Best Lesson God Showed Me

lessonThe best lesson God taught me also turned my life around.

I confess I had trusted in by own abilities. And why not? I knew everything, right? As God rescued me from me and my pride, he taught me a lesson in three parts:

1. Believe God is who he says he is: good, in control, loving, just, merciful.

2. Believe what he says about you: valuable, significant, blessed.

3. Believe that you have an enemy who steals, kills and destroys, but God has defeated him.

Even as a Christian I leaned toward self-dependence, then the hard hit. One Saturday morning many years ago, awful memories of past abuse flooded my mind. So I sobbed from a sacred place in my soul at the time God chose.

This star-flinger, this day-numberer, this God drew me toward him, beginning with the lesson of who God is. 

Lesson 1: God Is Who He Says He Is

Among the most beautiful bible verses is the one where God describes his character. I wrestled with whether to believe it is true or not true. Here’s the verse:

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming,’The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.’ Exodus 34:6-7

Compassionate, gracious, slow ot anger, great love and faithfulness, and forgiving–did I believe this of God? Do you?

If you’ve been hurt by someone who should have protected you, you may struggle believing these truths. You are not alone. Others struggle as you do.

In fact, the counselors listed in Heart2Heart Counselor Directory on my website biblically and lovingly counsel all of God’s healing hope to their counselees. Why not check out the directory for someone near you or who meets by Skype?

In addition to daily Bible reading, I journaled, exchanging the lies I believed for the truth. It looked a lot like this. My journaling and listening to gospel-centered music also helped got me to the place where I believe God is who he says he is. What helps you?

Lesson 2: I Am Who God Says I Am

God says all of his daughters are chosen. Before you took your first baby step, before you were conceived, before God fashioned the heavens and the earth, he chose you.

The moment you believed on Jesus as your Savior, your old self died. You became a new creation. You are in Christ and Christ is in you.

This “in” means you have a place as a member of Christ‟s body, vitally united with him. The death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus — yes, the heart of the gospel — made possible your true identity. God now sees you as blameless because his Son is blameless, having paid the ultimate price to conquer sin and death. Being “in Christ” is the true you.

Does knowing you are chosen change the way you think and feel about yourself? about God?

Lesson 3: God Defeated the Enemy

Can you guess the big lie Satan wants you to believe? It’s NOT that you’re not good enough, though he tempts you to believe that one too. It’s NOT you’re unsuccessful or unattractive or a total mess-up or a waste of space, though you and I have fallen for some of these lesser lies, haven’t? 

Can your believe I bought the lie that I was a defect? Have you?

This isn’t the big lie either. It destroyed my peace, though. God — through life-giving Bible truths and uplifting Christian music as well as counseling — showed me the truth: that I and every believer in Christ is his precious child and God also revealed the big lie at the core of my shame lie.

So what’s the big lie?

The Big Lie Is. .

The big lie Satan tempts you to believe is the same one Adam and Eve ate up in the Garden: God is holding back, that he couldn’t care less, that he’s not. . .good.

And the Truth Is. . .

Satan is defeated!

From Life Lesson to Action

As I embraced this three-part lesson and intentially put God first, he revealed a purpose for my life: to help Christian women know that they are valued by Jesus, who wants to heal them. Yes, to counsel hearts to hope! Still, I felt afraid and told God so.

Our conversation went like this.

“Lord, I don’t know how to begin.”

“Do not worry, Lucy.  I’ll show you.”

“How will I know it’s you?”

“You will. The Holy Spirit who’s in you will confirm my words. You’ll know.”

“I don’t think I’m ready for this, Lord,” I said. “What if I mess up?”

“Trust me.”

That’s where we left things. God said trust. I sat there, speechless. 

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7, ESV

How about you? Where has God changed your thinking? Are you ready for deeper healing?

An Offer!

lucy moll from my heartAre you tired of living a less-than life? Why not contact me
to set up a no-cost introductory phone consultation? Remember, God loves you, whoever you are, wherever you’ve been.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart, 

Is Your Theology Working for You?

theologyHow is your theology working for you? Are your beliefs about God bringing you closer to Him? Or farther away?

Everyone has a theology, even Hugh Heffner of Playboy fame has a theology, but his doesn’t center on the biblical God. No way!

Three decades ago, my personal beliefs dissed God and elevated self. I was the center of my tiny universe and miserable. You see, I believed to be happy I needed the acceptance of others–girlfriends, teachers, parents, guys, and especially me. Me. . .what a spoiled brat!

God freed me from me. Read my freedom story, if you’d like.

And he taught me theology.

What’s Theology?

Theology is the study of God. This sound terribly boring to most people, but did you know that what you believe about God is the most important thing about you? And about the direction of your life?

When your beliefs line up with biblical truth, you’ll experience contentment even when your circumstances are cruddy. When your beliefs are based on the world’s idea of happiness, including

  • more money
  • more success
  • more acceptance
  • more security
  • more, more, more

. . .then you’ll experience unhappiness or a temporal and lonely kind of happiness dependent on getting the next happy high. This false happiness promises to deliver. It doesn’t. Instead, you receive misery.

God wants to give you peaceful contentment.

[The Lord says,] I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” Jeremiah 31:25, ESV

You’ll receive peaceful contentment–whether you’ve been a Christ follower for a month or many years–when you believe God is who he says he is. You and I could zero in on a number of truths about him. For now let’s pick one that trips up many women: goodness.

God Is Good Even. . .

. . .in monster circumstances: your husband cheats on you, your toddler becomes very ill, you lose all your savings, horrible childhood memories surface. God is good in manageable circumstances like a flu or when a close friend forgets your birthday. What difficult circumstance do you face now? Does it concern family, a shattered dream, health, or something else?

In counseling someone I’ll call Marilyn, I discovered that her core theology was tangled in a misunderstanding of the word “good” and how it applied to her everyday life. She felt frustrated over Romans 8:28 and its promise that all things work together for good.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

A Christian since her teens, Marilyn had misinterpreted the meaning of this verse and couldn’t practically apply it to her difficult, loveless marriage. She had a simplistic view of Romans 8:28, thinking that since she loves God, he must change her husband into a selfless man since this would be good. Most assuredly, selflessness is good. But this isn’t the meaning of the verse.

Marilyn and I explored this verse together like theologians.

We discovered that the “good” is this: God is works in us to make us more like Jesus. The next two verses showed that our thinking was on the right path.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

As Marilyn’s theology aligned with biblical truth, she came to accept that God might not change her husband–or make her healthy, wealthy, and wise–and she learned something something wonderful: God was changing her and she hungered to know him better.

Let’s Make It Personal

Is your theology off-kilter? It’s skewed whenever you elevate your desires and turn them into must-have needs. Yes, God gives us good things; however, sometimes we twist what is good into an idol.

An example: sex. Sex is a gift of God to be shared by a husband and wife in marriage. When the gift of sex becomes a craving for porn, it is now an idol.

When desires become needs, you expose that your life is more about what you want than what God wants. Here are a few questions posed by biblical counselor, author, and speaker Paul Tripp:

  1. Desire: “You should do _____ for me.”
  2. Need: “You will do _____ for me.”
  3. Expectation: “I expect you to do _____ for me.”
  4. Disappointment: “You didn’t do _____ for me.”
  5. Punishment: “You didn’t do _____ for me so I’m going to make you pay in some way.”

You know God deserves your unadultered love because he not only created you but also loves you and knows what’s best for you.

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:21

You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:3

What idols do you possess? Did you know that they often fall into the areas of  love, security, and significance? Do you want to be free of them?

Do what Marilyn decided. She chose to readjust her thinking into a God-centered way of looking at her life rather than sticking with her old way of thinking. Her old way led to misery. Her new way opens wide the door to true happiness.

Hope for Your Heart,

lucy-signature-blue

CANCER: “My Diagnosis Led Me to Worship God”

cancerCancer: A cancer diagnosis surprised Heart2Heart counselor Donna Hart, PhD. Her first question was, “What in this do You want me to learn?” The Lord’s answer: worship. Donna’s article appeared first here on her website and is used with permission. Donna also adds an update below to her cancer diagnosis. To all who prayed for her, thank you. –LAM

heart

I was doing well and just starting the deeper research of chapter five of my dissertation. The chapter was on endurance. I prayed the Lord would lead me to the best resources for the research.

Not many days later the doctor called to say the results from the breast biopsy tested positive for cancer. I had had these done before all with negative results so when I got the call I was taken by surprise. We know nothing is a surprise for God and that His hand was allowing this for me.

My first question after the fog cleared was to ask our dear heavenly Father,

“What is in this You want me to learn?”

I got a most curious and surprising one word answer, “worship.”

I am “Miss Independent” and very used to caring for other people; I’m very low maintenance when it comes to needing help from others.

God Provides a Friend

The first person the Lord provided to help me was a good friend who happens to be a nurse. She declared that she was going with me to all doctor’s appointments and surgeries. She said it would be important to have another set of knowledgeable ears to listen. At the time, she was walking through her own deep valley of trial: while she was on a road trip a while back, she looked down for a moment and ran a red ligh. This resulted in a fatality.

During my cancer journey, we walked together; she ministered to me as I ministered to her. I learned that trials are more endurable when walk through it with a friend.

God’s provision is so sweet in the loving hands of another.

Through the process of multiple cancer surgeries, my friends would go walking with me because that was the only exercise allowed. They walked with me outside on the miles of bike trail near my home and inside when the weather was inclement. We would talk and grow closer in our relationship.

God Provides Praise Music

The Lord blesses us with His love through the voices of other believers.

The days I walked on the treadmill I would listen to the Vertical Church Band. Do they realize how many songs they have written about heaven? What a gift to me from the Lord to get my heart focused on the right things. I thought, it does not matter what happens, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)cancer. I will worship You, Lord.

My treatment included four rounds of chemotherapy, four hours each, three weeks apart. My favorite sisters went along with me for this journey. We sat, relaxed, chatted, and knitted. What a blessed treat from the hand of the Lord: sweet friendships to make a trial a joy.

I did not know I was going to be my own dissertation research on endurance. As I sought references for my paper, the Lord brought me to an article on Counseling Suffering by John Piper, and I shall never forget his words, “The Lord is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.”

The world is watching: Are we a testimony that the Lord is good and enough, no matter what the trial?

The Lord was with me every step of this journey, teaching me to be less self-sufficient and more dependent upon Him knowing He works all things together for good.

Life After Cancer

Now years later and cancer free, I celebrate that the Lord is a continued song in my heart. I remember His words to me every time I would get my eys off Him and onto the circumsitons, “Iwhat crucified for you.”

Those words are a memorial reminter that He is with me, and I have nothing to fear. He started a goood work and He will finish it.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

Question for You!

FREE DOWNLOAD: When you subscribed to this blog, you get the free and well-loved 64-page download “5 Names God Calls You!” Fill out your information below to claim it, cool?

COUNSELING: Would you like counseling from me or Donna? Please let me know, and we’ll connect. Counseling offered in person and by Skype.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

No Sexual Desire for Your Husband?

sexual desire
Sexual desire: Did you know there are reasons why a wife
sometimes — or often — has next-to-no sexual desire for her husband? And there are gospel-centered solutions too. In this insightful post by Heart2Heart Counselor Julie Ganschow appeared first here on here website and is used with permisison.

In this article, we’ll consider physical reasons and spiritual reasons for lack of sexual desire.

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Ware is the real reason a woman has no desire for her husband?

In biblical counseling we believe that often the surface problem is only a symptom of a deeper heart level problem. My goal would be to determine what in the heart (thought, belief, desire, will, attitude, emotion) needs to be changed for the symptom (lack of sexual desire for her husband) to be relieved.

Physical Reasons for Lack of Sexual Desire

However, there are numerous things that can contribute to the lack of desire in a woman.

First a medical check up is always in order. Women’s bodies are complex by design. Throughout our lives our hormonal levels adjust. Our monthly cycles bring times of more or less intense sexual desire. Fear of pregnancy makes women want to run away from sex, pregnancy, and post-partum hormonal changes bring physical and emotional changes with increasing hormones. Perimenopause and menopause also bring their share of symptoms as hormones begin to decrease.

I also believe the use of many chemicals in our food and the relatively poor nutritional value our foods also may influence our hormonal balances. Getting a good overall physical exam including blood work may rule out endocrine problems such as diabetes and thyroid problems. Also a measure of estrogen and progesterone may help determine if there is a true physiological cause to a lack of interest or desire in sex.

The rule of good biblical counseling is to look at a physiological cause first when it can be objectively and scientifically proven one exists. When a physical cause is not the problem, the only remaining option is that it is a spiritual problem.

Spiritual Reason for a Lack of Sexual Desire

In this day of blatant immorality, it is unfortunately unusual that the couple enters into marriage sexually pure. When my eldest son married, a part of the marriage ceremony was to celebrate their purity through the exchange of the purity rings they each wore since entering their teen years. They exchanged the rings with each other to signify that they had saved themselves for each other in marriage.

By maintaining purity they have saved themselves from one aspect of sexual difficulty in marriage. While I have not been able to find a term for this in any book on sex I have read I believe there is for the woman something I call “sexual guilt.” Sexual guilt seems to be a result of engaging in sexual contact prior to marriage, even if the only prior partner is now her husband.

In my years of counseling women I have seen this numerous times. A woman who has been sexually active prior to marriage may struggle greatly with sexual desire after marriage.

Stories of Women and Low Sexual Desire

Case studies of women with a struggle similar to yours may give you hope and a sense that you are not alone. Below, these ‘counselee’ representations are fictitious and do not represent any one person living or dead or their actual case histories or personal stories. But they may resonate with you.

Great Sex Before Marriage

sexual desireFran says, “While I really enjoyed sex before we were married I knew deep down it was wrong. I thought it was ok, because we really loved each other and planned to marry anyway.

“I thought about how great it would be not to have to sneak around anymore, not to fear getting caught. I couldn’t wait to be free of the guilt I felt at all the sneaking around. When we married I carried these thoughts into our marriage, but what was once fun and exciting was now very unappealing to me. I was just not interested anymore. I felt dirty and like my husband was always pawing at me wanting to get me into bed.”

“Sex became a chore and I wanted to avoid it at all costs.

Betty says, “It never bothered me that we had sex before marriage. I was in love with him and we were going to be married. Once the marriage vows were said I lost all interest in him. I would rather go to bed with a good book. I don’t want to be touched. Once and a while I give in but I really would be fine if we never had sex again.”

The Wedding Night Was a Disaster

Jenny says, “I always knew it was wrong, but I let him talk me into it.

“I was raised a Christian and so was he. We had sex for months before our wedding, and I begged him to stop as a wedding present to me for the two weeks prior to our wedding. He reluctantly consented.

“Our wedding night was a disaster for me. I had no joy or anticipation for the event of our becoming husband and wife in the physical sense. It felt like there was nothing special about it at all. After he was asleep I went and cried in the bathroom for hours. I thought, ‘is this all there is now?’

“I dread sex now. I change in the bathroom or sneak to bed ahead of him because I don’t want to give him any opportunity to become aroused or to have to tell him ‘no’ again.

“He gets so mad at me when I tell him I am not in the mood, and it has begun to affect our marriage. I am so angry at him for making me have sex when I don’t want to! He is selfish and is only thinking about himself. He says he needs it, and I don’t believe him. I am fine without it, why can’t he be?”

In summary, when a woman is involved in sexual immorality, it affects her thinking. God tells us in His Word that all our sin has consequences. While nothing will change the believer’s position in Christ before God, all sin carries the inescapable weight of consequences.

Resources for You

EXCELLENT BOOK: Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters is insightful and encouraging as well as challenging–in a good way.

THOUGHT JOURNAL: This quick and easy download provides a step-by-step method to identifying destructive thoughts and redeeeming them with God-honoring thoughts that change the tragectory of your life. Get the Thought Journal now.

COUNSELING: Isn’t God calling you to enjoy the gift of sex in your marriage? Check out biblical counseling for married women. Learn more here.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

 

Emotional Abuse: Hope and Help for Weary Wives

emotional abuseEmotional abuse destroys a marriage. Sometimes it leads to physical abuse. Today’s guest blogger is Lilly Park, an assistant professor of biblical counseling at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis, IN, provides hope an help to wives. This article (Responding to Emotional Abuse in Marriage) first appeart on the Biblical Counseling Coalition website and is used with permission.

This post is dedicated to the women I’ve met who have inspired me by their faith and strength in the midst of painful marriages.

Good Marriages, Broken Marriages

I’ve seen marriages that reflect Christ and the Church: husbands lovingly leading their homes and wives lovingly submitting to their husbands. How good (and hope-filled!) it is to see real life examples, especially at a time when marriages are being attacked from pornography, homosexuality, and cohabitation. I’ve also seen broken marriages and emotionally abusive relationships, which has taught me a lot about faith.

The women I’ve met believed in submitting to their husbands and tried to do so. At some point, however, they began to change negatively without knowing it. They isolated themselves. They questioned themselves. They started to make excuses for their husbands’ sins.

What do you do when your husband emotionally abuses you?

Some might say that you should continue to submit to his leadership, pray for him, and trust God. Is it acceptable to seek help and possibly even separate, if necessary? When I think of marriage, “protection” is one of the concepts that comes to mind. Perhaps that’s why emotional abuse, or any kind of abuse for that matter, in marriage saddens me in a different way.

My desire is that God might use this blog post to encourage those who are weary, to challenge those who are not trusting God or seeking counsel, and to provide some help to those who are not sure how to help women in emotionally abusive relationships. I’ve also met men who have been abused by their wives, so I certainly do not believe that only women are abused.

Bible Doesn’t Label ‘Emotional Abuse’

The Bible doesn’t use the label “emotional abuse,” but it does prohibit it.

First, we are not to curse people who have been created in the image of God (James 3:9).

Second, emotional abuse violates the two greatest commandments: love God and love others as yourself (Matthew 22:35-40).

Third, emotional abuse violates God’s design for marriage where the husband lovingly leads and the wife lovingly submits (Ephesians 5:21-33).

Fourth, it violates Christian living by denying yourself (Mark 8:34) and speaking wholesome words (Ephesians 4:29).

Fifth, it displays pride and a lack of fear of God, which leads to destruction (Proverbs 16:18). A husband who commits emotional abuse deceives himself to be a king who deserves glory, honor, and praise.

Sixth, emotional abuse is betrayal to God and people by trying to be like God and deceiving others.

Nature of Emotional Abuse

A common term found in the definition of emotional abuse is control. Emotional abuse occurs when someone tries to control you through actions or words. They might not physically hurt you, but they know how to instill fear through intimidation and manipulation.

If emotions are produced by your evaluations or perceptions,[1] then emotional abuse involves hurting how you view yourself and others. Over time, you negatively view yourself. You might question yourself, blame yourself, or not see the severity of the situation. You become a weary person, trying to please your husband’s unreasonable demands but rarely is he pleased.

Emotional abuse is more deceitful than physical abuse.

The women I’ve met endured emotional abuse for years and no one knew about it. They didn’t even know until they finally talked to someone. (Of course, the same could happen with physical abuse.) Emotional abuse is unacceptable and sinful. It is slowly killing a person. It is also not the same as occasional arguments in marriage; it occurs frequently.

Common Themes in Emotional Abuse

Anger. Emotionally abusive anger is a sin (Colossians 3:8). In this case, it reveals a desire for control. For example, a husband sends texts or calls throughout the day from work and gets angry if the wife responds too slowly. Or, he gets angry if she disagrees with him.

Manipulation/hypocrisy. This sin is revealed in different ways:

  1. The husband is a different person in front of a church leader and others. He knows how to blame the wife.
  2. The husband starts crying in the counseling session and convinces the pastor or friends. Then, everything that the wife had shared in the past carries little weight. After all, he cried. The wife trusts people even less.
  3. The husband meets with other family and friends to win them over.

Fear/Threats. In some cases, this involves finances or child custody if the couple is in the process of a divorce.

Blameshifting/Denial. “If you did what I told you to do, then I wouldn’t have been angry.” “When did I say that to you?”

Isolation. The wife spends less time with family and friends because her husband does not want to see them or another argument happened.

Minimizing the problem. The husband says that the wife is exaggerating. Sometimes, the wife minimizes the problem. Another instance is when the person trying to help is deceived or doesn’t know how to help. “Every marriage has problems.” “Both the husband and wife have issues.”

In-laws. Leaving and cleaving never happened in the marriage. The in-laws are the leaders in the marriage, not the husband. The in-laws believe that their son is perfect or they see their son’s faults but place the blame on his wife.

What to Do For the Wife

It is not uncommon for emotional abuse to lead to physical abuse, so seek counseling as soon as possible. We might think that emotional abuse would not happen in Christian marriages. I’ve seen cases where the husband was a church leader.

Don’t keep it private. You think that your spouse will change or won’t get angry again if you’re more obedient. Be careful of such thinking. In a way, it deceives you to think that you’re in control of the situation.

Find someone who will believe you. Sometimes, church leaders are deceived or don’t want to get involved in messy problems. Don’t give up until you find a godly person who knows how to help.

Biblical submission. This is not obedience at all costs. Yes, wives are to submit to their husbands, but not to sin or sinful treatment.

Prayer. Pray for the spouse’s repentance. If the spouse is not saved, pray for his salvation. Pray that God would protect your heart from anger and bitterness.

Trust God. It is so hurtful when family or friends don’t believe you or desert you, but God knows the truth. You can rest in His care and know that vengeance belongs to Him.

Remember God’s character. He is faithful. He is all-knowing. He will never desert you.

Be Wise When Helping a Hurting Wife

If someone shares about any kind of abuse with you, know that a lot of courage and trust were involved. Be careful of shattering it! Most likely, this person is vulnerable and fearful. As I often tell people, good intentions are not enough. I’ve seen friends get involved by meeting with the husband and then they are left more confused.

Watch out for complaining and gossip. Use wisdom in determining how much the person should share with you. In the end, our effort to minister shouldn’t have enabled a venting session, but a return to God’s perspective session, which gives hope and honors God.

One woman said to me: “If God allowed this pain to happen so that my husband might know Christ, then it was worth it.” She also recognized that God used the trial to draw her closer to Him. At that moment, this person who never completed college taught me about faith in a way that I didn’t learn from books and lectures.

It’s easier to submit to a loving leader in the home, but to love a husband who constantly questions you, belittles you, and lies to you is a powerful display of faith in God.

Join the Conversation

What additional biblical counsel would you give to an emotionally abused wife?


[1]Brian Borgman, Feelings and Faith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2009), 26.

Resources for YOU!

COUNSELING: Are you or a friend in an emotionally abusive relationship? May we encourage you to seek help from a trustworthy person at your church or from a biblical counselor? Please contact me, and I’ll give you hope and get you in touch with help.

DOWNLOAD: Here’s a helpful reminder of who you are in Christ. Go here to get it.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

 

4 Mood-Enhancing, Tempting Recipes

recipesRECIPES: Did you know what you eat affects your mood? 

Here are four eco-friendly,

 energizing,

mood-enhancing

healthy and oh-so-delicious recipes for you.

These recipes were first published in my book Energy Eating, Peak Nutrition for Maximum Physical Performance, Brain Power, Body Strength and Mood Enhancement!

What makes these recipes eco-friendly? They’re vegetarian! Eating green is earth-friendly because it make the best use of the earth’s resources. Also, they’re light on sugar, which affects mood, and high in healthy plant-based protein, carbs, and fats that help improve your mood. Let me know if you’d like more mood-enhancing recipes.

Quick Black Bean Burritos

Need a speedy dinner? This dish pairs legumes and healthy carbs — and it’s ready in just 20 minutes.

Sauce:

1/2 onion, chopped

1 tsp. minced fresh garlic

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

One 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 to 2 Tbs. minced green chilies, fresh or canned, seeded

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Burritos:

Eight 10-inch flour tortillas, preferably whole wheat

One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 red onion, diced

3/4 cup cooked brown rice

3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese (optional)

1/2 cup nonfat sour cream (optional)

1/2 avocado, diced

2 Tbs. fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Sauce: Place the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth, about 1 minute. Set aside.

Burritos: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. lay a tortilla on your working surface. Spoon about 1/4 cup black beans across the center of the tortilla, followed by a tablespoon each of onion, rice, and cheese if using. Roll up and place the burrito seam side down in a 9-by-13-inch lightly oiled baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, onion, rice, and cheese.

Spoon the sauce over the burritos and backe for 12 minutes. Serve the burritos topped with the sour cream if using, avocado, and cilantro. Serves 4.

Spicy Sesame Noodles

I could eat pasta every day, especially soba. Yum!

1 pound whole-wheat soba noodles or regular linguini

1 Tbs. sesame oil

6 scallions, green parts only, sliced

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1 tsp. peeled and minced gingerroot

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste

2 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

Prepare the noodles according to the package directions. Drain. Transfer to a serving dish. Cover.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and saute the scallions, red bell pepper, and gingerroot for 2 minutes. Add the cilantro, cayenne, and soy sauce, and saute a minute more. Toss with the noodles. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top. Serve warm or cold. Serves 6.

Strawberry Orange Ice

This refreshing meal-ender is a pretty, deep pink and vitamin-rich.

1 cup calcium-fortified orange juice

2 cups stawberries. fresh or frozen

1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup granulated sugar (optional)

Orange slices for garnish

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the orange slices. Pour into a shallow, nonmetallic pan and freeze, stirring occasionally, until almost frozen, about 3 or so hours. (Freezing time depends on the shallowness of the container and the temperature of the freezer.) Spoon into four dessert dishes, garnish with the orange slices, and serve at once. Serves 4.

Raspberry-Peach Smoothie

A breakfast drink or dessert, this drink delivers choline-containing soy, betacarotene, calcium and other phytochemicals.

2/3 cup frozen unsweetened raspberries

1 peach, peeled, pitted, and frozen

1 banana, peeled and frozen

4 ounces reduced-fat soft silken tofu (or plain Greek yogurt)

1 1/2 cups calcium-fortified orange juice

Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Makes 2.

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