Friday, April 27, 2007

Storm Community

Three gruff buzzes sounded from the small black radio in the convenience store. My husband and I had stopped for fuel near Abilene, Texas and the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) alert system sounded because of a reported tornado on the ground, 30 miles west of our location.

We’d planned to continue our travel west on I-20, but the interstate lay in the projected path of the storm.
The alert threw us a curve. With its predicted baseball size hail, we parked under an awning to wait for the storm to pass.

We weren’t the only ones who sought shelter in the convenience store. The manager about to go off duty informed the new shift that if hail began, no customers were to remain at fuel pumps. He gave further instructions: get everyone inside, lock the doors and herd all into a small storeroom.

Of the three new clerks on duty, with permission, one left to get her daughter and infant granddaughter at a mobile home park and bring them to the store. Another woman and her senior parents stopped for fuel and after hearing the threat of bad weather, decided to join our growing community of storm watchers.

Also, a neighbor woman joined us because of an alert system on her AT&T landline. The most interesting character of all was a cowboy, of sorts, with a wide brimmed cactus fiber hat, who arrived in a small pinkish car with his cow dog, Blue, a gray speckled blue heeler.

Within half an hour, jet engine winds and neon flashing clouds blew within a few miles of our location, but as the American Indian said about the lectern pounding preacher: “Big wind, loud thunder, not much rain.”

The fierce storm passed to the north without a drop of moisture on our location. Happy to avoid bad weather, we said goodbye to the newly formed community and each of us went our separate ways.

Something about the little group of forced-together, stranded travelers filled me with hope. In the few moments we had together, everyone was kind. No doubt if we’d stayed together much longer, we would have elected a mayor and school board. A familiar saying bears repeating: Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. For a few moments this week, kindness trumped a little group’s past problems or future worries. We were strangers in the night, but friendliness and kindness ruled the tense hour.

You may contact Cathy at or at

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A new book's in town: The Great American Supper Swap by Trish Berg

The Great American Supper Swap
Solving the Busy Woman’s Family Dinnertime Dilemma
By Trish Berg

Many moms struggle with their endless to-do list, and dinner is just one more thing that usually doesn’t get done. Author and speaker Trish Berg has a great way to solve your dinnertime dilemma and shares all her secrets in her new book, The Great American Supper Swap.

Thanks for being here, today, Trish.
Thanks for having me.

I wanted to begin by asking you what IS supper swapping?

Supper swapping is really a simple solution to that ever present “What’s for dinner,” question that hits most moms at 4:30 every afternoon.

Supper swapping is moms helping moms by sharing the cooking responsibility for their families. Moms cook in bulk then swapping meals during the workweek.

To give moms an idea of how supper swapping works, could you share with us what your supper swap group looks like?

Sure. Right now we have 3 families in our group, though I have swapped with 4 families in the past as well.

Our typical week looks like this:
Monday – Nann delivers supper to us at 5:30, hot and ready to eat.
Tuesday – Kelly delivers her meal at noon, prepared but not cooked. At supper time, I throw it in the oven and voila!
Wednesday – Our day off. We eat leftovers from Mon and Tues.
Thursday – My cooking day. I prepare my meal Wednesday evening, and deliver it Thursday around noon, prepared but not cooked.
Friday – Since we have had larger meals already, it’s easy on Fridays to make something simple like spaghetti, sandwiches or grilled burgers.

Each group can decide what constitutes a meal. We only swap one main dish and one side dish, and each family adds salad, bread or vegetables on their own to complete each meal.

We usually plan 3 months at a time and print out meal calendars so everybody knows what meals are coming when. (Moms can print FREE meal calendars at

Why do you think families have given up on dinner?

I think moms are just exhausted. Run down. Stressed out.

According to current research, only 50% of American families have supper together regularly today. Of those meals, 34% are fast food or take out.

Why is the family meal so important to our kids?

Eating dinner together as a family opens communication, helps children to eat healthier, feel more connected to their parents, feel loved and cherished. These benefits have a lifelong impact on our children.

According to research from Columbia University, children who eat dinner with their family on a regular basis are 60% less likely to smoke cigarettes, 50% less likely to use drugs, and 66% less likely to drink alcohol.

The family meal has a lifelong impact on our kids!

In your book, you also mention saving money through supper swapping.

Supper swapping can save families up to $4000 a year or more as they buy groceries more in bulk, shop with a plan wasting less food, and reduce their expenditures on fast food and pizza.

I give several examples of how supper swapping can save families money, but here’s one quick example:

Ordering pizza or take out costs around $25 for a family of 6. If you are now ordering pizza or buying take out 3 times a week:

$25 * 3 = $75 a week
$75 * 4.5 weeks a month = $337.50 per month
$337.50 * 12 months = $4,050 per year

You could save over $4000 a year on that alone, and that’s not even counting the money you’ll save buying in bulk and shopping with a plan!

With so many other dinner options out there, why do you think supper swapping is becoming a hot trend?

Basically because moms need help. Today families run at a fast pace unheard of 30 years ago. Usually, dinner is a fast food, on the go grab bag, or relegated to pizza, take out or frozen quick fix meals. These meals are unhealthy and expensive.

Supper swapping cuts a moms cooking by up to 80% since she only cooks one day a week.

For about 1-2 hours of meal preparation and 15-30 minutes or less of meal delivery one day a week, you get a week’s worth of hot, fresh, homemade dinners.

If a mom wants to start supper swapping, where can she get more information?

There is a ton of how to information, delicious recipes, encouragement and support in my book The Great American Supper Swap, available at bookstores and online at, and Moms can also contact me through my website to order a signed copy.

What do you hope families gain from The Great American Supper Swap?

Supper swapping can save families $4000 a year or more, reduce cooking by 80%, create a greater sense of community by adding deeper faith and friendships, and help families eat healthier food.

BUT MOST OF ALL – it gathers families around their dinner table together. That’s my mission. A return to the family meal.

Though I’m an avid supper swap mom, each family must find what works for them and re-claim their family dinner however they can. Supper swapping is just one simple tool to help moms make that happen.

For more information on The Great American Supper Swap or Trish Berg, go to

Friday, April 13, 2007

Wing and Shadow Protection

Divine Protection

If you make the Most High your dwelling—even the LORD, who is my refuge—then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. Psalm 91:9-10.

Accidents happen. We’ve all had a few—a fall, a car crash, or a job injury. The average American will be involved in seven car accidents, from major to minor. Personal crises can be tallied, but what about all the misses, the bad things that could have happened but didn’t. I wonder how many mishaps we escaped because the Almighty’s hand shielded us?

When I was an infant, I needed medical help to survive. At my grandmother’s home, I became ill and had a very high fever, and cool baths did nothing to bring the fever within normal range. My frantic parents paced and prayed.

Grandma Turner walked the floor, holding me and whispering again and again, “My sweet baby, my sweet baby.” Mother suspected that my church-going, Lord-loving grandmother was praying, too.

To complicate matters, all the vehicles were gone. Dad walked to my aunt and uncle’s home to borrow their car. My aunt said Dad’s eyes misted as he told them of my condition. Dad drove to the nearest telephone and called the local doctor, who made a house call. Obviously, I lived to write the story that I recently heard.

The family history made me think about all the times we are protected from harm and never even know about them. Psalm 91 is a song of praise to God for just this sort of protection.

“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.” God also says that those who love him can call out when we see trouble coming, and he will deliver us (14-16).

When Grandmother was in her late 80s I visited her. That evening when I went into her bedroom to say goodnight, she lifted the covers, patted the bed and said, “Hon, climb in here with me.”

I felt like I was four instead of 40. In her tall bed, I snuggled down. In our flannels, we discussed life and God-rescues. Grandma told family stories of hard times and a sawmill accident that could have killed Grandpa, but he was spared to live 30 more years.

I wonder about you, too. How many times has God commanded “his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways”? Or, how often have the angels lifted “you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone” (11-12)?

I wonder?

You may reach Cathy at

Friday, April 06, 2007

Resurrection Cookies

Last year, on Saturday evening before Easter, my grandsons and I made resurrection cookies. As the boys helped mix ingredients, I told them the story of Christ’s crucifixion and afflictions. We placed the cookies into a sealed oven, and on Easter morning they took the cookies out and they heard the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.

To promote the sacredness of this season, make these cookies and retell the old, old story, the always relevant story of Jesus.

(Preheat oven to 300 degrees.)
1 cup whole pecans, 3 egg whites, 1 cup of sugar
1 tsp. vinegar, 1 pinch of salt

Mixing bowl, wooden spoon, Bible, zipper baggie, waxed paper, cookie sheet, tape

Place pecans in zipper baggie and let children beat them into small pieces with the wooden spoon. Tell about Jesus’ arrest and beatings by Roman soldiers. Read John 19:1-3. Scripture readings may be paraphrased for younger children.

Let children smell the vinegar. Put 1 tsp. into mixing bowl, explaining Jesus’ thirst and the offering of vinegar to quench it. Read John 19:28-30.

Add egg whites to the vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave his life so we may live eternally. Read John 10:10-11.

Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. The salt represents the salty tears shed by Jesus' followers, and the bitterness of our sins. Read Luke 23:27.

So far, the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add 1 cup sugar, and explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus gave his life because he loved us. Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16.

Beat with a mixer on high speed for 11-15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed, explaining that the color white represents the purity of those whose sins are cleansed by Jesus. Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3.

Fold in broken nuts. Drop cookie dough by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper covered cookie sheet. Each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus' body laid.

Put cookie sheet in the oven. Close the door and TURN OFF OVEN. Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. Tell how Jesus' tomb was sealed. Read Matthew 27:65-66.

Go to bed. On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. The cookies are hollow. On the first Resurrection Day, Jesus' followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read Matthew 28:1-9.

Jesus’ victory at the tomb is the foundation of the Christian faith because “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Happy Easter! He is risen! Hallelujah!

You may reach Cathy at