I'm just a wife and mother who earnestly desires to grow in my faith and it's demonstration. DISCLAIMER! I have absolutely no problem with women in the clergy. As a matter of fact, I have several female pastors who I consider friends. In my home, the pastor is a male so the pronouns I use to refer to a pastor tend to be male. This is not a statement of any kind. Just a reflection of my every day life!

Archive for September, 2013

Seeing A Resemblance

Family resemblances abound in every . . . well . . . family!  I’m not just talking about looks or other physical features.  Sometimes we share gestures, phrases, “colloquialisms” that are unique to our families.  Example – many people know the saying “That’s the pot calling the kettle black.”  In my home, that usually comes out “That’s a cat calling a dog four-legged.”  (Thank you, daddy!)

But sometimes we meet a person who has such a significant impact on us that we start to resemble them.  And they may not even be family.  My hubby has told me – more than once – that my choral conducting style reminds him a little bit of Dr. Richard Stewart, my college choir director and a favorite professor in my music education program!

Recently, I’ve been struck by just how much my husband is starting to “resemble” two men from his past.

If you ask my husband who the greatest influences on his professional life have been, I know for a fact that two of the names you would hear – and I’m almost positive these would be the first two you would hear! – would be Dr. Carl Hoch and Dr. Fred Moore.  Both of them have gone home to glory.  But I know they would be proud of where their student and friend in ministry is today.

Dr. Hoch was a seminary professor that my husband studied under.  I’ve heard my husband say numerous times that Dr. Hoch taught him to be a Biblical Theologian.  In other words, let the scripture be your teacher and if a long held religious stance turns out to be in opposition to scripture, then change your stance!  (Just so you know -the opposite of Biblical Theology is Systematic Theology where you have a system of beliefs that you try to fit scripture into.  Kind of a backwards approach if you ask me!)

When I met my hubby – before classes even started our freshman year in college – he was VERY conservative.  Think Alex P. Keaton for those of you old enough to remember Family Ties!  And his conservatism carried over into his faith.

As I have watched my husband preach and listened to him talk about what he is learning from his own personal study of scripture, I can say with full confidence that his conviction regarding some teachings of scripture would keep him from being welcome in the church he grew up in.  There are times he has wrestled with himself over a truth of scripture and the fact that it meant letting go of a long held – and erroneous – stance on a particular issue.  Some of these issues were minor.  Some were a little bigger.  But when an issue like this comes up, I know I will hear him quote Dr. Hoch.

But as he humbly embraces his new understanding – and makes the necessary adjustments in stance – he learns even more from Scripture which often leads to more adjustments in his stance . . . you get the idea!  The willingness to let Scripture shape the way he lives his life?  That has Dr. Hoch’s influence written all over it.

Fred Moore was the first pastor that my husband served with.  Hubby took on an unpaid position as the Youth Pastor at a small Evangelical Free Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  To this day, hubby refers to Pastor Fred as his Mentor in Ministry.  Fred suffered from a rare genetic disorder that had affected his sight and his hearing to say nothing of the fact that the condition meant he lived in terrible pain every single day of his life.  Most of those in his congregation never saw any hint of the pain and suffering he bore.  Hubby was privy to it only because hubby had access to him during the quiet moments in the office during the week.

Despite his own personal hardship, Fred loved people.  His compassion and tender heart were two of his very best qualities.  I remember being in the hospital after the birth of my second child.  She had ended up in the NICU with Respiratory Distress Syndrome and I was – to say the very least – a mess!  I was recovering from a c-section and my newborn daughter was up one floor, separated from me by a plastic box intended to protect her from illness.

Fred stopped in to visit and wanted to know how I was doing.  I told him how I was handling the pain, what I was taking to deal with it, etc.  And he smiled at me with the most tender expression and said, “No, dear, I want to know your heart is doing.”  Tearfully, I shared just how scared/frustrated/overwhelmed I was.  He said nothing – simply let me “get it all out”.  And then he prayed with me.  I don’t know what he said exactly but I do remember that he prayed for peace, that I would not be afraid of the situation, and then he prayed for quick healing for myself and my daughter.  This man, who would NEVER find healing from his condition this side of glory, not only prayed for healing, but talked about how excited he was to rejoice over that healing.  I saw my husband later that day and before I could tell him that Pastor Fred had come to visit, he told me that Fred was “having a bad day.”  I never saw it.  Not one sign that he was in more pain than usual (side note – he couldn’t take any of the really strong prescription pain relievers since they tended to make his condition worse in the long run).  I cried.  This man who had just ministered so thoughtfully to me, who had been so concerned about my well-being, had been suffering through a day laced with pain and discomfort.  And he never let on.  Never even so much as grimaced in pain.  Simply sought to minister to someone else.

Every week, I watch my husband stand patiently listening to anyone of a number of elderly church members run through the litany of ailments, medications, etc. that they are dealing with.  He meets a group of retired men every morning for coffee and doughnuts at a local restaurant just because.  I’ve watched him drop everything and head to the hospital for someone in need.  All of these acts – and so many others – are a direct result of the influence of Fred Moore, a man whose impact on my husband’s life was so intense that my son bears the middle name Frederick in his honor.

I say all of this because this recent awareness has served as a reminder to me that we leave our marks on those we interact with for however long a period of time.  As a teacher, I’m more aware of the impact I can have on the students in my classroom.  But I cannot forget that sometimes those encounters come in the form of those I work with in ministry.  Regardless of the setting,  I may be leaving my mark behind and I wonder – is the resemblance a positive one?!

Song for Sunday

The lyric “the beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair” has been running through my head off and on for a couple of weeks so – here it is!

The Choice Between Tired and Weary

At this point in time, the financial needs of my family of six – with two in college – are such that I must work.  Since I have not been able to find full-time employment, I currently hold down three part-time jobs.  Those jobs keep me going from 7:50 a.m. till about 3 a.m. five days a week and thanks to those jobs I work with everything from Kindergarten or First grade students to college age students every weekday.  That kind of jump is just a tad bit mentally exhausting!

To be honest, most of my employment hours find me doing what I have to do to earn a paycheck.  The one job that allows me to spend time in my one great area of passion – the performing arts – is the one hour or so of my day that brings me real joy.

When this work situation became my reality, it was with the understanding that I still got to set aside time to pursue my passion.  With the help of some AMAZING friends and board members, a dream I’ve carried for at least 2 decades will become reality in January of 2014 when Stage Door Productions holds it’s premiere event.  The hope is that this venture will eventually provide some income.  But for now, it is more avocation than vocation.  Nevertheless, there are things a Managing Director must do to help the first season become a reality!

I work with the colorguard at the local high school and love spending time helping those girls develop their skills (plus this former band geek loves being a part of marching season again!).  Before the school year is out, I will be directing a production for a local community theater (performances in December), will serve as the rehearsal accompanist/pit pianist for the Spring musical at the local community college (for the 3rd year) and will serve as the theatrical director for the Spring musical at the local public high school (for the 5th year).  All of those “theater gigs” come with paychecks.  Modest stipends in some cases, but it’s better than nothing!

When people hear about my schedule, people comment on how crazy busy it sounds.  Well-meaning individuals often tell me that I should free up my nights.  As one person put it “Let someone else handle all the theater ‘stuff'”.   They are convinced that doing so would reduce my stress.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

My jobs (with the one exception I mentioned earlier) provide a paycheck and not much else.  My theatrical/performing arts pursuits provide food for my soul.  There is no experience in the world that compares to standing onstage and delivering a well-timed line or heartfelt song to an attentive audience.  Unless that experience includes getting to accompany others who are doing so, vocal coaching cast members, or directing a show.  It is in performance that I am most in touch with parts of me that existed before I was anyone’s wife or mother.  To cut those events out of my life would NOT lower my stress level.  Quite the contrary.

If you see me these days and ask “How are you?”  I’m liable to answer “Tired.”  You might see “tired” as a problem and you might be tempted to encourage me to give up some of my “extracurricular” pursuits.  If I did that and you asked “How are you?” my answer would change to “Weary.” Frankly, I would rather be “tired” with a slight smile on my face and a soul well-fed than “weary” from a passion abandoned.

The Power of a Song

It’s late, I’ve had a long day and I should be in bed.  But there are some thoughts I just have to share.

This was family weekend at Luther college so I was off early Saturday morning to go see my youngest daughter, Nessa, who is a freshman at Luther.  I brought two of her friends, one who graduated with my daughter and is now in culinary school up in the Twin Cities, and another who is a Senior in High School.  My travelling companions were in choir with Nessa when she was in high school an there are two other “choir alumni” at Luther college as freshmen this year.

At the end of the day, the music department held a concert featuring all but one of the choirs.  I loved getting to see Nessa and the two other freshmen I mentioned earlier perform with their respective ensembles.  The friends I had brought with me were enjoying the concert as well.  When Nessa’s choir had finished singing, she (and her roommate who is in choir with Nessa) came and sat with us for a bit before participating in a massed number at the end of the concert.

One of the choirs began a piece titled “Ubi Carits” by Ola Gjeilo.  The three Fort Dodge Choir Alum sitting near me gasped – they had done the exact same piece the year before and it had been a choir favorite!  Two of them simply closed their eyes and enjoyed the moment.  One of them mouthed the words along.  There were even a few tears.  I saw one of the other freshman from Fort Dodge after the concert and she admitted to shedding some tears as well.  I don’t know this for a fact, but I would wager that all five of the FDSH students/graduates that sang that song were taken back to treasured performances of that piece.

That’s how it is for us performing arts geeks.  You hear a choir sing a song that you did “once upon a time” and you instantly transported back to that moment in time.  But you also feel an instant connection to the ensemble performing the piece just then.  The members of that choir may never know that they inspired a moment but it doesn’t matter.  The moment happened and now that “new” ensemble has a tiny piece of your heart because they helped you remember a precious moment.

That, my friends, is the power of a song.

Feeling Unappreciated?

Today’s comment from Nina are just too good not to share!

Freezer Cooking – The Short Version

I don’t usually do this “happy homemaker” stuff on my blog (simply because I don’t have much to teach in the way of housekeeping hints or original recipes) but I’ve commented about my freezer cooking days and a few people have asked so I thought I’d give a brief idea of a simple freezer cooking day.

A little back story – I am a mom of four and the older my kids got, the busier they got.  Add to that the fact that there were seasons of the year when I worked 3 part time jobs and one of those was a musical which tied up evenings.  Freezer meals made it easier on everyone!

Today’s plan was very simple (compared to other days where I’ve done a dozen entrees or side dishes).  If you are looking for good freezer cooking ideas you can find two of my favorite blogs here (love the taco soup recipe on this one!) and here (I’ll be sharing the marinade from this one a little later).

One tip – I’ve learned that LOTS of casseroles can be frozen for use later in the week.  Just prep them to the moment right before you would put it in the oven to bake and then freeze it instead.  You can use either freezer bags or casserole dishes.

First, it was off to the grocery store to do the grocery shopping.  TIP: I use Cozi.com for meal planning and I have the app downloaded to my phone so I don’t need a written grocery list.  I just use the app!  Hubby gets paid twice a month so when I shop for groceries, it’s for two weeks!

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When I freezer cook, I use the items shown in the picture.  The binder is a family cookbook and that plus the green cookbook are the ones I use most.  The laptop is used to access recipes I’ve pinned or websites I’ve “bookmarked” as well as providing some entertainment via Netflix!

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One of the things I did to start the day was to freeze some fresh green beans I picked up at Market on Central yesterday. Snipped the ends while I got the water boiling. I blanched them then spread them on a cookie sheet to “flash freeze” so them.  That way they wouldn’t freeze in one big lump when I put them in the freezer bag!

IMG_20130915_154743_645Then I started on some of the other recipes.  I got two skillets heated up and fried up two pounds of ground beef in each one.  The one on the left was turned into my mom’s homemade sloppy joes and the one on the left was simply fried up, cooled and frozen.  It would be used later for nachos.  I labeled freezer bags and when the content of each pan had sufficiently cooled, I bagged up the contents and put them in the freezer (I have a stand-up freezer in my basement since the one attached to my fridge is full of veggies and other things!

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I make a pretty mean chicken broccoli alfredo (with a homemade alfredo sauce) and I’ve discovered that I can speed up the process by prepping the chicken ahead of time.  Chop up two chicken breasts, salt and pepper them, heat some EVOO in the skillet and then fry up the meat!  Cool it, bag it, and freeze it.

I’ve also learned that I can freeze meat in sauces or marinades and they are super tasty – they just soak in the marinade before they freeze and soak some more as they are thawing.  The second link I shared above introduced my family to what has become our families favorite marinade.  It’s fairly easy – blend the ingredients then pour it over the meat which you have already placed in the freezer bag.  Thaw the meat then grill it and heat the sauce to use on the meat.  (Go to the link above and look for Steak Marinade near the bottom of the page).

IMG_20130915_170448_680Like I said – a simple day. I kept dishwater in the sink since I kept using the measuring cups, measuring spoons, and skillets.  I spent about an hour and got fresh veggies frozen and parts or all of four entrees.  Regardless of who is responsible to finish dinner, some of the most complicated (or messiest!) work has been done.

Looking to do more freezer cooking?  Go to Pinterest!  It’s a growing area of interest for many and I found some of my best ideas there!  You can find me – MaryJo – and check my “Freezer Meals” board to see the ideas I’ve saved or my “Did It!” board to find the ones I’ve used and liked!

Taking Care of Us

Have you ever had one of those days when you keep encountering people from different “parts” of your life, people who couldn’t possibly know one another, who seem to be dealing with “stuff” that is similar in nature?  Sometimes I wonder if that isn’t God’s way of gently saying, “Pay attention.  There’s something you need to understand.”

Today it’s all about taking care of ourselves.  From a friend who has been honest and open on a social networking site about her need for medication to deal with depression to a woman who is stressed with demands of a new job and needs a little “pick-me-up” to a woman who has lost someone dear and needs to do something simple to feel good again.  I could give more examples but you get the idea!

What breaks my heart is that some of the women I mentioned felt like they needed to apologize for being selfish.  Why do we do that?!

Each of these women is married and all are mothers though some of them are now at the “empty nest” phase of life.  Every single one of them has “done for others” to a great extent.  Many of them volunteer their time in various ways – church, school PTA, animal shelter, etc.  On their worst day, you would not call these women selfish.

One woman who I have been chatting with via Facebook message (side note – I have permission to mention the story as long as I leave out her name!) said that all she wanted was a pumpkin spice something from Starbucks and half an hour to sit on her back deck and read.  Then she said, “But I’d feel so selfish.”  Really?!  This woman’s oldest child is in elementary school and the baby just started Kindergarten.  She is a giving, loving, selfless woman who is always busy for others or in her home for her family – gardening, canning, sewing, volunteering, you name it!  She went back to work part-time now that her youngest is in school and she hasn’t quite adjusted to the schedule change.  All she wanted was half an hour to just be her; not a mom, an employee, a volunteer, or a wife.  Just her.

Why do we do this to ourselves?!  Why do we feel guilty if we aren’t absolutely everything to our family members?!  And don’t even get me started on the amazing women I know who live with Depression, Bi-Polar disorder, or physical disabilities, OR who are battling cancer, caring for a dying loved one, or just “being there” for an elderly relative who needs someone checking in on them from time to time.

Ladies, listen up.  Do not feel ashamed if you need some “me” time.  Next time life is overwhelming, take a deep breath, step back, and grab your favorite color of nail polish.  Or a favorite book.  Or that seasonal Starbucks beverage you’ve been waiting to have for months (salted caramel mocha is back!).  When we take care of us, we are better able to take care of those we love.

Think it’s time for a coffee break.  Who’s with me?

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