My Mother-in-law and how she shows me unconditional love…

One of the best things that happened to me a few days ago, on my birthday, was receiving a birthday card from my Mother-in-law.  Most years she forgets to send out cards so I’m ALWAYS honored when I go to the mailbox and see her handwriting on the outside of an envelope.  I’ve got to give her credit though because she’s a whole lot better about remembering than I am!  I’m ashamed to admit that I truly suck at making a day special for my loved ones.  The people living in my house reap the rewards but those that don’t live here rarely get remembered.

The point of the post isn’t to talk about remembering though.  It’s to tell you how I’ve been SO blessed by my husband’s family.  You all know by now, what MY family is like.  I don’t know what it’s like to have a close family or what it’s like to truly be loved by a family.  I know what it’s like to be “judged” and “used” by my family.  It was a shock when I was shown unconditional love by a family who didn’t have to show me love.

First of all, I want to tell you what the card said from my Mother-in-law…

“Any woman can be a daughter-in-law.

But it takes a certain spirit,

an openness,and generosity of heart

to make the “in-law” part

drop away,

leaving that comfortable word

“daughter”.

You’re a caring person…

loving wife…

giving mother…

and your presence

in the life of our family

is simply a gift.  “

Dang!  That made me cry.  I don’t even know how to accept love or compliments!  I guess it hit me so hard because my own mother doesn’t feel the same way AND I know that Katherine (Mother-in-law) really feels this way.

She didn’t have to accept me the way she did.  Ben’s family had gone through the horror of his 3 other marriages before I arrived.  They’d “accepted” every one of these former wives, even when they knew they’d never last.  Ben had a definite “history” when it came to women, that’s for sure.  But that’s a post for another day!  I’ll save THAT for when he makes me mad 😉  lol  I need to tell you that these people are Christian’s of the Southern Baptist type.  They scared me and that’s NO joke!  I’m Catholic and it’s no secret that Baptists don’t like Catholics.  These people actually READ the bible and LIKE the bible.  Except for religion class in Catholic school (a million years ago), I’d never read even part of the bible.  Ben’s family doesn’t just go to church on Sunday morning but Sunday night and Wednesday nights.  Their recreational activities revolve around church.  Mine never have.  They’re also very “Southern” people who didn’t really know or trust “Yankee’s” such as they think I am!  lol  They’re the type of people who say “Well, bless her heart”, in the sweetest most loving way.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that Southern people say this only when they think you’ve done something really stupid and they’re too kind to call you out on it.

When I tell you about Ben’s Christian family, you might imagine people who don’t live what they preach.  Christians get a bad rap for being hypocrites but not THESE people and most especially NOT his mother!  She lives what she preaches and believes.  Only she doesn’t preach at all.  She leads by example.  She very quietly sits and reads her bible and only talks about it if you ask her about it.  She’ll mention something in passing but doesn’t shove it down your throat.  She’s so kind and loving that you can actually FEEL her love as soon as you get out of the car to hug her.  I’ve never been around anyone like this.  She believes in being a submissive wife.  It’s no secret that I DO NOT believe that I should EVER be submissive to ANYONE, but most especially my husband, her son.  I could go on and on.

Okay, you can imagine the amount of adjustment my new Texas family had to go through and that I had to go through for a few years.  Although, they never let me see that they were having to adjust to me.  I’m loud and bossy and sarcastic.  I say words like “God” when I get mad (that’s a very bad word to them) and I call people “dumb asses”.  They probably dropped to their knees at night in prayer over the things I’ve said and did!  They only showed the world how proud they were of me though.  I have ONLY ever been shown love by my mother-in-law.  She’s cried with me and laughed with me.  She’s felt my losses as if they were her own and she’s shared her thoughts and feelings with me.

Most of all, she’s treated my children as if they were her own grandchildren.  I wasn’t expecting that and neither were my kids.  We knew they’d TREAT my children with love and respect but we just weren’t prepared for them to actually LOVE them.  My girls feel closer to Katherine than they do their own biological grandparents.

Image

(Here’s one of my daughters snuggling in Memaw’s bed with “Ming-Shoe” the doll that Katherine made for her.  Julia feels safe and comfy in Memaw’s bed and I love that!)

Image

(she just sits, ready to give love to all her little one’s no matter their age)

Most of the time I spend in Texas, Katherine allows me to run her house the way I do everywhere I go.  You know the Mother-in-law on the sit com “Everybody Loves Raymond” right?  That’s how I expect mother-in-laws to be but not Katherine.  She’s happy to sit and read a book while I destroy her kitchen.  And TRUST me, I DO know how to destroy a kitchen.  She’s so gracious and never imposes her will on me.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I impose my will on her.  She’s not used to a whole lot of commotion and when I’m there, I bring my chaotic life crashing into her’s.  I’ll never forget the time she asked me if she could “help” in the kitchen.  Of course, I thought I was being considerate and polite when I told of “of COURSE you CAN’T help in the kitchen”.  I just wanted her to sit there and rest.  I felt like I didn’t want her to go through any trouble when my family was there.  For YEARS I did this.  Finally, a few years ago, she so softly, and kindly explained to me that sometimes a mother wants to feel wanted and needed.  We live over 10 hours away from her and she never gets to be a “mom”.  Sometimes she likes to show US how much she loves us.  Wow!  She didn’t want me to be ashamed because she’d NEVER want anyone to feel shame BUT I was SO ashamed.  I learned to step out of the way and allow her to be the mom when she wants to be the mom.

Image

(here’s me not only taking over her kitchen but taking over her kitchen AND even wearing her apron!  lol)

Image

(Another picture of the mess I make in her kitchen but THIS time I had some help from my little niece Selah!)

Image

(here I am even taking over her Christmas tree…  Geeze, I’m just so BOSSY!  lol)

Like I’ve already said, my Mother-in-law teaches by example.  She rarely needs words.  She’s watched, through the years, as I’ve ignorantly allowed my children to get themselves into trouble.  I was a LOT more lenient than she would have been but I had more faith in my girls than I should have.  I allowed one of my daughters to spend WAY too much time with some boys she met and became friends with in Texas.  They were friends of the family’s so I felt like it would be okay.  It got to the point where she was never home for dinner and she would only come in once a day to say hello to Memaw and GG (Katherine’s mother).  I didn’t want to be too strict with my daughter and I wanted her to have fun too so I allowed her to spend the night camping with these friends and family.  I could tell that it was bothering Katherine (mine and my daughter’s actions were not only improper but just down right rude) so I began to make my daughter stay home more often.  After all, we were only there for a week or two.  Later, we found out that my daughter was doing things that I won’t mention here.  Point being that Katherine knew she was in trouble and instead of imposing her opinions or judgments  on me, she quietly let me know that I was being too lenient by her actions.  She prayed for my daughter and cried when she learned that my daughter was hurt and was going down the wrong road.  She cried real tears like she would do for her own biological granddaughter.  I still can’t get over that.

Over last summer, when I was hospitalized in ICU, my husband called his family and I guess told them that I wasn’t going to make it.  They’ve been in this rodeo more than once with me and have never made the drive to St. Louis to come to the hospital.  I didn’t expect them to this time either because Katherine is responsible for taking care of her 93 year old mother.  Besides the fact that her OWN health isn’t great.  The trip is very hard on them and impossible now for GG.  My sister-in-law told me that Katherine prayed about it and felt like God was telling her to “go now”.  They immediately packed the family up and made the hard drive with 2 small children and 3 adults JUST to see me one more time.  I don’t think they expected me to be conscious but when they walked into my hospital room, I was awake and able to speak.  I believe I was hanging on because my husband told me that I needed to hang on just a little while longer to see “Mom”.  I remember feeling SO much love radiating from Katherine when she walked through that door!  It made me WANT to get better for her.  I promised her that it wasn’t my time yet and that God was good and I was sure I was going to live.  Actually, I was more worried about her making that trip and then turning around and needing to go home the very next day.  SHE wasn’t though.  She was there for me, to hug me and to hold my hand and pray, in person, over me.  The way a REAL mother would.

Image

(Katherine lovingly does her mother’s hair for church so that GG can feel beautiful too.)

I feel unworthy to call Katherine “Mom”.  I know she wants me to and she certainly deserves the title…  but something inside me won’t let me most days.  I feel like to be her “daughter” , I should be a whole lot more deserving or full of grace.  I’m getting better about it but I’ve been in the family for 12 years.  Today, instead of feeling unworthy, I just want to take a second to thank God for this woman who has shown my family and I so much love.  I’m smart enough to recognize that’s it’s not very often that a wife can brag about the fact that they actually LIKE their mother-in-law.  I don’t just LOVE her, I respect her and actually LIKE her.  Thank you God for this woman.  Because of her, I know the love of a real mother and I am blessed.

Image

(she loves us all like we were her very own)

Advertisements

The Shack by Wm Paul Young (Julia’s reading project boo review)

The Shack

By:  Wm Paul Young

Published by:  Windblown Media

Remember the reading project I’m doing with my teenage munchkin?  We’re kind of getting behind…  with Springtime busyness.  Let’s face it, I’m not the most disciplined person in the world so why should my daughter be, right?  lol  FINALLY, after a few weeks, Munchkin finished her last book!  This one’s costing me 5 bucks and it’s 5 bucks I’m happy to pay because she LOVED it!

Here’s the description from the back cover:

“Mackenzie Allen Phillips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness.  Four years later, in the midst of his “Great Sadness” , Mack received a suspicious not apparently fro God, inviting him back to that shack for the weekend.

Against his better judgement he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare.  What he finds there will change Mack’s life forever.

In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant, The Shack wrestles with the timeless question, “Where is God in a world  so filled with unspeakable pain?”  The answer Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him.  You’ll want everyone you know to read this book!”

What was Julia’s take on this AMAZING story?  It made her THINK & FEEL.  She asked me if this was a true story.  I’d heard conflicting reports about the “truthfulness” of this story.  In the end, we “Googled” the question.  We found the authors site and read straight from the horses mouth that The Shack was indeed fiction based on an event in the authors life.  He says that he wrote the book for his own children and he’s leaving it up to the reader whether or not the “conversations” took place.  He leads us to believe they did actually happen and that he (the author) really IS Mack, the lead character in the book.

There are so many questions we, as adults, have about God.  Is He/She a disciplinary God or is He/She a loving God or maybe both?  Why does God let bad things happen to good people?  Naturally, a teenager has maybe even more questions than an adult has.  My daughter has faith that God exists and she really IS more spiritual than the average teenager, I think.  However, this book answered most of the questions she has.  The Shack just made sense out of God’s love for her.

Here’s what Julia says about The Shack:

“I believe Missy (Mack’s daughter) was murdered just so that Mack can see what God is really about.  Instead of God being his enemy, He became Mack’s closest confidant.  This was the BEST book I’ve ever read so far.  I took a lot of notes on pretty much everything that Papa (God) said.  My favorite quote was, “A part of you chooses not to see me.  You don’t need me at all to create your list of good and evil.  But you DO need me to stop such an insane lust for independence.”  It reminds me a lot of myself.  The Shack changed my perspective on God.  Now I see Him as a loving, caring and forgiving God, instead of only seeing God as a powerful, scary man who only exists to punish me for my sins.  Although I didn’t see Him as only mean, I just didn’t see Him capable or willing to be as nurturing of a God as the author portrayed in the book.

I wish the whole world would red this book!!!”

So you see, by Julia’s comments, she cared enough to not only READ the book, she also took notes!  Wow.  I didn’t know this until she gave me her book report.  This made me SO happy!  It’s a definite jackpot when she finishes a book, remembers what it talked about AND it sparks her imagination and makes her grow as an individual.  Now I have the hard job of trying to top this one for her!  lol

The Fairy Pools and Religious Hatred…

The Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye in Scottland

Shaun, this is the place I told you about.  Where is it in relationship to where you are?

I have a Pinterest board entitled “places I want to go one day”.  It’s kind of a “bucket list” destination or dream board.  I LOVE to travel.  It’s probably my favorite thing to do and I’ve always dreamed of going places abroad but have never been out of my country!  Well, besides Mexico.

Yesterday, I Skyped with a friend in Scotland.  It was amazing to me to be sitting on my back deck in the middle of America, listening to my birds and knowing that I was able to bring Scotland SO close to me.  My girls were laughing because of Shaun’s accent, they thought he spoke a different language!  lol  It’s strange to me that we both speak English, the King’s language, yet the dialect makes it so hard to understand.  It didn’t take me long to understand him though.  I was also impressed with how different the UK is from the USA.  The differences in religion and the extreme hatred that goes on in Western Scotland and I’m guessing in Ireland between the Catholic’s and the Protestants.  They actually KILL each other over there in the name of Religion.  THEY say in the name of God but I’m QUITE certain that God’s going to “smite” them down for killing each other in His name! For shame.  I’m Catholic, by birth, and I’m ASHAMED of the Catholic’s who would kill a Protestant in the name of our religion.

Over here, in the USA, one of the our constitutional rights is “Freedom of Religion”.  For the most part, we respect each other. Oh there’s a lot of talking behind each other’s backs.  That’s about it though.  The worst I’ve ever experienced is when I went to my husband’s family’s church in Texas.  I went to Sunday School and I was alone.  It’s a Southern Baptist Church.  The Sunday School teacher began talking about the Pope and how he’s going to go to hell and how ALL Catholic’s are probably going to go to hell.  WTF???  Don’t they know that this is the EXACT reason that people aren’t attracted to Christians?  Out of respect for my husband’s family, I didn’t create the scene I’d wanted to create.  I sat there and seethed.  Later, my husband’s family heard ALL about it.  You can trust and believe that.  Not that I was blaming them, just that I wanted them to know how wrong I felt it was for their leader to say something like he did… not to mention the “Amen’s” I heard from the rest of the Sunday school class.  “Amen’s” coming from some people I truly loved and respected.  My family told me I should have pulled the Sunday School teacher aside and tell him that I’m Catholic and didn’t appreciate what he was saying.  I SHOULD have but I knew me, and I knew that I probably would have NOT been eloquent in my speech.  I would have ripped him up, chewed him up and spit him out.  THAT wouldn’t have honored my husband’s family.  So I let it go and forgave.  Something that was difficult.

My point being that we ALL live in this world.  We’re all united in that we’re HUMAN.  It doesn’t matter what color of skin we have, if we’re male or female, it doesn’t matter what religion we are.  God made us all.  Not ONE of us is better than the other.

Now, can’t we all just get along?  Much love to all of you and have a VERY Happy Friday!

Oven Baked Parmesan Meatballs with ALL the Fixen’s! (plus a little brag thrown in for good measure)

Today marks the end of my lil teenaged Munchkin’s self imposed “fast”!  I can’t TELL you how excited she’s been to eat real people food!  lol  For those of you who don’t know, she made a commitment to sacrifice or “fast” for 2 weeks.  It was something she felt she needed to do to show Jesus how much she appreciates his dying on the cross so that we can go to heaven.  She’s also been praying for His grace and guidance.  Fasting for Julia means that she eats only healthy food and mostly just raw vegetables, boiled eggs and lot’s of fish.  The best thing she’s had in the past few weeks was on Sunday, when I made chicken and rice soup!  Poor baby.

So today, she wants meat!  Lots and lots of meat!  hahaha  I let her choose what she wanted me to make. She chose meatballs and french fries.  NOT the most gourmet of meals but something I can do quickly, before she and her friend Hannah go to church tonight.  I need to stop here and tell you how EXTREMELY proud that she still looks at church as a fun, social activity.  ESPECIALLY when I’m just learning that another one of her bff’s (also 14) might be PREGNANT!  Once again, reminding me that it can ALWAYS be worse!  Wow.

Oven Baked Parmesan and Herb Meatballs

(revised by me from Pinterest)

Ingredients:

1 lb ground beef

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup milk or half and half

1/2 cup grated Parmesan (fresh is ALWAYS better)

1 cup Panko breadcrumbs (or regular but Panko is better)

1 small onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients together using your hands.  Form into golf ball sized meatballs .  Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or foil.  Bake in preheated oven, 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

*  I’m eating these right now and they’re SO freaking tasty!  I wish you could smell my house 🙂  Smells like home!  lol

Okay, next I made my easy oven baked asparagus.  This is pretty much the ONLY way we ever cook asparagus anymore.

Oven Baked Parmesan Asparagus

Ingredients:

1 bunch of medium to small stemmed asparagus (with woody ends cut on the diagonal)

About 1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

About 1/4 to 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (eyeball it)

2 tsp salt

About 1 tsp garlic powder

Directions:

Toss asparagus with all other ingredients.  Make sure each piece of asparagus is covered with oil and seasoning.  Place asparagus onto a foil lined cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until bright green and cheese is melted.

Easy as THAT and I have 2 very happy munchkins and a husband that can’t wait to get home and eat it all up!  I’d tell you about the Ore Ida frozen french fries…. but I’m pretty sure you won’t be impressed with how I threw those babies in the oven for 30 minutes with season salt!  lmbo

Happy Eating to you 🙂

Chicken Soup for the Soul

Have I told you that the teenage munchkin is “fasting”?  Actually, maybe I’m not supposed to be talking about it but she didn’t tell me NOT to and she should know that nothing is sacred unless specifically stated!  lol  She’s fasting because she wants to show God that she’s open to sacrificing for him the way Jesus did for our sins (her words).  She tells me that she wants to be open to receiving HIS wishes for her life.  She does NOT get this from me.  I’ve never really been a disciplined person and I’m ashamed that I’m the one who believes that God can’t see me sneak that cookie or piece of candy.  Julia isn’t fasting for just a day.  She’s been only eating non processed foods for 2 weeks now.  Mostly she eats boiled eggs and raw vegetables and fruits.  Every day, I try to cook her fish but she can have VERY little salt so everything tastes bland.  I’m proud of her though because, for the most part, she’s not trying to argue about what kind of food she can have.  Yesterday, she kind of pushed the ticket.  She’d forgotten that she told me she couldn’t eat pasta because it was a starch.  So NO starches, right?  She thought I wouldn’t notice when she started frying potatoes and green peppers last night!  lol  Her reasoning?  Potatoes are a vegetable grown from the ground and so were green peppers.  What about the starch thing, Julia?  Oh THIS starch is okay, I’m SURE of it.  What about the fact that potatoes really don’t have nutritional value and you’re eating them in order to feel full?  Oh that’s okay too.  God will understand.  Well OKAY then.  I guess the rules change when you’re really hungry?

Today I’m making her some of Paula Deen’s chicken rice soup.  There’s NOTHING in this soup that she CAN’T have and since it’s cold and snowy AND she’s working hard painting and cleaning, it just FEELS like a soup kind of day.  Everything comes from God’s earth and the chicken is even healthy, right?  This will be the only time in the past 2 weeks that she’s eaten chicken though.  She tells me that this is like a 5 star meal for her!  And then I reminded her about those fried potatoes last night.  Was that like a 4 star meal?  lol

By now you know that I get my recipes from SOMEWHERE.  Lately it’s bee from the great Paula Deen.    However, I rarely stick to a recipe.  This one is revised by me but comes mostly from her.  Everyone’s got their own way of doing chicken soup.  Soup is just one of those foods that you can’t mess up PLUS it’s good for what ails you!  If you feel bad physically or emotionally, I PROMISE you’ll feel better after a great big bowl of this!

Cure – All Chicken Rice Soup

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken, cut up, rinsed and patted dry (mine was 5.5 lbs)

6 celery stalks, washed (use with the green leaves)

6 large carrots chopped into coins

2 lrg Vidalia onions (halved through the root end)

6 cloves garlic (minced)

2 tsp dried thyme

4 bay leaves

5 tsp salt

2 chicken bouillon cubes

2 tsp black pepper

2 tsp tarragon (dried)

2 cups long grain white rice

2/3 cups chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

In a large stockpot, combine chicken, 12 cups water, celery, carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaves, salt, black pepper, tarragon and thyme.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce to a simmer and cook until the chicken is cooked through (around an hour).

Remove the chicken and carrots from stockpot and set aside.  Strain the remaining liquid and discard the solids.  Return the strained broth to the pot, stir in rice and bring to a gentle simmer, cook until the rice is tender about 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, once the chicken is cool enough to handle, pick meat off the bones, discarding skin and bones.  Return the chicken and carrots to the pot.  Simmer for another 5 minutes.  Adjust seasoning and stir in parsley right before serving.

*The bones make the soup!  You can always use boneless chicken breast.  I do if that’s all I have on hand but if you want REALLY good soup, full of flavor, you’ll want to use chicken on the bone.

*This recipe is a double batch.  It will serve 12-18 people generously.  I always double recipes because I can freeze a batch for later.  It saves time and money 🙂  Enjoy!

The New Pope: Bergoglio of Argentina

So it didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped but who am I, right?  lol  Just another fallen Catholic who’d hoped for a REAL, honest to goodness leader who ALSO has the added bonus of knowing how to laugh and put a positive twist on any given situation (Timothy Dolan).

Here’s the story as it’s written in the New York Times.  Welcome to the new pope , The new pope, 76, Jorge Mario Bergoglio (pronounced Ber-GOAL-io) will be called Francis, the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. He is also the first non-European leader of the church in more than 1,000 years.

(the crowd at the Vatican)

Many of us will continue to pray that the Catholic church will stop being riddled with so much scandal and that our new pope is a Godly man.

And the black smoke has changed to white!!!!

As a Catholic, I’m SO excited to witness, from my living room, that we have a new pope!  Who will it be?  Looks like we’ll find out in around an hour.

The Sistine Chapel has now released the “white smoke”.  This should go on for several minutes and the bells are ringing!

Secretly, I’m hoping that the new pope will be Timothy Dolan from St. Louis (my hometown). What an awesome and loving leader he’d be!

How can you NOT be infected by his humor and REALNESS?  Love to hear him laugh but more importantly, I think that the people NEED someone to lead who can relate to us and our concerns.

Whatever the outcome, I’m certain that we’ll have the outcome that GOD has ordained for our church.  Soon we will have the name of the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church!