Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Food from the Heart

Our church has a ministry called Food from the Heart. It is a monthly meal and Bible study for low income or homeless folks, on a Sunday afternoon. We usually have 20-40 guests. Brian thought this month would be good for his Sunday school class to serve. He's been teaching them how each of us are the body of Christ, each with different talents and abilities, and each equally important. And, regardless of your age, you have a vital role in the church -- some who sing with the band, or work the sound system, or help with the nursery, or clean areas of the church. We need them. And, Brian wanted to help them experience Food from the Heart ministry -- from beginning to end. Brian had the students decide on the entire meal, cook everything (with our supervision of course), serve the food, and clean up. (And, Brian gave the Bible study).

Needless to say, we had a blast working together this past weekend. Saturday night was prep. We had pizza for dinner and got to work making ministrone soup, chicken tetrazini casseroles, salad, bread, and oatmeal fudge bars. It was fun teaching cooking skills. They did great . . . except for accidentally leaving out 5 cupes of flour from the oatmeal fudge bars -- OOPS! I was so worried about our dessert mishap, but as it turned out everyone raved about the warm gooey bars with vanilla ice cream. I guess all the chocolate and butter made up for it!

Let me just tell you, these times are invaluable -- for Brian and myself, and for the kids. We love serving with them, hearing their perspectives, witnessing their zeal, seeing them encourage each other, and unexpectedly hearing how much they appreciate our church and youth group. And, it's a time to remind them why they are serving and helping them to focus on the tasks at hand. God is so good! All the prep and effort was totally worth it!

Here are some pictures . . .

Making some surprise birthday brownies
Brother & Sister debating technique
Gotta love industrial dishwashers
What's cooking without towel wars?
If they have a moment to rest, you'll find them doing silly things . . . like exercising
Pumping out the salad
How many girls does it take to mix iced tea?!!
Taking a break to eat lunch

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Valentine's Day

5:20am - I find Valentine notes around the house from my wonderful husband (on the bathroom mirror, in the shower, next to the coffee maker :)
6:10am - I make french toast, and I especially bought our favorite syrup . . . and of course have to make powdered sugar hearts on the bread . . . so corny
6:30am - We eat breakfast, and Brian opens his first Valentine's card from me, informing him that we'd be getting HDTV for our new 50" television we were given. He was happy, but we both niavely hoped Comcast would come during their 1-3pm time slot.
7am - We both leave: Brian to school, me to work
1pm - A special delivery comes into Mary's office, while the whole company is having their usual Thursday lunch together. The special delivery turned out being for me :) . . . roses -- oh, he is SO wonderful!
1pm - Brian is sure to be home, hoping the Comcast dude comes early so he can run out for some errands
2pm - Comcast dude still isn't there
3pm - Comcast dude still isn't there . . . and I'm feeling like this surprise for Bri is becoming the biggest hassle for him
4pm - Comcast dude still isn't there -- uhh! I leave work. Brian asks that I not come home until 6pm, so he has some time for scrambling together his surprise. Poor thing
4-6pm - Mary happily wanders around Costco, the grocery store, and Hallmark (all places I love).
4:45pm - Comcast comes and is done in 20 minutes.
5pm - Brian runs to the store for last minute things he needed
6:30pm - Mary arrives home to some serious wonderful aromas in the house!
6:45pm - Brian has made a masterpiece: shrimp cocktail, filet mignon with red wine reduction sauce, wasabi mashed potatoes, asparagus, fresh bread and dipping sauce . . . yum!
7:30pm - Mary opens up the awesome card Brian made. I love my Brian!
8pm - dinner clean up
8:20pm - sit down to a movie -- of course, an on-demand HD movie -- oooo!
8:45pm - we eat the special dessert Brian made: rice pudding -- my favorite!!!
9:15pm - Brian is surely asleep and I'm fighting it. He had one of the most stressful days -- that late Comcast dude -- grrr! We decided we'll finish the movie another time.
9:30/10pm - definitely both asleep . . . and happy!

Oh bread machine

"Oh bread machine, you are so wonderful (imagine me singing). . . after I finally got you to work!" Who knew that the little inside thingy needed to have 2 clicks to get pushed into place?!! Not me! Yea, that's what happens when you're given a bread macine without a manual. Yea, and that would happen when you are already worried the machine might not work, . . . and a bunch of senior high girls are planning on making homemade cinnamon buns when they come over. Oops!

I had timed the dough setting perfectly -- or so I thought, . . . until I looked in the bread machine and saw all the ingredients inside just as I had put them 1 1/2 hours ago. Oh well. Thankfully, the girls were understanding and I had a spare tube of Pillsbury Cinnabon Cinnamon Buns. Right after I had explained to the second girl who had arrived that my bread machine was clearly not working, I opened the lid and gave a hard push down on that inside thingy (can you tell I don't have the right bread machine lingo without my manual?), and wah lah . . . that was all it needed. So, this meant that we'd be having some cinnamon buns ready at 10:30 last night instead of 8pm. Oh well, better late than never I guess. Ever so conveniently, Brian teaches the 9th & 10th graders Sunday school class at church, so I sent the cinnamon buns with him. (I don't think 13 large cinnamon buns would have been a good thing sitting around our house).

All that to say, I'm SO happy the machine finally worked because I have a ton of bread flour, and I'm excited for some bread machine creations. Any good recipes out there?!!! Or, any good recipe websites?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Couples Fellowship

Brian and I, being a young couple, saw the need for our church to start up a young couples' fellowship. There has been a number of new young couples attending our church and we had a burden to help them connect. So, last month we started it up, and we were so blessed to have 6 couples out. We enjoyed an Italian dinner together, had a formal time of introduction, chatted, laughed and threw around topics and books to study. We couldn't have been more excited after that evening: seeing couples connecting and seeing everyone's enthusiam for the group.

This past week, we decided on the book we'll study: Each for the Other, by Bryan and Kathy Chapell. I remember reading this book in my Family class at Covenant College, but honestly that was before I was married and I don't remember much of the details. Most of the other couples are familiar with the book or have read portions. And, this book is great because it has study quesitons for each chapter in the back of the book. That's perfect for rotating leadership of our studies.

Our prayer for this group of couples: that our love for our Savior will deepen, that true godly leaders would be sprouted here, that we would learn what it means to sacrificially love our spouse, that our friendships and community would grow, and that God would lead each of us where He wants us to be serving.

Last weekend: change of plans

Last weekend, I was supposed to head for the mountains for a youth retreat. All 50 is us were looking forward to skiing, snow boarding, snow-tubing, a great speaker and fellowship. But, the weather had other plans. Major icy roads, a mountain, and a full-length school bus carrying 50 teenagers aren't a good combo. So, we decided to postpone the weekend. And, it happened to be quite providential. A family in our church had a house fire on the Friday we planned to leave. The scene was very devastating. Here is the newspaper article if you want to read.

So, many of us were able to help this family on that Saturday. It was truly a blessing to see the outpouring of church family, neighbors, family. And, it was a blessing to see the testimony of the family whose house had burned. This family is not just an ordinary family: they have 3 biological children and 7 adopted children. Both parent's are gifted musically and theatrically. They both teach at a local Christian school. They own a company called Theater and Kids. They lead the music (choir, band, hand bells) at our church. I could go on and on . . . I really think I need to submit them to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. This family is a testimony to God's grace. The church has really rallied around them. They have a home to live in for the next few months, and all the furnishings have graciously been provided. So, needless to say, that weekend was a blessing in disguise . . . and many of the youth had a chance to bond in a way they hadn't imagined.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Senior High Girls: Welcoming Little Lina

For those of you who don't know, I (Mary) work with the senior high girls from our church. This is a passion of mine -- I love working with younger girls. I think a big reason is because I personally went through lots of rough times in my teeage years, but also because I would have loved to have had a woman youth leader, much less a youth leader. There is no doubt that a handful of women were pivotal in my teenage years, but it wasn't a youth leader at church (because we didn't have one). Needless to say, during college and especially since college, I've enjoyed working with teenage girls . . . and college girls.

Anyways, this past week, I planned for the senior high girls to make a meal for Shanna from our church. Shanna had led these girls prior to me, but had to step down because she just had a baby girl (her 4th child, but first girl). So, I thought this meal would be fun to keep a secret from Shanna. I thought the girls should prepare it, and then we would all deliver it and surprise her.

Well, that's what we did . . . well, sort of . . . with lots of laughs and a few bumps along the way. The meal was a little tricky because Shanna's family has a number of allergies, but we came up with: Pork Tenderloin with Apples, Roasted Potatoes, Green Beans, . . . and we tried to make non-dairy pumpkin muffins . . . but, we quickly realized no one (absolutely no one) should endure the torture of eating them. We also gave them sorbet for dessert.

The meal came together pretty quickly. I had girls at each "station" working on different things. And, we got to chat while everything was cooking. The muffin station had a little breakdown . . . accidentally way too much baking soda got put into the bowl, and in the process of taking that out, all the sugar came out too. This was not realized however until the muffins were going in the oven. Oops. The muffins were awful, but we had fun trying to get parents/siblings to eat them when they came to pick up the girls. Ha, ha.

Transporting the food was relatively non-eventful, except for all the pork juice than poured all over Hannah's leg. She really sacrificed for the team. We smelled Hannah the rest of the night. She said it was time for those jeans to get a washing though. Oh, and not to mention that pork juice had dripped onto our new carpet on the way out . . . and my wonderful husband scrubbed it out.

Here are some pictures:

The card we all signed for Shanna
The infamous muffin station
Hannah and Lauren - chopping
Steph contemplating the muffins
Kellie, happy as a clam - snapping peas
We knew there was NO WAY Steph was gonna do this
What is happening in my kitchen? I knew I couldn't turn my back and leave them with the camera!
Kellie and Lauren
My wonderful husband scrubbing the carpet (the girls found this quite humerous)
Seeing little Lina made our night
Happy Mama and her baby girl