Tag Archive for church

Why I Chose a Bible as My Literacy Artifact

Last week I wrote about the process I went through to choose a lit­er­acy arti­fact. I was to share this object with my col­leagues at the pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment work­shop I was attend­ing at Michi­gan State. It wasHoly Bible Pink Cover to rep­re­sent some story of my lit­er­acy and edu­ca­tional jour­ney. In that post I explained the var­i­ous objects I con­sid­ered and then ulti­mately revealed the arti­fact I chose: a Bible.

In today’s post, I explain why I chose the Bible as the arti­fact that best rep­re­sents my story about lit­er­acy and edu­ca­tion. Some peo­ple may not think that the Bible would have much of a role on edu­ca­tion, learn­ing, or lit­er­acy. It’s a book, and we know books can teach, but the Bible is not con­nected to school­ing (at least not pub­lic school­ing) and it doesn’t explic­itly teach about learn­ing to read or write. How­ever, the Bible did impact my devel­op­ment as a learner, as a student.

What fol­lows is not a straight­for­ward, lin­ear nar­ra­tive about the Bible’s impact on me as a learner. I pro­vide a mere glimpse into its impact on me, a few sto­ries that con­tribute to some part of the story. The story is not a com­plete (or com­pletely accu­rate) his­tory. I do not want to share every story and expe­ri­ence; some things I still like to keep to myself. And I hon­estly can’t pin­point all of the ways the Bible has impacted my edu­ca­tion (or my life). Plus, this is my per­spec­tive; my par­ents might have a dif­fer­ent story to tell.

The Bible is the first book I remem­ber. I car­ried one to church with me. My par­ents read it to us as kids. My sib­lings and I put on drama skits for my par­ents and oth­ers who would watch in which we acted out sto­ries from the Bible. We used the Bible to plan and study and learn the sto­ries. We used the Bible as part of our weekly fam­ily devo­tion­als. When I learned to read, I began read­ing the book by myself. I con­tin­ued to read it grow­ing up. It was the cen­ter of our church ser­vices, at least metaphor­i­cally. Preach­ing, teach­ing, singing, and fel­low­ship­ping were cen­tered on this object and its mean­ing. The Bible was the lens through which I looked at life. It is a part of my lit­er­acy story like no other object is.

When I was around eight years old, my dad decided that it was time for me and my older sis­ter Kim to start read­ing the Bible every day. He bought both of us a new Bible, one of those “Read through the Bible in a Year” ones. We were excited to get new Bibles. I remem­ber the first one he got us: it was red and each day included a pas­sage from the Old Tes­ta­ment, New Tes­ta­ment, and Psalms. This Bible would allow us to read through the Bible in a year. Each day, we read the pas­sages and then signed our name when we were fin­ished. We couldn’t play out­side or watch TV until we had com­pleted our daily Bible read­ing. On some nights, my par­ents would quiz me over what I read for that day. Other times my dad would ask me ques­tions about the story to see what I knew or what I had learned. These con­ver­sa­tions often devel­oped into longer dis­cus­sions about what the pas­sage meant or how I could apply it to my life. The Bible became rel­e­vant to me.

For at least ten years of my life, I read through the Bible in one year (I did skim some days and did not always read even when I said I did; I was a kid.). I knew the Bible. I could tell you story after story after story and where that story was found and what it might even mean. I could name ran­dom peo­ple in the Bible. I knew the gen­er­a­tions of the Hebrew peo­ple. I knew para­bles and mir­a­cles and the men and women God used to tell the story. I could quote long pas­sages from the Bible. I knew a lot of mem­ory verses. I was proud of what I knew about the Bible. I gained con­fi­dence in myself because of my knowl­edge of the Bible.

The Bible became a part of me, my iden­tity. (Of course, I didn’t know what every­thing meant and didn’t know how to con­duct exe­ge­sis over a pas­sage. But I don’t think that was the point—to fig­ure it all out. I still haven’t fig­ured it all out!)

This prac­tice of daily Bible read­ing also coin­cided with another prac­tice my dad insti­tuted for me and my sis­ter Kim (and even­tu­ally my brother, too). My father decided that we needed to take notes dur­ing church. As a kid (and maybe as an adult, too), the ser­mon is the longest part of church. You had to sit there, qui­etly (this was of utmost impor­tance), “lis­ten­ing” (to words, names, and ideas you didn’t under­stand), and doing noth­ing (there was no Children’s Church or iPads or iPhones). It was the longest, most dread­ful time of the entire church ser­vice. I tried my best not to be loud, not to fid­get, and not to get taken out to get a spank­ing (this did hap­pen more times than I want to admit). I always became excited when I could tell a preacher was wrap­ping up the ser­mon. Whew. I made it!

My dad didn’t want it to be like this for us, so he came up with a plan. He had an idea for some­thing we could do dur­ing this time, some­thing use­ful and prac­ti­cal. He bought us spi­ral note­books, which we were sup­posed to bring with us to church each time, and required us to take notes over the preacher’s sermons.

This began in the third grade for me. I had to sit there each Sun­day morn­ing and Sun­day night with my pen and paper in hand and take notes over what the preacher was say­ing. I could not sit with my friends in the youth sec­tion; instead, I had to sit with my par­ents and lis­ten and take notes. What’s even cra­zier is that as soon as we got home from church, my dad checked over the notes (yes, checked them) and either approved them or not. He gave us con­struc­tive tips to improve our note­tak­ing skills and helped us to bet­ter under­stand what the preacher was say­ing that we didn’t quite get. I am going to write another post in which I give more details on this prac­tice of ser­mon note­tak­ing, but suf­fice it to say that I believe one of the rea­sons I was such a good stu­dent in high school and col­lege (and grad­u­ate school, too) was my abil­ity to take notes.

Although the Bible has been an impor­tant object in my life, my rela­tion­ship to it has changed. The object itself remains the same, but my rela­tion­ship to it has changed. I look at it dif­fer­ently. I read and under­stand pas­sages dif­fer­ently. I no longer “read it like a child”; instead, I read it under­stand­ing that I am read­ing it through a cer­tain lens, com­ing to the text with my own assump­tions, biases, and per­spec­tives. Instead of learn­ing the “right answer” (or how to find it), I have learned, instead, the impor­tance of ask­ing ques­tions. Of pon­der­ing the text, respond­ing to it, ques­tion­ing it, just like I do with other texts I read. When I strug­gled with doubt or faith, I went back to the Bible and inter­preted it dif­fer­ently. When I went through grad­u­ate school, I began to notice much more about social jus­tice, women’s rights, and com­pas­sion. I begin to see how my own per­spec­tive and beliefs impacts what I find in the Bible.

The Bible has impacted my edu­ca­tional jour­neys in pro­found ways, and it con­tin­ues to do so today. These are just a few sto­ries how. What I didn’t know back then is that one day I would marry a preacher and become a preacher’s wife. I won­der if my preacher hus­band is going to make our preacher’s kids take notes over his ser­mon. If he does, I will be the one to check them.

This is my story. Do with it what you will.

The clos­ing line of this post comes from the beau­ti­fully elo­quent (and uncon­ven­tional) CCCC talk given by Malea Pow­ell from MSU. This line was stated at least 10 dif­fer­ent times by the var­i­ous par­tic­i­pants who spoke, and it had a pro­found impact on me in terms of think­ing about story, both telling my own story and lis­ten­ing to the sto­ries of oth­ers. Isn’t that state­ment bril­liantly provoca­tive?


Reflections on Eating Vegetarian: A Week in Review

I recently embarked on a crazy jour­ney. My goal was to eat veg­e­tar­ian for one whole week. I was out of town at a pro­fes­sional Sum­mer Sem­i­nar in Rhetoric and Com­po­si­tion at Michi­gan State Uni­ver­sity and was able to eat five days worth of meals at a five-star cafe­te­ria (see this arti­cle for more), and the other two days in air­ports. The food in the cafe­te­ria was espe­cially good. Not what I had in The World Famous Bean at ACU back in the day (over 15 years ago–wow!). The stu­dents donned chef coats and cooked the food right in front of you. Amazing!

Many of you fol­lowed along dur­ing the jour­ney, but if you did not (or if you just want to re-visit some of the pages), you might be inter­ested to see with your eyes the vari­ety of food I ate and the many dif­fer­ent options of eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian. It isn’t all steamed cau­li­flower and roasted pep­pers (although those are good!). The pic­tures are also really pretty! I have included links to each day’s food, includ­ing ver­bal descrip­tions and visual pho­tos of what I ate at break­fast, lunch, and dinner.

Back­ground of Exper­i­ment, Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, Day Six, Day Seven

Phyllo and Zucchini Strudel with Summer Squash Saute

Though short, this jour­ney opened my eyes to a vari­ety of issues about food, eat­ing, meal­time, fel­low­ship, and myself. I share some of these with you in today’s post. Since it’s Tues­day, let’s just make it part of the Tues­day 12 Series.

1. Eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian reduces the num­ber of food options avail­able, which sim­pli­fies the process of order­ing food.

When I go to a restau­rant, I scour the menu look­ing for some­thing to eat. I am not one who orders the same thing each time. I actu­ally order a dif­fer­ent meal each time. Even when I cook at home, I rarely make the same thing twice. I like to cook and eat a vari­ety of foods. Some­times, it takes me at least 15 min­utes to decide on some­thing to eat.

But eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian meant that I was typ­i­cally given two main meal choices along with soup, salad, and veg­gies. I didn’t even look what else was being served. I saw the veg­e­tar­ian options and decided what I wanted. It was so sim­ple. And since I’m try­ing to sim­ply my life and my mantra is becom­ing “less is more,” I think sim­pli­fi­ca­tion is a good thing.

2.    Eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian does not equal healthy eating.

This may not come as a sur­prise to veg­e­tar­i­ans, but I guess it did to me. I assumed that a veg­e­tar­ian diet meant a healthy diet of fruits and veg­eta­bles and legumes. And it does. But it also includes the oh-so-yummy dairy food group of but­ter, cheese, and milk, oils (even healthy ones still are high in fat), and desserts. I do think, though, that eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian means that you can enjoy these foods more often since you aren’t eat­ing high-fat meats and maybe fewer calo­ries. Although I can’t point to any “real” data to back these points up, I can say that I didn’t gain any weight this week–even though I had more dessert than I have had in a very long time.

3.    Meat sub­sti­tutes taste good (at least most of the ones I ate).

The vegan hot dog wasn’t my favorite, but the ground meat sub­sti­tutes and the tofu were both tasty and served their respec­tive pur­poses in the dish.

4.    When you don’t eat meat, peo­ple assume you are a vegetarian.

The peo­ple at the Sem­i­nar assumed I was a veg­e­tar­ian. I never ate any meat, so, of course, I was a veg­e­tar­ian (really, this makes log­i­cal sense). But what’s inter­est­ing is that I never told any­one I was a veg­e­tar­ian. They just inferred, after look­ing at my plate, that I was a veg­e­tar­ian. My suit­e­m­ate, Karen, knew about my “exper­i­ment,” but I didn’t tell any­one else until much later in the week, and only if they asked. I found it really inter­est­ing that after the first or sec­ond day, many of these col­leagues even pointed out veg­e­tar­ian dishes that they thought tasted (or looked) good. They often directed me to a cer­tain sta­tion to make sure I tried one of the veg­e­tar­ian dishes being served there. I found this quite endearing.

I also noticed that the cafe­te­ria staff made assump­tions about me when I ordered the veg­e­tar­ian option from their sta­tion. These assump­tions weren’t bad; I just noticed it, that’s all. Veg­e­tar­i­ans are typ­i­cally a cer­tain type of per­son (more health-conscious, more environmentally-friendly, more lib­eral, etc.). I could tell this in the ques­tions they asked me and in their friendly smiles and eye con­tact. This gen­er­a­tion of col­lege stu­dents (the peo­ple work­ing the food sta­tions) seems very aware of the impact, the dif­fer­ence, one person’s per­sonal choices can have on the larger soci­ety. To me, they seem more socially aware than my gen­er­a­tion, which, I think, is a good shift.

5.    Indi­vid­u­als and restau­rants can be very accom­mo­dat­ing to veg­e­tar­i­ans, veg­ans, gluten-freers, or oth­ers with dietary food requests and restrictions.

Many restau­rants these days are con­scious of the wide vari­ety of eaters com­ing in their doors. Many now have a wide vari­ety of options for all kinds of peo­ple, and the food is quite com­pa­ra­ble. Even when we went over to one person’s house for din­ner (who is not a veg­e­tar­ian or vegan and has no known food aller­gies), she thought in advance and made vegan hot dogs, gluten-free dishes, dairy-free dips, and many other dishes that peo­ple with spe­cialty requests could eat. I find this to be extremely thoughtful.

6.    Eat­ing a veg­e­tar­ian diet can cause mas­sive prob­lems on your intestines.

Not eat­ing meat can con­sti­pate you. It hap­pened to me on Day 2 and lasted until Day 6 (Fri­day). One col­league at the con­fer­ence told me to eat more fruits, so that’s what I did. I don’t know if the relief on Fri­day was the result of eat­ing more fruits or if my body adjusted to a plant-based diet. Either way, I was thankful.

In the same vein, I did notice that bowel move­ments are not the same (If this topic grosses you out, embar­rasses you, or makes you uncom­fort­able, pro­ceed to #7. If you read on, remem­ber that YOU WERE WARNED!).  Instead of the long, S-shaped pieces of poop Dr. Oz once told Oprah were ideal, my poops were shaped like small round pel­lets. This hap­pened the entire week, every time.

One inter­est­ing benefit/side effect of not eat­ing meat is that your poop smells dif­fer­ent; it doesn’t stink quite so bad. I hadn’t really con­sid­ered this point–that not eat­ing meat would impact the smell of my poop–which is odd con­sid­er­ing I have a 9-month baby who doesn’t eat meat yet and whose dia­per does not smell near as bad as it will in a few months when we intro­duce meat into his diet. I’m won­der­ing if this rings true for any veg­e­tar­i­ans out there??

7.    Eat­ing less meat is a really good idea.

Eat­ing less meat can be good for your health, as much research on eat­ing a plant-based diet sug­gests, even if you pri­mar­ily eat low-fat meats. It can also be good for the envi­ron­ment. I’ve heard it can be more cost-effective and cheaper (Have you noticed how expen­sive meat is?). It can make you think more reflec­tively about food and eat­ing and meal­time. It can get you to change nor­mal rou­tines and be more thank­ful for what you do eat. I could go on and on here, but I firmly believe that eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian, even if it’s only once in a while–is a good idea.

8.    Eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian encour­aged me to slow down, talk more, lis­ten more, and really pay atten­tion to each and every bite, to savor the fla­vor and pon­der the taste.

I was shocked to see how my eat­ing habits changed when eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian food. Granted, I was not eat­ing these meals with small chil­dren, where the words slow, savor, and pon­der don’t often show up. How­ever, I do think it was more than the fact that I was eat­ing with adults. The food I was eat­ing was on my mind the entire time. I stud­ied it. I pon­dered the food com­bi­na­tions in a dish. I ana­lyzed how I thought the dish was cooked. I ques­tioned what spice was used. I tasted the food, I mean, really tasted the food. I didn’t just eat with my eyes, but I also ate with my mouth…in a deep way that I often miss when eat­ing before. This habit could have been because I was doing an exper­i­ment about food. I’ll grant that. But even at other times, I think about food all the time–what I’ll cook, what I need from the gro­cery store, which food is the health­i­est, etc. This time, how­ever, I thought about food while I was eat­ing it. This is a new thing for me–to be con­scious of every sin­gle bite that goes in my mouth. It was a neat dis­cov­ery, and I thank this veg­e­tar­ian exper­i­ment for it.

9.    I had more energy through­out the day.

Usu­ally after lunch, I expe­ri­ence what I like to call–“the after­noon crash.” Right after lunch, I sud­denly become so sleepy that I can do noth­ing but think about get­ting in bed and going to sleep. This feel­ing of exhaus­tion is over­whelm­ing. If I am home, I may go take a nap. If not, I just try to make it through the next cou­ple of hours. Either way, this sen­sa­tion comes almost every day (depend­ing on what I ate at lunch).

Inter­est­ingly, I did not expe­ri­ence “the after­noon crash” one time dur­ing the entire week, even though we went imme­di­ately back into the Sem­i­nar for another half day of work. I didn’t get sleepy. I didn’t get tired. I was able to concentrate.

What’s more is that after the Sem­i­nar ended for the day, between 5:15 and 5:30, I exer­cised. I either went to the gym or jogged around cam­pus (all but one of these days when we went over to a colleague’s house for din­ner one evening). One might think I would have wanted to lie in bed and read or just rest (this was actu­ally my plan), but I had more than enough energy to work out for well over 45 min­utes each day I was there. THIS IS HUGE. And it felt great. My energy level was amaz­ing, and this alone is mak­ing me con­sider being a veg­e­tar­ian, at least for break­fast and lunch.

10.   I slept bet­ter at night.

I am a per­son who gets up at least twice a night to go to the bath­room. Dur­ing my time eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian, I did not get up ONE SINGLE TIME to use the bath­room. I drank just as much and drank it just as late. But I never had to go dur­ing the mid­dle of the night. I don’t know if it’s con­nected or not, but it was an obser­va­tion so I put this here. I have decided that I prob­a­bly still needed to go (I had to go badly when I woke up in the morn­ing), but I was sleep­ing bet­ter and was not awak­ened by the need to go. I’m inter­ested to hear from oth­ers: Does this ring true to your experiences?

11.   I felt full and was always sat­is­fied after fin­ish­ing a meal.

Eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian can be quite fill­ing. You’re not just eat­ing “rab­bit food.” Rather, the meals were sat­is­fy­ing and delight­ful. And because I ate slower, I was full faster, often­times, before I had even fin­ished my plate. It’s inter­est­ing how all this works together. I even noticed that I was focus­ing on what I could eat, rather than what I couldn’t eat. I didn’t even glance at the meat dishes served. I didn’t even miss them–in looks and desire or in taste.

12.   Eat­ing veg­e­tar­i­an­ism brought me closer to God, the cre­ator of all things.

I have been taught my whole life that, “in the begin­ning,” humans and ani­mals were veg­e­tar­i­ans (Gen­e­sis 1:29–30). Even though meat was avail­able, only a plant-based diet was ordained by God. It wasn’t until the flood that God told peo­ple they could eat meat (Gen­e­sis 9:1–3).

This week reminded me that God is the cre­ator of all food, meat, grains, fruit, veg­eta­bles, and other won­der­ful del­i­ca­cies. And I thank God for all the food sup­plied to me. As an Amer­i­can, I rec­og­nized how blessed (some would say cursed) I am (we are) to even have the choice to do some­thing like this. Oth­ers in the world–too many people–are starv­ing, lit­er­ally, and here I am able to eat with so much to choose from. I have learned that food is a gift. Eat­ing food is a a git. And being thank­ful for it should be part of our daily lives…whatever you con­sider yourself.

***

Over­all, this was an inter­est­ing expe­ri­ence. I learned a lot and I’m left with even more ques­tions than with which I began this jour­ney. I hope my expe­ri­ences have shown you that it isn’t too hard to eat veg­e­tar­ian once in a while. Even if you would never eat veg­e­tar­ian for an entire week, I do encour­age you to chal­lenge your­self for one meal, prob­a­bly din­ner. I think it’s worth it. Maybe it will make you appre­ci­ate where you food comes from. Maybe you already appre­ci­ate that. Per­haps you want to see how it impacts your bud­get, or what a com­plete veg­e­tar­ian meal tastes like. Or maybe you just want to pull an April Fool’s Joke on your loved one. Going veg­e­tar­ian just might be for you.

If you’re inter­ested in this topic or in try­ing it out for your­self (even one day a week), check out these sources for more information:

***

One final note, this exper­i­ment did not involve me cook­ing veg­e­tar­ian food, which would be a dif­fer­ent thing entirely. I am so used to cook­ing food with meat, and I have become quite good at it, and cook­ing veg­e­tar­ian “main” meals seems like it would be a chal­lenge. Although I cook veg­eta­bles with almost every meal, they are the “side,” the appendage to the meal, the part that my hus­band could do with­out. It seems to me that cook­ing veg­e­tar­ian would take this chal­lenge to the next level. Maybe that’s what’s next.

Here are some ques­tions I’m con­sid­er­ing now:

  • What would “going veg­e­tar­ian” look like if I actu­ally had to cook all the food? How would the food taste? How would I feel prepar­ing it? What would the food taste like? Would I like it? Is it more dif­fi­cult to pre­pare veg­e­tar­ian foods?
  • How does eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian impact a food budget?
  • How does eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian impact my chil­dren? Would they go for it? Would they express “not feel­ing full” or “still being hun­gry”? How does one move a fam­ily toward a veg­e­tar­ian diet?
  • What would my church fam­ily say if I brought a veg­e­tar­ian dish to the weekly potluck, espe­cially some­thing more “exotic,” like edamame, lentils, and quinoa (yes, these are exotic around here)? Would any­one but me even try it?

***

Thanks for jour­ney­ing with me. As always, I love hear­ing from you (even if you disagree—just be con­struc­tive, not rude, demean­ing, or mean).

What is your response to this exper­i­ment? Would you ever try to eat veg­e­tar­ian? Why or why not? What are you favorite veg­e­tar­ian recipes? What is some­thing you have learned about eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian? What have you noticed? What resources (doc­u­men­taries, movies, books, cook­books, etc.) do you rec­om­mend that I (or my read­ers) take a look at? What assump­tions do you have about veg­e­tar­i­ans?


How I Planned a Teacher Appreciation Banquet and What I Cooked

A few months ago, I had an idea to honor the teach­ers at our church. Our teach­ers sac­ri­fice so much of their time, not just on Sun­day morn­ing, Sun­day after­noon, Wednes­day morn­ing, or Wednes­day night when they actu­ally teach, but also in the time they spend out­side of class plan­ning and prepar­ing and pray­ing. I wanted them to know that I—as a par­ent of three chil­dren and as a stu­dent in sev­eral adult Bible classes—appreciate them.

I thus decided to host a Teacher Appre­ci­a­tion Ban­quet for all the teach­ers in our church—from cra­dle roll to youth to adults to men’s and women’s classes. I had been to one of these din­ners before at a dif­fer­ent church when my hus­band was invited to be the guest speaker, and I thought it was a great idea then. Noth­ing like this had been done in the almost three years I have been at this church, so now was the right time.

With­out talk­ing to any­one except Shane, I put together a pro­posal for the elders at our church (yes, I teach tech­ni­cal and pro­fes­sional writ­ing and must prac­tice what I preach when it comes to ideas and sug­ges­tions). This pro­posal was com­plete with a ratio­nale, bud­get, and agenda. I then dis­trib­uted it to the elders who dis­cussed it, thought it was a great idea, and approved it. They even told me they would like to help serve the food. Great!

One thing that sur­prised me through this process was when I learned that noth­ing like this had ever been done before at this church (at least accord­ing to the peo­ple I talked to). I’m not sure why, but I can only guess that it didn’t hap­pen because the peo­ple who would have done this are all teach­ers them­selves. Most (not all) of the really involved peo­ple at our church teach and would not have planned this for themselves.

I began tak­ing pic­tures and shoot­ing video footage of all the chil­dren and youth. I decided on music for the video (it’s hard to beat Ray Boltz’s “Thank You”), and then our youth min­is­ter put the video together. I mailed invi­ta­tions to all of our teach­ers, planned the menu, bought the food, ordered gifts, and bought lovely rose bou­quets for the tables.

The day of the event comes. I had orig­i­nally intended to ask par­ents of chil­dren and youth whose kids are blessed through these teach­ers to help me pre­pare the meal. I thought that was a great idea, but the din­ner ended up falling on Memo­r­ial Day when many of our young fam­i­lies were busy or out-of-town. So, it was just me and two other people.

Ter­rie, a sweet woman who is always quick to vol­un­teer to help out.

And Terrie’s daugh­ter Hol­lie. I did not know Hol­lie very well before­hand because she cur­rently lives in another town a few hours away, but she just took a teach­ing posi­tion here and will soon be mov­ing back and wanted to help out.

My Helper!

Hol­lie, and I had a great time prepar­ing the meal. We blabbed the whole time and the six hours we were there went by very quickly (The only way I knew how long I had truly been up there cook­ing was by how badly my feet hurt!). Here’s Hol­lies blog post about the event.

Here was the menu:

Straw­berry Pecan Salad

Strawberry Pecan Salad

Apple­wood Smoked Bacon Pork Ten­der­loin and Din­ner Rolls

Applewood Bacon Pork Loin Roast

Twice-Baked Pota­toes
I used the Pio­neer Woman’s recipe. It is def­i­nitely the best recipe I’ve ever tried. A healthy-minded per­son can­not have these

Twice-Baked Potatoes by Pioneer Woman

Green Bean Bun­dles
Hol­lie wrapped at least 200 of these! The Green Bean Bun­dles I make have but­ter, soy sauce, Worces­ter­shire sauce, brown sugar, salt, and pep­per. Yum.

Green Bean Bundles

Green Bean Bundles and Twice-Baked Potatoes--Yum!

Daz­zle Berry Pie (a light and tart rasp­berry dish that my sis­ter gave me and I have adapted somewhat)

Dazzle Berry Pie

Here I am hold­ing one of these yummy pies (notice my Sonic drink in the background!).

Holding one of the TEN Dazzle Berry Pies I made.

The tables with the flow­ers (beau­ti­fully arranged by Terrie)

Teacher Appreciation Banquet Tables

Each teacher also received this pitcher as a gift. (I got a great deal on the pitch­ers, thanks to Jes­sica Turner at The Mom Cre­ative).

Simple Graces Pitcher Given to All Teachers

I end this post in the same way our video did: In the words of 3-year-old Mal­lory, “I love you, teachers.”

I hope you have been blessed by a teacher.


How I Created a Budget: A Story Involving a Church Plant, a Spreadsheet, Cash, and Envelopes

Yes­ter­day, my post on 12 Tips for Sav­ing Money res­onated with you. Within 4 hours, this blog post quickly moved to fourth on my list of most-read blog posts. The three posts receiv­ing more hits than that one are these:

#1: Run­ning around Like a Crazy Woman: Why Less Is More
#2: Up In the Clouds or Down on the Ground: When Mar­riage Is Dif­fi­cult
#3: Why I’m Uncom­fort­able with Mother’s Day

Since you seem some­what inter­ested in money and how to save it, I decided to fol­low yesterday’s post with another post on this topic. Today, I’m writ­ing about how (and why) I cre­ated a bud­get and what it has done for me and my fam­ily. This process involves a story, a spread­sheet, cash, and envelopes.

Cash System

First, the story. In 2006, Shane and I lived in Gatesville, Texas. We had been mar­ried for four years, and Shane was a preacher at a church there. I had just fin­ished my Ph.D. in May of that year and began work­ing at Bay­lor in August of the same year. I was finally mak­ing a salary after so many years liv­ing off of Shane’s salary and a mea­ger grad­u­ate school stipend. We were excited about almost dou­bling our income and begin­ning the process of pay­ing off school loans and other debt we had accrued, includ­ing our car loan, loans on some appli­ances, and our mort­gage. Luck­ily, we did not have credit card debt. We only had one kid. We didn’t really need a budget.

Shane liked his job, and we loved that church (our first child was born there and those peo­ple and that church will always hold spe­cial places in our hearts), but we felt a desire to reach out to “non-church” peo­ple. Peo­ple who didn’t know about Jesus. Peo­ple who hated the church or who had been burned by “church peo­ple.” We wanted to reach out to, meet, and befriend the so-called “unchurched” or “dechurched.” We had heard about Mis­sion Alive, a church-planting orga­ni­za­tion, and became inter­ested in this thing called“church plant­ing. After many months of pray­ing and plan­ning and prepar­ing, we decided to move to Waco at the end of 2007 to plant The Grove Church.

Dur­ing the tran­si­tion time (or the “in-between” time as Shane called it in one of his blog posts at the time), from the time we decided to plant until we moved (which was about one year), I began to think seri­ously about our money. Like I said before, I’ve always been a saver, but now we were about to have to raise money for Shane’s salary and the church’s oper­at­ing expenses. This was not a part of the church plant­ing process that we liked. So much was unknown. We didn’t know how much money we could raise or how much money we would need to live on in Waco where we would soon be mov­ing to a new, big­ger, and more expen­sive house. We did not want to rely on the gen­eros­ity of oth­ers for very long (less than three years). In the worst-case sce­nario, I wanted to be pre­pared to live off my salary alone if we had to.

So, in late 2005 at the very begin­ning of our dream­ing and con­ver­sa­tions on church plant­ing (years before we took any action), I cre­ated a bud­get in an Excel spread­sheet. I looked online to deter­mine what cat­e­gories I needed for my bud­get. I decided on 18 cat­e­gories, rang­ing from House­hold Pur­chases, Sav­ing, and Gro­ceries, to Giv­ing Stu­dent Loans, and indi­vid­ual bills (cable, inter­net, phone, water, elec­tric­ity, etc.). I then input Shane’s salary (I was writ­ing my dis­ser­ta­tion and bring­ing home zero dol­lars) and divvied up the money accord­ing to his pay­check. I fol­lowed the bud­get for three months, all the while adjust­ing it accord­ing to what I really spent.

After I started work­ing and bring­ing money home a few years later, I decided to imple­ment a cash enve­lope sys­tem. Here’s what this sys­tem entailed: I wrote out all the cat­e­gories in our bud­get on var­i­ous envelopes (see pic­ture), which had been extended to about 35 dif­fer­ent items.

Some of the Budget Categories I Use

When we got our monthly pay­checks, I went to the bank and took out the amount of cash I needed for that month’s envelopes. I then put the right amount of cash in each of the envelopes. We used the cash until it ran out, and we were very dili­gent about not steal­ing from one enve­lope if we had run out in another one.

I took the envelopes with me when I shopped. I even found a nifty checkbook-size orga­nizer that had eight dif­fer­ent sec­tions in it to carry around the cash I needed when I shopped. The sys­tem worked great. It did take me a while to get “caught up.” What I mean by this is that before begin­ning the cash sys­tem, I paid my bills based on the pay­checks for that month. With the cash sys­tem, how­ever, I had to have enough money in the envelopes before I spent the money. This meant that I had to have money in the envelopes and the bank. It was a process to be able to save enough money for this to hap­pen, but it did.

Around this same time, I also decided to read Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover. I found many of his prin­ci­ples help­ful, espe­cially the ones about reduc­ing debt, namely pay­ing off the loans with the least amount of debt (which we did with my stu­dent loan, our freezer pur­chase, and two of our car pay­ments). I also liked his sug­ges­tion to have a $1,000 emer­gency fund for use in, well, emer­gen­cies. If you had to use the money, then your imme­di­ate goal was to replace it.

One note about the book: I did not imple­ment Ramsey’s prin­ci­ple of abstain­ing from giv­ing (or “tithing”, as he called it) until you are com­pletely out of debt. No mat­ter how much money you make or have or how much debt you are in, I think it’s impor­tant to give some of it away through­out the process of get­ting out of debt. If we all wait until we are com­pletely debt-free, we will NEVER give any­thing. Remem­ber the widow in the Book of Luke? She gave all she had, even in her poverty. One of my friends did recently tell me, how­ever, that he has since revised his stance on this issue (good!), but I’m not sure what he advo­cates now.

For sev­eral years, I car­ried around a lot of cash. Cash for gro­ceries, house­hold pur­chases, baby, hair­cuts, med­ical expenses, and a few other cat­e­gories. How­ever, this all changed two years ago when my hus­band and I went to see Wicked at Faire Park in Dal­las. While we were eat­ing lunch, some­one stole my big orga­nizer with all my cash right out of my purse (my driver’s license, social secu­rity card, and credit cards were also inside–ugh). I lost thou­sands of dollars.

I thus dis­cov­ered a flaw in the sys­tem. A HUGE FLAW.

I began look­ing for other ways to uti­lize this sys­tem. I decided to still uti­lize the cash sys­tem but to do so with­out hav­ing to take out so much cash each month. I decided to orga­nize it all in a spread­sheet and to just keep track of it elec­tron­i­cally. It has worked even better.

Today, our bud­get con­tains 57 items in the list. Shane thinks I’m crazy for how detailed it is, but it works for me (and him, I think). I am con­stantly adjust­ing the items and the amount des­ig­nated to each item because dif­fer­ent expenses come up as your sit­u­a­tion changes.

And what have been the results? We have a bal­anced bud­get. I don’t stress over money. I adjust the bud­get when nec­es­sary. We have paid off or got­ten rid of at least seven loans (2 school loans, 2 car loans, 1 fur­ni­ture loan, and 2 large appli­ances). We have not accrued any more debt. We now save in advance for cars rather than pay­ing for them after we buy them. We only spend what we have. We have gained finan­cial peace.

I want to leave you with a list of five bud­get cat­e­gories that have helped me in one way or another. These may not be the typ­i­cal items you will include in your bud­get, but they have been help­ful to me so I’ll share them with you.

1. “School Fees”, one enve­lope for each child you have (this includes teacher gifts, school sup­plies, school pic­tures, field trip money, t-shirt money, and all those other expenses that come up once kids start school).

2. “Extracur­ric­u­lar Activ­i­ties.” Includes tee-ball and other sports for your kids, as well as piano lessons, swim lessons, or art lessons. It can also include art, cook­ing, or ten­nis lessons for your­self (This cat­e­gory could also include the gym, but I typ­i­cally have a sep­a­rate item for it when I have been a mem­ber of the gym since it’s a recur­ring fee). You could also include going to the movies or other fam­ily activities.

3. “Babysit­ting.” If you want to have a Date Night with your sig­nif­i­cant other, or if you are a sin­gle mom/dad and want to go out at night, this enve­lope is a MUST. Sav­ing for a babysit­ter is also good incen­tive to actu­ally go on the date. You already have the money saved, so go spend it.

4. “Christ­mas.” I have a “Gift” enve­lope for birth­day par­ties, hol­i­days, and other spe­cial occa­sions, but I have found that I am more con­scious about how much I spend on Christ­mas and what I buy when I have a spe­cial enve­lope des­ig­nated for Christ­mas. Begin­ning in Jan­u­ary, I start putting money in this enve­lope. By the time Christ­mas comes around, I know exactly how much I have to spend, and it is there before I spend it. No wor­ries. No fuss. I have also noticed that I spend much less than I did before. It’s not because we don’t nec­es­sar­ily have the money to spend; it’s just that I became aware of how much money I spent on Christ­mas and real­ized that it was way too much…and not even what Christ­mas is about for me any­way. If you don’t cel­e­brate Christ­mas (or if you don’t spend enough to war­rant a sep­a­rate enveloped), then maybe you can think of a dif­fer­ent occasion.

5. “Work Expenses.” I have two sep­a­rate Work envelopes–one for Shane and one for me. We both have expenses for our jobs (most of them are for books we need to buy). It’s impor­tant to item­ize all of these small items so that you don’t mess up the budget.

Thanks for reading.


12 Reasons I Like Living in the Country

I did not choose to live in the country.

My hus­band took a min­istry job in a small town out­side of Waco, and I fol­lowed him here (just as he fol­lowed me when I went to grad­u­ate school). I was skep­ti­cal of mov­ing to the coun­try. I grew up in Hous­ton, the 4th largest city in the United States. And I liked it.

When I left Hous­ton for col­lege, I moved to Abi­lene, a small West Texas town. I thought it was a small town (about 150,000 peo­ple). It was small. And, when I moved to Cen­tral Texas to work at Bay­lor, I thought Waco was a small town.

But my def­i­n­i­tion of “small” has changed since liv­ing where I live now.

I live in a town of about 7,500. I still con­sider myself a “city girl,” but I do like some things about the coun­try. For today’s Twelve Series, I’m going to write about rea­sons I like the country.

1. The wide, open spaces. I love the Dixie Chicks song, “Wide Open Spaces,” but this has new mean­ing to me liv­ing here. Most peo­ple here, even those who live in town, have large yards (front and back) and quite a bit of space between homes. Many peo­ple own acres and acres of land.  I like hav­ing my own space; it doesn’t feel like peo­ple always know when I’m com­ing and going or what I’m doing (I do live in a par­son­age, though, but that’s a dif­fer­ent story). If I ever do move back to the city, I would like to have some land, if pos­si­ble. Not much, just some. 

Even the idea that things are slower here really appeals to me. Even though I still run around like a crazy woman, I also slow down. Sit on the front porch, watch my chil­dren play in the back­ground, and enjoy life.

2. We don’t need a Farmer’s Mar­ket; we have the farms! I love going to the Farmer’s Mar­ket, and one con­cern I had mov­ing to a small town was that I would no longer have access to the Farmer’s Mar­ket I had vis­ited for years. Come to find out, one of the farms rep­re­sented at this Farmer’s Mar­ket was from the town I now live in! So, I can now drive 3 miles to the farm and pick out all the pro­duce I want. And, unlike the Farmer’s Mar­ket I vis­ited before, which was only open from May through Sep­tem­ber, this one had a year-round farm stand. Buy­ing my food from them makes me happy. I also like that my chil­dren are learn­ing where food comes from, how it’s grown, and what it means to buy local produce.

3. The close-knit com­mu­nity. In some ways it feels like the bar in Cheers where every­body knows your name. Shane and I have got­ten to know so many peo­ple, far more than run in our “typ­i­cal” cir­cles. Peo­ple who (in some ways) are dif­fer­ent from us but who are liv­ing life and try­ing to do the best they can. We love this com­mu­nity. No, it’s not per­fect, but the peo­ple here will always be very close to our hearts.

4. The stars. The wide open spaces allow for us to see so many stars at night. “The stars at night. Are big and bright. [clap, clap, clap, clap]. Deep in the heart of Texas.”

5. No traf­fic. I grew up in traf­fic. I went through 32 (red) lights on my daily com­mute to school. Traf­fic was a part of life. Some­times it took an hour to go to a friend’s house. When we trav­eled for junior high and high school sports, the trip could take an hour and a half, each way. My dad worked Down­town, 19 miles from our house. It took him well over an hour each way. Dri­ving long dis­tances and and wait­ing in traf­fic was a part of life. I didn’t know any different.

Even though sev­eral major high­ways (both state and national) go through our town, traf­fic is not much of an issue. It’s easy to get around and there isn’t much wait­ing. Now, when I go back to Hous­ton to visit my par­ents or to Austin to visit my sis­ter or Shane’s par­ents, I dread the traf­fic. It takes 20 min­utes to go two miles (and that’s good!). Shane and I com­ment each time we go that we are glad we don’t have to expe­ri­ence traf­fic like this on a reg­u­lar basis. It’s a perk.

6. The oppor­tu­ni­ties to be involved in many aspects of the com­mu­nity. Get­ting involved is easy. There are so many ways to help this com­mu­nity, and we like get­ting involved, serv­ing oth­ers, and mak­ing our com­mu­nity a bet­ter place. I like to feel like my life mat­ters, that there is a pur­pose greater than myself, that I can use my gifts to help others.

7. My big back­yard. Hav­ing a huge gar­den and still enough space to run around and play games with the kids is amaz­ing. We don’t have neigh­bors beside us (on either side) or behind us. It’s quiet (when the neigh­bor down the street isn’t play­ing the drums!) and relaxing.My Backyard

8. The ecu­meni­cal nature of the churches here. We have a great diver­sity of churches here–all types of denom­i­na­tions. We even have a Mor­mon church. In large cities, peo­ple often get together with other churches from their same tribe (Bap­tists with Bap­tists; Pres­by­te­ri­ans with Pres­by­te­ri­ans; etc.). Here, though, since there is typ­i­cally only one church for each denom­i­na­tion, the churches work together, play together, and serve together. Recently, we had an ecu­meni­cal prayer walk. It was so neat to see all these peo­ple com­ing together to pray to our one God.

We do have peo­ple from other reli­gions liv­ing here, but I do not know of syn­a­gogues or mosques in the area; the great major­ity of peo­ple here are His­panic, and most of them are Catholic. 

9. The diver­sity. Even though I come from a big city where peo­ple from all walks of life live, I also live in a town that is extremely diverse. Approx­i­mately 80% of the pop­u­la­tion are racial minori­ties (45% His­panic, 30% African-American; 25% White). This is a very, very poor town, and my kids go to schools with other chil­dren they never would have been exposed to in the sub­urbs or in pri­vate schools (at least not at the same percentage–Elizabeth is one of 3 White kids in her entire class). The rate of peo­ple with col­lege degrees is very low, but it does allow for us all to learn from each other and to see how to live together even though we come from dif­fer­ent back­grounds and places.

10. Our church. I love the church com­mu­nity of which we are a part. Our church is at the top of our list on things I like best about this town. Great peo­ple with ser­vant hearts. I’m glad to be a mem­ber here. 

11. The teach­ers and prin­ci­pals and coun­selors and nurses and admin­is­tra­tors and para­pro­fes­sion­als and jan­i­tors at my daughter’s school who know our chil­dren and us very well. Attend­ing a small school has its perks, espe­cially how “every­one knows your name.” These peo­ple care for the chil­dren and know where they come from, which, I think, makes a dif­fer­ence in being able to meet (and exceed) each indi­vid­ual child’s needs.

12. The numer­ous small busi­nesses in the area. Many peo­ple who live here decide to open small busi­nesses. Retail stores. Quaint bou­tiques. Deli­cious restau­rants. Con­sign­ment shops. And other unique places. This entre­pre­neur men­tal­ity helps our com­mu­nity in many ways.

If you live in the coun­try, what do you like about it?
If you don’t live in the coun­try, what do you think you would like the most? The least?


Why I’m Uncomfortable with Mother’s Day

When I was in high school, I became really close to one of my boyfriend’s aunts. She was close to her twin nephews because she was very devoted to her sis­ter, their mom. But this woman was also close to her sister’s kids because she didn’t have any chil­dren of her own. She couldn’t have chil­dren. She and her hus­band had tried for years to con­ceive, but they never did. I don’t know any of the details except that she wanted kids and couldn’t have them.

I was sad for her. She had a deep desire for chil­dren but couldn’t have any.

She was sweet, lov­ing, kind, gra­cious, and hon­est. She was a dot­ing aunt, a con­fi­dante, a friend. She would have been a great mom.

As the years went on, we kept in touch (even though her nephew and I had long bro­ken up). I con­tin­ued to think of her. I empathized with her because she couldn’t have children.

One year in col­lege, Mother’s Day rolled around and I had an idea to send her a Mother’s Day card.

Happy Mother's Day Card

Image cour­tesy of http://stacy.typepad.com/stacys_paper_crafts/2009/04/happy-mothers-day.html

This card came from me, but I wrote about all the people—all the kids, like me—that she had touched. Even though she didn’t have a child of her own, she influ­enced so many chil­dren. I expressed to her my appre­ci­a­tion for the influ­ence she had on my life, prob­a­bly one that she never even knew about.

She was touched by my ges­ture. She told me that she cried read­ing the card. She had never received a Mother’s Day card before, and this card was so unex­pected. I think what affected her the most was that she felt nobody cared about her on this day.

She was left out of the cel­e­bra­tion because she wasn’t a mother. Yes, she had a mother (a great one), but she also desired to be a mother and she wasn’t one.

While most peo­ple cel­e­brated moth­er­hood, she mourned it.

While (male) church pas­tors and lead­ers spoke about how God insti­tuted moth­er­hood and how won­der­ful it is and on and on and on, she grieved.

When Hall­mark com­mer­cials came on, (I imag­ine) she changed the chan­nel, or watched it with sad­ness, lone­li­ness, and pain.

I love my own mother, my mother-in-law, and my grand­moth­ers. They are spe­cial women. But I’m extremely uncom­fort­able with Mother’s Day.

I’m always think­ing about the peo­ple left out of the “moth­er­hood celebration”.

Women who have suf­fered a mis­car­riage.
Teenage girls or young adults who have given their chil­dren up for adop­tion.
Women who have had abor­tions.
Women who can­not bear chil­dren.
Children—young and old—who have lost their moth­ers to death.  
Chil­dren who do not have the “type” of mother pro­moted through greet­ing cards, retail stores, and even the church.
Moth­ers who do not feel they meet up to soci­etal or Chris­t­ian stan­dards about what makes a “good mother.”

I’m uncom­fort­able with Mother’s Day.

My hus­band does not preach a Mother’s Day ser­mon for many of these same rea­sons (How­ever, he is giv­ing a 4-part trib­ute to the moth­ers he loves in his life, includ­ing my mom).

This Mother’s Day, think of women:

Who are not in the mood to cel­e­brate this hol­i­day, a national one, mind you, not a Chris­t­ian one.

Who do not have the emo­tional energy to come to church on that day because of the pain they will feel.

Who grieve every day but on this day, in par­tic­u­lar, the grief hurts even more.

Who feel alone and lonely.

Who want to be a mother but can’t.

Who were moth­ers at one time but decided not to be.

Think of these women when you go to church, when you call your mom, when you talk to friends, when you buy gifts.

Pray for them.

Do some­thing spe­cial for them.

Lis­ten to their sto­ries, and let them know you care.