’ll even find rocks… you DON’T want to bite on those!), any bean skins that stick to the sides, etc. Basically, clean them really well.

Dump your clean beans into your Crock-Pot and cover them with water. Because you can use any amount of beans, the amount of water varies. A good measure is your finger (this is genius: my husband taught me this trick): if you gently put your index finger on the top-most bean, the water level should be even with the second knuckle on your finger (brilliant, right?).

Now, skin an onion (chop off the top and bottom and take off all the dry skin) and add it to the pot. I leave the onion whole, because my kids don’t care for onion (they think), so when the beans are done, I just take the whole thing out. But you can totally dice it and mix it in with the beans. It’s up to you. Also, if you DON’T have an onion, onion powder or onion salt work just fine. Just sprinkle enough to cover the surface of the water.

Throw in some garlic cloves, either peeled, chopped, or pressed (we don’t believe there is any such thing as “too much garlic,” and it’s kept our house vampire and zombie free for years). Again, if you don’t have garlic, you can use garlic powder instead.

Add a bunch of salt and a few dashes of pepper (don’t you love my measurements?). This last batch I made I used up all our salt and it still didn’t taste salty enough for me. I recommend a taste-test about half-way thorough the cook time to make sure the flavor is right for you.

I’ve seen a lot of people add bacon or ham hocks to their meat. Leftover bacon never happens in our house, so we’ve never actually done this. And if we have ham hocks, I make split-pea soup. So anyways, I’ve never done this before, other people do and I bet it tastes yummy!

You can also add any other spice you want (and your kids tolerate): this last batch I sprinkled in cumin powder and a dash of chili powder. It went over fine with them.

Now fire up the Crock-pot for about 6 hours. Check it every few hours to make sure the water still covers the beans. If you have to add water, boil it first so it doesn’t slow down the cooking time. Although, I usually don’t check it… I’m generally busy… you know, reading.  =)

This way, when my husband wants to know “what’s for dinner?” I have an answer. “Beans!” And when he comes home, the house smells amazing.  =)

You can serve them in bowls with cheese and sour cream, or heat up tortillas and make burritos. Mmmmm.


Wherein My Kids Make You Laugh

We have to keep our energy costs down during the “peak hours” of 3-6PM when the electricity costs twice what it does during the rest of the day. This usually means we turn off our A/C and retire to the pool for that time period. Thankfully, it’s ‘only’ been around 100 the last few days, so the apartment isn’t too hot when we get home. Yesterday, we didn’t start feeling warm until after I’d made dinner. That’s when I asked Jonathan (6) to go turn on the A/C.

“It’s not working, Mom!”

“OK, I’ll get it later.”

After tucking the kids in bed, I walked past the thermostat and flicked on the A/C without really looking. Then I went to bed with Josh (23 months). It had been a long day.

Anthony came to bed later and mentioned that it was cold. “So go turn off the air,” I mumbled sleepily. “I’m not the one who turned it on,” he shot back. Stellar logic.

At 4:30, I was awakened from a lovely dream of watching the snow fall outside our window in Colorado by PG-13 exclamations from Anthony about how freezing he was, and he finally jumped out of bed to turn off the A/C. “WHO TURNED IT ALL THE WAY DOWN?” he yelled (I’m sure our neighbors LOVE us).


I guess when Jonathan said the A/C wasn’t working, it’s because he moved the wrong switch, and I didn’t notice it when I turned it back on. The apartment was about 55 degrees. The low outside last night was 79. Next month’s electric bill is going to hurt!

It gave us a great excuse to stay in bed a little longer with all the kids and then go hunting for our socks and sweaters before getting to the breakfast table.

At breakfast, the kids were looking at the prizes on the back of the Frosted Mini-Wheat’s box and “claiming” their prizes.

Jonathan: “I get the Legos!”

Hannah: “I get the Cars 2 DVD!”

Jono: “You know, they should have an iPad2. I’d win that!”

Me: “Jonathan, they have TOYS. I don’t think iPads are good prizes for kids.”

Hannah: “Yeah, Mom. That’s what HE said!”

Jono (with eye roll): “Mmmmoooommmm! She’s copying Michael Scott!”

I almost spilled the milk I was frothing, I was laughing so hard!

Should Everything Be Done in Moderation?

After my 900+ word post yesterday, I’m gonna keep this one short and sweet.

To answer this question: no. Not EVERYTHING should be done in moderation. Some things, like eating or drinking adult beverages or playing Plants vs. Zombies SHOULD be done in moderation (these happen to be the things I’m currently struggling with… well, except the adult beverages. Being as I’m knocked up and all, but I almost tackled my husband for opening a Stella after dinner last night. Mmmm.).

Anyways, here’s my short list of things that should NOT be done in moderation.

  1. Reading. Fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, blogs… it’s good for your brain, it’s great for expanding your horizons. Don’t ever stop reading.
  2. Loving. Love is one of those amazing things that pays huge dividends, usually when you MOST need it.
  3. Singing. My husband *might* beg to differ on this one (he reminds me that our lives are NOT actually a musical), but signing can be the best way to express my soul. Even if it’s the tuneless humming that’s the result of sleepless nights soothing a sick child, I feel better when I’m creating music.
So there you go. Things to do in excess. How would YOU answer this question?

What “Home” Means to Me

Once, before we had kids, I said that I could be at home anywhere my husband and I were happy. And back then, that was the truth. After we got married, we lived in an apartment, an RV in my parent’s backyard, a room in an old hotel that had been converted into a YWAM base, and the back room of my parent’s house, all with minimal issues feeling “at home”. We were still living in that back room when, exactly one month before our first child was born, we moved back to an apartment. It was good that we did that, because it was really important for us to develop our own family structure away from my family (wonderful as they were to let us live with them).

Anyways, I’m looking back and trying to see what it was about those other places that felt like home. There isn’t much that was super consistent between each location… heck, we arrived at the YWAM base in CO just before winter set in… and we had never lived in snow before! Our room there was large, but it was just a hotel room, with space to hang up our clothes and a bathroom. We bought an electric kettle and ate instant oatmeal for breakfast, ramen cups for lunch, and lots of tea, hot chocolate, and apple cider in the meantime. Dinner was communal style at the base dining room. We slept under an electric blanket because the heater was pretty slow. After spending a week in Estes Park for a Go! Conference, we decided to give one of the missionaries a ride up to Steamboat Springs to visit her friend for the weekend. It was December, and we drove through the Rockies forever! It was a blast, and we were just able to do it. It was all an adventure, and we were able to support some really cool missionaries, join in crazy worship nights, and learn a lot from the different speakers that came and taught the DTS students (by the way, if you’re lost on what YWAM is, check this out:

After having kids, we re-invented our vagabond ways (a little… we still try to take one or two epic trips a year). My husband got a full-time job in CA, and we settled into raising our kids. I returned to school and we got used to the dynamic passing the kids and house work back and forth. We became intentional in developing deep relationships with other young families. Our children had friends and family nearby to help us out when we needed help with childcare or swapping date nights. We loved having people over at our house for BBQs and hanging out. We became involved in church ministry. We put our roots down deep in some very rich soil. We were thriving in every way but one: every month was a financial struggle. There was too much month left at the end of the money, as Dave Ramsey says.

That was when we made the decision to move out here, to the rocky, sandy soil of Arizona. There are lots of great things about living here. It’s easier to manage our monthly budget out here, there are new and interesting things to explore, we’re slowly discovering where the “people like us” are and trying to develop community with them. It’s just that it feels so different.

So I guess what I’m saying is that “home” is a constantly changing thing for me. And maybe my problem now is that I haven’t been able to find what it is that I need to feel “at home” here in Arizona. As far as family, I’m so grateful that my husband has a job that he loves and where he’s doing so well. I’m thrilled that my son is able to attend a Montessori Charter school… we could have NEVER afforded the private Montessori school in our hometown. I’m able to work from home using my degree while taking care of our youngest two children. My lack of a social life is probably my biggest struggle.

Maybe, “home” for me means a place where I am loved… not just by my family, but by people around me. I know for sure that “home” doesn’t mean the building where we live… it has much more to do with the people. The sense that “I belong here. I have a purpose, and a reason for being here. People count on me and I count on them and we all need each other. If I wasn’t here, people would miss me and call me to find out how I’m doing.” Maybe that’s what I’m missing here in AZ. Everyone seems to have it so together… I’m not really needed anywhere. They don’t ask me for help, so I feel strange asking them for help.

I don’t have the feeling that I’m in a community… I feel like I’m surrounded by lots of really pretty islands with walls up around them. On our family island, we don’t have a wall, just a small hut. We’re friendly, but completely out of place with all this walled-up beauty that surrounds us. And now my fear is that I’m not setting the right example for my children about how to BE in this new environment. It’s so confusing to me, so I do what I’m seeing others doing. Trying to have it all together, in my own house, not needing anyone to help, staying busy with my own stuff. But I’m just NOT that kind of person.

I don’t think the answer is to conform to what I see around me. That’s never the job of a person who follows Jesus. Maybe, somehow, I can help other people realize that they need help… maybe even MY help. There’s an idea.

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