Today's post comes in response to a reader's request:

"l would enjoy hearing ideas for simple, quick lunches. We're just settling in to a new home in a new country, and even with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, l find myself struggling to come up with good lunch ideas that don't require an hour or more of cooking time."

Can anyone relate to this problem? I sure can! It seems like cooking is always, always more time-consuming because there are no "instant" options available. Everything has to be made from scratch and it just takes time! So how do you overcome this obstacle in the middle of a busy day? How do you balance lunch preparation with household responsibilities, homeschooling, ministry demands and so on?

I wish I could give you a long list of menu plans that could be set on the table in 20 minutes or less. Unfortunately, I don't have such a list! Instead, I'll give a few suggestions that help me streamline our lunch time.

1) Plan ahead. Don't waste valuable time trying to decide what to make and figuring out if you have all the ingredients you need. Be sure you know what's for lunch at breakfast time, or even better, by supper time the night before. Then you can . . .

2) Prepare ahead. When you're chopping veggies for supper, also chop what you'll need for lunch the next day and then put them in the fridge overnight. You can also cook two-meals-worth of meat in the evening, so that your meat is already cooked at lunch time. Or (what I prefer to do) you can take one afternoon to cook up a BIG pot of meat and divide it into meal-size portions to put in the freezer. Use as needed to throw together a quick casserole or soup, fried rice, etc.

3) Make use of locally-available "fast food." Every location is different, but where we lived in West Africa we could pick up a bowl of ready-to-eat rice & beans or rice & stew for just pennies more than we could make it ourselves. What a great way to save time in the kitchen!

4) Eat leftovers. I often purposely make plenty of extra food at suppertime, to serve the next day or a few days later for lunch. Of course, it took me a bit to learn how to warm up leftovers on the stovetop instead of in a microwave, but it can be done!

5) Eat sandwiches. If you can't buy bread locally, you'll have to make it yourself ahead of time, so this may not be a helpful suggestion. Most likely lunchmeat and sliced cheese are not available (or at least affordable) in your area, but there are lots of other kinds of sandwiches! I like to make egg salad, tuna salad, or chicken salad. You can use canned "Spam"-type meat to make an imitation ham salad. One of my favorite CHEAP sandwiches is Bean Spread (recipe below). You can also make fried egg sandwiches or tomato/veggie sandwiches with no meat at all!

Bean Sandwich Spread

1c. dried beans, cooked until very soft (you will want to do this ahead of time, maybe when cooking supper the night before)

1/3 c. mayo

1 Tbsp mustard (prefferably brown mustard)

1 tsp ketchup

1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)

Dash black pepper

1/4 c. onion, very finely chopped

1/4 c. green pepper, very finely chopped

Mash beans with a potato masher while still warm. Cool completely. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Serve on bread or crackers. Best served cold!


So help us out, ladies! What do you do for fast lunches? We need your ideas!

Our guest post this morning comes from Jennifer Yzbick. Let's take a few minute to consider WHO God is and how that should affect our lives today!

"Cease striving and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations." Ps. 46:10

"Sing to the Lord a new song for He has done wonderful things, His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him." Ps. 98:1

"Exalt the Lord our God and worship at His footstool. Holy is He." Ps. 99:5

I am so short sighted. I don't know how I continually walk the same path, but I do. I sing, I rejoice, I give thanks to the Lord. I rejoice in all that he has done and I am filled to overflowing. I repent and weep, I am overcome with emotion and humbled. I lay prostrate before Him.

Then, evening comes.

My children scream and refuse to nap, my husband forgets to take out the trash, dinner i bland and burnt, my phone overflows with teenage girl problems of doubt and worry, yet another person wants to come over before bedtime, and I am ready to scream. what began as a joyful, Spirit-filled day ended tired and defeated because somewhere in the midst of it all I became god.

HE is to be feared.

HE is to be praised.

HE is above all peoples,all nations, all gods.

HE can do all things.

HE, HE, HE . . .

Somewhere, somehow, I began to carry a burden not mine to carry. I took on responsibility that was not mine. In the course of the day I began to believe that my children's behavior meant I was failing as a mother and teacher. My husband's forgetfulness something else that I had failed to remedy. My lack of culinary skills just more proof of my deficiency. Others' spiritual success was clearly mine to mold and shape. And so, I end the day defeated and lacking joy. Angry with myself and frustrated with God.

Then, as I reflected on the day and this cycle of success and failure, I realized the faulty logic that led to this defeat. When others in my sphere of influence fail, I take it as my own fault and failure. Now wait a second . . . somehow I believed that I was responsible for my behavior, my husband's behavior, my children's behavior, and my disciple's behavior. Well, if that is the case ... I must be God.

Wow, I had to pause for a while to let this truly sink in.

Here I was, a missionary and church planter in a foreign land. Those back home would probably classify me as humble and with a servant heart. I am sure in the eyes of many, I am a super-Christian . . . and sometimes I believe it myself. So imagine my surprise when I realized that my faulty theology left me trying to play God. Not so humble any way you cut it.

How did this happen? And how did this happen so quickly?

As I wrestled with God a bit on this I realized a few things:

1) I had a small view of God.

2) I stopped being thankful.

3) I failed to worship.

My small view of God led to an aggrandized view of myself. As I stopped focusing on His power and might, I stopped being thankful. In ceasing to thank God, I began to believe I was responsible for the good and the bad that was happening around me, and so I ceased to worship.

That's it folks. Sad but true.

So where does that leave me? Where does that leave us? (Because I don't think I am the only one who steps into this cycle.)

1) Put God in His rightful place. God is bigger and greater and more awesome than anything and anyone we can possibly imagine. We need to stop having such a small view of god. He is able. Whatever the situation, the problem, the pain, HE IS ABLE.

2) Repent. Wanting to be god is no small thing. Repent, acknowledging our pride and trust that He is faithful and will forgive. He is so gracious.

3) Reflecting on God's bigness, power and forgiveness, choose to worship Him. Sing to the Lord, worship His holy name, thank Him and praise Him because no matter the season or storm, HE IS GOD.

We may be tempted to step into this cycle again. Let us remember to praise Him, let us be sober in Spirit and ask that He would reveal to us when we are trying to play god. Let us also encourage each other as we learn to walk by the Spirit. There are no super-Christians, but there is one SUPER God.

Our family has been in transition a LOT lately. Actually, my little ones have hardly known anything else. In the first two years of my older son's life, we moved seven times. In the last eight months since leaving W. Africa, we have lived in 4 different houses and taken four cross-country trips, never staying in one place more than 3 months.

When people find out how much we have moved and traveled, they often make comments about the children. Comments like "It's good that little ones adjust so quickly!" and "I'm sure all that transition is much harder on you than on them." or "As long as they have Mommy and Daddy, they're happy!" I've heard these statements, or similar ones, over and over again.

But honestly, they're not always true. Usually the people talking have never moved their family overseas - often never moved their family at all! They don't realize that transition really IS hard on little people. Our toddlers and preschoolers don't understand what's happening. They don't know what's coming next. They don't have a good sense of time, and don't know whether we're just on a trip or moving permanently. They don't know why things are happening or the reasons behind the changes. All they know is that their safe, comfortable world has completely turned upside down, and it's very scary and unsettling.

Certain personalities and also certain ages/stages have a harder time handling changes than others. It also seems that multiple transitions close together - or a prolonged period of transition - are much harder to handle. (We feel that way as adults, too, right?!) We found that our 3-year-old did an excellent job of handling our first move from Africa to the States, and the first cross-country trip that we took soon afterwards. However, it seemed that the second move a short time later - although only a few miles away - was just one transition too many, and we suddenly had a LOT of emotions and difficult behavior to deal with.

So what can we do to help our little people through transitions? I certainly don't have it all figured out, and would love to hear your ideas! But here are a few things that have helped us survive:

1) Talk about EVERYTHING. Even a very young child that is not talking yet can understand more than you think. Prepare them for what is coming. Explain where you're going and what to expect. Of course how extensively you do this, and how far ahead of time, depends on the age of your child! But we have found a HUGE difference in how our boys handle a new situation when we explained everything ahead of time. Tell them what the sequence of events will be. Tell them about new people they will meet and new things they will encounter. Tell them what kind of behavior you expect from them. And then remind them as you go along - "Remember when I told you about my good friend Nancy? This is the lady I was talking about! Can you give Nancy a hug?" or "Now we're going down the long tunnel to the airplane. Remember we talked about this tunnel? In just a minute we will see the airplane!" Do this with your 18-month-old too, not just your four-year-old. It WILL help!

kids transition

2) Give them grace, but keep your boundaries. Emotionally, your children are going through a lot, and you need to give them extra grace. You may see behavior that you've never seen before. Don't be shocked or angry, and don't be too hard on them. Remember they don't know what's going on, they're out of their comfort zone, they're scared, tired, hungry . . . give them GRACE and lots of love. But at the same time, remember that for little people, boundaries equal security. So don't just throw all your rules and expectations to the wind! Be reasonable - keep your expectations lower than normal - but don't add to their insecurity by allowing behavior that they KNOW is wrong.

3) Stay calm. I know this is easier said than done, because let's face it, transition is stressful for all of us! But we all know that children sense our stress. Even infants seem to know when Mommy is upset. Your impatience, anxiety, nervousness, or frustration will only add to your child's insecurity. Make a point of keeping your face pleasant and your voice calm, so that you can be a safe shelter for your little ones.

My fourth suggestion has to do with routines, but it's such a big one that I'm going to save it for part 2 of this article! in the meantime, do you have any tips or ideas to add to my list? Share in the comments below!

I haven't been sure how to write this post, and so I've been puting it off for a week or more already. But I do want to continue TCKmom and it can't continue without new content . . . so at last I sit down at my keyboard determined to find the words to explain the absence of the last 2+ months.

I want to share a little bit of our story. Not as an excuse, but because maybe it can help someone else. Maybe you can learn from our mistakes, or if you're already struggling, maybe you can be encouraged that you're not alone.

Over a year ago, while we were still overseas, my husband went through burnout & depression. It was a dark time for both of us. For months, it felt like we were barely surviving. We clung to the hope that returning to the States and having a time of rest would fix everything . . . but it didn't. As our time in the US went on, and we realized that we wouldn't be able to return to our foreign home as planned, I became as depressed as my husband. We knew we needed help but didn't know where to turn. It felt like a very hopeless time.

We finally found a counseling program for hurting overseas workers and enrolled for the next available session. It was a very intense time, dealing with a lot of emotions and issues, but those three weeks changed our lives! As my husband described it - there's light at the end of the tunnel now. We turned around and realized that the light was behind us and now there's hope - we're headed in the right direction!

There is so much I could share from the experiences of the past year or more, and maybe over time, I will. For now, I'd like to encourage you in one of the biggest things that might have prevented our situation.

PLEASE TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. As a wife and mother, you have a demanding job. As a wife and mother living in a foreign culture, you have a gigantic, overwhelming job. Don't try to be superwoman. Don't try to do it all.

1) Take breaks. Take a few little breaks throughout the day, to breathe, to pray, to read a few inspirational paragraphs or smell a flower. Take a bigger break once a week, to recharge your emotional "batteries" by reading a good book, enjoying a hobby, journaling, drawing, or whatever energizes you. And please, as a family, be sure to take regular vacation time to focus on each other and get away from work for a while. Breaks will keep you from burnout.

2) Lower your expectations. Evaluate what are the real priorities and let the other things go. Don't be afraid to say no.

3) Don't feel guilty. We often feel like we shouldn't take time for ourselves, shouldn't do things for ourselves. But what do they tell you when flying - in case of emergency, put the oxygen mask ON YOURSELF FIRST before you help dependent passengers. You have to get the oxygen you need - spiritually and emotionally - in order to keep going for those who are depending on you. It's not selfish. It's essential. Identify your needs, make sure you're doing what you need to so that those needs are being met, and don't feel guilty about it. Take care of yourself.

And lastly - if you're already struggling, if it feels like you're trapped, if life is dark and hopeless, if you're not sure how to survive the next week - please get help. THERE IS HOPE. Don't keep struggling on alone. Don't tell yourself that you just need to pray harder and be more spiritual. There is help available. Please find it.

 Blessings to each of you dear ladies! Thank you for being patient as TCKmom has been on hold through this time. New content is on the way!