Putting "June" and "vacation" in the same sentence simply does not compute! June brings harvest time. Combines make their way through fields laden with a crop nine months in the making. Harvest involves the inevitable breakdowns of machinery, slow truck rides to take the grain to the elevator, meals delivered to the field, a race against the weather and long hours. It means shortened tempers when the process hits inevitable snags.
And before we ever get to harvest, there's Vacation Bible School at our church earlier in the month. Rest and relaxation, bah humbug!
What could I possibly have to say about rest, relaxation and vacation during this month, I wondered?
But the answer soon appeared in my computer email in-box. A recent daily devotional used the following scripture from Luke 10: 38-42 (NRSV)
Now as they went on their way, He entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what He was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to Him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me!" But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her."
Uh oh, I thought. There I was being Martha again. I was thinking about all the work and not realizing the importance of Sabbath. Even in the midst of this dizzying time of year, with all the things that must get done, I need to remember to take time for God.
So where does God fit in during this busy month? I know I need to find time for structured time spent in the Scriptures and in prayer. But I also know I can have an attitude of worship, even in the midst of a busy time. As I prepare snacks for active VBS students, I am called to feed their souls at the same time I offer a tasty tidbit. As I watch the grain pouring into the truck and wait to drive the filled truck to the elevator, and I can thank God for His providence and bounty.
I can really notice the beauty of God's creation around me. Driving a harvest truck forces me to slow down. We don't have fancy semi-trucks to haul the wheat to the elevator. I chug along to town at 30 miles per hour, and I see things I never see at 55 MPH or beyond. If the wind's not blowing too strongly, I can hear the birds and see the wildflowers blooming along the ditches and thank God for the beauty.
And I can be well prepared before the heaviest onslaught of activity appears. I don't know how Martha and Mary spent their time preparing for the Lord's visit. But maybe I will have more time "to sit at the Lord's feet" if I work ahead and am well prepared with a freezer stocked with extra meals.
Another way I can simplify meal-making is with "planned overs." We all know about "leftovers." Sometimes leftovers have a less-than-glamorous connotation. But planned overs? That is just good management, if you ask me.
For example, you can make several meals out of one day's work on the grill. One side benefit? If you are grilling, you're not heating up your kitchen either: All right! An electric bill bonus, too!
Here's an idea for "planned overs."
I marinated steaks and the chicken breasts before grilling (You can use a grill seasoning packet, use prepared Italian or balsamic vinegar dressing. Or you can make your own with oil, vinegar and seasonings. Because I am always concerned about calories, I usually don't use all the oil called for in a marinade - whether I'm using a packet or it's homemade. But if you do use oil, use olive or canola oil.)
On the day I grilled, I served my husband a steak and baked potato, along with a salad. (I made extra baked potatoes. I can also use those in a variety of ways: For example, I can use them for homemade potato salad or use them for pan-fried potatoes later in the week. You could also rewarm baked potatoes and make a main dish by topping with leftover steak or chicken and other toppings. If you are counting calories, use low-fat or no-fat sour cream, a light ranch salad dressing, salsa and lower fat cheeses for toppings.)
My husband also likes when I make him what some restaurants call a "skillet." I slice extra baked potatoes and fry them in a little olive oil in a skillet. You can also throw in some chopped onions, peppers and other veggies, if you'd like. When they are about done, add the cut-up "planned over" steak and top with cheese. Cook it until the meat is heated through and the cheese is melted.
Or you can use the leftover meat to make fajitas. Just slice it thinly. Use a non-stick skillet and cook together thinly sliced onion and green/red peppers until they are caramelized (I never use oil in this process. It works fine just to lightly spray the pan with cooking spray. If it begins to stick, simply add a small amount of water.) Then, just like a restaurant, serve the fajitas with tortillas, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole and similar toppings.
For myself the first day, I made a dinner salad with romaine lettuce and several different fruits. I then topped it with part of a grilled chicken breast. I used a prepared light raspberry vinaigrette dressing.
The next day, I made a recipe that my daughter, Jill, highly recommended: Southwest Chicken Salad. Then this mixture can be used in a myriad of ways.
Here's the recipe:
Southwest Chicken Salad4 cups cubed chicken (since I used grilled, it's got a great flavor)
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1 can black beans, drained
1 cup chopped red or green peppers
1 cup chopped red, sweet or green onion
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
3 tbsp. lime juice
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Optional: Fresh avocado
Combine all the chicken salad ingredients. Combine the dressing ingredients and whisk together until well blended. Pour over the chicken salad and mix well.
You can then use the prepared chicken salad in a bunch of different ways, too. Wow - MORE "planned overs!"
The first day, I used the chicken salad on top of a romaine and vegetable salad. I topped it with low-fat cottage cheese and light ranch dressing. I often use low-fat cottage cheese on my salads. It helps me get more calcium in my diet: Since I don't drink milk, I need to find ways to incorporate other milk products. Also, I find that I don't use nearly as much dressing when I have the moisture of the cottage cheese.
Another day, I used the mixture in low-fat tortillas and made sandwich wraps.
Spread a little low-fat ranch dressing or light salad dressing/mayonnaise on the tortilla and sprinkle with shredded cheese. (You can use a whole wheat tortilla for extra nutrition!)
Then top that with about 1/2 cup of the chicken salad. If desired, top with lettuce, tomato, thin avocado slices, etc. Then roll up and serve.
They really taste like a sandwich you would get for lunch at a fancy little cafe. Best of all, it's at a fraction of the cost! Serve it with some of the fresh fruits of the season. For crunch, you can also serve with fresh veggies or with whole-grain chips or rice cakes on the side.
Jill has also used the recipe in pita pockets:
In lettuce cups:
In a quesadilla:
She also developed Jill's Chicken Enchiladas:
Spray baking dish with cooking spray and lightly cover bottom of pan with your favorite canned enchilada sauce.
Warm up tortillas in the microwave for 30 seconds and dip each tortilla individually in warm enchilada sauce. Place 1/2 cup SW chicken salad and some shredded cheese in the tortilla, roll up and place, seam down, in baking dish.
Top with cheese, extra cilantro and green onions.
I realize you probably won't be able to use all these recipes in succession AND keep your family happy. But you can intersperse some of the meals you've tucked in the freezer in between the Southwest Chicken Salad variations or other ideas I've suggested.
The main idea is to look for ways to incorporate "planned overs" into your family meal planning.
Then, you WILL have time to sit at the feet of Jesus, just like Mary did.
Wishing you times of Sabbath - whether you are enjoying a leisurely vacation or in the midst of harvest!