Thursday, September 20, 2012

The New Face of Missions?

A few weeks ago I linked up to this article (? can you call that an article?) because I thought it was a fairly accurate representation of how my generation thinks and functions.

We want real, we want truth, we want to be involved. People say we're apathetic, I disagree. I think we're biding our time until you baby boomers decide to hand over the reins.

Then you'd better hang on to your dentures.

Last Sunday I attended a barbecue hosted by Mission Projects Fellowship. This is an awesome organization that funds very practical needs of missionaries around the world. They're not affiliated with any particular missions organizations, but they connect with various missionaries and missions groups to supply specific needs.

On this particular Sunday, MPF was just trying to raise awareness and interest among a new group of people. They were also raising funds for a chicken coop for an orphanage in Kenya, but that was secondary to simply exposing themselves and their purpose.

At one point, an older gentleman (who turned out to be the President of the Board of MPF) stood up and gave a brief explanation of how funding a chicken coop was at all related to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And I was totally bemused.

Of course a chicken coop is spreading the gospel of Christ! Of course this is reaching out to a people in need! How on earth is this not a "missions" project?!

And therein lies a very great difference between myself and my parents (and grandparents) generations.

I checked with a couple others to verify.

This is completely obvious to me. Supplying a children's home (and thus the children) with food, nutrition, income, and a purpose is to supply a children's home with some very basic elements of life. How on earth are we supposed to "reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ" if they can't focus on anything but how hungry they are and how worried they are about where their next meal is coming from?

What about "the least of these"?

What about "giving to the needy"?

What about "feed my sheep"?

This, apparently, is not obvious to everyone, since the President of the Board felt the need to stand up and clarify.

For all the flak my generation receives, and for all our flaws and faults and problems (seriously, why can no one sit through a single meal without checking their phone at least once?!) I am proud to be a part of a generation that is willing to lay aside the glamorous role of "winning souls" and settle for feeding hungry children and giving them a chance to survive. I'm proud to be part of a generation that recognizes the importance of basic human needs, and is willing to admit that providing an orphanage with a viable, sustainable small business and food source is more important than services that make US feel important.

If you're interested, check out their website. It's pretty awesome.

Shiny Days

Remember when I linked up to this blog? Yeah, still readin', still lovin'. And one of my favorite things about the blog community (ohmygosh I just said that) is all the lovey linkin' that goes on. Through Phase Three, I found this blog.

And this post.

And today, my friends, was a shiny day.

Today, I was ON.

(I had dinner ready before I even left for school. Let's give a holler to crockpots!)

I savored the little things.

(Glorious sunshine, a hug from a kindergartener, feeling like a real teacher again.)

I said the right words at the right time.

(Doesn't matter how normal we try to make it, pushing an 8-year-old in a stroller down the hallway will always attract stares from elementary students.)

I even managed to enjoy a last few rays of sunshine without losing my mind over the imaginary chores I create for myself.

(Because seriously, nobody else gives a crap about the interior of my closet or that pile of old papers that needs to be shredded.)


Today was a crazy day. But what makes it shiny? Instead of crying, I laughed. Instead of getting frustrated that student M hollered his head off for what felt like several hours, instead of freaking out because student T put every.single.item. in our classroom in his mouth, instead of worrying about handling two needy kindergarteners simultaneously, instead of getting all panicky because Mr C was late getting home and letting me off babysitting duty....

I laughed it off, enjoyed my time with the kids, and even got to take my dog out for a run when I got home and let myself relax.

These are the moments that remind me that, even though I'm far from who I wish to be, I'm slowly making progress. I'm growing up into a semi-reasonable human being who can prioritize, let things go, and learn to enjoy the little things.

There were a couple real gems at school today, and I really wish I had written them down. Seriously, how do kindergarteners get so darn funny? They're not even trying. Forget Dane Cook or Dimitri Martin..."Kids Say the Darndest Things" had the right idea.

I need days like today to remind me why I chose this path for my life, and why I'm so grateful to be here, and why I can face tomorrow with a smile and an ounce of hope.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lightened Up Stroganoff

It was a blustery, wet day here in the Philly suburbs. Gray and super windy, chilly but also humid. Pretty yuck.

Since it is also the second day of Rosh Hashanah, I didn't have work. I babysat instead, which was nice because I was done at 3 instead of 6.

Ergo, I had time to try a new recipe!

This is the year of quickie dinners and crockpot meals. I am working full-time in the multiple disabilities classroom, and I have an after-school babysitting gig for a family in my district. It's really convenient because the kids are on the same schedule as me, and they live literally halfway between school and home.

(Which equals about 4 minutes each way. Awesome.)

Anyway, I've been practicing lots of super fast, hands-off meals and so far it's been going alright. I have a couple Ziploc bags of crockpot-ready food in my freezer, and an arsenal of easy recipes. Since I now get home between 5:30 and 6 PM, I don't feel like spending a ton of time fixing dinner (and Dan, for all his wonderful qualities, is no help in the kitchen. Of course, I tend to reinforce the "kitchen is Becca's dominion," so I don't really blame him. Thus, if Dan is responsible for dinner, we're eating take out).

Anyway, all this to say I was delighted to have time today to try a new recipe.

Dan loves beef stroganoff, especially his mom's beef stroganoff. This is possibly the only recipe of my MIL's that I do not particularly like. Her beef stroganoff is full of "cream of" soups,  very rich and heavy. This is a lightened-up version, still chock-full of hearty flavor and creamy texture, but waaaay healthier. We devoured this, which is why there are no pictures.

If beef stroganoff can even be remotely considered healthy.

I adapted a recipe from Gina's Skinny Recipes, a website I've used for several delicious, health-concious recipes. Here is my version.

SkinnyTaste Mushroom Stroganoff

  • 1 (generous) tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 - 3/4 pound of beef, any cheap cut will do
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups fat-free, less-sodium broth
  • 1 tbsp A1 Steak Sauce
  • 1 tsp tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup sliced Cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup sliced baby Bella mushrooms
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp red wine
  • 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • Egg noodles, cooked

Heat olive oil in a medium-large pan; salt and pepper the beef before sautéing (I purchased the cheapest pack of red meat I could find in the grocery store--.73 lbs of stir-fry meat, and it turned out fine) until no longer pink. Remove and set aside. Add the butter to the pan until melted, then add the onions. Saute the onions for 2-3 minutes, until soft and fragrant, before adding the flour right to the pan. Stir well, then gradually add the broth (I used chicken because it's what I had on hand), steak sauce and tomato sauce. Simmer together until slightly reduced, and the sauce is thick and bubbly. Add the mushrooms, beef and red wine. 

This is where I really diverged from Gina's recipe; I let this concoction simmer away for about 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, I cleaned up the kitchen and cooked the noodles. A few minutes before the noodles were ready I added the yogurt, stirred it until thoroughly incorporated, and let it get all happy for another 5 minutes or so before serving. 

**Note: Some of my ingredient substitutions are simply because they are what was already in my kitchen. That's just how I roll. The beef, however, is due to the fact that my husband does not consider any meal (except pizza) a "real dinner" unless it contains meat.

Also, this meal would probably feed up to four people, if those people are eating before 8:30 PM and aren't totally ravenous. 

Last of all, we topped this with some grated Parmesan cheese. Because life is better when you put cheese on EVERYthing. 


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Welcome, Fall

When I decided to write this post, I picked up my phone to see if I had any good pictures to add.

Then I walked around, trying to think of something to photograph to illustrate the gloriousness that is fall.

I failed.

I took this photo of my beloved little fiend:

Then I took this photo of peppers from my garden, which will become our dinner tonight:

Stuffed Peppers, anyone?

I stepped out onto my porch, where my plants are swaying in the cool breeze, and the sun has warmed the wooden planks under my feet.

And I thought, nope.

Can't do it.

Fall is beyond a shadow of a doubt my favorite time of year. Don't get me wrong, I love baking in the heat and sweating in the sunshine, green growing things and swimming and basking in the summer nights. But there is something magical about the heat seeping away, the chill in the morning, and the quietness of the earth drowsing as summer slips away.

Dan and I had breakfast outside today, at Elcy's Cafe. We sat with Lily, and our delicious sandwiches and coffee, and talked about fall.

Oktoberfest is coming up, when we go apple and pumpkin picking, eat chili and have a bonfire.

School is rolling along, and I actually need all my cardigans and long pants now.

I'm making plans to winter over my garden, and expand for next summer.

And (possibly best of all) we're headed for the season of holidays--Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

We haven't traveled very far. We've been to the Mediterranean, bits of the West coast, Missouri, Iowa, and Michigan, and up and down the East coast. There are so many places left to see, and I'm sure there is something special and awesome about each place. The way the mountains rise out of the sea in Sicily, the navy blueness of the water in the North Atlantic, the palm trees in San Diego, even the vast cornfields of the Midwest.

Savoca, Sicily. June 2011.

South Rim of the Grand Canyon, July 2012. 

Magnolia, MA (North of Boston), Summer 2008?

Fall in Pennsylvania, though, has its own kind of splendor. The changing and falling leaves, the crispness of the morning, switching out shorts and swimsuits for sweaters and corduroys...these are what make fall amazing. The anticipation of the winter coming, and the sense that the earth is sleepy after a busy summer of warmth and growing. I love being able to bake again, love apple picking and adding an extra blanket to our bed. I love the change, I love the newness.

I'm thankful for the creativity of a God who not only provides for our basic needs, but makes the world such a beautiful place to live.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

My Summer in Photos

In no particular order: the second half of my summer. 

My little brother, after his car accident. Yes, he's fine (the casts will be off after a couple more weeks). 

Me with my unbelievably adorable niece. 

My brother reading to his daughter. Beyond precious. 

Sister and niece.

Annual Adirondack hike with the sisters-in-law. So beautiful. 

Gorgeous flowers from Produce Junction. $3 bouquet!

I decided, for about the eighth time, that I'd learn how to crochet. This, as usual, is about as far as I got. 

Finally, my jewelry isn't sprawled across my dresser!

This face kept me company all summer. 

My friend, sister and I had an indoor picnic when our beach day got rained out. 

Our freshly painted bookshelf for our classroom. Much prettier. 

This is one of the three bulletin boards I designed for back-to-school. Yes, it's one of my favorite parts of the job. 

This summer, I had my first professional teaching position as the summer school teacher for the multiple disabilities classroom at my school, I worked with a couple kiddos as behavioral therapist part time, experienced my parents' divorce and my mother's remarriage, traveled to California where I saw the Grand Canyon, Pacific Ocean, Yosemite National Park, and Alcatraz, visited Schroon Lake, drove to the Midwest twice in three weeks (once to visit my brother after his car accident, the other for my mom's wedding) and found out that I didn't get a teaching job for the school year. 

This past Thursday I had my first full inservice day at school (I went by the school for a couple hours on Tuesday and Wednesday to help my lead teacher because she was freaking out, but that barely counted). I was so excited just to be back and be around the wonderful people who work at Jarrettown. As disappointed as I was not to get a classroom, I'm incredibly thankful to have a job, especially one in such a good district with people I truly enjoy. 

I'm excited to start another year and see what comes along.