Perfect Winter Soup!

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So, it’s January and it’s currently 67 degrees outside. But last week the schools were closed because of snow and ice. The crazy South . . . Well, I’m making soup anyway. Take that, Warm Weather! Here’s a great recipe for a hearty soup that’s great for dinner around the family table, or to take to a friend who needs a little cheer. Mine is going to the Grant family tomorrow!

Hungarian Beef Soup (serves 6-8)

  • 1 pound lean ground beef (or bison)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 24 ounces tomato juice
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups diced potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 cup uncooked pasta, small size
  • 8 ounces sour cream

Brown the beef/bison with onion. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except pasta and sour cream. Cook approximately 30 minutes. Add pasta the last 5-10 minutes. Serve in soup bowls and stir in 1 tablespoon sour cream per serving.

Notes:

  1. Substitute a 15 ounce can of tomato sauce and the remainder water if you don’t have tomato juice on hand.
  2. This can be frozen, just don’t add sour cream until serving.
  3. My friend, Terry, brought soup to me in a tall jar one time, and I thought it was the best idea ever! You’re welcome.
  4. This is such a great recipe for delivering to friends—unless they’re vegetarians. Then, use beans instead of meat.

Comment if you have a fabulous winter soup recipe to share!

 

 

A Place at the Table

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For most people, Christmas is a joyous season—filled with family, friends, food, and an overwhelming sense of gratitude to God for the precious gift of His Son. It’s the end of the year, and in the midst of the hustle it’s also a time to slow down and appreciate the past eleven months.

But, for some, Christmas is a season of pain. And for many there is guilt that accompanies the pain because they know they should be focused on the beauty of the season and God’s great Gift. The pain is real and unrelenting though, and it comes from all kinds of places. The loss of a loved one or dear friend can bring a terrible pain at Christmastime. Memories come crashing back of previous Christmas seasons. Christmas traditions lose the joy that always accompanied them before a husband or wife or child or sibling passed away, or left.

For others, Christmas is a reminder of what they don’t have. Everyone else is married. Or, everyone else has children. Or, everyone else has a place to go where they are enveloped in belonging. The feeling of being left behind is overwhelming and particularly difficult as they scroll through Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. The burst of family craziness and fun in a Snapchat story might bring a momentary smile, but it’s immediately followed by an overwhelming sense of loss and feeling left out or left behind.

So, as we’re navigating this season and making plans, let’s all slow down enough to look around and see who might be hurting. Who has experienced significant loss this year? Who is navigating a first Christmas without someone who was dear to them? Is it possible to set a another place at your Christmas dinner table? Or, maybe it’s as simple as pausing before posting. Sometimes it’s as simple as choosing to treasure a blessing in your heart rather than post it on social media.

Who needs the care and love of your family this Christmas? Is there someone who needs a surprise bouquet of fresh flowers to cheer her heart this week? Is there someone who could use a shopping buddy to help overcome the paralysis of grief that’s keeping him from getting the things done he was hoping to get done before Christmas? Maybe someone wants to attend the Christmas service at your church but doesn’t want to go alone.

Life has some tough seasons, and we’ll all walk through them at some point, if we haven’t already. I think a very large part of God’s grace and mercy in our times of need is found through the people He places around us. He intends for us to be His hands and feet. So whose Christmas can you help make a little merrier and a little brighter this year? You and your family might just be the perfect answer!

Kids and the Comparison Trap

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Are adults the only ones who struggle with the issue of comparison? Nope. Are the stakes lower for kids when they compare themselves to others? Nope again. So, what are parents to do? Good news! We can be prepared to coach our kids, regardless of their ages, through the mine field of constant comparison. They don’t have to find themselves feeling jealous, envious, or “less-than” because others seem to have more. They don’t have to be twenty-something to begin understanding the value and worth that is uniquely theirs.

I recently had the opportunity to co-write an article for Focus on the Family about helping our kiddos avoid the trap of comparison. Check it out here: http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/schoolage-children/kids-and-comparison/less-room-for-comparison.

 

Don’t They Know?

Andy and I are in our sixth year of fostering. Newbies still, really. But, recently someone asked, “Considering all you’ve learned in foster care, what advice would you give new foster parents?

Understatement alert! I’ve learned a lot.

I’ve learned stuff about myself. Umm, I’m selfish. I’ve learned how much I love my clean and orderly little lifestyle. Foster care laughs at that. I’ve learned a ton about “the system.” Yeah it’s broken but sometimes it’s not. I’ve learned much about the plight of children who are neglected, abused, and abandoned. I cry a lot when I pray. And, I’ve learned that there are heroes all around me. There are people who put their own personal agendas aside and lean heavily into making the world a better place for some “ones.” I’m crazy inspired by them.

In answer to the question though, I land at this insight. Don’t take foster kids’ rejection and seeming ingratitude personally.

Going into the world of foster care I didn’t realize the depth of personal pain and how that manifests itself in children. There are good days and bad days, but anger, confusion, and lack of trust are pretty common. Usually they don’t know what to do with all that.

From our adult perspective, they’ve been “rescued” from environments and people who are hurting them. They should be grateful, right? But, they rarely see it that way. Their “situation” is all they know. It’s their normal. It’s their familiar. And they are not happy about being removed from their normal and familiar.

Also, from our adult perspective, we’re giving up a lot to step in and help. We’re sacrificing time, convenience, peace, and resources. We’re carting them to doctor appointments, dentist appointments, and getting their eyes checked. We’re tutoring or hiring tutors to catch them up to grade level. We’re giving away evenings out and sacrificing lots of potential free time. Sometimes, we’re sacrificing other relationships. Oh, and there are parent visits, case worker visits, court appointments, and continuing ed. We know what we’re trading, and it’s a lot.

They don’t know though. And, even if they did, they can’t possibly be expected to understand. They’re kids. They’re actually kids carrying a lot of pain. While we’re certainly doing our best to teach them important things, how to express gratitude being one of them, we cannot and must not take it personally.

So how do we not? Like any other truth, we renew our minds. Maybe there is a verse of Scripture we identify that’s helpful. Or, maybe we simply recall to ourselves, “They’ll be 25 one day, with full frontal lobe development, and they might actually be grateful then!” Or, maybe we remind ourselves of the why behind what we’re doing.

Or maybe not, and that’s okay too. Just don’t take it personally. Really, don’t.

Puritan Prayer for Family

. . . because sometimes we just need a seventeenth century Puritan prayer for our twenty-first century families.

O sovereign Lord,

Thou are the Creator-Father of all men,

for thou hast made and dost support them;

Thou art the special Father of those who know,

love and honour thee,

who find thy yoke easy, and thy burden light,

thy work honourable,

thy commandments glorious.

But how little thy undeserved goodness has

affected me!

How imperfectly have I improved my religious privileges!

How negligent have I been in doing good to others!

I am before thee in my trespasses and sins,

have mercy on me,

and may thy goodness bring me to repentance.

Help me to hate and forsake every false way,

to be attentive to my condition and character,

to bridle my tongue,

to keep my heart with all diligence,

to watch and pray against temptation,

to mortify sin,

to be concerned for the salvation of others.

O God, I cannot endure to see the destruction

of my kindred.

Let those that are united to me in tender ties

be precious in thy sight and devoted to thy glory.

Sanctify and prosper my domestic devotion,

instruction, discipline, example,

that my house may be a nursery for heaven,

my church the garden of the Lord,

enriched with trees of righteousness of

thy planting, for thy glory;

Let not those of my family who are amiable,

moral, attractive,

fall short of heaven at last;

Grant that the promising appearances of a

tender conscience, soft heart,

the alarms and delights of thy Word,

be not blotted out,

but bring forth judgment unto victory

in all whom I love.

 

The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions

Edited by Arthur Bennett