Gardening as faith

Gardening Faith

“Gardening is a demonstration of faith; it’s belief in a tomorrow.”

So said my friend April on her Instagram account.  Those words spoke to me, and she was kind enough to let me use them.  The picture above is a picture from our garden, the first tomato to turn red.  Our tomatoes have really gone bonkers this year – it’s a contest to see which will take over the garden first, the tomatoes or our one cucumber plant.  We were thrilled to see the first fruit turning red, and we delight to see the plants laden with tomatoes just waiting to ripen.  (Tomato and cucumber salad, spaghetti sauce, salsa….)

But what April said really rang true with me.  Those of you who read my ramblings at bigfatf.com know that we’ve been kind of hanging on by a thread financially since I was out of work for a big chunk of 2014.  I loved the job I got with the state, loved my co-workers there, but the salary wasn’t enough to make ends meet, so we stayed in the hole even when I was working.

Praise God, I started a new job April 18 (there will no doubt be more on that later), and it does pay more.  But we’re *still* trying to dig our way out of the hole.  (Eight months of unemployment can put you in something that very much resembles a crater.)  We aren’t on an even keel financially yet, we’re facing the prospect of going back into default on the mortgage if we can’t get it caught up, and it’s tough.  I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t.

But our garden.  We’ve planted it.  We’ve planted flowers.  Irises, my favorites, that come back and grow and bloom year after year.  Sunflowers (we had a random one pop up in the compost bin this year, and it was beautiful, and we had nothing to do with it).  If we move, whether by choice or by have-to, a garden isn’t exactly something we can pack up and take with us.  We planted those tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers in anticipation of being here to enjoy the fruits of our labors.

So like April said, our garden is belief in tomorrow.  We plant in a demonstration of faith.  We believe that God can make a way, that He is bigger than our finances, than our mortgage, than the mortgage company.  He can make the math work where we can’t, and He can make a way where there is no way.  And, God willing, we’ll be right here in this house to enjoy our tomatoes.

“We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-9

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Onward!

Big Fat F has moved.  The budget just didn’t allow for self-hosting right now (paying for our house is a little more important), so I’ve moved here.  If you’d like to keep following along, you can find us at https://bigfatfblog.wordpress.com.  🙂

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Giveaway winner!

My apologies, y’all – this was supposed to be up yesterday.  But I’ve had one child with an injured knee, and the other with strep, and it’s been a mite hectic!

So without further ado, the winner of the Rhinestone Jesus giveaway is…

Melinda Zedekar!

I used random.org to select the winner based on the number of comments made to enter the giveaway.  Yours came up.  🙂  I’ll get your book ordered and sent on your way!

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Why sparkle when you can shine? Rhinestone Jesus review and giveaway

If you’ve been reading along the past couple of months, you know that our life situation has changed somewhat.  We’ve gone from me working full-time outside the home to trying to make it working from home, and it’s been challenging in a number of ways, not the least of which is financial.

Last week, though, Brian felt very strongly convicted about something – so strongly that he didn’t wait until he got home that evening to discuss it with me, but called me right away.  Our general mode of operation is that if one of us feels very strongly that God is leading us as a family in a particular direction, and the other one doesn’t share that strong leading but also isn’t getting the sense that God *doesn’t* want us to go that route, then we go ahead.  This was one of those situations.  Brian felt very much that we needed to make a commitment to give regularly to something that God could use – not necessarily a big commitment (because goodness knows it doesn’t feel like we have a lot right now), but a regular commitment.  An offering above our tithe, if you will.  We found such an opportunity that we both agreed on, and made our commitment.

We were talking about it that evening, discussing how Brian had had the feeling for some time that we needed to do something outside our regular tithe, and how we’d often said, “If only we had more room in the budget to do more with.”  It occurred to me, and I commented, that maybe it’s not so much a change in finances as a change in perspective – we don’t wait for God to make our finances better, we just ask Him to point us to opportunities and help meet those needs in faith that He will meet our needs.

And then I picked up Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God when Sparkly, Safe Faith Is No Longer Enough by Kristen Welch.  Kristen is the founder of Mercy House Kenya, and Rhinestone Jesus is her story of how Mercy House came to be.  It is a story of heartbreak, dreams, and one small yes that led to big things.

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Kristen visited Kenya as a guest blogger for Compassion International, and the things she saw there broke her heart and changed her life.  She saw that there was a need for maternity care for young unwed girls, and said yes to God’s urging to start Mercy House, having no idea how that simple “yes” would change her life, her family, or her faith.

And after our discussion about giving and perhaps the need for a change in perspective, I read this:

I can remember from a young age hearing my dad say, “You can’t outgive God,” and I watched as he opened one hand to give to others and opened the other to receive from God.  My dad once emptied our family savings account to give it away, and we watched God replace every dime.  This picture of open hands for giving and receiving shaped me.  We can all be part of that conduit, standing in the middle between God and people in need, ready to give spontaneously. – Rhinestone Jesus

This book was already moving me to tears on just about every other page, but that?  Man, that hit home.  You can’t outgive God.

You.  Can’t.  Outgive.  God.

Y’all, I was convicted in a big, BIG way.  Here we are, feeling kind of sorry for ourselves because our finances aren’t all that right now, thinking, “Oh, if only we had more in the bank, we’d give more, wouldn’t it be nice if we had the resources to really help meet needs that we see, blah blah blah.”  We can’t outgive God.  If we give in faith when He puts a need in our path, He will be faithful to meet our needs.  I had let that slip to the back of my mind, or maybe I never really understood that, not heart-deep.  I had to apologize to God for putting Him in the tiny little box of my thinking, of seeing what He can do only through the lens of what I perceive as my lack.

And when Brian opened his Bible that night, he found this:

“If only My people would listen to Me and Israel would follow My ways,
I would quickly subdue their enemies and turn My hand against their foes.” But He would feed Israel with the best wheat. “I would satisfy you with honey from the rock.” – Psalm 81:13-14, 16

It all came together.  I’ve been feeling that God wants me to do SOMETHING for a while now.  And all He wants is my yes to whatever opportunities He puts in my path.  That’s the something.  God isn’t waiting on me to make more money to do more for Him.  He isn’t waiting on me to have a neater house, or a better job, or a picture-perfect family.  He’s just waiting for me to say yes to what He asks of me, right here, right now, right in the middle of my mess with a pile of laundry to put away and toy weapons strewn up and down the stairs and dirty dishes in the kitchen sink.  Yes.  That’s all He wants, that’s what He’s waiting on.  And that’s what Rhinestone Jesus is all about – not waiting until everything is just so, not clinging onto what’s safe and known, just stepping out in faith, pursuing the dream God puts in your heart.  Thank you, Kristen, for taking your step of faith, for saying yes, for putting your heart into words to inspire me and touch my heart when it was most needed.

Rhinestone Jesus is one of those books I am going to read over and over, and highlight in, and cry on, and carry around until it falls apart.  It has touched me so deeply that I want to share the love, and  I’m giving a copy away.  (No, not mine – I’m keeping that one!)  For the winner of this giveaway, I’ll order a copy from Amazon and have the book sent directly to you.  Just leave a comment on this post to enter with a way to get in touch.  The winner will be announced on Monday, May 5.  And if you don’t win, please, please, please get yourself this book.

Rhinestone Jesus Pre-Order

Pre-order by May 1, and you’ll get a free e-book, Saying Yes to God as a Family, and part of the proceeds will go to benefit Mercy House.  It’s moved me to look for ways to say yes to God every day.  I’m looking forward to seeing what He can do through me, and to seeing my faith lose some sparkle and begin to shine.

 What is God asking you to say “Yes” to?

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Faith, Giveaways | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Free ice cream at Carvel!

Free ice cream AND a chance to support a good cause?  What’s not to like?  For those of you who have a Carvel nearby, pay them a visit on May 1.  They’re celebrating their 80th anniversary and kicking it off this Thursday with Free Cone Day.

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Carvel…America’s Freshest Ice Cream® is launching its summer-long 80th anniversary celebration with Free Cone Day Thursday, May 1 from 3-8 p.m. Participating Carvel® shoppes will treat guests to a free junior cone filled with their choice of freshly made vanilla, chocolate or their all-new salted caramel soft-serve ice cream.

In addition to enjoying free ice cream, guests can support a good cause on Free Cone Day. Throughout the day, Carvel will offer a $2 coupon book worth more than $20 in savings. 100% of all proceeds from sales of the coupon books will go towards a $30,000 donation to the American Red Cross® to support Disaster Relief. This effort will raise the company’s total contributions to the American Red Cross to $80,000 over the last three years.

Go out, get yourself a yummy ice cream cone, pick up a coupon book, and support a worthy cause.  I mean, salted caramel ice cream – how does anyone turn that down?!

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Taco Stuffed Bell Peppers

So excited to be posting my first recipe that I’ve come up with myself!

I was in the mood for stuffed peppers last night, but couldn’t find a recipe that was precisely what I thought I wanted.  So, I came up with my own – Taco Stuffed Bell Peppers!

First, you brown 1/2 pound of ground beef and 1/2 pound of ground turkey.

Meat Browning

When it’s nearly browned, add chopped onion, bell pepper, and celery (I use the pre-made seasoning mix because I don’t want to spend my life chopping the Holy Trinity of veg to go in almost every dish I make, but if you’re chopping fresh veg, I’d estimate about 1/2 large onion, 1 good-sized bell pepper, and a couple of ribs of celery).  Continue cooking until the meat is browned and the vegetables are soft.

Add one packet of taco seasoning and a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes.

Add Tomatoes

Add one can corn and one can black beans; mix until thoroughly combined.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  I also added some Slap Ya Mama to kick it up a bit – we like things well seasoned around here.  Let it simmer about 10-15 minutes.

Add Veg

While the meat mixture is simmering, wash your bell peppers and slice in half lengthwise.  Remove the seeds and clean out the inside of the peppers well.  Place your peppers in a 13 x 9 inch baking dish and add about 3/4 cup of water to the bottom of the pan.  I find this helps keep the peppers from sticking.

After the meat mixture has simmered, add three cups cooked rice and combine.

Stuff the pepper halves generously.

Ready to Bake

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Remove foil from pan, top with shredded cheese, and put back in the oven long enough to get the cheese bubbly.

Finished

Brian and I loved it.  Thing One and Thing Two tried it and declared it not their favorite.  My kids are weird.  If yours are normal, they may love it.

Taco Stuffed Bell Peppers

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 1 hr 30 min
  • Print
Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound ground beef (I used 85/15)
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 medium bell pepper, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced
  • 1 15 1/2 ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 15 1/2 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cajun seasoning of your choice (optional)
  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 3 large bell peppers (I used green, but any color will do)
  • Shredded cheese to taste (I used queso Chihuahua and Colby Jack, you pick your favorite)

Directions:

  1. Brown ground beef and ground turkey in a large skillet.
  2. When meat is almost browned, add chopped onion, bell pepper, and celery.  Cook until meat is browned and vegetables are soft.
  3. Add taco seasoning and crushed tomatoes.
  4. Add corn and black beans.  Mix until well combined.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste, and Cajun seasoning of your choice if you want to amp up the spice a little (I recommend Slap Ya Mama or Tony Chachere’s).  Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  6. While meat mixture simmers, wash bell peppers.  Cut in half lengthwise and clean out seeds.  Place into a 13×9 inch pan with about 3/4 cup of water in the bottom of the pan.
  7. Add cooked rice to meat mixture and combine.
  8. Stuff peppers (and stuff the heck out of them – this makes a lot of filling!).
  9. Cover pan with foil and bake for about 45 minutes.
  10. Remove pan from oven, top peppers with cheese, and return to oven long enough for cheese to get bubbly.
  11. Enjoy!
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Love your neighbor – but how?

We were out in our yard one sunny afternoon, and noticed a throng of people, big and small, down by the retention pond for our neighborhood.  Apparently at least one person was fishing in it, because our next door neighbor commented as he walked by that it looked like they were having a Bassmaster meeting down there.  Brian turned to me and commented, “What does it take to get to where we can just hang out and have that kind of interaction with our neighbors?  Or do you think we’re just too odd?”

I’ve kind of been chewing on that.  I truly believe that God opened doors to get us into this house.  We would have been happy with a smaller house, an older house, it didn’t have to be a brand new house.  We prayed about this house, a LOT, because it was a big deal for us financially.  And now here we are.  The thought occurred to me one morning as I was out walking that we don’t have to go to a foreign country, or even another state, to do missionary work – this street right here is our mission field.  We can reach out to our neighbors and show God’s love to them, right here where we are.  But what if we’re too odd to truly connect with our neighbors?

I’ve got no problem smiling and waving as we pass.  I’m fine with small talk – how’s the weather, how ’bout those Saints, whatcha planting in your garden this season.  But is that enough of an interaction – enough of a relationship – to let the love of Christ flow through us and to someone who may, behind the small talk, be hurting in ways we can’t even fathom?  Or will it just take time and us reaching outside of our comfort zones (because deep down, I’m really fairly socially awkward) to make those connections, build those relationships and be available when there are needs we can meet?

And make no mistake, we’re not exactly conformists.  My husband wears a kilt, and you don’t see a bunch of those in this part of the world unless you’re at the Renaissance Festival.

Lisa and Brian August 2013

We have the only two-story house in the neighborhood (that doesn’t make it any fancier, nor does that make it the most expensive one by any means, it’s just two stories – better use of space for us, and yes, different).

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I have a Dalek sticker on my car that I can pretty much guarantee is the only one like it in the Baton Rouge metro area.

Dalek Sticker

(If you’re a Doctor Who fan, you know what that is.  If you’re not, Google it, and then go watch some Doctor Who and see what you’re missing out on!)  We’re Baylor grads in the heart of LSU’s Tigerland.  So yeah, we’re odd.  We are the one that is not like the others.  But are we SO odd that we can’t learn how to love our neighbors?  I sure hope not.  I guess all we can do is pray on it, and keep on reaching out when and where we can, have patience, and give relationships time to grow.

 

 

 

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The Big Snow

Let’s take a trip in the WABAC machine today, shall we?  I came across this as I was going through some old pictures:

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That was The Big Snow of February 2010.  Thing One was 7 years old, and Thing Two was just a couple months shy of his first birthday, so it was his first introduction to that cold frozen stuff falling from the sky.

And what an introduction it was!  The snow started falling one afternoon, and hooray, there was much rejoicing, it was a snow day!  Snow wasn’t unheard of in our part of north Texas, but more often if we got wintry weather, it was ice.  So there was some excitement in the air when the white fluffy stuff started coming down.

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And then it kept coming.

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And coming.

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Before this go-round, the most snow I’d seen in our part of the world was about four inches.  That was when Thing One was about eighteen months old, and it was his first snow.  He was NOT impressed.

Lisa and Julian Snow

Total time spent outside in the snow that day (also in February – Valentine’s Day 2004):  about thirty-two seconds.

This time, though?  I believe our final snowfall total was about thirteen inches.  WOW.  You can have a lot of fun in thirteen inches of snow.

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Thing One had learned to appreciate snow a little more by this time.

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He only sat there long enough for the picture to be snapped.  I promise, we didn’t let Thing Two get all cold and wet out there.  🙂  He seemed to think it was pretty interesting stuff.

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One snowman, ready for action.

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Why is he not wearing gloves?!  Do boys just not listen to their mamas?

I live in Louisiana now, and the odds of us ever getting that much snow here are pretty much nonexistent.  But it’s fun to look back and remember!  And you never know, maybe one year we’ll at least get enough snow to play in, even if it isn’t thirteen inches.

 

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And now for your daily dose of squeeeeeee!!!

Brian was out cleaning up along our property line, and he came in insisting that we all had to come see, right away!

So we did.  And what did we see?

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A nest of baby bunnies!!!  In our own backyard!  Actually, this was a little bit behind our property line.  Brian said he was mowing and heard a little squealing noise, so he stopped to look to see what it was.  And baby bunnies!!!  We couldn’t get an accurate count.  We figure maybe four or five of them in there, and they were old enough to have their eyes open.  We covered the nest back up and let them be.  We’re watching to see if mama comes back.

Thing Two immortalized the moment on paper:

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That’s Dad pushing the mower, Rhys looking on, the nest of baby bunnies, and for reasons I can’t fathom, an Easter egg hovering in mid-air above the mower.  Brian commented that the drawing made it look like he was about to run over the baby bunnies with the mower.  We promise, no baby bunnies were harmed in the making of this picture!

Sometimes it’s enough just to stop and be amazed at the miraculous things around us.

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Little Bunny Foo Foo

So Thing Two came home a day or two ago singing that familiar song that we all grew up with, “Little Bunny Foo Foo”.

BunnyFoo

I smiled as he sang, and sang along with him.  But suddenly my song ground to a halt.  He was singing it wrong!  Y’all know how it goes, “Little Bunny Foo Foo, hoppin’ through the forest, scoopin’ up the field mice and boppin’ ’em on the head!”  But what was this I heard?  Something about *kissing* those field mice on the head?  Wait, no, that’s not the way it goes.  I said to Thing Two, “Don’t you mean boppin’ ’em on the head?  It’s not kissin’ ’em on the head.”  He said, “Well, that’s how they’re teaching it at my school!”

Lovely.  So no longer can Bunny Foo Foo (and let’s all admit it, bunnies can be nasty, vicious little buggers, in spite of all their cute fluffiness – you have seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail, yes?) scoop up field mice (who are, by all accounts, vermin and disease carriers, no matter how adorable their little twitchy noses may be) and bop them on the head.  He’s going around KISSING them.  Really?!  Would you want to kiss a disease-carrying rodent?

I am convinced that the world is setting out to emasculate men, and it starts with our boys.  Anyone who has boy children knows:  boys are DIFFERENT than girls.  It doesn’t matter if you give them gender neutral toys.  A boy can (and will) take a teddy bear and make it into a tank, where a girl will name hers Christina Sparkle Kissyflower and decorates it in pink ribbons and glitter.  It doesn’t matter if you forbid any talk of weapons (or Nerf guns, or whatever), boys have an affiliation for weaponry inbred, and I’m convinced it comes from birth.  At the tender age of about 18 months, Thing Two bit a piece of cheese into the rough shape of a gun, pointed it at his brother, and said, “Pow pow!”  We’re not anti-gun, but we don’t keep weapons openly about the house, and we hadn’t taught him to do that.  He just DID.

The idea of being a protector, a defender, someone who takes down the bad guys when they need taking down, that’s hardwired into our boys’ genetic code.  These days, it seems like the world is taking every step they can to strip that from them.

Look at commercials.  How many have you seen that depict a guy as a moron who can’t even decide what kind of lawn care product to get to kill the ants in his yard without his wife’s input?  Look at sitcoms.  How many times is the dad depicted as the bumbling goofball who can’t really be trusted with anything important, while the wife is really the brains of the marriage?  And then the Interwebs.  There are blog posts aplenty giving women advice on how to strengthen their marriages that put the burden of making a marriage a happy one squarely on the woman’s shoulders.  When did a happy, thriving marriage become solely the woman’s responsibility?  Are our poor husbands so frail and fraught with insecurities that we women must meet their every need without expecting them to lift a finger or consider our needs as well?  And if they are, when did that happen?  And why?  And how do we make that stop?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying there aren’t rough and tumble girls, and I’m not saying there aren’t any boys who prefer to sit and draw instead of taking part in a rugby scrum in the back yard with their buddies.  Heck, Thing Two has a fondness for Hello Kitty, and he’s about as rough and rowdy as they come.  His preferred method of greeting me is to come running at top speed and head-butt me, and if there’s going to be a linebacker in the family, he’s gonna be it.  I’m just saying that if society has a whole lot of models of men being pitiful and sad and wholly untrustworthy with any task of importance, if men forget how to be men, how will our boys ever learn?

We’re working to raise our boys to be strong, confident men.  Not bullies, not jerks who steamroll their way through life, but men – men who know there’s a time to be gentle, and a time to stand firm and fight (literally or figuratively) for those you love.  The world aims to take that God-given difference, that hard-wiring of the male gender as protector and defender, away.  And yes, it really can start with something as seemingly small as Little Bunny Foo Foo.

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