Sunday, June 30

Eat: I am BACK!!!

So after selling our old house, remodeling our new house, living with my father in law for 5 weeks, and then moving into our new house, planning an international mission trip and going on that international mission trip...Meal Plan Monday's have been put on a MAJOR HOLD. Well... we are home and back on it. Our life is sloowwwiinngg way down and I am thankful for a season of rest. We all need a little rest. 

During our 6 months of crazy we still stayed on track with our vegan eating since however, we are not viewing it as a DIET but a way of life. And you don't give up on your way of life. Eating the vegan way after a year has become natural and easy. It took sometime to figure out label reading and the importance of everything you are putting in your body but we are so thankful for that time of learning. It has been one of our best decisions yet. 

In the last couple of weeks, we have had many people inquire about how we do it and what we eat. I still haven't figured out a good format or way to post what our meal plan/menu is for the week. Maybe one of you will have a brilliant idea for me. I need a way to share this that doesn't take 2 hours to set up every week. Any way. Here is our line up for this week:

Uganda Style - After being in Uganda and eating their delicious foods, my husband has turned Ugandan. Seriously. The man would move there just for the food. For the most part they eat relatively healthy and I admit....everything we had was amazing! By the badgering request from Phillip, I have recreated our version of a Ugandan meal. 
Basically you need:
Pinto Beans
Sweet Potatoes
Collard Greens
Mango and Pineapple
or really any vegetable you desire to go with your rice and beans and they serve delicious fruit as a dessert and if you aren't sold on the whole Vegan movement you can add a white meat as your side dish. **I noticed in Uganda that the meat was always a side dish portion not the main course, which is the way it should be anywhere you live**

I created my Ugandan style beans with inspiration from several blogs from adoptive mommas. Most of them had brought Ugandan spices home with them after their adoptions or missions trips. I was not this smart. Here is how you make them.

24 oz. of Pinto beans soaked over night (8 hours or so...make sure you have plenty of water because the beans will absorb most of them)

Put your beans and 2 tsps of salt in your crock pot on High for about 6 hours. Add in these things:

1 diced onion
2 diced carrots
1 diced bell pepper
2 cloves of garlic minced

Sautee your onions, carrots and bell pepper in 1-2 TBSP veggie broth or EVOO if you cook with oil (I do not use oil). Once the onions are clear add in your garlic. DO NOT over cook your garlic. Just cook until it smells delicious. Add in:
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Garlic Salt
1/2 -1 tsp Ground Ginger
Once this is cooked and mixed in, add to your pot of beans. And cook for above time. Since I dont have Ugandan spices, I just smelled everything in my spice rack and added the above spices because they reminded me of Uganda. Maybe next time I am there I will pick up some spices. 

For the sweet potatoes I simple skinned them and diced them up, put them in a 9x13 and roasted them in the oven. I did use a little bit of grape-seed oil on them but not much. I roasted them for about 40 minutes. Turn them halfway through roasting (baking).

For the Collard Greens I went off of this recipe
However I did not use oil or bacon and I used veggie broth instead of chicken broth. These were TO DIE FOR. Even my kids loved them.

Plantains. I had no idea how yummy these things are. All I did to prepare them was slice them into thirds and then half those thirds length wise, after peeling of course. Then I sprayed my skillet with a tad of grape-seed oil to keep them from sticking and I "fried" them on all the sides. These are yummy also!

As far as the fruit goes. Just slice, chop and serve.

We will be having this....

Found via Pinterest! I have never made it but my friends tell me its awesome. 
Recipe here

Leftovers. Phillip is African now so lets face it...he will most likely finish up his 10th serving of our Ugandan meal. 

It's the 4th of July so we will be grilling out. We love to grill out veggies. Here is a list of veggies I plan on grilling:
I will most likely serve these with some beans burgers as well. 

Homemade Pizzas
I read the labels on the pizzas crusts at the Grocery store. I have found a fravoite that HEB carries. They are perfect little individual sized crusts. We top those with Pizza sauce and our favorite veggies:
We don't use cheese but if you are going for Vegetarian and not Vegan then use a low fat cheese. I recommend saving your calories and going sans cheese. It really is yummy.

Pot Pie
Here is how I make our Pot Pie
2 TBSP veggie stock
1 Diced Onion
4 Cups of Water
2 tsp salt or Herbamare
2 cubes of Veggies buillion
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 TBSP dried parsley
2 Cups frozen diced potatoes
2/3 Bag of frozen mixed veggies (carrots, peas, corn etc.)

For the "cream"
1 Cup raw cashews
1 Cup of water

1-1/12 pie crust

Sautee your onions in a skillet with the veggie stock. Once they are clear add your 4 Cups of water and your seasoning. Bring to a boil. Once boiling add in your frozen potatoes and veggies. Turn heat down and simmer until cooked through. While that is boiling place Cashews and water a blender and blend until smooth. Once smooth add to the veggie soup mix. Stir. It should thicken. Pour in your baking dish and cover with pie crust. Bake on 350 until golden brown and bubbling.

For lunch for the kids and I, I usually make almond butter and banana sandwiches with either honey in them or strawberries. Or I make a pot of noodles and top it with ROA's sensitive marinara. It has no added sugars. Or I make Vegan nuggets. 

We always eat organic cereal with almond milk, Irish oatmeal, or frozen waffles with 100% maple syrup. We are easy around these parts.

I hope you enjoy your meals this week! 

Day 1 Return Ministries: Bracelets and Jerry Cans

The air is hot in Uganda and the dirt is rich.
The food is delicious.
The people are beautiful.
The cities are loud.
Mosquito nets are a must.
The power and internet are sketchy and usually don't work.
The music and the dancing are full of life.
The laughter of the children is contagious and the desire for love and acceptance weighs heavy.
The joy they have in Jesus is captivating. Its something I envied and craved.
Uganda stole our hearts.
Mine and Wynne Elders feet after day 1. 

The first day we were in Uganda will be etched in my mind forever. The way the children ran to us. Grabbing our hands, picking out which one of us they would bond with that day. Babies, Toddlers, Grade-schoolers and teenagers all alike. Their teeth shined bright against their dark coffee colored skin and their eyes lit up full of life. Life that only Jesus can give in conditions such as these. Conditions that  would make most American cringe. But these conditions, to these children, are safe, comfortable and they represent love, Jesus and security. As the squeals rang loud in our ears and as our arms and hands began to go in different directions, I wonder, I wondered if this is what it was like for Jesus when He would sit with the children and tell them about His father. I wondered if they squealed in joy and excitement in his presence. I felt honored to bring Jesus to these children on this day. To sit with them as He would. To intertwine our fingers together. To wrap our arms around each other and just be. To just be there, present in that moment.

As I walked through the entrance of that ministry that day I felt little arms wrap tight around my waist and a head rest sweetly on my chest. I looked down to find the shining face of a girl named Sharon. Sharon was about 12-13 yrs old. Small for her age but smart and funny and she spoke English really well. She spent the whole day wrapped around my waist, clung to my arm or sitting about 3 inches from me. She never left my side. Sharon lived there. She had for a while. She is technically orphaned by has a living aunt. I watched and observed Sharon. I watched her care for babies like she was their mother. When tears would fall she would wipe them away and whisper something in their language so tenderly and calm that the tears would ease and a smile would crack. When food was served or crafts passed out she would give to those around her before taking some for herself. I asked her what kinds of things she likes to do and she told me she loves to sing. She asked if she could sing for me. It would be my pleasure. She sang to Jesus that day, sitting on a rickety bench in the slums of Kampala covered in the red Ugandan dirt. She sang so beautifully. I knew God was looking down on her in that very moment smiling and feeling blessed  that his daughter Sharon desperately loved Him and has found her hope in Him. Sharon blessed me that day more then I could ever bless her.

Our team that day shared the story of David and Goliath. I asked Sharon if she knew that story and she said "Oh yes! It is my favorite story in the Bible. King David was the best earthly King." She said in her beautiful Ugandan accent "Though he sinned and failed, He always repented to the Lord and God always saw him. No matter how bad he messed up. He had a strong heart for God. His legacy is great."

The children also performed for our team. Which honestly is my favorite. I could sit and watch that all day.

The second half of the day a little guy named Timothy, joined sweet Sharon and I. He was quiet and tender. Our team had passed out some string to make friendship bracelets. I think I sat and made 7 bracelets for him and Sharon. I twisted and knotted that string until my fingers were raw and I had blisters. We also bought the kids Sodas. You would have thought it was gold. It was hilarious! The kids shook the bottles and giggled as they fizzed down their throats. It was such a FUN treat for them and for us!

By mid day, I had to take a break from the bracelet making party. My hands hurt and my back ached. Who knew I would spend 4 hours in Kampala Uganda making bracelets with Sharon and Timothy while talking about our savior? I pray those bracelets remind them of Gods infinite love He has for them.
During my little break from the bracelets, I joined a couple of the guys on a water fetch. I really went to just observe how they got their water and where they got it from (and to secretly take a photo). A girl, who was about 14 led the way. We wandered through this 'neighborhood' to a little pipe which drained into a small trash filled creek/trench. We carried the jerry cans. I think we had 5 large cans and 5 smaller cans. Maybe a few more. It took some time to fill those cans with the trickling water. Which I think might have been rain water...I am not really sure. These cans themselves where not much cleaner then the pipe the water was coming from. But this is what they had. This is the best they could do. We crouched down and filled those mold lined cans to the brim and proceeded to carry them back to the ministry grounds. As we began to walk, the girl handed me a large yellow can of water. I looked at her and flashed her a sheepish smile. Inside I was dying. I knew I wouldn't be able to carry that water. I had never carried that much water before. I mean carrying a couple gallons of water from my car to the pantry of my house is heavy enough for me. I grabbed the can and walked. I probably didn't even walk a full quarter of a mile. But it felt like 5 miles. I was sweating, like pouring sweat, I was trembling, and my hands hurt. It was miserable for these puny American hands. I actually fought back tears. Not because it was hard. I mean, it certainly was hard. But I fought back those tears because I thought about all the women and children that have to carry these, usually 2 at a time 2 times a day, for MILES. And I couldn't carry them for 1/8th of a mile without aching in pain. (I am a girl OK...the men didn't have this problem) But it moved me. As the little Ugandan girls behind me giggled while I took "breaks" I prayed and thanked God for my fresh RO water that runs freely in my kitchen sink back at home. Its these small things that we take for granted and don't even realize it. I realized it on a deeper level that day. Standing in the red hot Ugandan dirt with the sun beating down on us. I realized how blessed we are. How incredibly blessed we are. I have had a passion for well drilling for awhile now. (remember my blood:water campaign last year??) I am thankful I got to carry that water and thankful that for a few minutes I got to feel what it is like a a very tiny level what it is like to have to fetch water. My passion for clean water grew that day. It grew deeper and I am praying for ways to be involved in restoring the global water crisis.

After we carried the water it was time to say our goodbyes. This is always the hard part. We held, kissed and hugged our sweet friends goodbye. Many of us, including myself, fighting back tears. The sweet voices of these children begging us to "come back tomorrow" still ring in my ears. The I Love You's and the prayers of blessings are etched in my memory. Timothy cried and begged me to pray for him a sponsor. You can sponsor these children. A sponsorship provides them with food, shelter, clothing and an education. the people who run this ministry (Return Ministries) and sponsorship program live passionately for Jesus.  If you are interested in sponsorship or knowing more about this ministry I want to encourage you to visit my link below. Pray and see how God would want you to bless and love these precious children. They are truly a gift. The light of this world.

Friday, June 28

Starting with a BANG

The battle is tough. The spiritual battle this is. The enemy likes to have a playground, a breeding ground. He creeps in when your guard is down, when you are tired, when you are stretched. He tries to steal things that aren't his. He tries to rob you of what is good.  He tries to distract you, discourage you and put you down. The enemy, he is tricky, sly, quick and mean. And when you head off to Africa with 15 people following you who are sold out for Jesus, you better believe he comes out full force, ready to take you down.

The morning we were set to depart for our African adventure the enemy tried creeping in. He feeds off of our insecurities and he loves it. Its a cruel joke of his. He will use anything he can and that day he thought it would be fun to use our sweet girl. The morning we left was a tough one. Out of the blue, totally off guard the enemy crept in, in a way that I wouldn't have expected. We were walking out of the door and Emme became a weeping mess. Fear had crept in and entangled her. Bless her. Fear of abandonment, a fear we have thought we overcame. I mean we have overcome. We have victory. But we saw that there are still really big struggles here and insecurities. It was the first time Phillip and I both were leaving for Africa since we brought her home in January of 2012. There was something about both of us leaving and us going to Africa that made her fear we were not coming back to her. We both cried, held her and prayed with her. We reassured her that we were indeed coming back and that we love her and her brothers and that she would have tons of fun while we were away. She held onto me tight while we drove to the airport. There is something about the airport that gives her anxiety. While we rounded up our team she clung to me tight. We hugged and kissed and cried some more. I put on a brave face for her. She needed her mommas strength. But once alone this momma cracked. I met Jesus in the bathroom of that airport and asked him to take charge and be her comfort. I called up our great friends and had them pray. Prayer changes things. Peace came over Emme that day and I praise Jesus for hearing our cries and meeting Emme right where she needed him too. 

That day, we traveled to DC to meet up with our "out of staters" and to get a good nights rest (i guess not if you are Phillip, Tim or Christian and you decide to pull an all nighter!) before our journey began. That day was heavy for me. My heart was heavy not only had Emme melted, Beckham became sick. I was already homesick and missing my kids. I am thankful for nurse friends like Wendy who will let your baby sitter come over at 11pm so she can check out little ears and know how to treat it. Thanks again Wendy! 

By that morning, the day we were leaving, all my kids came down with ear infections, sinus infections cough and everything else. They were getting multiple antibiotics and shots. Not a great way to start a mission. We had prayer warriors fighting it. Praying for healing, praying for encouragement. Its just like the enemy. I am not saying he inflicts us with illness but what he does do is feed into our insecurities and loves to play that cruel game of fear, doubt and discouragement. I battled to not let him succeed. I boarded the plane knowing I would be entering into radio silence until who knows when. I was forced to crawl into Jesus and let him take care of my kids. Sometimes I think I can do it better but now, I had to trust that He is the better parent and He will fix it. That was hard. 

The travel was long, exhausting and LONG. But excitement was our driving force. We landed in Ethiopia first and then headed to Uganda. I was beyond excited about Uganda. So much richness in that country. I was ready to dive in and get my hands dirty and love some sweet Ugandan kids. 

about 7 hours into a 15 hours flight. My Ambien was NOT working!!!!

Wednesday, June 26

I need Africa more then Africa needs me.

Have you ever heard this quote?
It is a common quote circling through and commonly used by people who are connected to the mission field in some way or who are adopting from Africa and have been there before.
It sounds cliche because of the over usage (you know like hit song that plays on the radio 20 times in one hour) but it is so true and its a good one.

There is something captivating about Africa. Africa in its whole. And each individual country. Each country inhabits their own unique brand of people and culture. I have only been to 2 African countries so I can only speak for 2 and tell you that they could not be more different. Both incredibly amazing and special yet both so very different.

And I need both. Both have changed me and helped graft me into the woman I am. Both have shifted my perspective on so many things and both have inspired me and have sparked something alive in my soul. I need both.

Phillip and I had the opportunity to take a group of 9 people from our church (Mid Cities Community Church here in Midland TX) to Uganda and Ethiopia the week of June 4th-June 17th. We partnered up with a team of 7 that was with the Man Up and Go movement led by my dear friend Wynne and her husband Stephen.

I cannot thank God enough for allowing Phillip and I to lead and be apart of this group of people, to take them to Uganda and Ethiopia, to meet the people we met there and to be apart of the stories he is writing. It was/is a tremendous blessing that I will be eternally grateful for. While it was hard and at times was the best trip ever.

I cannot wait to share the stories with you. To write them all down so I have them forever. To share them so others can be inspired to GO....To say yes! and be mobilized.

Ashley O'brien.....why are you not in this photo????