Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"My mama would be proud of you..."

Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
"Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."
Proverbs 31: 28-29

     Picture for a moment Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith Show: motherly, caring, nurturing, always taking care of others, never selfish, but fiesty enough when necessary!  This was my mother-in-law.  She was one of the most amazing women I've ever known, and I miss her terribly even though it's been over ten years since we lost her to cancer.  Sadly, the deep appreciation I have for her wasn't fully realized until many years after her death.  She was 38 when my husband was born, and although she had previously worked outside the home, she then took on the role of stay-at-home mom and full-time housewife, a position she proudly maintained for the remainder of her life. 
     When I first married David, I was in graduate school and just completing my first year of teaching.  I had big career plans and no intentions of ever sitting around the house all day. (Stay-at-home moms, don't throw anything at me yet!  That was simply my perception at the age of 22!!!  I, too, spent several years at home when my kids were little.  I know how much work it is!)  At that point in time, I was the least "domestic" woman on the face of the Earth.  I didn't know how to cook or clean or do anything that an "old-fashioned" housewife should do.  That was partially my fault:  In 8th grade, I petitioned the junior high school administration so that girls wouldn't have to take home ec!  It was also partially my mom's fault:  She did absolutely EVERYTHING for us!  She had good intentions, but I was actually handicapped by the lack of independence.
  Back to my mother-in-law...she loved me dearly.  I have no doubt about that.  But (and let me preface this statement by saying that she NEVER made me feel this way; it was all in my head) I never felt like I would be good enough for David because I wasn't her.  I didn't know how to "take care of him" the way she always had.  Again, let me paint a picture for you:  a spotless house, no piles of dirty laundry, an amazing meal on the table EVERY DAY when my father-in-law walked in the door from work, the list goes on and on.  I saw those tasks - the cooking and cleaning - as CHORES, things to be dreaded.  I didn't know how to do those things, nor did I care to learn.  Now, 15 years later, I know that those things were expressions of her LOVE for her husband and children.  She took pleasure in taking care of her boys!
     Most important to my mother-in-law, however, was not the house or the meals.  Most important was the sense of HOME that she created.  It was a place everyone wanted to visit.  You were always welcome.  There was an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility the moment you walked in the door.    It was something I had never known.  I had lived in a tumultuous household, often full of chaos and confusion.  My in-laws' home was a sanctuary.  Unlike the housework, however, this sanctuary was something that I wanted, something I worked hard to try to create, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing, but always trying. 
    It's taken nearly 15 years to reach the point where I am today.  Where I feel like the effort to create a "home" is really materializing.   My kids (even the pre-teen) love being at home and tell me often how they have such a great life!  I've even had a change of heart about the cooking and cleaning over the years.  I came to the realization that my husband also saw some of those little things as MY expression of love for him and our boys.  It was the kind of love he was raised on: selfless, serving, giving LOVE!  As I embraced that fact, I began to take pleasure in preparing meals for my family.  No, I still don't like the dirty laundry or the stinky toilets, but I have a better attitude about doing those things for my family when I remember that I do those things out of LOVE. 
    Last week, I received the ultimate complement from my husband.  "My mama would be proud of you," he said gently.  No words could have meant more.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cheesy Potato Soup

I haven't made potato soup in a while.  We've had a very mild winter here in South Mississippi, and I just haven't felt like eating soup...until this past weekend when we actually had temps in the 20's!!  I had a little challenge this time with my potato soup thanks to my 12 year old.  You see, he ate potato soup at his friend's house about two weeks ago, and he was certain that the other mom's soup was better than mine!  I set out to prove him wrong.  After he took the first bite, he said, "Hmm...I still think hers is a little better!" Then, he proceeded to eat THREE full bowls of soup!!  Even though he wouldn't admit it, I think I won hands down!

4 cups potatoes, cubed
4 cups water
2 cups milk
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup margarine
2 large onions, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, sliced
3 cups cheddar cheese
green onion, chopped (optional)
crumbled bacon (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste

1.  In large pot, boil potatoes in 4 cups water.  Do not drain.
2.  While potatoes are boiling, combine milk, flour, and margarine over medium heat.  Stir regularly until heated through.
3.  Add milk mixture to boiled potatoes and water.  Add onions, celery, and carrots.  Return to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes.
4.  Add cheese and stir until thoroughly melted.  Salt and Pepper, to taste.  Garnish with crumbled bacon and green onions.  Serve hot.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Look at how far I've come...

     My husband and I will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary this summer!  I was lying in bed tonight thinking about those early days of marriage, and I felt compelled to get up, grab my laptop, and share a few of those thoughts with you.  When we were first married, we rented a little house full of charm and character.  It was such a "cute" house that I signed the lease on it before David had even seen it.  Bad idea!  We soon learned that this charming old house was full of flaws.  For one thing, it had no central heat.  There were two wall-mounted heaters:  one in the kitchen and one in the bedroom.  These were supposed to heat the entire house, but they certainly didn't! 
     Now you have to understand that I am terribly cold-natured, so waking up to a cold house every morning was torture for me.   However, my sweet husband - still in a state of newlywed bliss - would get up every morning before me, walk across the cold house, and turn on a small space heater in the bathroom.  He would wake me when the bathroom was warm and toasty so that I could get my shower in comfort.  I know that may seem like a small gesture, but it was one done out of love.
    I had so many dreams in those early years of the kind of wife and mother I would be, but for many, many years, I felt like I had fallen short of those high expectations.  There have been many times that I have felt like a complete failure as a woman, and I felt alone, like all other women knew what they were doing and I was the only one who ever struggled.  As women, I think we sometimes alienate each other by putting on a false front, refusing to show any weakness, therefore making other women feel inferior.  I felt that way for years, sometimes spending weeks, even months at a time, in a state of deep depression. 
    Years ago, I made a copy of the Proverbs 31 passage about the noble wife and placed it in my "Mommy Notebook" that I use to keep schedules, menus, grocery shopping lists - all the things that help my house run smoothly.  I have read the passage every morning since my boys were little.  But for a very long time, instead of seeing the verses as an source of encouragement, they often served as a reminder of all that I wasn't!  You see, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't see how I could ever become that kind of woman.  I felt like a failure!
     However, something changed in me last summer, about the time of our 14th anniversary.  God opened my eyes to an entirely different perspective of my role as a wife and mother, and my role as a Godly woman.  I had seen that "noble wife" as an unattainable goal, but God revealed to me that those verses of scripture were meant to serve as a guide for the JOURNEY toward becoming all that He created me to be.   Most importantly, He opened my eyes to the fact that I couldn't do this alone.  Only HE could lead me on this journey.  We can never become that kind of woman on our own.  Only HE can lead us toward that ideal. 
     Amazingly, as I began to accept this truth in my heart, my entire life began to change.  I had lived the previous two years with sometimes unbearable depression; but I began to awaken to the blessings in my life and a joy that only God can provide!  My marriage had suffered; but where old love had died, new love grew!  I had often felt unproductive and ineffectual; but everything I had tried to accomplish over the years suddenly began to "click."  Over the past 8 months, I have felt more capable and confident than I have in years.  I am a better wife, mother, homemaker, and teacher.  And I know, more now than ever before, that God is in control of my life and only He can help me become all that He wants me to be!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Quick n Easy Pizza Puffs

Looking for an easy meal that kids will love?  Try these!

Here's what you'll need:
Pillsbury Pizza Crust (refrigerated roll)
1 pkg. pepperoni
1 cup mozzarella
1/2 jar pizza sauce

1.  Roll out pizza dough.  Cut into four sections.
2.  Chop pepperonis into small pieces. (I've also simply cut them into quarters or halves, but little pieces work better.)

3.  Mix pepperoni pieces, sauce, and cheese.  Spoon mixture onto dough, and pull dough around the mixture to make a ball.
4.  Bake according to pizza dough directions.  My oven takes a little longer...check regularly and bake until golden brown!

5.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and catalina dressing.  Enjoy!