Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

My first Wordless Wednesday post.

These photos are my life. My reality. My little surprises. My twins.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Menu Monday

Mom of 5 (thats me!), went to work full time in June.  That's JUNE! The month school got out and our daughter returned home from her freshman year of college. JUNE where DH had a semester off before the final push towards graduation. And yes, JUNE where even the other four kids were released from the confines of school yard only to wander aimlessly between the pool and my pantry.   Yep, everyone got home the same time I went to work. So ......  depending on how one looks at it you could say I have the world's best or worst timing. 

That said, Menu Monday has been a wee bit challenging but no worries! I know eventually we'll find our groove. For summer I tried something different. I relinquished planning menus and transferred that responsibility to my family. 

I ask each member to pick a meal they like, I make a corresponding grocery list and DH (bless his heart) does the shopping. Then each evening, who ever choose the meal for that day, would begin dinner prep for me and in return, I teach them how to prepare that meal. 

It's been great! I get some one on one time with the kids, they learn how to do a little cooking and I'm not slaving away all day and all night! 

Now more than ever I treasure family dinner. It can be a struggle to make it happen but it's worth it as this article from The Atlantic recently reminded me. The stats don't change, folks. Breaking bread together is a tremendous way to keep ourselves mentally, AND physically nourished!

 Here's what we had to eat this week with links!

Also, as always, I'm linking my Menu Monday up with orgjunkie. She has the largest linkup I've
seen! Its a great resource if you love gathering recipes.

Sunday - Chili Sauce Chicken, Roasted Potatoes, Broccoli Salad & Cheddar Biscuits
Monday - Blue Cheese Burgers & Potatoes on the grill
Tuesday - Fettuccine Alfredo 
Wednesday - (Family Fav!!) Cheeseburger Wraps & Tator Tots
Friday - Chicken Patty Sandwiches & Macaroni & Cheese

Be sure to follow me on Pinterest! All our Tribe approved recipes are on my 'For My Recipe Box' linked below. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Does God Use People?

Image courtesy of
Simon Howden/
I used to believe something.

I used to believe that the pain or suffering I experienced was allowed by God for the primary reason of helping others in similar circumstances.

I used to believe God wanted to create opportunities for his love and mercy and grace to be on display therefore, sometimes, one of His children had to be made into an example. And if you happened to be one of those children, going through a difficult time, rejoice! because "God is using you!"

Except, think of this: I don't treat my own children that way. Can you imagine if I withheld help from my son when he is struggling to learn algebra so that his sisters can learn a lesson about the value of studying?

That doesn't seem right.

Granted, I can admit that God probably doesn't parent like me, yet my sensibilities just won't let me get past the notion; does God really use people?

Recently, as our 12+  years in ministry was coming to an end I had a personal crisis of faith. Essentially much of what I had constructed about God came crumbling down as my present experiences failed to match my previous beliefs.

It was a very dark, confusing and lonely time.

While in the midst of that journey, a well meaning loved one said to me, "Take heart! Watch and see! God is using you and someday you'll be able to help others!"

While I have no doubt these words were meant to be an encouragement to me, the truth is that upon hearing that I became very, very angry.

If my dark times could help save someone grief during their hard times, did that mean God loved someone else more then me? How could He do that? And if He does operate that way, where was my person? Where was someone to walk beside me? How come He didn't send someone to lessen my pain with their stories of God's goodness?

Huh? Huh? Huh?

Just the other day, a dear friend of mine revealed over a cup of coffee that she's not so sure about God anymore. As the tears spilled down her cheeks she spoke of her fears:  afraid her church community will reject her, afraid she'll lose her faith-based employment, afraid that she's alone.

As I listened,  I nodded and I knew just as surely as my name is Stephanie that the story of my experience walking through similar questions would bring hope to my friend. 

But wait! Don't I reject the notion that God uses me?
Yet didn't my pain provide a nugget of comfort my friend?
While it may appear so listen closely....
Pain exists. Period.
And I have a will. I, you, we, probably have more agency in our lives that we exercise.
It's true, I don't believe God inserted troubling times in me for the benefit of someone else. I'd like to think He loves me too much to use me. I'm not a puppet in some universal production of grace. 
And the more I think about this I don't see that using people is even really in His nature. In fact, His very name, Emmanuel, means God with us. Not God uses us or God forces us. 
God with us.
I'm not something to be used.
I'm a soul.
I'm on a journey and He promises to be with me.
And He promises to be with my friend.

As  the very words of my journey tumbled from my lips that day, I was painstakingly aware that, by all appearances, it seemed as if my story was for her benefit.
Yet I am certain I had not been used.
How? Instead - and this is the best way I can describe it - I had an offering.
I chose to offer her my story.
As the two of us sat there, broken and vulnerable, sharing things we've never even dared speak aloud, I knew Emmanuel was with us.
In that moment, sharing my story with her, didn't feel like it had a predetermined purpose. Instead it felt like the most precious, sacrificial offering I could give. I humbly and nervously identified with her pain, shared my own and was utterly aware that no one did this to me - I gave it away.

It was my choice what I did with my story. It has been my choice all along. What kind of character will I be? How many hurdles can I overcome? And what, if anything, will I do when I meet other sojourners finding their way?
The choice is mine. This is my journey. The pages are being written. That's why it's my quest to write a better story. 

p.s. thanks to Sarah Bessey who's piece "In Which God Does Not Want to Use Me" and Dave Henson's piece on Patheos "I am Not a Drug: Why God Isn't in the Business of Using People" for their thoughts on this same subject. This particular idea had been churning in my head for awhile. Reading their thoughts gave me the bravery needed to put my fingers to the keyboard. 

What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear ... Does God use people? Have you been used by God? Was it a good experience?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Menu Monday - 3 Steps to the Best Ice Cream Sandwich You'll Eat all Summer

Happy Menu Monday!

Three weeks ago I went from a part time working mom to a full time working mom! As I’m working through that transition I’ve put a few things on hold, including writing. So before the cob webs appear on my blog I thought I could at least help my readers out and share with you one of my family's favorite summer treats. Make them and your kids might think your awesome! Maybe ......

Recently I made a double batch of the Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe but I was sure to set some cookies aside for this little bit o’heaven.

To Make Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches:

  1. Take your favorite cookie and spread peanut butter on the bottom.
  2. Top with a smidge of your favorite flavor ice cream.
  3. Smoosh another cookie and make a sandwich.

Place in freezer and viola! Your family will think you are ah-mazing!

P.S. You don't have to make cookies from scratch - the refrigerated cookie dough works very nicely for these!


For more of my family’s favorite tried and true recipes check out my Pinterest Board
but also, if you like collecting recipes check out and her Menu Plan Monday link up!
It’s the biggest I’ve seen!
I linked up too!

Thanks for reading and keep writing a better story! 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Change is Good

When you’re a new mom, especially for the first time, those first few months of your infant's life seem to last forever. Literally. When you are sleep deprived and up to your eyeballs in dirty diapers and burp cloths you absolutely cannot imagine life beyond the immediate demands of a newborn.

Somehow you survive those early months and transition into the next challenging phase of parenthood; toddlers. Temper tantrums, time outs and potty training take a relentless toll on moms. It is only with a steeled determination to survive that we approach each day hoping, fingers crossed, that we'll make it across the finish line that is bedtime.

Blink and it's the first day of kindergarten, the day that mother's weep in awe wondering how it is that the longest five years of their lives have passed so quickly.

And it doesn't stop. School days lead to teenagers, which precedes driver's licenses, graduation, college and empty nests. This is the way it is.

Gloria Ruben, author of the Happiness Project says this about parenting; “The days are long and the years are short”. I'm not sure if truer words have ever been spoken.

As a mother who’s bore witness to the many seasons, and subsequent challenges, of parenting I can attest; time moves on, our hearts will never be prepared and yet, somehow it's all okay.

I often find it amazing that we humans despise change so much for our entire lives and even our environment is in consistent transition. We age, the planet spins, seasons come and go as do jobs, houses and even relationships.

I hope, the older I get, the more open I am to change. I've recently discovered that when I stop fighting against change I'm freer to appreciate the memories as they are unfolding. Unfortunately, this understanding may only come with age. I think that's why experienced mothers tend to encourage the newer moms to cherish the early years. I now understand what that change means.

When I was a young mom I remember despising words of encouragement about the future. It was unfathomable back then to think I might miss the hard work parenting young children requires. When you're in the throes of discipline and laundry and field trips you can only see what needs to happen today, so much so that we fail to notice the future creeping in.

Bifocals = change
It wasn't my fault though. I could only see as far as my eyes could see. Back then, there was only time before me. Now, I've noticed (with the help of my new bifocals) that there is time behind me as well.

I think change is good for us. It keeps us on our toes, creates opportunities for gratitude and makes memories. Perhaps, instead of despising the future or mourning the past, we should learn to accept change and therefore be free to live and love in the moment. Collect moments, remember them and create them because parenting, like anything, will change. Enjoy it while it lasts. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so. That's why.

For 18 years Stephanie Sikorski has been a Parent Educator joyfully serving local families and providing early childhood activities. But like all things, jobs change and this is her last submission to the Review Atlas. She wants to extend a heartfelt thanks to the staff who have allowed her space and the readers who have supported her work. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Sweet Bouquet

My house is littered this post Mother’s Day weekend with hand picked bouquets and crayon cards of adoration. It’s simple and it’s sweet. It’s also age appropriate. However, I have since discovered that not everyone feels the same way.

I watched recently as my children entered school one morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed, when a classmate joined the line with a fistful of dandelions. Proudly he presented his bouquet to his teacher. She graciously accepted the gift, patted his head and walked her class down the hall.
I smiled at the gesture until a parent leaned towards me, having witnessed the same gesture, and said, “I never accept dandelions! I mean it sounds harsh but kids have to learn they are really weeds. Right?"

I was appalled.

You see here’s the great thing about children: they are children, innocent and full of life. Children are so trusting and simple. They have the ability we’ve long lost as adults – to see the beauty in something so common.

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