Category Archives: Magazines

In which I cry over groceries

Perhaps this is commensurate with raising five children on pretty much one income, but my husband and I are constantly revamping our budget, which is akin to squeezing water from a rock.  We’ve been married for 16 years and we took this attitude, gratefully, into our marriage.  Both of us observed, pre-marriage, our parents getting into trouble with debt, and we had independently decided, “That will not be me.”  So, we’ve always been responsible, living debt-free and at or below our means.  However, there is always room for improvement.

But… a sore spot for me is the money we have allotted for groceries.  In other words, DON’T TOUCH MY GROCERY BUDGET, BUSTER!!

Part of me thinks we spend exorbitantly on groceries;  outside our mortgage, it is our single biggest expense.  But, I shop absolutely as responsibly as possible:  I keep an ongoing shopping list, and make my final list the day I go out, combining what we need with what is on sale, and what I have a coupon for.  I typically go to 3-5 stores each week, buying items at the spot where it’s available, and at the best price.  I am always looking for ways for us to eat CLEANER, as well.  On top that, most readers know that our family has multiple special diet needs:  Three of we seven have celiac disease, plus a smattering of food allergies, while my youngest has SEVERE food-related allergies and is on a highly restrictive diet (among other things, the only meat she can eat is lamb, and “cheap lamb” is an oxymoron).

No, I'm not paid by them. I just think it's a fabulous magazine.

I do all of that on $200 a week.  To me, and perhaps to you, that sounds like a lot of money.  But, look at it this way:  That’s $1.36 per meal, per person.  My favorite food magazine, Clean Eating, often runs sections on budget family eating, touting recipes that equate to $2 per person.  If I did that, I’d be spending $294/week.

My husband, who is the Budget Master (using Mvelopes), kept mentioning here and there that I have been going way over budget on the food, that it was constantly “in the red.”  This was a matter of consternation and confusion for me, as I knew, deep in my heart, that with very rare exception, I was sticking to $200/week.

So, about six weeks ago, I got extremely specific about it — using a calculator, keeping a running total on the back of receipts, carefully noting if anything I spent was non-food, etc.  I proudly deposited my receipts on to his desk with a comment or a note, “ONE DOLLAR over budget.”  “FIVE DOLLARS UNDER budget.”  Etc.  After a month of this, for which he was genuinely thankful, he approached me, gently dropping this bomb, “You know that our grocery budget is $800 a month, right?  Not $200 a week?”

Why, NO.  No, I didn’t realize that at all.  I’d been operating for more than a year with confidence that my budget was $200, weekly.  With a sinking heart, I quickly did a little math.  $800 a month equates to $184.61 weekly ($1.26 per person, per meal).  That’s a full FIFTEEN DOLLARS less than I have consistently been spending.  Perhaps that doesn’t sound like much, but that does amount to an extra $800, yearly, over what I was supposed to be spending.  No wonder I was in the red!!

Then, I panicked.  How in the world was I going to purchase everything I needed to with even less money??  Lower-quality food?  Less meat?  Less of our already virtually non-existent luxuries??  I already don’t purchase prepared foods.  No boxed or frozen ready-made foods for this family (partly due to cost, and partly due to health)!  We don’t even buy juice, let alone soda!  The “junkiest” we get is tortilla chips!  There really wasn’t a clear spot where I could trim.

I went out shopping a couple of weeks ago on my “new” budget of $185.  After the first store, I looked at my list of remaining items, and looked at what I had already spent.  I started to cry.  Perhaps that sounds ridiculous, but I felt the weight of responsibility for providing good food for my family, submitting to a budget (and my husband), feeling already over-stretched, and now saddled with an even smaller allotment.  I just didn’t know how I was going to do it, and I felt entirely overwhelmed.

Then… into my mind — likely from the Holy Spirit — popped the numerous missionary stories I’ve been reading to my children in the past month or two:  And the Word Came with Power, In Search of the Source, Catching Their Talk in a Box…  All of those books (while not being singular examples of fabulous writing and literature; my internal editor cringes too many times while reading all of them!) are simultaneously convicting and compelling:  True stories of deeply trusting in God’s provision and timing, and even rejoicing at the opportunity to see Him show up in seemingly impossible situations.

I stopped crying.

You must read this book.

I decided to pray over my grocery-shopping expedition.  There, out loud, in my car, in the parking lot of Costco, I prayed.  I poured out my heart to my God, in sincerity and need, tears again streaking down my cheeks, asking for His help:  for wisdom in what I choose to purchase, that I would find better-than-expected deals, that I would discover ways to trim excess from my list, that I could present my receipts to my husband and that he’d be pleased (as I had, in my tears, considered just going over-budget and telling my husband, “Oh, well.  It just can’t be done.”)…  Then, though it sounded a tad stilted, contrived, and even a wee bit Pentecostal, I continued in a true act of my will and in faith and obedience, as I certainly didn’t feel it, “And, Father, I absolutely rejoice now, beforehand, in this opportunity to see You provide, to see You show up, to see You enable me to do what I feel, right now, is impossible.”

Writing this out, it sounds so stupid, that I would cry over groceries, like don’t I have something better — more serious, deeper — over which to weep, especially in light of recent, world-wide catastrophes??  But really, I felt that what was being required from me was absolutely impossible, and I felt completely stuck, and I needed His help.

No more $6.49 jumbo bottles of Cholula for us. 😦

I am now happy to report that God has come through.  Other than me not getting my weekly 6-pack of Diet Hansen’s Tangerine Lime soda, $2.49 at Trader Joe’s (which really feels like a sacrifice — foregoing my much-looked-forward-to daily treat), and not buying our family’s favorite, really expensive hot sauce, I haven’t really cut back on anything.  I’m ultra-careful, shopping with the calculator on my phone, and delaying for a week or two a purchase that might not be at the best price on that particular shopping expedition…  But, in spite of me not changing much of anything, I have come in under-budget, both times:  About four dollars that first week, and almost ten dollars the next.


So, now, I’m about to sit down with my food ads, coupon file, and list of needed items, and come up with a plan of action for shopping tonight.  Part of me is yet tempted to panic, but I shut that down as soon as it rears its ugly head, and know that God cares about me and my family, even down to the “very hairs on [our heads]“: the grocery budget.

(Perhaps I could have avoided this whole scene by whipping out my Bible and reading Matthew 6:25-34, but sometimes you really have to LIVE something before God’s revelation sinks in…)

School, writing, bread, Clean Eating, and gaining weight

  • We’re not schooling this week;  I’m devoting as much time as I can to finishing the book that I’m ghostwriting for a friend.  We’re going on three months now, and I am feeling a need to FINISH, and need devoted, multiple hours to do so.
  • In bread news:  My gluten-free vegan bread makes FABULOUS hamburger buns.  We had bacon cheeseburgers last night (at least, those of us who can have cheese did;  the rest had bacon hamburgers).  Yum.  It’s just going to take a little while to get the entire post together — there are lots of notes on ingredients and technique for the recipe, as well as a ton of pics.  Hopefully, I’ll have it done some time this week, though!
  • Along the lines of FOOD, I got my first issue of Clean Eating in the mail last Thursday.  What a fabulous magazine.  It’s like it was made-to-order for me.  I can’t wait to try the recipes!!  A year has six issues, and is about $12 for a subscription.  Well worth it, in my opinion!!  Not every recipe is gluten-free, but there is a chart in the back which lists which ones are…  And most of the other recipes are easily adjusted to make g.f.  Each issue contains lots of recipes, plus health and ingredient info and news (For instance, did you know that broccoli and other foods in the Brassica/mustard family contain a phytonutrient that has been shown to activate a natural anti-imflammatory system in the nasal passages??), book and product reviews (both grocery items and kitchen gadgets), restaurant and travel info, bits on exercise, all packaged in a very attractive, yet unpretentious package!  At LEAST, sign up for the e-newsletter!  (And, no, I’m not being paid by the mag;  I fell in love with it upon seeing an issue in my doctor’s office, so I’m just sharin’ the love.)
  • I’ve officially said, “Farewell!” to a size 6.  It was fun while it lasted.  However, I’ve found that when I’m not “forced” (out of love and necessity) to eat a highly restricted diet on my daughter Fiala’s behalf, it’s a lot harder to refuse things like jellybeans and Karamel Sutra ice cream.  🙂  I still weigh less than I have in about ten years (not including the last six months or so), but now that I know how slender I can be, size 8 feels alarmingly chubby.  Maybe if I actually go running, instead of just thinking about it, I can re-lose those pounds…

What’s in a name?

Andrée Seu, won’t you please, won’t you please, please won’t you be my neighbor?

Though usually, somewhere within her essays, she states that because of what she’s written, folks will turn their backs on her left and right (and, maybe it’s because she’s experienced — unfortunately — the “left foot of fellowship” from other believers more often than she’d care to), every time I read something of hers, I have the opposite reaction:  I have a wish that she lived next door, and she could walk right over, and I could make her a cuppa, and we could chat.  Such graciousness, intelligence, maturity, a heart for Jesus, and humor are too rarely packaged in one person.  (Kathy B., have you read much of her stuff?  You’d like her, I think.  Similar hearts, yours and hers, I believe.)

In the March 13, 2010 issue of World magazine, there was yet another commentary by Andrée that was spot on.  Just right.  I wanted to reproduce a few excerpts from her article here in my blog, but as I read and re-read it, I think, “What would I leave out?”  So, I’m going to copy the whole thing here.  (I’ve e-mailed her in the past, and she said I could do so!) World magazine must have altered their policy, because their web police asked me to not publish the full content of the essay on my blog…  You’ll have to click at the end to read the full article — PLEASE do.

So, without further ado:

What’s in a name?

Let’s care more about Jesus than our brand’s market share | Andrée Seu

I knew a woman who was allergic to dust—and just about everything else. Elaine was a veritable canary in a coal mine: Put her in a house with any spore count that registers and you could skip the take-home test kits.

I have developed a hypersensitivity of a different kind. I sense when Jesus is slipping away from a place. I know that sounds prideful, but the only reason for my acuteness is that I slipped away for decades.

My condition manifested not long ago at a formal seminary dinner. Conversations around the table broached every subject under the sun but Jesus. The after-dinner speaker waxed of venerable “traditions.” Something wasn’t sharp somehow.

I don’t think I’m imagining this. At a banquet of truckers for Christ, I knew right off the bat that it was all about Jesus and not about the organization; the excitement for Him was palpable. You don’t know off-white until you see white next to it.

Meanwhile, back at the seminary affair…

Read the rest here.

Control that tongue!

Andree Seu

With the author’s gracious permission, here is the best article/story/encouragement/admonition I think I have ever read on the call to obedience in the face of charges of “legalism”.   (Originally published in the Oct 10, 2009 issue of World Magazine, written by Andrée Seu.)

Brothers, can we talk about legalism? I wrote a blog sharing that God is teaching me to be careful with my mouth, and that there are no such things as inconsequential words. Then I was knocked off kilter with a thread of comments charging legalism. Unless we settle this question right away, I’m afraid we won’t get anywhere.

Yes, we rest in the grace of Christ. And it is a costly grace, and costly discipleship does it require. It is a grace secured at great price, and it asks, in return, for all we have. It is a grace to relax in as regards our secure eternal destination, but a grace to strive in as regards our efforts to live for Him: “Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue” (2 Peter 1:5). It is a grace with plenteous forgiveness when we sin, but it does not logically follow from this that it is an iota less serious to sin.

I have said “a grace to strive in as regards our efforts to live for Him,” but it’s not even so much a striving as a yielding to the Spirit moment by moment rather than to the flesh.

Sure, we should always be careful of creeping legalism. The Apostle Paul was the first to say so—and also the first to command, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths” (Ephesians 4:29). In the same letter famous for his anti-legalist preaching, Paul gives counsel like “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). In Acts 15, the classic anti-legalism text, the apostles end by asking the church to comply with three bits of extraneous advice. They saw no inconsistency.

One reader wrote, “If I could control my tongue, then I wouldn’t need a Savior.” Well, we do have a Savior, and He commands us to control our tongues. The grace is available (2 Peter 1:3).

Or has the doctrine of the sovereignty of God swallowed up human responsibility? A history professor once told me about an era so afraid of Pelagianism that the church became paralyzed. In the end you couldn’t even say “I need to trust God” because there was an “I” in it. You were left with ludicrous statements like “I need to trust God to do the trusting for me.”

If exhortation to godly speech is rebuffed as incipient legalism, then all preaching is impossible. Then your pastors are all legalists when they instruct you to any change of attitude or behavior. If the charge of legalism is the knee-jerk response to all advice, it puts a chill on everyone who has a word from the Lord for the building up of the saints—though Paul spent all of 1 Corinthians 14 urging such mutual edifications.

I have learned in the last few years that reading the Bible a lot and praying constantly are secrets to a sweeter communion with God. I have learned that the Bible’s commands are not glum duties but surprising doorways into intimacy with God. I am eager to share this. Must I refrain from testifying lest it be construed as legalism? Doesn’t Paul himself say to immerse ourselves in Scripture (1 Timothy 4:13) and to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)? Is he a legalist? Or does he get a special pass because he was inspired?

I have a good friend (may you all have such a friend as this) who exhorts me fervently to godly speech. He just as often exhorts me to a more confident embracing of the assurance of God’s unfailing love. And I will tell you that I love the one as much as the other. I love to be reminded of God’s covenant which binds me to Him like a strong cable. But I find it just as invigorating—and not at all burdensome—to be spurred on to greater faithfulness. Covenant is covenant, after all: a pledge of faithfulness between parties; initiated by God, to be sure, but with my own treaty stipulations.

We follow the Lamb wherever He goes (Revelation 14:4). We “overcome” (Revelation 2:3). This is seeking God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind and all our strength. This is not legalism but the Christian life.

If you have a question or comment for Andrée Seu, send it to

I heart World Magazine

I just sent a letter to the editor of World Magazine.

I was so thrilled when my Stepdad purchased a subscription of World for my husband and me. I read each issue cover to cover. (The subscription is in my husband’s name, but I’m the one who consumes it!) I very much appreciate your mix of national, world, and Church news, human interest, a broad spectrum of entertainment information, and essays; I completely enjoy the format and multiple focuses that you employ. And, it’s all produced in a HIGH QUALITY manner, with a Christian perspective, yet one that is never parroting a particular platform, nor denigrating those with opposite viewpoints.

I have given away almost every back issue from this past year; each person to whom I’ve given a copy is invariably pleasantly surprised that there is a news magazine with an outlook such as World’s. (I know that my gifts to others has resulted in at least one subscription. I’m happy to spread the word!)

The August 1, 2009 issue is my favorite so far. Every article on every topic read as relevant, powerful, important, interesting, and insightful. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I particularly appreciated the profile of Senator Jim DeMint, and the article about urban planning. Too often, people who are very conservative are firebrands; it was a JOY to read of Sen. DeMint’s humble, yet principled efforts on behalf of South Carolina and our whole country. (I now have a quote from Sen. DeMint, gleaned from your article, on my blog.) My husband’s job is in the homebuilding industry as a home designer, and I am a former architecture major; it was extremely interesting, and very encouraging, to read, from a Christian perspective, what will hopefully be the way on for city planning.

My lone (and small) quibble with World magazine is that sometimes, Marvin Olasky’s articles are bloated and poorly edited. Obviously, I very much enjoyed his article on urban planning, as described above, but in general, I think that as editor-in-chief, he is perhaps given a bit too much leeway, and his works would benefit from someone(s) sifting through his stories to give them better focus.

Thank you very much for all your efforts to produce such a stellar, worthwhile product.

Nature Deficit Disorder — An Article in USA Weekend!!

A little more than a year ago, I read a FANTASTIC book that confirmed some of my suspicions, and encouraged me to get my kids out MORE into nature.  I learned that it’s not just a “good thing,” but that it’s vital to their development.  (I blogged about the book several times.)  The book is called Last Child in the Woods:  Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, written by Richard Louv.

In our Sunday paper, there’s a weekly “magazine” insert called USA Weekend.  I was *thrilled* to see Mr. Louv participate in an interview and article about his book, and the research that went into it, and the effects that the book is having.  (Click on the above link, or on the picture to read it for yourself.)


No, I don’t own a “Free Tibet” tee-shirt

I read an fantastic article, and would love to link to it here so that others can enjoy it, but I have searched and searched, and cannot find any links.  To my absolute shock, it doesn’t even seem that there have been any other blog posts about it. 

It was a fabulous read in every way:  well-written, thoughtful, picturesque, compelling, interesting, well-balanced, tense in spots, lush in others.  It’s also Really Long, which rather dismayed me on the outset (I guess I like my books long and my magazine articles short).  But, after reading for a while, was very pleased that I had still a lot more of the author’s story to read.

It was published in the November 2007 issue of National Geographic Adventure, which should still be in stores.  The story is entitled “Fast Track to Tibet,” and is written by Scott Anderson, photographed by Mark Leong.  Googling Anderson’s name, it appears that he has long been both an explorer/writer and war correspondent.  I’ll be keeping an eye out for further articles by him;  I think it’s likely that I’d enjoy just about anything he writes.

I love travel.  I love adventure.  I love stories of remote, far-flung locations and the tribes that inhabit them.  I also love the concept of mission work, and heartily give my blessings to the many people who have sacrificed their lives (sometimes literally) for the sake of sharing the Gospel with those remote peoples.  However, I’m really saddened by the steady homogenization of the world, where one can now find American restaurants and clothing brands in the most unlikely places. 

Not to suggest, at all, that missionaries are to blame for this, but until as recently as 25 years ago, many American missionaries were too little concerned for preserving the unique cultural heritage of the groups to whom they ministered, seeming to seek to Americanize them, as if that were analogous with Christian conversion.  I am thrilled that my older boys’ hearts are stirred with the idea of mission work, and I’d be absolutely thrilled if they became penniless missionaries as adults.  In conjunction with our homeschooling work (which, produced by Sonlight, has a decided bent towards missions), we’ve had many, many discussions about the idea of the delicate balance of introducing the Gospel (and helping people eliminate Godless — especially demonic) practices, yet preserving their arts and culture (which, sometimes, is tied to demonic practices).  (By the way, a fantastic book which combines — I hate this word;  it’s overused — cultural sensitivity, global social studies, and the Gospel is called Window on the World.) 

Back to the magazine:  I’ve seen National Geographic Adventure in doctors’ offices before, and recently took a free trial subscription, which I will pay (it’s only $15, after all) to continue.  My interest in it, though, is likely different than most its readers.  The magazine seems to target frequently-travelling childless American environmentalists who routinely drop $3-4K (or much more) per person on their off-the-beaten-path adventures, which they photograph with their $2K cameras, then come home and brag about how cool they are.  That’s not me.  Except the cool part.  😉

The article hit all the right spots for me.  It’s about the newly-opened train route that runs from Beijing, China to Lhasa, Tibet, which the Chinese government constructed to the tune of US$4 billion.  The author takes both a broad and intimate look at the people, ideas, and history involved with and along the train tracks, the majority Han Chinese, the minority Tuzu Chinese, Tibetan nationalists, city-dwellers, farmers, the young, the old, the tourists, the govenerment agencies, and his own personal ideas…  In all of it, he attempts to be reasonable and balanced, and never veers into preachiness (which many of the articles in National Geographic Explorer, including the Machu Picchu cover story, devolve into).  Into all of the story — which really, mostly, sounds like a travelogue-style story — he weaves accounts of his personal adventures and experiences, like getting accidentally taken in by a Chinese man and his wife after he got lost in the city of Pingyao, and the story of meeting the very unusual farming family of a secretly-nationalist Tibetan young man.

One of my favorite paragraphs/runon sentences/thoughts, reflecting on China’s economic boom:

In this, I was suddenly struck by the parallels between China’s experience and that of the United States.  Obviously the two countries have taken very different paths — one laden with too much history, perhaps;  the other with too little — but both have arrived at a remarkably similar juncture, a kind of collective cultural amnesia where the past is little more than a commodity, its relics preserved if they can be marketed in some way, or torn down and replaced if they can’t.

Another favorite part of the story was where Scott Anderson the foibles of trying to be a polite and gracious guest, while his hosts are plying him with stomach-turning “treats”:

Yak-butter tea is a hard taste to describe, really — an extremely oily, musky, salty consomme with hints of sour milk might come close, if that’s any help — and mindful of the first golden rule of its drinking, which holds that one should never make the mistake of letting it cool, I started out by taking great gulps in hope of just getting it over with.  Unfortunately, this tactic was foiled by the young girl, yak-butter-tea termos in hand, who immediately refilled my cup each time. 

Well.  Anyways.  The article is an absolute pleasure to read, and well worth the price of an issue.          

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