Psalm 51 was read during the Sunday morning service. My eyes have seen those words before....many times....but they were never felt. It was never personal. Until Sunday. A lump formed in my throat when we read verse 8. "Make me to hear the joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice." Eight years ago my Father allowed my bones to be broken. I still don't understand why. I still don't accept it. I've taken these eight years to harbor anger and bitterness, and I've slowly watched as my faith has slipped away. Willingly. "Sorry God. You had Your chance to prove Yourself. If only You had come through for me..." My broken bones have not rejoiced. May this, dear Lord, be my heart-felt prayer for the next eight.
In the first year that my husband and I were married, he taught in a small Christian school. Take-home pay was roughly $13,000. :) We had just finished paying for his last semester of college, used wedding money to buy a Mac, moved 12 hours north and bought a house. Many lessons were learned that year, and many mistakes were made. I was pregnant with our first-born and craved water and fruit the entire 9 months. When winter rolled around and my belly was getting bigger, one memory sticks out in my mind more than some of the others. It was a cold quiet evening at home and we were busy paying bills and looking over the budget. I mentioned to my husband how badly I wanted an orange. It was probably about 9pm, and this pregnant woman was bound and determined to leave the house for an orange! After scanning the budget with a fine-toothed comb, I was told we couldn't afford an orange. What? You've got to be kidding me. I was fuming. And hormonal. But he was right. We didn't have the money to purchase an orange. Our grocery budget that year was $35 a week. He didn't receive any meals at work through the school, so this had to last us breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 7 days. We ate a lot of Ramen.....and those teeny tiny frozen pizzas at Aldi's that taste like cardboard. I steered clear of larger chain stores like Giant. Through-out our 6 1/2 years of marriage we've received multiple levels of paychecks. There are always seasons of bounty and seasons of want. My husband asked me to blog about my cheap meals. :) So, without any further explanation, here are my favorite top tips:
1. Research meat-less meals. This sounds so obvious, but it really does make a huge difference. Look on the bright side. You really don't need all those gross hormones and antibiotics they pumped that animal with anyway. :)
2. Learn how to make rice! And I don't mean the instant kind. You don't need a rice cooker, either. A little oil, a little water, and a little rice can go a long way in making you feel full for pennies. My husband has perfected it. My kids have learned to love it. And we can use it every night if we're in a pinch.
3. Eliminate all animal products. If you have to add milk to the muffins, or cheese to the top, or an egg to the meatloaf, don't make it! Animal products ( along with processed/packaged crap) add in most of the expense of the meal.
4. Don't ever run out of onions or garlic. :) You can eat rice and veggies or potatoes and veggies every.single.night as long as you have these two secrets ingredients. But please purchase the actual garlic....not the minced variety in the jar. If you only use one clove a day, it really lasts a long time.
5. Water down all of your drinks. My kids (ages 5, 3, and 2) still have their cups filled 3/4 with water and 1/4 with juice. They're so used to it that they don't notice the difference. When I make KoolAid as a special treat or when friends are coming to play, I use the "two quart" recipe, but actually mix it up in a gallon pitcher. It's a little weaker, but you still get the fun color and the sweet taste.
6. I'm afraid I've lost all of my readers by now. :)
7. Make it yourself. Everything. Duh.
8. Make snack plates for lunch. Set out the number of plates you need for you and your kids, and then hunt the pantry or the back of the fridge for whatever is going bad. Carrot sticks, half a handful of raisins, the bottom crumbs of the pretzel bag, 4 pieces of cereal, a few pickles, and some apple slices can go a LONG way.
9. Don't plan your meals or impulse buy. I always spend more when my meals are planned because I have to get a million different ingredients for 7 different meals. Instead, take your grocery budget in CASH form to a discount outlet and just stock up. Every night I just "create" meals by what I have, instead of planning to make a recipe that I've forgotten an ingredient for.
10. Our favorite way to eat for pennies: Sautee half of an onion and one clove of garlic in a small amount of oil in a large pot on your stovetop. Take whatever leftover potatoes you find covered in dust or spuds on the floor of your pantry and cut them up into inch-long cubes. Seal the pot with a big heavy lid and just wait. When you expect your potatoes to be about halfway done, throw a large bag of frozen broccoli on top and seal again with the lid. Your potatoes are cooking and your broccoli is steaming. :) Serve with salt and pepper. It's DIVINE!
I hope I haven't a) grossed anyone out by the fact that I water down KoolAid and b) made myself sound discontent. I've learned to eat on a budget and find it rather thrilling. :) God has promised to provide for our needs, but I think all too often we expect to find bags of groceries sitting by the front door thanks to a generous anonymous old lady from church. Sometimes God provides the determination and creativity, instead.
2010 - 2011 was our first full year homeschooling. I went into it with a million ideas and expectations. I had my books, and my schedule, and my clock. :) God did a great job keeping me flexible because we changed curriculum after only the first few weeks. :) Preschool, to me, wasn't so much about the education as it was about preparing for kindergarten. I wanted my children to be aware that they would, in fact, be required to sit and listen and heed instruction from time to time. :) It was time to know how to learn things from a book, rather than just hands on. The year was fantastic. Studies were only focused for my then-4-year-old. Everyone else was invited to join in, but just had less of a work load. I learned so much, as did he. He completed the Brain Quest Kindergarten book, started violin and piano lessons, learned how to read and how to count to 100. All of this coming from the child who never took his first steps until 17 months and reacted badly to his MMR, which resulted in not talking until 2 1/2 years old. I'm not being boastful. I know there are other 4 years old who have accomplished so much more. But for my child who would rather vaccuum than do a worksheet, and has overcome many developmental obstacles, I was so proud.
I have so much to blog about and cute pictures to share with you, but tonight all of these random memories flooded my mind and I wanted to jot them down before I forgot. :)
- My every dream and intention was to be the next Michelle Duggar.
- When I was a child my bedroom bookcase was adorned with old squirrel tails and turkey feet. The leftover remains of the most recent animal my dad filled our freezer with. :)
- Letters A thru G have an accompanying color in my mind. For example: F is always green. E is always a purpley/blue. Etc....
- I am very proud of my c-section scar and hope that it never goes away.
- I am probably the least competitive person on the planet. Don't feel the need to beat you in anything :)
- My ankles are my favorite body part.
- It's been two years since my husband had a vasectomy, and there hasn't been a day that goes by without me hoping it didn't work.
- Thinks ignorance is immature.
- Loves to hear stories of a family "doing without" so the mom can stay home full time.
- Has no respect for "yes men". If you are not capable of making a decision without asking your wife's permission, or are under the mentality of "if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy", then there is a serious problem in your house.
- Lays in bed scared to death, each and every night, that someone will break in.
- Sleeps in the middle of the bed.
- Wishing that there were more people I could tolerate. :)
- Wants my kids to stay this age for a very long time.
- Lives in fear that I will lose another loved one someday.
- Would much rather spend every day in sweats.
- Wonders if I'll ever reach my goal weight.
- Feels sensitive towards people who take their pregnancies for granted.
- Has been through two different counseling experiences, both of which completely transformed my life.
- Loves venting to my husband.
- My ideal alone time is sitting in a quiet car with a starbucks.
- My husband and I have an agreement: he gets the remote if I get a foot rub. :)
- Would love it if people were more honest.
- Has some really good groups of friends right now.
- Is trying to wrap my brain around the concept that God is more concerned with my heart than my to-do list.
- Loves staying at home.... all day, every day.
- Wants at least 5 more babies. Willing to travel across the world to bring them home.
- Always wished that God called me to missions, but scared to death to talk to my neighbors about Him.
- If I was forced to redecorate my entire house tomorrow, I'd paint everything bright-cultural colors and fill every room with modern furniture.
- Thinks that every boy NEEDS to feel respected by his father.
- Doesn't enjoy sweeping things under the rug and would much rather just have an all-out war until things are settled.
- Cries every time I try to sing "Does Jesus Care", "It Is Well", and "Be Still My Soul".
- Times doesn't heal wounds. Only God heals wounds....if you let Him.
Five years later, I am still so thankful he picked me. Blessed beyond belief with three miracle babies. Exposing my soul on a worn piano bench. Collecting my thoughts through dressage. Sipping something sweet and hot in the rain. Speechless of God's grace.