Directions: Saute beef, onion and green pepper in shortening in Dutch oven until vegetables are tender. Drain excess fat. Stir in beans and remaining ingredients. Simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes 4-6 servings (about 6 cups).
Note: This is one of our go-to dishes when we have ground beef on hand.
Now, for the accompaniment:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup corn meal
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 cup skim milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 egg whites OR 1 egg, beaten
Directions: Heat oven to 400°F, or 204°C. Grease 8″ or 9″ pan. Combine dry ingredients. Stir in milk, oil and egg, mixing just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 20-25 minutes or until light golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm. Makes 9 servings.
Note: This makes a good accompaniment not only to the Beanburger Stew, but also to the Meatloaf, here.
“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8b, (NLT)
Like many people, I tend to look back on the old year in January. As I remember situations, I think about the good things God did for me. Things like—
He helped my mother through various health issues, as I wrote about here. He used that time to mold me, as I wrote here. Through that time, He gave me a better perspective on love, not as strictly an emotion, but as commitment and action.
I wanted to live in a bigger comfort zone. God responded through a friend’s request to cat-sit for her. Even in that small effort, I learned some things. This post, here, is reflections on what stuck out to me.
I wanted to try something new. As a member of Inspire Christian Writers, I had an opportunity to volunteer to serve as an assistant editor for the 2021 Inspire Anthology. I had never done any editing before. As an editor on four pieces, I gained valuable experience. To do the editing I used Track Changes on Microsoft Word. Although I use Microsoft Word regularly, that was the first time I used Track Changes. I looked at the pieces with an editor’s eye, certainly a different approach for me. I learned an editor’s way of interacting with a writer.
In December I received a Christmas letter from an acquaintance. For whatever reason, envy reared its ugly head. I was so angry! I had no cause to be, but I was. I intended to write the person back in a way as to cut off any future relationship. But, thank God, a phrase from Steve Laube’s writing/publishing blog jumped to the forefront of my mind: “Never burn your bridges”. Another phrase followed, this one from a magazine: “Grace beats malice…” The need to write something in reply was almost overwhelming, but I didn’t know what to write. God provided the answer, as I believe the Holy Spirit told me to write the person a letter describing how God worked in my life through the year. I wrote it, mailed it, and had a wonderful sense of peace and relief about it. Had I allowed my envy and anger to go from me to the person, I would not be enjoying that peace today.
For years I’ve known I should read and study the Bible more, but couldn’t keep up with whatever Bible reading plan I followed. I felt guilty and gave up. Through the years I read bits and pieces here and there, but never had any organization. God provided an answer through a journal and the Bible I started using (New Living Translation). The journal provided a page a day for Bible reading and reflection, and the NLT has headings above passages, breaking up chapters. I decided to read and reflect on just one passage or possibly two for each day’s reading. This is working out well for me. If I miss a day I no longer feel condemnation. I simply pick up where I left off. A bonus is that I want to read the Bible now; it’s not a “should” thing.
I am glad I can look back and see these things God brought into my life.
If you’d like more information on the anthology I mentioned, Inspire Christian Writers 2021 Anthology, InspireCommunity—Inspiring Writings About the Power of Community, is available on Amazon. Seventeen writers share different ways community exists.
As an avid reader, I get excited about the great number of books out there to read, either for entertainment, education, inspiration or with some books, all three. The quantity available in print, audio, and e-books reminds me of the vast amount of life in the oceans, so I call these book reviews “Diving Into A Sea of Books”. As with diving into an ocean looking for interesting objects, diving into books means you come across mixed results: over here, a book you don’t bother to finish, over there, a “treasure”—one you like so much you can’t wait to reread it, and over there, a book you read and think, “Meh”.
I was in the mood for a “cozy” mystery, ie., one without gore and sex, so one day I picked up Can’t Judgea Book by Its Murder by Amy Lillard. I want to say I liked it, but—it took me longer to read this than I thought it would. I got annoyed with it, so I put the book down for awhile. Yet I wanted to find out “whodunit” so I finally finished it.
Can’t Judge a Book by Its Murder takes place in a sleepy little Southern town. The main character, Arlo Stanley, owns a bookstore. She is gearing up for a book signing with Wally Harrison, a former resident, now bestselling author. When Wally is found dead outside her store, Arlo’s life becomes much more complicated. Her best friend is jailed as the main suspect by the police chief, a former boyfriend of Arlo’s, and another former boyfriend returns to town. Plus, the elderly ladies in Arlo’s book club are determined to help find the true murderer, since they are sure it’s not Chloe, Arlo’s best friend.
The book had a lot going for it, in keeping the reader guessing as to the murderer’s identity, in the characters, and in setting. Ms. Lillard does a good job putting enough twists in the story to keep the reader wondering whether the murderer really was Arlo’s best friend, or someone else. The minor characters of various business owners filled out the story and gave the small-town setting believability. I could almost smell the food cooking in The Diner! Small towns have their own pace and atmosphere, and the author captured that well.
Things I didn’t like? The main character repeated some actions over and over, to the point where it got annoying. Some details inserted into the story didn’t seem to have a purpose; they could have been cut out without hurting anything. A few of the characters did things which didn’t make sense to me. Some of the sentences were choppy; as a reader, I don’t appreciate that. There seemed to be a lot of backstory. The way it appeared was confusing, and I couldn’t figure out why some of it was in the story. In all fairness, though, Can’t Judge a Bookby Its Murder is the first in a new series: the Main Street Book Club Mystery series, and the characters featured in the backstory may be appearing in later titles.
Would I read the book again? I don’t know. Thankfully, the state of the world doesn’t depend on whether I will or not! 🙂
In this post here, I mentioned my mother’s uncharacteristic behaviors last spring and summer.
At first I thought it might be due to side effects from her two COVID vaccines. Her doctor did too after an MRI of her brain and a carotid artery scan didn’t reveal any abnormalities. Then I thought it might be the beginnings of dementia. That provoked enough anxiety in me, as her only child, to make me wonder if I was going crazy.
As the summer wore on, new problems appeared. Her leg strength weakened, and she needed my help in going to and from the bathroom. Since my mother refused to see her PCP, but agreed to physical therapy, he sent her to physical therapy to build up leg strength. But the physical therapist noted that she seemed to be lacking energy and be run down.
In late August my mother was admitted to the hospital for bleeding. Following an endoscopy and colonoscopy she was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer. With that diagnosis, the doctors prescribed medication to cut down on stomach acid, and an iron supplement to raise her hemoglobin to proper levels.
Since a leaking ulcer reduces blood flow to the brain, cognitive and other processes are affected, and since blood flow is reduced to other parts of the body, physical strength becomes limited.
I am glad and relieved to be able to write that my mother is doing better than she has in a long time. I post this to give a heads-up to anyone who thinks an older relative or friend is developing dementia. Before jumping to conclusions, have a medical doctor check the person out. There are other, treatable reasons for strange behaviors.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NIV)
“give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV) I used to have a really hard time with this verse, until it sunk in that we are not to give thanks for circumstances, but in circumstances. There are many extremely difficult circumstances we cannot give thanks for, and God does not expect us to. But even in them, we can give thanks. Sometimes it’s still hard to wrap my mind around this verse, but as I practice doing it, I find that thanking God helps me in the circumstance. It changes the face of it, and brings it “down to size”, so to speak.
“Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:29b (NLT)
“Never, never, never, never give up.” Winston Churchill
Here is one I put on the wall next to my computer:
In the line of Sunday’s post, here, I am thinking about gifts you can give. These gifts don’t require money, don’t need wrapped, and can be given to anyone, anytime of the year. They do have a cost—gifts always do—these gifts require you to put your self on the back burner. What are these versatile, but costly, gifts?
Patience. It’s especially needed this time of the year. It’s in short supply, and therefore is more needed and more valuable. It costs a person to be patient, rather than grumbling, being obnoxious, complaining about how slow the cashier is, and practically pushing people aside to get to the head of the line.
Flexibility. Ok, you are doing last-minute shopping, you meant to get that special gift earlier, but circumstances beyond your control stepped in, and the special gift isn’t available online or in any store. What to do? Take a deep breath, and be flexible. Think of that in the broadest terms possible. Don’t think of it as a specific gift, look at it like this: what need or want did that gift fill? Can you get something else that will work? Flexibility is a gift you can give yourself as you give to others. To be flexible means I’m not demanding something be exactly the way I want it. If I can be flexible, I don’t get stressed out about a situation.
Compassion. I am not talking about sending money to charities here, but rather being aware of a individual’s need and stepping in to do whatever you can to help. Maybe it is giving that person money, or a gift card for food, or buying a whole turkey dinner, taking it to the person, and helping them prepare it. Maybe it is sitting down with the person and taking time to listen with your whole heart—not planning what you want to say, not judging what he or she says—but just listening. Many people in various circumstances need the gift of compassion expressed as listening.
Willingness to withhold judgment. This is hard for me. I tend to think I know everything about a person’s situation based on what it looks like on the surface. LOL! People are complex; life is complex; there’s a lot going on below, so it’s always best not to judge.
A break. Yes, give yourself and others a break. Remember that whether or not you get everything done when you want it done, how you want it done, whether your family members get along or not—your value as a person does not depend on any of those things. Your value as a person does not depend on what other people say or think about you. Your value as a person depends solely on the fact that God loves you. In His eyes, you (and everybody else) have tremendous value. His view is the only one that ultimately matters. Think along His view, and you’ll have less stress, more joy, and be able to give the other “gifts” on the list easier.
Happy New Year!
Scripture references: I Corinthians 13: 4,5, Romans 3: 23,24, John 3:16, Romans 5: 6-9, Philippians 4: 6-8
A gift idea occurred to me today, and in this season when a lot of attention is put on giving gifts, I thought I’d share it. This gift can be given anytime of the year, and fits all sizes. It doesn’t cost money. It costs something that can be harder to give—honesty.
This morning I was in the restroom at church, combing my hair at a sink when a woman who serves in a leadership position came up to the adjoining sink. She asked how I was. At first I was going to say, “I’m good” and be done with it. Instead I told her that I was good—I was there—so I was doing good. I explained I kept thinking this morning, “Oh, I don’t want to get up. I just want to stay under the covers.”
Much to my surprise, the woman admitted she hadn’t wanted to go to church either. She woke up with a migraine, and still had it. But like me, she was good, because she was there.
I doubt we would’ve had that little conversation if I had not been willing to say I wasn’t ready to tackle the world. When I spoke up, we could admit our struggles. We said to each other, “Well, I’m glad you’re here.”
Someone—maybe a person you know, maybe someone you don’t—may need to hear you say, “I’m not at my best today.” That person may look on the outside the picture of perfection; the inner truth may be very different. Your willingness to be honest can give the person grace to admit she (or he) is struggling too.
I’m not saying you have to dump all your troubles on the person, not at all. You just let the person know, “It’s okay not to be okay.”
In a world which puts such a high value on appearances, empathy can mean more than you or I know, particularly at a time when so many hearts are heavy and hurting.
Note: In case you are wondering why I threw off the covers and went to church, this quote from singer Kirk Franklin’s book The Blueprint came to mind: “There was the car wreck, and the bullet, and the doctor’s diagnosis, and the pink slip at work—these were all things that God spared me from in the past week. Things I wasn’t even aware of. And church is my time to go and be in His presence and thank Him. Even when there are sick, stupid people there who are just as broken as me, church service is my time to be reminded of how good He’s been to me all through the week. Yes, there may have been some bad things that happened, but there were a lot of things that didn’t happen, a lot more bad things that could have happened. So for that I’m going to show my appreciation.” Unknown
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; On those in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.”
Dear Reader, may you experience and walk in the light and love of Jesus this Christmas season and in the new year to come. Sincerely, BethAlisan
My blogging friend GW at His Eye is on the Sparrow, a blog I highly recommend, introduced me to the work of singer/ songwriter Simon Khorolskiy. For this advent season, I share with you Khorolskiy’s rendition of one of my favorite Christmas carols. Merry Christmas!
Some months ago I was thinking of an event in the life of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah. The Lord told him to go to the potter’s house, and He would give him a message. Jeremiah watched the potter work the clay. As he watched, the Lord spoke. He told Jeremiah that as the potter molded the clay in whatever shape he wished, the Lord could do the same with Israel.
As I thought of the clay being molded by the potter’s hand, the Lord spoke to me and said, “It won’t look like what you think it will.” I said, “Okay”.
I look back on the past few months, and have to agree, it doesn’t look like what I thought it would! Somehow I thought it would be smooth as ice cream, and there wouldn’t be any rough spots! LOL!!! There were plenty of rough spots, dark spots, and potholes. But—God was in it. How do I know? I know because I acted differently than I would have on my own. When my mother uncharacteristically screamed and yelled at me, and said things, God gave me the grace not to take it personally. (Pleasetake note: it’sbeen my specialty since childhood to take things personally.) God gave me the grace to answer the same question three times or more in a row without getting impatient; He gave me the grace to speak with a kindness and gentleness I didn’t have before. He gave me assertiveness when I needed it. He walked me through that difficult, unsettling time, and I can say, I believe He is molding and shaping me, by everyday experiences and circumstances.
Through other ordinary experiences, He provided respite and refreshment from my cares, as I wrote about here.
As I was writing a letter to a friend this evening, I had an AHA! moment. It was this: if God is molding me, He is in the experience; He is right there with me, and He will not let me go. He is Immanuel, God with us.
Here are the verses from Jeremiah: The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Then the Lord gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.” Jeremiah 18:1-6 (NLT)
From Matthew: “…She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'” Matthew 1:23 (NLT)
I'm Joanna, a busy married mum of two beautiful boys aged four and three. I'm sharing my experiences as I navigate the wonderful world of motherhood! Mistakes, routines, mum / life hacks, cleaning, beauty...little bit of everything!