Food for the Journey

My dear friend Julie Nelson joins our Lenten Soup & Stories series today, sharing a lovely story about the importance of mentoring and supporting one another. Reading Julie’s post reminds me of why I used to feel so energized after my weekly chats with her for Catholic Women Now, a radio show on Iowa Catholic Radio. As Julie writes, “We women are a kindred spirit that knows no age boundaries.” And she certainly lives that out. Julie has supported me greatly in my vocational walk by listening, offering practical suggestions, and encouraging laughter. Even though she has more years of marriage and parenting experience under her belt, I’ve always appreciated Julie’s openness to my perspective.

Tune in to hear Julie on Catholic Women Now — Thursdays at 9AM central on Iowa Catholic Radio. Now take it away, Jules!

The doorbell rang and on my door step was standing a woman with a plate of cookies.

“Hello, I am Jean, your neighbor. Welcome to the neighborhood.”

My husband and I had just moved to a new state, new city, and new region of the country. Our move was determined by a computer match. Lynn was beginning his medical residency. We had always lived close to family and now we found ourselves separated by a ten-hour drive.

GrantHelpingJeanBake

Over the next five years, Jean and I became great friends. I treasure the talks we had over the backyard fence about faith and life.

My husband had long “on-call” hours which placed more child rearing on me. Jean always seemed to know when I was about to break. Daniel was a colicky baby for twelve hours a day. Jean would drop in for a visit to check on me. She made nursing home visits weekly and would take my toddler, Grant, with her to give me a respite.

Jean and Grant would spend the day at her house baking so I could do Christmas shopping. Her own children were older and she could have spent her days fulfilling her desires.

Looking back, I see clearly Jean lived her feminine genius authentically. Her sensitivity to my plight, her generosity to help with the kids, and her maternity to embrace and nurture this stressed, sleep-deprived mama.

In our life’s journey, we meet friends who leave an indelible mark in our souls and in our hearts. Jean’s kindness toward me left me with a firm resolve to pay it forward some day. I think that is why I find myself looking behind to the young moms, reaching out my hand as they walk the path of motherhood. We women are a kindred spirit that knows no age boundaries.

When I prepare Jean’s soup, I smile as I am warmed by the beautiful gift of friendship we continue to share to this day.

Vegetable Beef Soup (download printable recipe here)

The touch of oregano gives a hint of Italian flavor.

1 lb. stew meat
1 – 2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped
3-4 potatoes, chopped
1 tsp. beef bouillon (or 1 cube)
2 cups water
1 – 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 small can tomato juice
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. salt
Pepper to taste

In a large pot or dutch oven, sauté meat in 1 tbsp oil on medium-high heat until all sides are brown. Set aside on a plate. Sauté celery, onion, and green pepper in remaining 1 tbsp oil until onion is golden (about 10 minutes). Add browned beef, water, bouillon, tomato sauce, tomato juice, carrots, potatoes, sugar, garlic powder, oregano, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 1-1/2 – 2 hours. Add any other miscellaneous vegetables (peas, corn, green beans). Cover and simmer about 1 hour longer. Add salt and pepper. This freezes well.

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Read all Soup & Stories entries here.

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