This has been a year of learning, eye opening, and understanding more about how good God is. I had gotten pregnant and lost my job and my apartment. I began to question myself on how these things could happen when I was getting ready to bring something so precious into the world. I had gathered it was time for a New Chapter. God had to strip everything that I thought was important for me to realize how important He is.
The nurse who was coming by my house every week gave me a flyer about New Beginnings. I remember sitting there, looking and reading the flyer about how it could help me and my baby. I called the number, talked to one of the staff, and told her everything that was going on. She told me it sounded like I would be a good fit for the program and that she would get back to me. She called back about two hours later and told me that they would like to meet me, so I came in for an interview and a tour. It was nice and clean. A couple of days later, they called and told me I was accepted into the program. I did everything I needed to do to move into New Beginnings.
It was a difference for me because I was used to my own space and my own rules. I had a rough start, but I came to realize that I was here for a reason in that there is more to life than being selfish. As I began to understand more about New Beginnings, I began to accept the changes and rules and accept the women that I came in counter with. I started to believe that I was here for a purpose.
I’m surrounded by women who care and want to see me be successful in life so I can take care of my baby. When you have that in your face, you can’t help but accept it and change for the better. I thank God for New Beginnings, and I’m so honored to be a part of this great organization. Never Expect The Unexpected on What God has for You or Can Do.
*Since writing this article, Shaneka has brought a beautiful baby girl into the world. Kiarra Monae was born on September 9 and is a happy, healthy little girl. Shaneka is extremely thankful for this blessing in her life!
“The LORD will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.” - Psalm 85:12
During our Thursday evening group sessions at New Beginnings, we explore a variety of topics to expand our residents’ life skills. These sessions have been presented by staff, a local church or community member, or a Wisconsin Lutheran College student. We have learned about fire safety from a Milwaukee Fire Department firefighter, self-breast exams and women’s health from a senior WLC nursing student, how to submit a FAFSA form and scholarship essays from TEAM UP Milwaukee, discussed religious topics with a WLC campus pastor, held game nights and much more!
On a beautiful evening in June, we held a group session outside our home to beautify the landscaping and learn a little about gardening. At the time, we only had one resident, who had never planted anything before. She learned a lot that night and I think she might have even liked it a little bit. She helped plant geraniums and impatiens to add some color, and we also planted bell peppers, tomatoes, basil seeds and cilantro to enjoy later in the season.
After a summer of faithfully watering our plants and giving them lots of love, we had a bountiful harvest of basil and tomatoes. The peppers and cilantro did not do as well, but we are still learning!
As our tomatoes ripened and we watched as our basil leaves got bigger and bigger, we knew it was time to do something with all of it. We were very thankful for our amazing crop, but didn’t want to see it go to waste. We were able to make use of our earlier planting efforts for another educational group session: How to Use Basil. If you haven’t used basil for much before, there are countless possibilities! You can dry it to use throughout the winter months in pasta, dressings, sauces, soups, and more. You can make and freeze pesto to thaw later and enjoy on sandwiches or pasta. You can make Margherita pizza, caprese salad, fruit salads, flavor your water, basil-infused olive oil, basil butter, and the list goes on… Okay, so maybe there aren’t a “basil-ion” ways to use basil as the title suggests, but I would reckon at least 100!
We decided to focus on two uses of basil for our group session: making bruschetta and drying basil. Some residents had never had bruschetta before, while others had eaten it, but had never made it, so it was a great experience for all! Residents helped with cutting up the tomatoes, basil, and bread, and adding seasonings. It was smelling delicious in our kitchen! We let the flavors mingle together for a bit while we headed to our dining room table to dry the basil.
Drying the basil was a new process for most of us, but it went fast with five sets of hands working on it! It made me look forward to the day when my girls are all old enough that I can set up an assembly line at home to do this – it would go much faster than me doing it by myself!
After drying, bunching, and hanging the basil in our kitchen, our bruschetta was ready. We scooped it up onto some warm toast and indulged. It always tastes better when it’s homegrown, right? Everyone enjoyed this fresh, tasty treat and we hope that the residents are now confident to make it on their own sometime.
Our hanging basil is getting nice and dry now and will be ready to crush in a couple days. I think some empty baby food jars will be the perfect containers to hold the basil for each resident to enjoy in the coming months.
Growing your own herbs and vegetables is a truly rewarding experience, and we look forward to doing it again next year. Maybe then we can try the other 98 ways to use basil! We hope you are able to enjoy our bruschetta recipe and method of drying basil. We want to know: What’s your favorite way to use basil? Please tell us and we might try out your recipe next!
Garden Fresh Bruschetta
(Recipe adapted from tasteofhome.com)
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 4 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
* 1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
* 4 T. olive oil, divided
* 3-4 T. fresh basil, chopped
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/8 teaspoon pepper
* 14 slices French bread (3/4 inch thick)
** In a small skillet, heat 2 T. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and fry about one minute, just until lightly browned.
** In a large bowl, combine the garlic, tomatoes, onion, 2 T. olive oil, basil, salt and pepper. Let stand for 20-30 minutes.
** Drizzle French bread slices with olive oil; sprinkle lightly with additional salt and pepper. Broil in oven for about 1-2 minutes until lightly browned – watch carefully!
** Spoon about 2 tablespoons of bruschetta onto each piece of toast.
Yield: 14 servings.
Drying Fresh Basil
(Method from preservingyourharvest.com)
1. Gather your basil harvest in the morning hours after the sun has dried away the dew of the night. Cut approximately 1/4” down the stem on each leaf.
2. Gather the sprigs into loose bundles and secure the stems with rubber bands to assure that the bundles stay together as they dry.
3. Hang upside down in a warm, dry place such as an attic or porch until the leaves are brittle to the touch, approximately 2 weeks.
5. Gather the dried bundles and place on a sheet of wax paper.
6. Crumble the dried leaves and separate out all of the tough stems onto the wax paper.
7. Store in an air tight container in the pantry for use in cooking.
These air tight jars can be stored in a dry, dark place such as your pantry or cupboard, or even your freezer, with proper care.
Dried basil can be used in sauces, gravies, dressings and many other recipes that require fresh basil.
Life is BUSY! I often hear the phrase, “I am busy as a bee!” at New Beginnings. Staff busily prepares for an upcoming devotion, the next group event, or activities for our moms; sometimes we do all of these things at once! New Beginnings is filled with multi-taskers; our residents, too, have a busy schedule. Our mothers work hard to establish a routine in the program, make the study of God’s Word a priority every day, and care for their child.
Although the hustle and bustle feels arduous at times, we need to remember that God invites us to come to him when we are tired and weak: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29
Isn’t it encouraging to know that when we are fatigued physically and mentally, God never tires and gives us strength when we need it?
I remember being “released from the nest” when I left for college. My life felt so busy, and sometimes I found it difficult to stay on track. Mom and Dad were no longer around to remind me to schedule my dentist appointment or insist that I study for my Statistics exam. In my early college years, I found difficulty in maintaining structure to facilitate my own personal progress, but I looked to God for guidance and called on him for help when I was exhausted from life’s fast-moving pace. I constantly reminded myself in Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
New Beginnings provides a unique opportunity to instruct generationally-poor individuals of the value of routine, as planning ahead and staying on track prove vital in achieving self-sufficiency. Our program takes this opportunity one step further by providing spiritual guidance along the way. At first, the structure of the New Beginnings’ program often seems difficult for our residents; after all, many of our moms have never experienced set schedules, the requirement to arrive on time, or even the concept of accountability. Over time, however, the moms begin to appreciate the value of routines and apply structure to their own lives independently. In addition, our mothers begin to turn to God in times of exhaustion and difficulty; after all, God reminds us that we can do all this through him who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13).
The mood at New Beginnings has been changing as we await the arrival of two babies into the home. We imagine what our group dinners and devotions will be like with a total of four babies instead of two, and how much longer it will take to get ready in the morning for church. We sit in almost dead silence trying to hear the cries and laughter of a full house of babies. Yet in all of these things we see God's guiding hand in everything we do.
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 NIV
This passage gives so much comfort to not only our residents as they prepare for a whole new life being a mother, but also for staff members as we prepare in our own way. Each time a baby is born or brought into the New Beginnings Family, we are able to provide the baby and mother with virtually everything they would need, thanks to the very generous amount and variety of donations we have received.
With the pack n play's all set up, the diapers, wipes and newborn cloths in order, the only thing left for any of us to do is pray. Pray that within these last few days of pregnancy, these young women are able to find peace and serenity from God. We pray that when the time comes for these precious children to be born that God guides the labor and delivery. We pray that the new mothers make a fast recovery and put all their trust in their Savoir to help raise their little children. And most of all, we pray that the Holy Spirit will guide these new mothers to bring their children into the family of God through baptism.
Even though the mood will be changing as drastically as our seasons, we look forward to the new seasons in these women's lives and gaining two precious New Beginnings Family members.