“You are the same today as you’ll be in five years except for two things, the books you read and the people you meet.”  Charlie “Tremendous” Jones


I decided to start chronicling what I read every week on my blog here.  I always like hearing other’s book recommendations and my “To Read” list is way too long, but if you have any more suggestions, I’d be glad to hear them, of course.  :)


Troubling a Star by Madeline L’Engle.  Brent got me a bunch of L’Engle books for my birthday last year and I’ve been working my way through them.  This one was one of better ones in my opinion.  Could be because it was about Antarctica and visiting there is on my Must Do List.   I love her books because it’s just assumed that everyone is a scientist or a literature buff and no one is snobby about it.  I could be friends with everyone in her books.  :)

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  I read Part One anyway.  I plan on only reading one part per week because I want to savor it more.  I may have read it before but I can’t remember so that tells you that I should slow down and try again.  It’s free on Kindle cuz it ‘s a classic :)

Psalms – been working through them because of my Worship Challenge.


The heavens declare the glory of God;
The skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day the pour forth speech;
Night after night they display knowledge.


Psalms 19:1-2




A Sermon on Faith, Doubt and Mustard Seed Necklaces

This text has often made my faith feel inadequate. Because I’ve always heard it as this syllogism:  With only a teensy weensy amount of faith, Nadia could perform miracles. Nadia does not perform miracles, therefore Nadia has so little faith it’s not even as big as that mustard seed around her neck.


Why are There Still so Few Women in Science?

The most powerful determinant of whether a woman goes on in science might be whether anyone encourages her to go on. My freshman year at Yale, I earned a 32 on my first physics midterm. My parents urged me to switch majors. All they wanted was that I be able to earn a living until I married a man who could support me, and physics seemed unlikely to accomplish either goal.


What did you read this week?


October – Worship

October 7, 2013 — 1 Comment

September was confession and I confess I read the chapter, had high hopes and then did nothing about it.  Next year maybe?  I guess I did confess to myself that I didn’t want to be a vegetarian and I was sticking to it because of some weird foodie pride and then I gave it up.  And I confessed to Brent (and now all of you) that the reason I only cooked bacon when no one was home was because I snitched at least fourth of the package every time.  And now I don’t have to hide that shameful secret anymore.  Also I’m finally over bacon.


October’s focus is worship.  I had a hard time reading the chapter because in my mind worship=singing and I think that worship is so much more than that.  But it’s culturally ingrained so I’m trying to redefine it in my mind.

If worship does not change us, it has not been worship.  To stand before the Holy One of eternity is to change.

I think a word that more resonates with me is adoration.  I feel adoration and awe for God when I’m in nature, when I look at the night sky, when I see something in science that connects with something seemingly totally different but they’re really connected.  I feel awe for God when I see people helping the forgotten, when I see groups coming together to do something wonderful or artistic or even fun, when I see people putting aside their differences and opinions to show love to one another.  These are the things that make me want to shout and tell everyone how amazing this world is – how amazing our creator is.  I need to cultivate that feeling this month and look for it.

I decided a tangible thing I could do this month was to read the Psalms.  There’s so much emotion there, and not even all good emotions.  David laying his heart out in front of God in anger and sadness and vulnerability – but always coming back at the end to say that God is good and will protect him.  Even through the crappiness, we can end our day with praise.

I came across this verse today -

You have filled my heart with greater joy, than when their grain and new wine abound.  Psalm 4:7

I think that sums it up perfectly.  Think of a happy scene when you’re having dinner with your family on a holiday or at your favorite birthday party.  All warm and fuzzy inside.  But it is no match to how I feel when I’m standing in awe before God.  It truly feels like my heart will burst out of my chest and I’m almost breathless to contain it.  To me, that’s what worship feels like.

I really, really needed this month!

I realize August is two days from over, but believe me when I say I hadn’t forgotten about this challenge.  I just am having a really hard time knowing how to do it.

Oh by all means, the actions I have down.  As a mom, other moms will agree that it’s a 24 hour Service job.  But I’m having a hard time accepting it as a virtue.  My inner self has a hard time finding joy in Doing All the Things.  My ego wants more from this life.  My mind is bored.  My dream life does not involve dishes.

In the stages of death to self, I’m stuck in anger and bargaining.  Not sure how to get out of it.

Warning – great big feeeeelings spilling out all over this post ;)  Also, these are my own perceptions and not necessarily truth.

Growing up, Calvinism taught me that people are the scum of the earth and God picked some of us degenerates to go to heaven.  If he picked you, you’re damn lucky he would put up with such a rotten human such as you.  If he didn’t pick you – well now you’re going to hell, which means God must have not-loved you extra much.

In school I was taught JOY meant Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last, which confirmed my thoughts that I was a worthless piece of rubbish and that everyone else’s needs were more important.  Because that’s what good little Christians did.

Regarding marriage I was taught that being a WIFE was more important than anything I could ever want and if I wanted a job that meant teacher or nurse or some other womanly job.  But I better be home in time to make dinner.

So the teaching that wives should submit to their husbands was not a new one.  My needs and wants are not valid.  My husband’s needs and wants are.  I need to bend over backward to make it happen.  I can so clearly see how women get entrenched in abusive relationships where they are picked apart and broken down over time until all that is left is a shell of a person living to make their family happy.  Fortunately God’s grace spared me from this.

Somewhere along there I learned about grace – I learned that God loves me regardless of if I follow him.  He loves everyone, in fact.  He loves me even when I’m not being a good little Christian and that I have worth just on my own being me.  As does everyone.  My needs matter.  My desires are important.  God made me to be me, not just someone else’s wife or mom or servant.

But the JOY model is so entrenched in me that I don’t know how to be submissive.  It turns into a vicious cycle.
- I have worth and value.
- I love my family so I will set aside my selfish needs for them
- *something comes up that is really very important to me, but I decide I will not be selfish*
- I say that previous thing is very important to me and ask/request/demand equality
- Brent and Andrei are not perfect and they forget or don’t know
- My needs are not important.
- I am not important and do not have value.

Even in my head I know I have value, but I feel so easily forgotten that I fall back into worthless scum without even trying.  I don’t know the middle between submissive and selfish.  I don’t think I even can submit to others without feeling worthless.  It’s pervasive.  Standing up for myself is near impossible.

I’ve felt in my spirit that this year God has been trying to teach me to Die to Self.  I know that part of this worthless feeling is holding onto my Self with an iron fist so I don’t lose what tiny shred of love I have left.  I’m not sure what that means.  I wrote a post about a while ago – about how being a Living Sacrifice is sacrificing your view of yourself and submitting to God’s view of you.  Which is miles higher than my views of me.  I’m working on it.  But the day to day stuff still gets me – I suppose I have a long way to go.

aka – the little discipline I love to hate.

Seriously – I tell Brent that *that* verse is not in my Bible.  We joke about it.  He ignores the “don’t eat bacon” part and I ignore this.  All joking aside, I have seen quite a bit of abuse and pain come for women out of this one tiny verse.  It hurts my heart to see people telling wives they should “submit more” when they are being ignored, unloved, and abused.

So seeing that chapter heading I gulped a little.  But the author started it off with a salve for my bleeding heart by pointing out that this is the most misused of the disciplines.  He then goes on to point out that it’s also one of the more important, because it offers the most freedom.  The freedom to live your life and not give a crap about what other people do to you or think of you.

Okay, he didn’t really say that.

He did say that submission is truly living out the golden rule and giving up the tendency we have to try and control those around us – to try and control what people think of us – to try and micromanage everyone else’s lives.  If you are truly submitted to Christ and others, you can live your life and be happy for others as they live theirs.  You can love them without putting them in your own little box opinion of them.  You can truly do unto others.  Not because you are less than or better than them, but because you are a child of God and they are a child of God and we are all equally loved by God.

Of course within your family it is a little different.  I am called not only to submit to Brent, but Andrei too.  Andrei is my brother in Christ, and even more my son.  What better model of leadership do we have but the Humble Servant himself, Jesus.

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  Phillippians 2:5-8

I put Andrei and Brent first because I love them.  I want them to succeed because I love them.  I let them do their own thing sometimes because I love them.  I even express my feelings about their choices sometimes, but it’s because I love them.  And if it comes a time that I have to go against them because it would be better than them, it would be because I love them.*

Submission comes out of love, not duty.  It’s a joy, not a burden.  It’s a blessing.



*Here I’m talking about a woman in an abusive relationship or a child who is making poor choices.  Like a tough love situation.

June was Solitude which not only meant being alone (which I love) but being quiet and alone (which is more difficult) but it started a new habit that is half simplicity and half solitude.

I tried in May to cut down on my computer usage for simplicity’s sake, but it just kept calling back to me.  By the end of the month, I had cut back on much of my surfing time, but it was still a draw and a distraction.

Now I’m just shutting the computer off.  It doesn’t sound like much, but this is from the girl who didn’t used to power down her laptop for months on end.  It would would be constantly available at my fingertips to answer any question and provide distraction from boredom.  I think I thought of it because Brent and I were talking about various kinds of addictions and I mentioned that everyone has something they’re prone to – just some are more destructive than others.  My mind immediately flashed to my laptop.  While it may not be ruining my life, it does sometimes keep me from living a more awesomely.

So now I shut it down from approximately 9AM to 5PM.  The times are flexible depending on if I’m actually doing work or if I actually have done all my work for the day.  I’m getting a lot more reading done, more card games with Andrei, more time in general to do more awesome stuff.

Although, now that Solitude June is over, I’m glad to have my fave podcast back for when I’m doing housework.  But I’m trying to limit it to one per day.  The silence maybe is growing on me.

These are all super simple and I make them all on a regular basis.  These are all really summer meals for when veg are cheap and plentiful.  For winter we make a lot of “leftover soup” and “leftover chili” with whatever half-cans we have jammed in the back of the fridge.

  • Fajitas – saute peppers and onions and chicken (or steak if it’s on sale), wrap up in a tortilla with some sour cream and cheese and guac and there you go.

  • Easy stir fry – saute 4-5 cups of vegetables (a bag of coleslaw mix is great for this), add 3 T soy sauce, 2 T lime juice, 1 tsp each of ginger, garlic, cumin and tumeric, and 1 cup of coconut milk.  Let simmer until veggies are cooked.  Serve with grilled meat or tofu.

  • Quiche – cut up some veggies, pour in pie pan (shell or not), mix 4-5 eggs and some milk and pour on top of veggies.  Sprinkle some cheese on top and bake at 350 until eggs are set (35ish minutes)

  • Quesadillas – smear a tortilla shell with refried beans, sprinkle on some cheese and chicken and whatever else you like.  Bake under the broiler or fry on the stove until brown and crispy.

  • Ramen might kill you on its own, but before we quit pasta we used to make this – Ramen Noodle Upgrade – add some veggies and it might even be healthy-ish!

  • Beans and rice, baby – taco seasoning and some tomato sauce.  Top with sour cream and cheese and it really is that good!

  • Google some other country and “traditional” or “authentic recipes”.  You might find some weird ones, but every country has their version of cheap food that the commoners eat.  They’re often very good and worth a try.

  • Ways to make existing meals healthier for cheap:

    • Buy a bag of frozen berries and mash them up for your pancakes/waffles.  I don’t even add sugar anymore – we just spoon them on as is.

    • Shredded carrots can be added to most everything – soup, pasta, salad, tacos, muffins…

    • Make a mexican style coleslaw for your tacos instead of shredded lettuce – lasts longer in the fridge and healthier too

    • Store lettuce in glass jars – it really works to keep it fresh much longer than you’d think.
  • Learn how to substitute.  Green peppers are cheaper than red peppers.  We don’t drink milk but we do use plain coconut milk in our coffee, so when a recipe calls for a little milk, I just use what we have at the time.  The recipe calls for garlic powder and also salt?  Garlic salt!  Heck, if I’m in a desperate hurry and the recipe calls for real garlic, sometimes I’ll use garlic salt for that too.  We hate pinto beans and regularly use black beans instead.

  • Know *why* your family doesn’t like a recipe.  I hated egg salad and potato salad growing up, but I realized later that I just hated Miracle Whip, which my mom used.  Once I started using Hellmann’s (or generic equivalent), I liked those foods again.  I don’t like kidney beans and Brent doesn’t like pinto beans, but we both like black beans.  I don’t like fresh whole leaf spinach, but I like frozen chopped spinach and sometimes baby spinach.  Andrei doesn’t like eggs for breakfast, but if I put enough veggies and cheese in quiche, he’ll really enjoy it.

  • On the other hand, there are some foods you just can’t avoid or substitute.  So when Brent goes out of town, Andrei and I have mushroom stew parties.  When I’m gone, they make meat fest.  Saturday night date night involves something spicy or blue cheese or something Andrei won’t eat.

  • Learn how to make your favorite restaurant meals.  Sometimes they are expensive even to make at home, but it’s still cheaper than going out.  Andrei even asked for homemade taco pizza instead of going out on his birthday.

  • Know your splurges.  For me it’s fancy cheeses and Triscuit crackers.  For the boys it’s expensive yogurt and Brent likes sparkling water.  When these things go on discount, we all celebrate.

  • Learn how to stretch a meal.  Maybe the recipe didn’t quite make enough to fill everyone up.  Or maybe you hope to have leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.   Frequently Brent ends up working around dinnertime and he and his volunteers are hungry so I’m throwing frozen veggies or leftover hamburger in a soup just to make another serving or two.

  • Find some meals that use up almost-bad vegetables.  We always have some softening vegetable in the back of the fridge that needs to be used up.  This calls for chili if it’s a pepper or tomato, or stir fry if it’s anything else.  It also helps to have these meals in mind if you see a great deal at the store and can change your meal plan mid shopping trip.

  • Divide up snacks into the actual serving sizes.  It’s not cheap or healthy to grab an entire bag of trail mix and mindlessly eat the entire thing.  But if you can just grab a baggie with a reasonable amount, your food will last much longer.

  • Figure out how to make leftovers edible.  No one was super excited about the tomato bean stew I made the other day, but we discussed pureeing it and turning it into a chili base.  Yum?  Who knows, I guess we’ll find out!

Tips for saving time

  • Dried beans are a huge money saver.  You can get about 5 can sized servings from a 1 pound bag of beans.  And they are not really that difficult to make.  Here’s my lazy way of doing this.  Before bed, I put the beans in the crock pot and cover them with 2 inches of water.  In the morning, I drain the water, put the beans back in the crock pot and cover with 1 inch of water.  Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 7 hours.  These times are not set in stone.  I’ve forgotten and cooked beans for 10 hours before.  No one died.  The one thing is to not undercook them because no one eats crunchy beans.  When they are done, drain them and let them cool in the strainer.  After they are cool, I put them in glass pint jars and put them in the freezer.  You could also put them in freezer bags, but the point is putting them in can-sized servings so when the recipe says a can of beans, you can just grab a jar/bag and let it defrost for easy use.

  • Chopped onions and peppers can be frozen too, although they make our freezer smell.  I think that’s unique to our freezer and wouldn’t happen with a regular house fridge.

  • Find a like minded family and start a Meal Swap.  This really only works if you’re willing to be real with them and be like family.  For us it goes like this.  Every Wednesday without fail, we go to our BFFs house for dinner.  On Thursday they come to our house.  Thats it.  It’s not fancy company food.  It’s what we normally eat, with extra for a few more people.  It means not having to meal plan for one day.  It means not having to cook and clean for one day.

  • Here’s one from Brent – if you’re going on a road trip and want to pack lunch to save money, pack something extra special.  I used to only pack normal everyday sandwiches, but our last vacation we stopped and got some grocery store sushi.  Everyone was really looking forward to dinner and not dreading it because it was special – but still cheaper and healthier than eating out.

  • I don’t feel I have the time for a price book, but I do have some general idea what things cost.  I know if meat is less than $3 per pound, buy it up.  If berries are around a dollar a pound, buy and freeze, buy and freeze.  I know the things we buy every week and I can see a good deal if it’s there.  I’ve even been considering taking a tiny road trip to Trader Joes because their coconut milk is half the price of my grocery and I want to stock up.

  • Honestly my immersion blender has saved me a ton of time – I use it for all kinds of things – even stuff it’s not meant for like pancake batter or beating eggs if I’m really lazy.  Not sure it saves much money, but I love it so I have to give it a mention.

  • Meal planning is the bane of my existence.  I hate doing it but I take the time (about 30 min every week) to make myself do it.  It does save time at 4PM when you forgot to start dinner and you are in a rush.  Don’t be a slave to it though – if you blow it off and have sandwiches one night – that’s just a meal already planned for next week!


I mentioned the other day about our church’s 90 day debt pay-down challenge so that is the inspiration of this series.  One of the things that I find easiest to reduce is our grocery budget.  You see immediate pay off, and it’s something that is a significant expense.  I would estimate we spend close to $6000 per year on groceries, and if we could just reduce our weekly budget by $20-$30, that would save more than $1000.

It doesn’t matter if you live in an apartment building with no yard, or have a thriving farm and gigantic house.  It doesn’t matter if you work 2 jobs as a single mom or stay home with unlimited time.  There are always things you can do to be more frugal.  You don’t need to garden, have a second freezer, bake your own bread, stay home and cook all day, keep a grocery price book, or clip coupons for hours.   I don’t do any of these things. Sure all those things might help, but sometimes it’s just not going to happen.

What you do have to do is change your thinking.  Expand your mind to think about other cultures and times.  People feed their families in every country, without microwaves, frozen food or even electricity.  Mamas have been cooking and working hard as they crossed the country in covered wagons, while their husbands were out of work during the depression, all alone sometimes in the middle of nowhere.  And if they did it, you can.  True, it’s nice to have modern conveniences, but I often tell myself, “If Laura Ingalls Wilder did fine without it, then my kid will be fine too”  All mamas want the best for their families, but sometimes the most convenient or decadent is not the best in the long run.  I know this is not especially happy but if you start slowly and move always in a more frugal direction, it will get easier.  Baby steps.

You will never arrive at “frugal”.  There’s always some place to find a new recipe or idea.  Find some blogs that talk about money and/or cooking.  Keep practicing.  Try new things.  If it doesn’t work, make a sandwich instead and chalk it up to experience.  But enjoy the journey and keep your eyes on the goal :)