What’s for Dinner?

What are we having for dinner? Oh, how I hate this question! Ever since I’ve been a grown-up, where I’ve had to decide for myself – or my family – I’ve dreaded the evening mealtime.

I’m not a good cook. I can follow a recipe, no problem, but I don’t love being in the kitchen. My sister got all of that talent (and she’s really good at it)!

I don’t remember how we figured out dinner, those five years before we had children. I do recall making menus when the kids were little, and basing my grocery shopping off of the dinner menus for the week. Usually, I’d plan the main dish – the protein – and “wing it” for the vegetable – canned green beans or frozen corn or salad from a bag. It used to drive my husband crazy! He’d ask, “What’s for dinner!” and I’d tell him, say, hamburgers. And he’d want to know what else, which I never had planned! We’d both feel frustrated at figuring out our dinner routine.

We tried multiple approaches: daily menus in detail, general weekly shopping basics, a cartful of veggies with a bag of frozen chicken breasts. Nothing ever really worked, and dinner always felt a little hodge-podged.

And if my hubby was traveling, all options were open. Popcorn, with sides of grapes and sugar-snap peas? Sure, we can have that for dinner! Or cereal. Or mac-n-cheese. Maybe carrots to round out the veggies, or at least to look like I tried!

The best we’ve done, I think, is since it’s back to the two of us. The kids are grown and gone – they have to figure out their own meals! And now my husband and I eat frozen pizza or carry-out sushi or take-out Chinese (tonight). In the last couple of weeks, we’ve been to the local pub for delicious “‘merican burgers,” and we finish eating before the live (loud) band starts playing! Or we grocery shop together, often with a few recipes we find, the ingredients on the grocery list. Then my husband will cook, and I assist and do clean-up. It works!

Recently, we started receiving Hello Fresh. We signed up for the vegetarian menu, as a way to force vegetables on us. And it’s a cinch! I clean the veggies, he chops and cooks, we eat delicious food, and I clean up the dishes. There are almost never any left-overs; they have the recipe designed for perfect serving sizes. That’s only a bummer when it’s a “keeper” recipe – one of the most delicious ones. But they send the full recipe, not just the needed ingredients, so we can duplicate the meal in the future.

I’m still not great at eating vegetables. I’ll grab fruit regularly; veggies are tough for me. But this meal delivery system has helped.

And while we’re still trying to figure out how to plan meals for two, I’m getting better at reaching for veggies in the produce section.

What’s for dinner? Sweet potatoes and broiled broccoli florets!

Thinking about nothing

I find myself staring out the sliding glass door. I’m not sure that’s it’s daydreaming, really, because I’m not thinking about anything. At first glance out the window, I watch the trees waving in the breeze. I see the varied shades of green from palms to pines to bushes to grasses to lawn. I see the blue sky and the fluffy clouds. And then I “zone out” – my mind is wandering but to nothing in particular. I’m not mulling anything over, but if I feel a lingering thought, I might turn it towards God, into prayer.

I have a favorite spot in my house. It’s right here on the left end of the couch. This furthest cushion. The end table is next to me. There’s a lamp and box of tissues and coasters on the corner. I also have my journals – my daily one and my gratitude notebook. There’s plenty of room for my iPad and a snack. The end table is a few steps from the sliding door to the patio.

I have no idea how long I’ve been turned to the door and the outside beyond it. Time has stopped and I am frozen in this place: legs in front of me with my feet on the coffee table, pillow on my lap with this Chromebook on top, my hands on the keyboard but not typing. Shoulders down and relaxed. Head turned to the left, eyes on the distance. Jaw dropped, not clenched. Relaxed.

When I “come to,” I have no idea what I was thinking. But I’ve never believed it’s possible to not think. My mind is always planning or pondering or ruminating. I understand from books and presentations and confirming with the guys in my family (husband, son) that men have a “nothing box” – where they can mentally go and truly think about nothing. I wonder what that would be like to shut off my thoughts. Maybe I just did it.

I don’t count this as mindfulness exactly. I’m not aware of my thoughts, or even of the scenery after the first look. I’m not aware of time passing or sounds I might hear. I just sit and stare into the distance, not seeing. Here on the couch, with my gaze toward the palms, is the closest I come to the nothing box. It’s nice.


Notebooks: organizing and planning

I love the devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. Every day is written as if Jesus is speaking to the reader.

September 16: (italics is my emphasis)
YOU WILL NOT FIND MY PEACE by engaging in excessive planning: attempting to control what will happen to you in the future...When your mind spins with multiple plans, Peace may sometimes seem to be within your grasp; yet it always eludes you. Just when you think you have prepared for all possibilities, something unexpected pops up and throws things into confusion.

I did not design the human mind to figure out the future…I crafted your mind for continual communication with Me. Bring Me all your needs, your hopes and fears. Commit everything into My care. Turn from the path of planning to the path of Peace.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  1 PETER 5 : 6 –7

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. PROVERBS 16 : 9

Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. PSALM 37:5 (NKJV)

I read this and thought, “Of course planning brings me peace! I have Notebooks full of peace!” An entire Notebook System actually. I pick up the 10-for-$1.00, 70 pages college-ruled wire-spiral-bound notebooks at the start of school supply season. And in a variety of colors, too, because each project notebook should have its own color. (I have to double up on a few – the stores only have six colors at that price.)

My Notebook System is a central place where I jot down my thoughts on whatever is happening, pages to organize and record them. It’s a collection of details, because I don’t trust my brain to retain those. And I carry the required project Notebook everywhere, so that I can write in it at a moments’ notice, as soon as the details surface. None of that “I’ll remember and write it down later.” No! Write right now!

So my Moving Notebook (M.N.) is full of things to tell a Realtor we needed in a house. Things to tell our realtor we wanted to sell with the house. Notes on what those realtors told us. Dates. Deadlines. Contact information – realtors, moving companies, inspectors, insurance companies and notes on what they said our policies would be, what to pack in the suitcases, what goes into storage for the kids, churches to check out, sites to see, restaurants to try, names of our neighbors. [I would meet folks along our street, and then rush home to write down their names and which house – “A&S – kitty corner, wine (welcome-to-the-neighborhood bottle), across from M&K who are next door,” “G&S two houses over,” “T – left next to A,” “Other A – kitty corner across from us,” – you get the idea.] Other Notebook stuff – what did we need to shop for? Measurements for windows, for lampshades. Christmas “New House” Wish List. You name it! If I thought of it as we were preparing to move or even after we were here, it got written down in the M.N. And I’d read through each page regularly, checking stuff off when it was completed, writing DONE across the top of the page when I no longer needed to read that one, writing things a second time on a fresh sheet if the old page had too many scribbles. I’ve got this Notebook system down! I even pulled out the M.N. yesterday to look up measurements for our nightstand covers. And I added that ice cream place E told me about.

I’ve had lots of Notebooks: Notebooks dedicated to Summer Vacation Bible Schools (one per summer – reference last year’s but each summer gets its own). A support group I facilitated. Moms In Prayer. A leadership committee at church. The band committee at school. I did use my Graduation Planning Notebook for both kids – the things that happened Senior Year for each kid were similar, but party planning notes from hers didn’t help with his. Except that I still had that business contact for tables and chairs!

Honestly, I depend way too much on my Notebooks. I’ve often jokingly said that this is the way God created me – to be organized, a planner. I love logistics – pulling together all kinds of pieces to create a final project. All those spiritual gifts inventories and good-for-me books confirm it – it’s a gift from God, to be used by Him through me for the body of Christ.

But I am learning to be careful. God may have created me with a passion and talent for organizing and planning, but not as the end-all. I am not to put the plan above the Master Planner. These Notebooks do not bring me Peace. For example – when our move to FL was delayed, there was nothing in the M.N. to help me. Nothing that relieved the anxiety. Nothing that hurried up the wait. I had made the mistake of treating the Notebook as if it was the ultimate plan, and I was wrong. The plan for our move was in the hands of God, not in my Notebook.

God knows the Plan. His timing is not mine. His direction is often not mine. I may have misunderstood – or probably assumed – certain details or expectations. And I’m sure to be disappointed if I trust only in my Notebooks.

God wants me to be so tuned in with Him, walking so closely with Him, that when He moves in a direction or at a certain time, I’m ready; I’m there. And that can only happen when I spend time with Him. In His Word. In prayer. In His Presence. I need to be so close to Him that when He moves, I move. Like a dance, and I let Him lead! I need to be ready – He might spin me and catch me in a flourish.

I think I’ll start a Dance Steps Notebook.