Reflective Meandering

Thoughts on faith, people, politics, travel, and transition.

Southwestern Stuffed Bell Peppers

Growing up, my mom would make stuffed bell peppers on occasion; this is my spin-off of her recipe…

Ingredients:

2 Cups of Cooked White or Brown Rice

1/2 Can of Corn

1/2 Can of Black Beans, Drained

1/4 cup of Italian Bread Crumbs

1 Egg

1 lb of Lean Ground Beef

5 Bell Peppers

1 Small Gold Onion

1 tsp Chili Powder

1 tsp Cumin

1 TBSP Garlic Salt

Optional Toppings: One Packet of Velveeta Cheese Sauce or your favorite grated cheese

Instructions:

Cook the rice first and allow it to cool.

While the rice is cooking, cut the tops off of 4 bell peppers and clean them out, then place small cuts in the feet of the bell pepper, which will allow excess fat from the beef to drain while cooking. Set these 4 bell peppers aside and chop 1 bell pepper and the small onion and place what you’ve chopped into your mixing bowl (once chopped these can be sauteed and allowed to cool before adding to the mix, but that’s not necessary).

Put 1/2 cup of the cooked and cooled rice into the mixing bowl; add the ground beef, followed by the chili powder, cumin, garlic salt, bread crumbs, the egg, and the cans of corn (drained) and black beans (drained and rinsed) and mix everything together with your hands. Then, stuff the 4 cleaned bell peppers with this mixture and place the bell peppers in a 9×9 pan.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until cooked well. The time may depend on how large the bell peppers are, and thus, how thick the meat mixture is.

Immediately after removing from the oven and checked to make sure the meat is cooked through, add the cheese topping.

Hint: The remainder of the corn, black beans, and rice can be heated for side dishes.

Side note: Fresh avocado would also pair nicely with this dish.

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Late Again

The hubs and I are different in a lot of ways, but one of the most profound is in how we view time. I don’t like to be late. I was raised in a military home and was taught that you’re not on time unless you’re five minutes early. The hubs is Latin American. If you know anything about these two cultures, the military culture and the Latin American culture, you know they deal with time VERY differently.

So, needless to say, time is one of the biggest things we argue about. He is late home from work and I have dinner on the table, or has told me multiple times that he is leaving work, only for me to find out that he ended up in a conversation with his co-workers that held him up, you name it, if it’s about time and tardiness, we’ve argued about it.

Side note and confession: the get-home-time-problem is probably exacerbated by the fact that I am home alone all day and cannot wait until the hubs gets home so that I can share in life, communicate, laugh, and cuddle. We are borderline co-dependent in that way.

At any rate, just last night, after Life Group with other married couples from our church, we were talking about last Friday, and how I could be more patient with the hubs in his lateness and how he could be, well, more on time. It was a wonderful conversation where I felt that we really committed to meet in the middle, to compromise.

And, less than 24 hours later, Satan brings our differences to the forefront yet again.

He texted me in the afternoon that he would leave at 6:30. That’s a relatively normal time. I wasn’t prepared for normal though, because he’d told me he would be late coming home this week. So, I hopped in the shower and quickly started dinner. It was about 6:55 pm when I put the chicken in the oven. It only takes 30 minutes to cook.5 minutes later, I got a text message saying his boss diverted him for 30 minutes and he was running late. Then, I got another text at 7:30 pm. He had been diverted by another co-worker and then a call from his brother and he was just leaving. He would be home an hour later than anticipated by his text just a few hours earlier, and dinner would be cold.

Didn’t we just talk about this? Didn’t I just tell him how it makes me feel when he reschedules on me multiple times? I texted him that he made me sad and went into our room to cry. I went into our room to mourn the days that I felt like I mattered, like I was important, and like I was at the top of his priority list.

Then, I thought about grace.

Boy do I hate being gracious. How many times had the Lord been gracious to me, giving me what I hadn’t deserved? How many times have I been commanded to forgive my neighbor? Seventy times seven? For the same thing? Over and over again? Ugh! While I had no desire to forgive his untimeliness yet again, I realized 1. I do not help our situation by sulking, 2. I can only hope for as much grace as I’m willing to give, so I need to learn to give it in abundance (I need it in abundance!), and 3. I am commanded, not encouraged, to forgive. Commanded. Seventy times seven times.

Fine. Today, it is my turn to forgive and forget, to show a little grace to the one who matters most in my life. Today, I’m not going to go for a run right when he gets home — I’m not going to pout or sulk. Today, I will love the hubs like Jesus does. Hopefully, I can learn to make grace my go-to reaction, rather than one I have to work so hard to arrive at, but until I do, thankfully, the Word is hidden in my heart to remind me of that which God commands of us for our good.

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On Death and Dying

A friend of mine, Tim, passed away last week. He was a giant in the faith. Tim didn’t have his Masters of Divinity, nor was he the pastor of some mega-church. He was three classes away from earning his Bachelor’s Degree; but, he lived like Jesus; he was a giant in the faith.

I first met Tim when I was in college. He and his wife were the leaders of my Sunday School class. He had a passion for sharing Jesus with others, for both evangelism and discipleship, and he was such an encouragement to me as I ventured off to law school. In fact, Tim and his wife brought my brother and a few other friends to visit me just a month after law school started, for my birthday. They drove the church van for about seven hours and they came for no other reason than to love on me.

I remember during that trip, Tim’s wife gave me a bracelet. I told her I liked it and she took it off of her wrist and told me to have it. I was baffled, and after urging her to keep it, I finally accepted it and vowed to pray for Tim and his wife every time I wore it, as they were trying to conceive. I had never been so devoted to a request for prayer. When they conceived their first-born boy, I felt a special connection to him. After all, I had prayed for him so fervently. I would go back to that Sunday School class every time I went home for the holidays and I was always encouraged by Tim and his wife.

I graduated from law school and not long after that, Tim, his wife, and what was now their family of five (they had two more boys), relocated. Lots of folks ask you to visit, but when they asked, I knew they meant it. I visited two Christmases. I loved spending time with their family. There was so much love and such a completeness to it. Tim and his wife perfectly balanced each other and their boys are the sweetest. I cannot imagine a more adventurous, loving family.

Over the years, Tim and I talked about opening a Christian school, he picked my brain when his church was considering new bylaws, and though we didn’t talk a whole lot, I always knew I could count on him and his family, and I sure hope he always knew they could count on me.

In May, his little family drove about nine hours, as Tim’s wife stood beside me as one of my bridesmaids in my wedding, and their first-born was also in my wedding. A year earlier, I had visited with Tim and his wife at my brother’s wedding. Tim had recently been ordained and actually officiated at my brother’s ceremony. They are like family.

The hubs and I were looking forward to Tim and his wife visiting us in our home in December. The afternoon of Tim’s death, I was texting his wife about our plans. I was so excited to host them, but that won’t happen, as Tim is now with his Lord. He died unexpectedly. Even after an autopsy, we don’t know the cause of death. Apparently, God was just ready for Tim to come home. But, we miss him here.

The hubs and I flew to be with his family during their grieving. When we were out to eat and running errands, I would look around thinking everyone in town should be grieving this loss. He was a great man who loved so, so well. Oscar de la Renta shares Tim’s date of death. My Facebook newsfeed was full of posts about de la Renta, but it should’ve been full of posts about Tim. ABC News and CNN should’ve been publishing about my friend’s death.

Tim’s family was blessed by the visitation. I didn’t want to see Tim like that, laying there. I wanted to remember him full of life, and I didn’t want to say goodbye, as I know I’ll see him again one day. Nevertheless, we went and the hubs and I spent most of our time watching the boys. They are so smart and their mommy was so wise to tell them that their daddy loved them and is in heaven, even though his skin is still here. Tim’s four year old would at times exclaim, “my daddy is dead and I miss his hugs and kisses.” At the funeral the next day, a slideshow of photos of Tim was playing on a television that was propped on a box about a foot and a half high. After almost everyone had left, and the seven year old thought nobody was looking, he went up to the television and watched as the photos scrolled, gently touching the screen where his daddy’s face was pictured.

My heart broke. It still breaks.

Tim is happy though. He lives on in his eternal home. He is reaping his reward for a life lived well, a life devoted to Jesus and those Jesus loves. I don’t think he would come back to this world, riddled with death and disease, if he had the option. Heaven is that sweet. However, his wife said something profound to me. She said, given the choice to stay or go, he would’ve stayed. I think she’s right.

Tim was a provider; he wouldn’t have chosen to leave his wife and children. He chose them every.single.day. He wanted nothing more than to love the Lord and love his family well for as long as he possibly could.

Tim was the complete opposite of Brittany Maynard. She scheduled her death – it took place on November first. While she wanted to die with “dignity,” in her own time, Tim was the type to live with dignity, and he did just that until his last breath. While Tim is now more aware than ever that our Creator God rules the universe and determines our steps and numbers our days, Brittany looked at a calendar and chose her date of death.

While I know that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts, I cannot help but to be completely frustrated by the fact that Tim couldn’t choose to live more than his short 36 years, and I couldn’t be more frustrated by the fact that the laws of Oregon gave Brittany Maynard the choice to shorten her life.

Our public policy should encourage and value life, not death. And, as Christians, we should acknowledge that the Lord determines our steps and our days, not us, and frankly, not even our doctors. We will be in a sad state of affairs when we forget that our suffering has a purpose. Brittany’s suffering has a purpose, greater than anyone can think or imagine right now, and the suffering of Tim’s survivors has a purpose that provides us hope in our time of grief.

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