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Friday, June 22, 2012

Nutrition Spotlight: Nutritional Yeast

One of my all-time favorite snacks to enjoy in the evenings has always been popcorn.  We used to make it with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray, but when we began to get educated about the health concerns of artificial ingredients and chemical additives, things really began to change about the way we make our popcorn.  One of the main ingredients that we have come to LOVE on our popcorn is something called "Nutritional Yeast".  It is delicious!  If you have never heard of it before, don't even worry about it.  I had never heard about it either.  We got wind of it when I began learning more about vegan eating, and what I found just astounded me, which is why I wanted to share it with you!

First of all, as you may or may not know, most vegans tend to supplement their food choices in order to ensure adequate intake of certain nutrients that they will likely not take in without meat, eggs, and dairy.  One of the biggest potential areas of concern rests with the B-vitamins.  B vitamins are typically found in your meat, egg, and dairy products and are essential for cell metabolism, which in turn helps to provide a stable mental and emotional well-being.  Since vegans tend to be deficient in their B vitamins, I made it my job to find out more about what other options I had, since I did not want to take a ton of supplements.  This is when I learned about nutritional yeast.

Nutritional yeast is a powerhouse for B vitamins.  It boasts of multiple hundreds of percent for several of the B vitamins, including a significant source of several other nutrients, both macro and micro.  Also, it only takes a little to get a lot with this wonder powder, which is incredible.  For only 1 tablespoon of the yeast, you get 8g of protein and 4g fiber, which alone is insane!  Check out the rest of this nutritional profile though (taken from Red Star Nutritional yeast's label; other brands may vary slightly):

Nutrients                           Per 1 heaping tablespoon
Calories                               60
Total Fat                              1 gram
Carbohydrate                       7 grams
Fiber                                    4 grams
Protein                                 8 grams
Sodium                                5 milligrams
Vitamin B1 (thiamin)            640% Daily Value (DV)
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)         560% DV
Vitamin B3 (niacin)              280% DV
Vitamin B6                          480% DV
Folic Acid                             60% DV
Vitamin B12                         130% DV
Selenium                               30% DV
Zinc                                      20% DV

The best part about this product, though, is that it tastes great!  It has a cheesy edge to it that is absolutely delicious on popcorn, but we also enjoy it on top of savory dishes as much as we can.  We put it on spaghetti, lasagna, chili, casseroles, in dishes as a pseudo-mac & cheese, etc.  There are a ton of different ways to use this awesome condiment!  If you are looking for a new product to help clean out the bad for you stuff, but keep the delicious taste and value, try some Nutritional Yeast, and definitely share your thoughts and experiences =0)

Question of the Day:  What have you found to be a staple that you like to add to foods for flavor enhancement?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Homemade Pizza Deluxe

Tonight we had the awesome treat of homemade pizza. Since it was Father's Day, I let the hubs choose dinner, which of course was his favorite! He specified, though, that it had to be monstrous with loaded veggies, so I was happy to oblige. Here's the finished product!

Two towering and loaded pizzas of veggie goodness with some white meat chicken added too. I case you too get a craving for super yummy, healthy pizza, here's the top-notch recipe for the enjoyment of your taste buds:

Whole wheat pizza dough (makes 2 pizzas)

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp oil (I used Grapeseed oil, but whatever you have that is liquid will be fine)
  • 5 cups flour (freshly ground is best!)

  • Sauce of choice (I just used some bottled organic marinara...organic is best for tomatoes because they absorb pesticides through the skin)
  • Various vegetables of choice (I used sautéed onions, red pepper slices, zucchini and basil from the garden, and organic kale)
  • Canned chicken, opened and drained, if desired
  • Cheese (we not keep Daiya vegan cheese on hand, which is contradictory to the whole canned chicken thing, lol...we still loved it!)
  1. If using freshly ground flour, grind wheat grains in mill. In large bowl, pour water, add yeast and sugars, and stir until mixed. Let sit a few minutes for yeast to activate and become frothy.
  2. Add other ingredients into mix, including flour, and then mix. You can get down and dirty with your hands first, use a whisk first until thickens and then get your hands dirty, or you can pour this all in a mixer and avoid hand messiness completely (I don't have a mixer and I love getting my hands on dough). Knead for at least 5 minutes to activate all the gluten and create a fluffy rise.
  3. Sit in a warm place for 30-45 minutes, or until doubled. I like to heat my oven until preheated and then turn it off, while sitting my bowl of dough on the stove to feel the heat, but not be baked. Once dough is double and fluffy, it is ready.
  4. Pour dough onto surface, cut in half, and roll into two pizzas (shape up to you and your pans) or you can wrap and freeze one dough for later use.
  5. Slick your fingers with some olive oil and rub it lightly onto the perimeter (crust) to create a crunchy crust (otherwise, avoid this step of you like a soft crust).
  6. Begin adding toppings. When using greens on my pizza, I like to put them on first before the sauce because they then get more moisture and soften, rather than get crispy in the oven. Make sure to spread the weight of the toppings all over so that the middle of your pizza isn't too wet and sinks.
  7. Preheat oven to 400F.
  8. Bake pizzas for 20-25 minutes, or until crust is crispy and cheese is bubbly. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Do you have a Mom Book?

The small women's group I have been part of throughout the course of this year is finally wrapping up, and I am sad to see it go.  But, successfully getting through an entire year's crash course on Home Management has been such a gratifying, all be it shocking adventure.  I do not think I realized just how many areas I was already handling in the home!  Seriously, women rock!  I'm proud to be one!  =0)

If you missed the older post, the book we have been going through and gleaning from this year has been Large Family Logistics: The Art and Science of Managing the Large Family.  I have learned so much, both inspiration for things I need to do more, and realization of how many more things I could really be doing.  The time of learning has been awesome, and I am proud to say that I am in the processing of stepping into another level of experience by applying some of the lessons of the book.  One of the topics brought up in the book is the idea of the "Mom Book".  The "Mom Book" is a catch-all binder of the very important information, topics, lists, organization, ideas, etc. that are part of the normal homeschooling, homemaker's life.  It is a place for all the random thoughts to land in an organized manner, as well as a one-stop-shop location to plan out and organize any other areas of life that may come.  May I introduce my "Mom Book"...

I drew the picture for my Mom Book when I was still pregnant with Taliya, so I clearly need to update the lovely picture, but I have to say I am excited about getting a bit more organized with my days.

As you can see, my "Mom Book" is a smaller binder, because I wanted a portable one versus the huge binder option.  The tabs that I have in the binder are Immediate To-Do, Home Management Tasks, Homeschooling, Meal Planning, To Buy, Projects To Do, Blogging, Finances, Couple Time, Skills- Info, Miscellaneous.  Each of these tabs represent some of the areas that I cover in the course of an average week.  To-Do includes all the tasks that are needed to be done asap.  Home Management tasks includes plans for all the chores and training that needs to happen in order to keep the home clean and sanitary.  Homeschooling is where I plan for curriculum options, prices for books, topics to study in the upcoming year, etc.  Meal Planning is pretty cut and dry, but if I get additional recipe ideas, or meal plan ideas, I will write them down here, too.  The To Buy category includes purchases needed around the home (like more shelving), kitchen appliance desires, clothing needs, and other randoms things.  It also includes a list of the best prices for specific foods we often purchase.  Projects To Do includes fixer-upper projects around the home, school projects to do with the kids, Homemaking projects to do with the kids, etc.  Blogging will contain my blog ideas, notes, etc.  Finances will contain what we have upcoming for bills, debt, etc...until the debt is paid off!  Couple Time is where I will write down any books or studies I would like to do together, topics that need to be further discussed and ironed out, and anything else pertaining to our marriage that needs tracking or remembering.  Skills is where I will be jotting down the various crafts or skills I want to learn and any pertinent information about them, such as sewing, more gardening, etc.  And, of course, Miscellaneous...because you just never know when something will come up that does not quite fit in a nice little box (i.e. category).

I recommend custom making your own "Mom" book rather than buying a pre-made organizer because this is so easily changeable without too much overhead cost.  If I decide a category is not working for me, I simply need to switch the label and throw away the unneeded pages inside.  If I messed up a pre-made organizer, I would need to throw away the entire thing in order to get another one that is a better fit.  

I will, though, still be coupling my "Mom" Book with my new Well Planned Day Planner, which is super exciting to me!  I bought the Homeschool Teacher one, which has lots of the unique needs for homeschooling, such as lesson plans, daily scheduling, and calendars, etc.  Although I am sure I could figure out a way to do this in my "Mom" Book, I thought I would leave it to the professionals, at least this time =0)  In all seriousness, though, I think the two will harmonize well together and really help keep our lives situated.  I'm excited!

There you have it...the makings of my "Mom" Book.  I hope this inspires you to begin putting together your own method of organization that is perfectly suited to meet your unique needs =0)  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

An Attitude of Gratitude

We live in a time that is filled with flippant pressure to consume, earn more, achieve more, gain more, grow more, etc.  This concept, of course, is without restraint unless it comes into contact with the Word of God, which is when reluctance, the "less is more" approach, and limitation come into play.  As a parent, it is my duty to teach my children the way they should go.  God makes a clear command in Deuteronomy 6: 6-9, "These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."  Everything in life presents a learning opportunity, and a chance to teach biblical wisdom and lessons.

Through this time of great difficulty, we have a wonderful opportunity to dig into a lesson that I often impart to my children throughout tough days: bear an attitude of gratitude.  The enemy of our souls wants us to be distracted and disgruntled in hopelessness, covetousness, self-pity, pride, etc. and the best way to win that battle is through turning the tides of the mind and replacing lies with Truth, capital T!  The Bible tells us, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:3).  

We are not to be people of fear and trepidation, but of joy and enthusiasm!  Because of our hope in the Lord, we can look to Him for guidance and answers to prayer, knowing that He is Sovereign and good beyond understanding.  It is only when we step outside of these basic Christian beliefs that we enter into a mentality that brings with it destruction.  Focusing on things that are not going our way, repeatedly playing videos of the mind of negative events, and wishing or yearning for things completely outside of our control are just some of the ways to obtain a negative attitude.  Just like all sins, we naturally and quite easily slide into these behaviors like they are a pair of loved and well-worn socks.  

But, to step out of our natural sin behaviors and into God's Ways breaks us free from this self-destructive cycle.  No matter what our earthly situations bring to us, they are not so devastating that we cannot stand up under them.  The bible repeatedly tells us to be thankful, show joy, have thanksgiving, and wait on the Lord.  He is our Rock and our Redeemer in times of need.  So, we must take our thoughts captive, which describes a very intentional and purposeful event, not something that just happens passively.  When walking my kids through this exercise, I always ask them to voice their concerns and if they need to talk and then I ask them some things that they just really like.  This turns their mind to the things in their life for which they are thankful: my sister, playing with dolls, running, etc.  Remembering all the good things that God has provided in this life helps to correct any negative perspectives that want to invade and take over our minds.  This is taking thoughts captive.

Practicing this discipline is a big step in keeping our minds on giving praise and glory to God, even in our most difficult times.  We must never forget how much God loves us, or let our circumstances dictate how we are led.  We are not to be led by our emotions, but to bring our concerns and suffering to the Lord's feet in worshipful prayer.  Philippians 4:6 says this: "Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition, take your requests to God."  The next passage, though, is KEY!  "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ," Philippians 4:7.  When I say worshipful I mean having a humble and respectful heart towards a Most High God, always keeping in proper perspective on who He is and who we are.  If this heart attitude toward God remains in proper order, the response and results of such prayer will be this promise.  God is faithful and does not leave us in the miry pit, but helps us to walk through it to the mountaintop, where we are able to see His bigger view on things.  Focusing on how great God is, correcting negative thoughts through intentional action, and praising the Lord regardless of circumstances provides the greatest gift of joy in the times of trouble.  Amen for that!

Monday, June 4, 2012

When Times Get Tough...

This has been a little while coming, but things have been so crazy here that I have not mentally been together enough to sit and write out what has been generally going on.  I wanted to make sure I put out some information since I have a minute now.  Thank you every one for your prayers and offers of help.

All in all, our family is doing well, but we are in the midst of the biggest trial we have yet to face as a family.  About 2 months ago, our fourth child, first and only son thus far, who just turned 2 the end of May, began to show noticeable signs that something was not quite right in his body.  I noticed his hands would shake when he would hold out his arms to be picked up.  When I first noticed it I thought it strange, but then just kind of blew it off and did not think much of it.  Then I noticed he would shake when in the shopping cart, like he was cold or something.  I would ask if he was cold but he was not.  Then he began to shake while sitting in his high chair, and then when standing.   
I noticed he began to have issues walking and even when standing would continue to shake about slightly, but enough that he would reach out to hold onto something to steady himself.  The fay after I noticed this instability while standing, he almost fell right down the stairs when he ran over to the gate while goofing off but missed the rail.  Thank God I was standing right there and caught him.  That evening when hubby got home from work I told him that I was concerned about Zack, and when Zack woke up from his nap he saw that he had deteriorated even further since church the day before, so we headed to the ER (this is about 7-10 days after I first noticed the symptoms).  We were admitted in the hospital through Friday, during which time they did a series of tests, ruling out brain tumors, and one test for Lyme's disease.  During the stay in the hospital, his symptoms progressed even further, going from having a very staggered walk to not being able to walk at all, and then started a new symptom with his eyes being unable to focus very well and shifting all over the place.  By the end of the week (about 2 weeks from the time when his symptoms began) he was diagnosed as having post-infectious cerebellitis, which is a self-limiting illness that typically begins to get better from 1-4 weeks.  This diagnosis was actually very benign, so we left the hospital hopeful that any day we would begin to see an improvement in our son, but that is not what has happened. 
We've been discharged for about 7 weeks now, and Zack is no better, so we are seeking a second opinion.  We will be re-entering the medical community to seek out an MRI for his head and thoracic cavity, because we believe that he is suffering from something called Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome (find more information here).  His information is right in line with this (less than 2 years old, presents quickly, follows flu-like symptoms...he had a cough for over a month, but never any fever or really much else) so we are seeking out testing to rule out or confirm a neuroblastoma (which is highly common in such a situation), or any other tumors in his body.  If this is ruled out, we will move onto Lyme's disease and the strains of bacteria and their mutations that can cause it.  We desire prayers for being guided to the right doctors to help us properly diagnose what is going on, protection from any negative butting of heads between us and the conventional medicine community, and respect from the medical staff for our parental rights to make medical decisions for treatment of our son, whether it be to seek out alternative care or pursue conventional treatments.  Then there is also the financial burden, as we have had to pay out of pocket for some of this, but especially his homeopathic treatment.  Any other care we pursue that it outside of insurance provision will also be out of pocket.

We know this is going to be a journey for our family and we are prepared for a season of testing.  In all of this we know that we are being refined.  The scripture I have been given over and over is James 1:2-4, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."  I have been finding relation to Job from the Bible throughout this time, and am determined to continue to give praise and glory to our good Father in Heaven, who loves unabashedly and mourns with us when we suffer trials in this life.  But, we rest secure in the promise of Jeremiah 29:11-13, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."  Well, we are seeking our Lord =0)  There are beautiful things that have already begun to emerge out of this miry pit.  Hubby's grandma has come to stay with us for some time to help out.  The girls are really stepping into their roles as helpers and servants of the Lord in this family.  I have absolutely relaxed on expectations in the household and on myself, and we have been repeatedly blessed by the help offered to us by others.  Asking for help is just one area where I previously was not comfortable, but am truly seeing the blessing of reaching out in such times of distress and need.   
In addition, enjoying the simple pleasures and joys of life comes easily for me now.  Things that previously would have likely been overlooked amongst the million other things on my plate are now being enjoyed and cherished (a laugh here, a smile or tickle there, a cuddle and hug, etc.)  There is nothing as refreshing as a renewed perspective on the significant blessings that God has allowed into our lives.  I am beyond thankful for everything we have.  Even seeing where my son is right now, I can rejoice in God's love because I am still so blessed.  I still have my son, I still get to hear him laugh, I still get to see his smile.  Life could be so much worse.  We have a potentially long road ahead of us, but God is Sovereign and continues to make Himself manifest.  Your prayers are more than desired and any practical way you feel you could help, we would absolutely appreciate it.  I will be posting on this, and the loads of other things God has been teaching me since before this latest season, so I hope you will stay connected on here.  The more readers I can get on here, the better my chances of turning it into something of a financial blessing for our family too.  Thanks again and as always, please feel free to share comments, thoughts, and encouragements below!  God bless!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Wisdom of Seeking Guidance (especially from your husband)

For many homeschooling families, the wife/mother assumes majority of the workload that is put into the schooling of the children.  Husbands very often do take on a few subjects or particular children, but their role is not as the primary educator of the children, or facilitator of their learning (as they get older).  I have read of a myriad of ways that husbands participate in the homeschooling of the family, but one of the most significant helps a husband can offer for the wife is an outsider's perspective and the value of his headship and leadership within the family.  Let's face it, homeschooling is not the easiest of tasks, and though the difficulties of it manifest differently for everyone, there is some struggle going on within most homeschooling moms at any given moment: "Johnny really needs to do his math, but we are running so behind I don't know how we can get to it!...The floor needs to be swept but the baby is crying and needs a diaper change...I really need to spend some one-on-one time with Jill, but I just don't know how or when we can do that without so many distractions and interruptions!"

At least, this was where I was just the other day.  Feeling overwhelmed, incapable, failing at everything, and exhausted.  Things just felt scattered, chaotic, and frantic, rather than the scheduled, predictable, joyful, and pleasant atmosphere I yearned for our house to exude.  The kids too were feeling the disorganization and acting out because of it.  In our family, the more predictable and expected the order of the day/week is, the better tempers we have.

See, majority of the home schoolers I know, myself included, go through seasons where a feeling of inadequacy is experienced, often due to the expectation of needing to do more than is truly needed.  This is the homeschooling version of "keeping up with the Jones'".  We see, hear of, or read about homeschooling families that do a million things and we imagine them doing it all perfectly and without any tension, ever; violin lessons, speak 3 languages, Chess tournaments, kids able to scrub the house top to bottom with perfection, etc.  The reality is that every family has victories and struggles, difficulties at one point or another with messy children, and must go through various trials while doing life together.  The operative word here, though, is TOGETHER.

Segue to the point of this message (did you know it's not spelled segway?  I didn't, lol).  In a marriage relationship, two people are joined together to become one, and in this holy union life is meant to be done together.  All the struggles, joys, thrills, chills, trials, and victories are meant to be experienced alongside of each other, while knowing that there will be times when leaning on the other person for stability and strength will be necessary to get through a particular season.  There is nothing shameful or weak about this!  It is the reason God provided the Body of Christ (i.e. the Church).  For one thing, each of us are blessed with particular gifts and talents that balance out and fill in the gaps of others around us.  In our marriage, Mark is the administrative one.  Administration comes dead bottom for me in my giftings.  But, my weakness cannot be balanced by his strength if I do not seek out his insight and help when needed.  Sadly, he is not a mind-reader!  In addition, though, God designed the family to run in another organized and orderly fashion, with one head, not as an ugly two-headed dragon.  The family is another earthly example of the relationship of Christ and His Bride, the Church (see Ephesians 5:22-32).  In the same way it is foolish for me to go about my life, struggling as I may be, without ever seeking the wisdom and perspective of Christ, it is equally as foolish for me to do the same without seeking the wisdom and perspective of my husband.  Ouch!

So, God has seen fit to bring me to just this point.  He has seen fit to humble me, putting so much on my plate that there is just no way I can wisely do everything while maintaining a Christ-like attitude and my overall health.  He has pushed me to my breaking point...the point where I must (gulp) ask for help.  DOUBLE GULP!  Maybe I am the only person who struggles with this, but God has been pruning me to know when it is wise for me to pull up my bootstraps and get to work, and when I really do need help to get it all done.  For a little while now, I have known this is where I am.

My husband and I had a sit down last night and ironed out solutions for some of the most immediate things that are on my plate and needing attention (i.e. home school), and I was so, so blessed by his insights and wisdom!  He brought to the table solutions that I was too close and too swamped to see, and helped to eliminate things from the list that just do not need to be happening right now.  I feel like an elephant has been lifted off of my back!  The value of his perspective just cannot be overstated.  Wives, be sure to seek out your husband's advice for things pertaining to your home schooling and overall flow of your household.  He is the head and God has ordained him with insight that cannot be explained in this world.

I know that there will be some ladies who read this and do not believe that their husbands are interested in participating in the home schooling endeavor.  A sure way to keep it that way is to keep him at an arms' length from it!  The more he feels invited and welcome into home schooling, the more he will become involved (most likely gradually, so be patient).  Others may not trust that their husbands will offer sound advice, or wisdom.  This may be true, but it does not remove the importance of inviting him into the schooling.  It does, though, stress the importance of your relationship with the Lord to be able to discern what is Truth and what are lies.  Dismiss that which is a lie, or harmful, and embrace every bit of wisdom and Truth that exits his mouth!  We must be wise enough to listen to and trust the leadings of our husbands, trusting wholeheartedly that the Lord is in control, no matter what.  Even if your husband is not a follower of Christ (yet) you are called to submit to him, as one submitting to Christ, because ultimately Christ is in the driver's seat.  Always remember, "The Lord watches over the ways of the righteous" (Psalm 1:6).  If all else in this earth fails, Christ is still leading you in the ways of righteousness...you just may be too close to see His perspective yet.  Be patient.  Solutions will come, whether from your husband or not.  His timing is always best.

As a Christian, my life is first and foremost meant to bring glory and honor to God.  If I am too caught up in dealing with the things of this life to fulfill this calling, then something needs to change. And, more often than not, that change will begin with me.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sunday Morning Madness

"All I wanted to do was enjoy a lovely sit-down breakfast with my family!  Why is this so difficult?"  Have these words ever crossed your mind in the morning?  I have been trying painstakingly to get into the pattern of making a nice Sunday morning breakfast for our family.  I have this vision of pancakes and eggs, orange juice, and fruit, all of us sitting down with smiles on our faces and laughing as we eat.  But, this just does not ever seem to be the picture that actually happens.  Usually, things are rushed, hair is not brushed, clothes are on backwards, the morning chores are half done, etc, etc, etc.  Although I could write this post about my conviction to be better at keeping things more orderly, or how it is so important to be diligent about time management, which are definitely true and important things, today this post is about the seasons of life.

I had a revelation this past Sunday about this very thing.  To put it bluntly, I am not in the season of in depth meals, gourmet anything, or meals that require excess attention.  More importantly, I have a very specific and special season that I am in right now, and it requires my full attention and energy.  I am in the season of the Littles.  "Littles?" you may ask.  Yes, Littles.  The season of the Littles is when children are still in a specific season of training, discipleship, and discipline that requires a LOT of hands on parenting in preparation for seasons to come.  It is a very hands on season, so when my attention is elsewhere, such as on making breakfast, it is easy for tempers to get flared and trouble to develop, because I cannot split myself in two and help gently guide while ensuring the meal gets made.  This intention to present a wonderful sit down Sunday breakfast has left us late for church on more occasion than one, and has strangled our family peace too greatly.  Something had to give!

Naturally, God was ready to help rectify the situation.  He spoke to my and my husband's hearts on this issue, clarifying that the breakfast beauty was just not meant to be; not because it is inherently sinful to make a lovely Sunday morning breakfast, but because it was distracting from the peace of the morning and hurting our overall intentions of getting to church on time (or preferably EARLY, gasp!)  Ultimately, this breakfast vision was becoming an idol, and that idol had to be torn down!

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that it is not okay to have a nice sit down family breakfast.  There is, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with making a nice meal, enjoying it, etc.  The problem comes in when frustration, short tempers, and stress come about because of everything bending around this vision of things looking a certain way, or going a certain way.  If the breakfast meal is causing more issues than it is helping, than it needs to go and something more simple needs to be figured out until a better time at a later date.

The more important focus of the morning should be for us to enjoy life and togetherness as we give glory to God who provided the day of rest (hasn't been very restful with stress first thing in the day!) A healthy meal of oatmeal or cereal with smiles, excellent time management and big picture goals being met is far more important and valuable than eating a lavish meal while everything else goes to pot!  "Better a dry crust with peace and quiet, than a house full of feasting with strife" (Proverbs 17:1).  The funny thing is, I know exactly where this intention of the "hot meal" came from.  Several years ago a good friend encouraged me to make a hot breakfast for my kids in the morning because a friend of hers had exemplified this to her.  It sure sounded good!  "My kids will really feel loved and special, and doing so will absolutely show to them my extreme love and adoration I have for them!"  At the time I was content to ensure that the kids received a breakfast of cereal or oatmeal with juice or a piece of fruit without much thought.  But, once that idea was in my head, it was hard to shake!  This is something that we must always guard against in our media-infused culture, because the Martha Stewarts and awesome homemaking blogs will present a lot of information, often GREAT, which can easily get twisted into a sinful application if we are not careful to discern its proper use in our lives.  For a time I was good about this and did not fret over my children eating a cold breakfast, but eventually that same lie came back to me, rooted in, and up came the first fruits of its growth.  Thankfully, though, God was ready for the pruning!

In my season with the Littles, though, a lavish breakfast is more trouble than it is worth, as much as I enjoy blessing my family in this way.  The truth is, though, that we are not yet in the season when breakfasts like this will be served, because it is low on the priority list compared to the other character traits we are working to instill into our children (such as diligence, efficiency, and time management in their morning chores).  In this season, cereal, oatmeal, toast with peanut butter, etc. is just fine for the majority of days to allow for the training which will prepare and allow for the season of lavish breakfasts and meals to come.  This is the vision for our family!  There will come a day where my children will have been trained sufficiently in doing their chores that I will not have to be alongside of them in the mornings. There will come a day when my children will have been trained in the kitchen to make a great meal without me having to be in there with them.  Today is just not that day; and in this truth, I have great peace, because the cold breakfasts and quick fix meals of today are giving way to the more enjoyable and valuable fruits of tomorrow.  "Let us not grow tired in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9).  Now, that is a promise worth believing!

Friday, May 4, 2012

What's For Dinner?

"What's for dinner?"...the question that every mother dreads.  You look at the clock, and it is already 5:30 pm.  Looks like another pasta night, or night of eating out.  Too many nights like this will inevitably bring on the stress, stretch the wallet, and bring reasons to hide the scale.  But, dinner does not have to be a thing of dread.  When planned in advance, dinners can be a predictable and enjoyable part of the day!  All it takes is a little initiative.

There are so many different ways to meal plan.  There is the Once a Month cooking method, where you cook an entire month's meals in the course of a day, or a few days.  There is the method of rolling foods, where you bake something like a chicken one night, and then make chicken tacos, the next night, chicken noodle soup the next night, etc.  And then, there is meal planning mostly separate meals, but planning in advance so that you know what you will be making that night AT LEAST in the morning and know that you already bought the ingredients on your weekly grocery trip (right?  No more running to the store every day for missing items!)  You, your husband, and your children will all be thrilled with the predictability of your planning, and you will enjoy the blessings of a new routine that will encourage harmony in the family and peace in the home.

First, you want to determine if there are any known foods that you need to refrain from bringing into the home (food allergies, sensitivities, etc.).  Make sure to plan your meals to avoid these items, making substitutions where necessary.  Second, you need to choose which type of meal planning you wish to follow and then make your plan according to that style.  I like to do a combination of the three, making larger quantities of some things, knowing I will use the leftovers in the next day's meals (for instance, if I am making Black Bean soup one night, I will make extra black beans for tacos or black bean burgers another night, that way I only have to cook the black beans one time...yes, we use dried, not canned beans, since they are MUCH cheaper!)  Third, get familiar with the recipes you already have on hand and categorize them (there is again a variety of ways to do this, but I grouped mine into something like stews/soups, lasagnas/pastas, pizza, burgers, one-pot meals/casserole, chili, etc. since I found I had a lot of recipes in these categories, but you could also do something like bean meals, meat meals, chicken meals, etc.)

Once you have your recipes organized into some grouping, begin taking out or noting the ones you know are tried and true for your family.  Start with these.  If our family just loves pasta, see what other kinds of variations you can come up with: different sauces, add some different vegetables, mix in some squash or beans, etc.  If your family enjoys meat, grain, and veggies all separated out, determine a rotation for different meats/grains/veggies to keep things new.  Try to keep your weekly night's meals fairly similar, such as Monday is Soup Night, Tuesday is Lasagna Night, Wednesday is Casserole Night, Thursday is Meatloaf Night, Friday is Pizza Night, Saturday is Burger Night, and Sunday is Musko Night (everything MUST GO!...i.e., Leftover night, but it sounds better as Musko, doesn't it?)  There are so many variations to all of these groupings that any style of eating can fit within it (even vegan!)  I recommend including inexpensive food options in your meal plans to help stretch your budget.  The BEST items for this are legumes!  Lentils and beans are super cheap and help to stretch a meal.  They are nutritionally dense, so having these as the heart of the meal a few nights a week will absolutely reduce your spending.  Always make sure to have a vegetable of some kind in your meal, whether in the dish itself, or as a side.  These can be fresh, frozen or canned (in water, no or low sodium).  If you are not the biggest veggie fan, now is the time to train your palate to appreciate these super healthy and good for you foods!  They do NOT have to taste like dog food...at all!

With this plan in hand, sit and figure out what ingredients you have in the house, and what you will need to buy.  The more week's you plan for in advance, the cheaper your groceries will be in total.  You will pay less for a larger amount than you will by buying smaller amounts more frequently.  The only items that will not work great for this is your perishables, so you will want to plan for weekly purchase for some of these to keep them fresh (to help with ensuring great produce usage, keep your meals rotating with produce spoilage in mind...see my post on this topic here).  Of course, if you grow some of your produce, you will definitely have fresh and cheap produce on hand as needed, too =0)  Now, armed with a grocery list, head to your local store and buy the ingredients you will need for your planned meals.  You no longer will be making decisions about ingredients on the fly, which will ultimately lead to lowered spending for foods.

Once you have a week's plan figured out, you could take the initiative and plan out a rotation of foods for the entire month, or for two weeks, or just stick with one week at a time (this is a great way to start).  As you become more and more familiar with and accustomed to planning your meals, you can expand your plan as desired.  At this point, I have slowly progressed to a four week rotation with each night of the week containing a meal from a focused grouping of foods.  Ours goes: Sunday night is Pizza or Pasta Night, Monday night is Soup or Stew Night, Tuesday night is Lasagna Night, Wednesday night is Burger Night, Thursday night is Chili Night, Friday night is One-Pot/Casserole Night, and Saturday night is leftovers.  I have also planned a rotation for breakfasts and lunches.  In this season with everything being a bit off with Zach, though, this plan is not really followed, but it is an anchor to which I can return when needing a meal idea in a pinch.  I hope this gives you some guidance and ideas to get you started in your meal planning journey!

I am sorry this is sooooo blurry, but my computer which contains the file is broken right now, so the best I could do was to snap a picture.  I will update it when I can with a clearer picture, if not the original file!  I still hope it helps =0)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Before they rot...

When we first began eating a vegetarian diet several years ago, I did a lot of research to learn more about vegetables and how to properly use/store them.  Although our diet has changed repeatedly since then, I did for a long time have pieces of paper on my refrigerator with the information I am about to share with you.  You see, I did not grow up with a great understanding of vegetables.  My mom was excellent about encouraging us to eat our vegetables and such, but I did not really understand what made vegetables and fruits tick.  Why did certain items seem to last forever, while others seemed to rot overnight?  It was a baffling thing to me, so I set out to do some research about how to best protect our produce so that it could be well enjoyed over the course of the week, or more.

I stumbled upon an article in Vegetarian Times years ago, which addressed this very issue.  It was from this article that I wrote down the information on my pieces of paper which were gracing our fridge for years.  Here, in a short summary, is the information provided in that article:

  1. Many fruits and vegetables are "gas-releasers" which means that they expel ethylene, which ripens produce faster.  For this reason, gas-releasers must be carefully placed around other produce if you want to avoid spoilage.
  2. Some produce needs to be refrigerated to keep it fresh longer, and some really needs to be kept out of the fridge.  Gas-releasing foods that need to be refrigerated include apples, apricots, canteloupe, figs, and honeydew.  Gas-releasing foods that need to be out in the open include avocados, bananas, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, and tomatoes.
  3. Foods that need to be kept away from the gas-releasers include ripe bananas, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce and other leafy greens, parsley, peas, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, and watermelon.  
  4. Plan your meals using your produce according to the spoilage of the produce.  Use the fastest spoilers first and then move onto the slower spoilers throughout the week.  Here is the list of spoilage:

A working meal plan is the most helpful way to effectively make sure that you use your produce and don't let it go to waste.  This is most annoying when it is delicious and wholesome organic goodness, so be sure to take care of your produce to have it available for nutritious eating.  Please comment below, or ask questions as needed...always welcome!  =0)

Question of the Day:  What is your favorite vegetable and how do you like to prepare it?  Me?  I LOVE salads with flax oil, apple cider vinegar, a pinch of salt, twist of pepper, and whatever vegetables on top I can find.  Sounds delicious...I think I will go make that right now =0)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Nanny 911: Lesson of the Day

Today my kids watched tv for school...yes, tv.  Okay, well it may have been Roku, and it may have been Nanny 911, but we certainly had a lesson to learn and this show really provided an awesome opportunity to show it!

I don't know if you have seen Nanny 911, but it is a show about households, often with several children, which are utterly and completely out of control because the parents are usually not training their children in proper behavior and enabling them to follow through with the training.  The children, sadly, run a muck and usually are pretty sad and upset.  This show was a golden opportunity to teach a lesson to our children.

We have a few children who think life would be oh so grand if Mommy and Daddy would just let them have their way all the time.  No's are apparently the most evil word in all the universe, and it is not uncommon for pouts, attitudes, and potential tantrums to ensue because of it.  But, I know that these same children also want to have a loving home, live a life of dedication to God, and please God, Daddy, and Mommy.  Obviously, some confusion is going on regarding the double-mindedness in this thought process.

I had all the girls come sit with me while we watched an episode of Nanny 911.  They were wide-eyed in amazement with the way the children behaved!  Thankfully, the kids and I read the bible regularly, so Proverbs is a well-known book in the Bible.  Due to these lessons, I was able to point out to them how these children were left to themselves and the result was chaos.  Proverbs 29:15 was really the one brought to mind: "To discipline a child produces wisdom, but a mother is disgraced by an undisciplined child."  I asked the kids if this show looked like the kind of life and family time that they wanted.  Of course, they said no.  I pointed out how disheveled and sad the mommies and the daddies were, as well as the kids.  Chaos and disorganization make no one happy.  They nodded in agreement.

This show was a great opportunity to show the kids just what life looks like when kids run the show. It was not all the glamour and glitz that they were expecting, clearly.  But, God's Word still stands true.  As a mom, it is so critical for me to lead my children in the way they should go.  This is both in my words and in my actions.  And, when I fail in these things, it is just as critical for me to humble myself and repent before my children, asking for their forgiveness as often as necessary.  This is the whole point of family; to do life together, see each other at our best and worst, and truly learn how to best get along with others.  The lesson was a little impromptu, and the show a little off kilter, but I think the point got across for all of us today =0)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Master Web Weaver

Several years ago I received a devotional email that contained a wonderful story, which taught a fantastic, and pertinent, lesson.  This story has been returning to my mind quite often lately with all that has been going on, and I am pleased to say that I have found the story so that I might share its wisdom and thought-provoking nature.  The story comes from "UpWords The Teaching Ministry of Max Lucado" and is called The Woodcutter's Wisdom:

"Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village. Although poor, he was envied by all, for he owned a beautiful white horse. Even the king coveted his treasure. A horse like this had never been seen before—such was its splendor, its majesty, its strength.

People offered fabulous prices for the steed, but the old man always refused. “This horse is not a horse to me,” he would tell them. “It is a person. How could you sell a person? He is a friend, not a possession. How could you sell a friend?” The man was poor and the temptation was great. But he never sold the horse.

One morning he found that the horse was not in the stable. All the village came to see him.  “You old fool,” they scoffed, “we told you that someone would steal your horse. We warned you that you would be robbed. You are so poor. How could you ever hope to protect such a valuable animal? It would have been better to have sold him. You could have gotten whatever price you wanted. No amount would have been too high. Now the horse is gone, and you’ve been cursed with misfortune.”

The old man responded, “Don’t speak too quickly. Say only that the horse is not in the stable. That is all we know; the rest is judgment. If I’ve been cursed or not, how can you know? How can you judge?”

The people contested, “Don’t make us out to be fools! We may not be philosophers, but great philosophy is not needed. The simple fact that your horse is gone is a curse.”

The old man spoke again. “All I know is that the stable is empty, and the horse is gone. The rest I don’t know. Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I can’t say. All we can see is a fragment. Who can say what will come next?”

The people of the village laughed. They thought that the man was crazy. They had always thought he was fool; if he wasn’t, he would have sold the horse and lived off the money. But instead, he was a poor woodcutter, an old man still cutting firewood and dragging it out of the forest and selling it.  He lived hand to mouth in the misery of poverty. Now he had proven that he was, indeed, a fool.

After fifteen days, the horse returned. He hadn’t been stolen; he had run away into the forest. Not only had he returned, he had brought a dozen wild horses with him. Once again the village people gathered around the woodcutter and spoke. “Old man, you were right and we were wrong. What we thought was a curse was a blessing. Please forgive us.”

The man responded, “Once again, you go too far. Say only that the horse is back. State only that a dozen horses returned with him, but don’t judge. How do you know if this is a blessing or not? You see only a fragment. Unless you know the whole story, how can you judge? You read only one page of a book. Can you judge the whole book? You read only one word of a phrase. Can you understand the entire phrase?  Life is so vast, yet you judge all of life with one page or one word. All you have is a fragment!  Don’t say that this is a blessing. No one knows. I am content with what I know. I am not perturbed by what I don’t.”

“Maybe the old man is right,” they said to one another. So they said little. But down deep, they knew he was wrong. They knew it was a blessing. Twelve wild horses had returned with one horse. With a little bit of work, the animals could be broken and trained and sold for much money.  The old man had a son, an only son. The young man began to break the wild horses. After a few days, he fell from one of the horses and broke both legs. Once again the villagers gathered around the old man and cast their judgements.

“You were right,” they said. “You proved you were right. The dozen horses were not a blessing. They were a curse. Your only son has broken his legs, and now in your old age you have no one to help you. Now you are poorer than ever.”

The old man spoke again. “You people are obsessed with judging. Don’t go so far. Say only that my son broke his legs. Who knows if it is a blessing or a curse? No one knows. We only have a fragment.  Life comes in fragments.”

It so happened that a few weeks later the country engaged in war against a neighboring country. All the young men of the village were required to join the army. Only the son of the old man was excluded, because he was injured. Once again the people gathered around the old man, crying and screaming because their sons had been taken. There was little chance that they would return. The enemy was strong, and the war would be a losing struggle. They would never see their sons again. 

“You were right, old man,” they wept. “God knows you were right. This proves it. Yours son’s accident was a blessing. His legs may be broken, but at least he is with you. Our sons are gone forever.”

The old man spoke again. “It is impossible to talk with you. You always draw conclusions. No one knows. Say only this: Your sons had to go to war, and mine did not. No one knows if it is a blessing or a curse. No one is wise enough to know. Only God knows.”

And, so is the Truth of our situation and life itself.  We only get one little snapshot of the big picture. God is the master web weaver because He has a vantage point that none of us can ever see!  This is why we must make the decision, long before and all throughout trials, to trust and obey Him no matter what circumstances we face.  We must always remember His promises, like Jeremiah 29:11, "'I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you a future and hope,'" as well as the Truth about how God does things.  "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways" (Isaiah 55:8).  The fact is, though, that His character is trustworthy and we can be at peace even in the midst of the worst storms.  How wonderful it is to serve a good God!

Have you ever jumped to conclusions about a situation and been surprised at how well, or terrible, things worked out?

Photo image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Spider_web_Luc_Viatour.jpg

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

There's no use crying over spilled milk....

Before I had children, I must say, I thought I was totally a "go with the flow" kind of person, but the truth is (shhhhhh, don't tell anyone)...I'm really up tight.  Phew, now that I got that off of my chest, I can breathe a little.  Kids are most definitely able to reveal the darkest areas of our sin nature, aren't they?  I have learned more about how desperately in need of Jesus I really am since having children (who keep coming and coming), which actually makes me so pleased because, truly, I would rather live in the land of Truth and Reality than some false sense of "I'm okay", or even worse "I'm perfect!"

As I have mentioned in previous posts, this is a particularly interesting season in our life, because I am definitely being tried in my roles as wife, mother, and homemaker.  Finding the balance between these special purposes is very important to me, and has been for quite some time.  God, in His infinite wisdom, has seen fit to use this trial with Zachary to go through an exercise in the lesson He has been teaching me for months now.  "What is this lesson?" you might be asking.  Well, I'll tell you...the truth is, "It's not that serious."  Wait, what?!  How can you say that?  How can things not be serious?  Well, you may not really be thinking that, but I definitely would have.  Serious has become my middle name lately!  Serious has become a way of life for me for too long, and God is using this whole event to shake me out of that seriousness to force me to focus on enjoying life, my family, and the many blessings He has given to us!

It is very easy for me to get tunnel vision.  I don't know if I'm alone in this, but when I am zeroed in on a task, come hell or high water, I AM GOING TO FINISH THAT TASK!  But, when my littles and bigs are hanging around and I get tunnel vision, what ends up happening is that I miss out on opportunities to enjoy them and experience what is going on in their lives and moments.  I ignore or get annoyed by the interruptions, instead of welcoming them with the territory of the task at hand.  Ultimately, when I get this way, my temper is on edge and even I would not want to be around me.  Man, I am so thankful for the forgiveness my children offer me daily =0)  My friend and I were talking about this idea regarding if/when our children drop something and make a big mess.  Personally, my instinctual reaction is to freak out.  Not because I am mad at them for making the mess, as in, "I can't believe you just did that!  What a horrible child!"  No, my reaction is based out of the internal frustration of "man, now I gotta clean that up to...AHH!!!!!"  This is also called selfishness, for those of us who are keeping tabs of the sin nature...but who's counting?  So, because of my selfishness, I react or am likely to react poorly, because simply, I don't want to have to do one more thing.  My flesh just wants to finish the other 8 things on my list, and adding one more unexpected task is really not on my list.

But, this, of course, is not what God wants for me.  Even the task list can become an idol!  Even my best intentions to be a great homemaker or house keeper are meaningless sacrifices to God if they are overshadowing my first calls to love with a Christ-like love.  This does not mean that I should not do these things, but it does mean that in doing them I should also remain focused on loving my children and husband in my actions and words.  It means, too, that I should always be ready to drop what I am doing for them if needed.  Interruptions provide the opportunity to really assess where our priorities lie.

For me, this lesson was brought into reality today since I had to make some bread and food items for the family, but also knew that I would likely also be needed regularly for Zachary or Taliya, or any of the other kids here and there.  I made the decision, though, to only focus on doing what I could do and no more (which for me meant not making some audacious list of things to do, but only going on an hour by hour plan and adjusting as needed), and be ready to help my kids and goof off with them as much as I could throughout the day.  Honestly, things went very well.  We got so much done!  I think this was the surprising part, because for some reason the lie in my head is that if I goof off with them and we do not keep a schedule, everything will just ultimately end up in disaster and disorder.  Neither of these things actually did occur, mind you, but it is the feeling that I get inside of me.  And, this is why I am thankful for God's call to be lead by the mind and not the heart, because the heart is so easily led astray.

It is an present-day epidemic to constantly be on the lookout for the next task to accomplish, but there is wisdom in setting boundaries and knowing limits.  Take the time to remember what is most important and properly establish where efforts really need to be focused.  This will ultimately bring about great peace both in your soul and in your household!  Remember, "The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses his people with peace" (Psalm 29:11).

Have you ever cried over spilled milk?  What accidents have you or your children accomplished that nearly or literally brought you to tears?  Is it funny now, or would you still cry? =0)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Digging in Deeper

Most of our friends on Facebook know that our son has been struggling with a difficult neurological issue for a few weeks now, a season I posted about a few days ago (see my reflections on this here). Sadly, we have not yet seem many improvements in our son, but actually continued to see the symptoms increasing, which is very difficult to watch and endure. It is so tough to watch our less than 2 year old toddler son, who has no idea what is going on, struggle through this, experiencing the frustrations of no longer being able to simply do the things he was able to do just weeks ago (like running, attempting to jump, climb on chairs, get into stuff...all the typical toddler in behaviors we love and enjoy so much). He is now to the point that walking is impossible without immediately falling, and even crawling is very difficult for him as he often missteps a hand and hits his sweet face on the floor. Although I know these things hurt him physically, it is his heart that concerns me the most. I can see his emotional frustrations with what is going on and it breaks my heart.

I am thankful, though, for the lessons we are learning during this trial. God is not without purpose, even in this. For one thing, I am eternally grateful that his sweet little personality is in tact. I can still capture smiles, incite gleeful giggles, tickle him silly, and hear his wonderful laugh. For this I am so, so thankful. I don't know about you, but it is easy in the midst of living I often forget to appreciate the simple things I life. I would love to say that I am always on the prowl for the little moments of life that fill it with joy, but I'm not. I am often so focused on the next task at hand that I miss the chance to enjoy life...sigh. My flesh is showing, I know. But, it is my good Father in Heaven who uses things like this to get my attention and teach me what REALLY matters in this life, no matter what Pinterest, Oprah, HGTV, or any other influence says.

Personally, I like a tidy house. I like walking on the floor without shoes and not having grit on my feet, but I have found quite often that this intention can easily become an idol if it supersedes my higher priorities according to God's Word, namely my devotion to my husband and children. When my home's tidiness becomes more important than keeping healthy relationships with these top people in my life than I am in sin. Oh, Lord, forgive me for these many occasions. But, I'm turning a corner. I'm determined to obey this call.

The Lord has really impressed upon me the importance of being very careful to prioritize and realistically determine what I can do and need to be doing throughout the days during this particular season in our household. In our normal season of life, baking, homeschooling, cooking, planning, taking walks, running errands, etc would all be easy and normal occurrences, but right now I cannot realistically do all these things, much as I might love to. And all this week I have intended to try to establish some sense of normalcy, but have been lacking greatly in seemingly all departments, feeling that I am essentially not doing anything well. I am thankful for a woman at church who prayed against this exact thing today at church =0). So, I am determined to walk hand in hand with God through this season, asking Him daily what are the non-negotiable tasks that must be accomplished that day.

Priorities, priorities.... This is a season where minimum is best. Keep it simple. We all have seasons in life that require our full attention; when the laundry can wait, the floor can be swept later, the toilet bowls can be cleaned tomorrow. This is that season for me. My main energy needs to be completely spent on my family and our relationships, along with healing our son. Expectations need to be reduced all around. I know that God will help us to find a new normal in all of this.

Even with the uncertainty and questions I am grateful for the overwhelming peace I have in this storm. The fact is, He is Sovereign and in control. I may not like this trial, I may not enjoy the struggle, but I have decided to learn every lesson that comes my way and to choose joy in the midst of the tumultuous waves!

Have you ever gone through a tough season in your life? Did you have to re-work your expectations or priorities? How did everything work out for you? Please share your experiences below. We can all learn so much from each other. God bless.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

To the Hospital and Back Again

I must say, this week has been nonstop excitement.  We were in the hospital from Monday to late Friday night because of some symptoms my 22 month old son has been having over the week prior.  His body was progressively losing more and more control of balance, coordination, and movement, so it was very concerning as it continued to progress.  It began with some shaking hands when he would go to pick up things to eventually so bad that he could not stand without shaking or walk without falling.  After almost a week in the hospital, we do not have a verifiable diagnosis, but the one we have makes sense.  Post-infectious cerebellitis, or in other words he had an unknown virus and after the infection went away his cerebellum inflamed somewhere.  The inflammation is not verifiable and the virus is not verifiable, so truly, only God knows exactly what is going on in this case.  Thankfully, though, my son is doing better, his arms are shaking less and he is gaining better control of his extremities.  It may take a little longer for the large muscles to get back to normal, like when he stands, walks, and sits.  He is in good spirits, though, especially now that we are home.

This adventure of faith has been exactly that.  God has made himself manifest multiple times throughout our journey.  He is Sovereign and knew all about this little hiccup in our lives, but used it as an opportunity to reveal Himself to us over and over.  I think as Christians in America, it is so easy to expect that when we ask to grow in Christ, to mature in our faith, etc. that we think it means we will experience an easier, pain free, and care free life, but this is not consistent with Scripture nor with a proper understanding of God.  First, we must always remember that we are not to consider this our home, but our temporary living place.  God uses difficulties in life to detach us from a dependency on the things of this world.  Second, we see over and over in scripture that when God's people are comfortable and living free of trials, they forget about Him.  As Christians, it is critical that we continue to praise, give thanks to, and remember God even when things are going well, but especially when things are tough!  He is not a magic genie in a bottle here to serve us and fulfill our desires.  We are here to serve Him and bring glory to His name.  This cannot be accomplished when we live in misery, without hope, stressed by this world, and act as the world does.  Our joy, hope, love, and behaviors should be the best examples of our faith and our hope in Jesus to everyone around us.  We SHOULD look different.  Third, when we go through the trials of this life, we experience the opportunity to be tested in our faith and to grow in our experience of God's goodness yet again.  After this experience God has pushed me out of my comfort zone to really speak up in His name, something I have been very uncomfortable about doing.  He has shown me that He truly is the Great Physician and knows just what is needed, so my dependency cannot be on the medical system and their truly limited knowledge in comparison to God's Sovereignty.  And finally, every opportunity we have to grow is a blessing from the Lord.  He wants us to be at peace in this life, but this is not found in ease of life, it is found in a steady quiet and inner peace when right in the middle of the biggest storms.  Peace is not living without any stressful circumstances, troubles, difficulties, pains, etc.  Peace is a sense of calm regardless of what is going on around us.  Do I mean an ambition sought like the Buddhists, found by intentionally cutting oneself off from the emotional effects of the material and worldly pleasures of this life?  No, it is not necessarily a sin to enjoy a movie, love snuggling in a chair, to run and skip in joy for the beautiful day, etc.  But, I mean a peace that is found and experienced because of a profound acceptance of God's Sovereignty...He is in control, so therefore, we need not fear.

Now, if the character of God is misunderstood, this idea of His Sovereignty may be fearful or troublesome.  But, to those who understand WHO God is and the traits that define His character, knowing that He is the one in control, no matter how bad things get on this earth, the greatest calm and peace ever can be experienced.  God is good, and He clearly defines Himself repeatedly in His Word, so if His character scares, angers or confuses You, be like the Bereans and study.  He tells us in His Word, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the LORD" (Jeremiah 29:12-14).  

This song was on my heart a lot over the course of this week.  I pray it blesses you too.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Garden is Springing to Life

I am thrilled to see that many of the seeds I planted a few weeks ago are finally beginning to show their lovely faces through the soil. All of the perennial plants look so vibrant and beautiful! Whoever once said that gardening is addictive was definitely right. There is something so wonderful about planting a small seed, or putting a small plant into the ground and watching it develop into a bountiful blessing. The apple trees are beginning to set out their leaves, the oregano is gorgeous, the strawberries look lovely, and I am just ready to dig in and get dirty, learning all about the adventures of gardening.

I do, though, seem to be retarded as of yet when it comes to starting seeds indoors. I do not know what I am doing wrong! It is so frustrating. C'est la vie.... I may just have to go buy the plantlings from the nursery or store for any plants that do not make it in my apparent lack of skills with indoor seedlings. I would LOVE to figure out broccoli, but that may be an adventure for another year. The broccoli we planted as seeds over the winter did actually come to a crown and it was delicious, but it was only about 3 inches across. If I don't get around to figuring them out by the spring, fall/winter does present a whole either opportunity! Thank you God for second chances =0). So, without further adieu, I wanted to share some quick pix on the garden and backyard so far. Contrary to potential belief, our backyard is a mess, lol. After watching the fabulous documentary on no-till, heavy mulch film, Back to Eden, we have literally loads of wood chips just waiting for us to get on the garden. It is taking quite a bit longer, though, to get the garden in order for the mulch, since we have to work with a massive hill in our garden plans. God has not seen fit to bless us with flat land at this point, so we must be wise and garden in raised beds. I pray that the day will come that we will live on a flat piece of land with plenty of sun! Until then, we will be doing our very best and leaving the results to God =0). And now, the pictures!

New growth on one of the apple trees...I think I may have over pruned this one. Whoops.... I am definitely learning as I go here!

New growth on the second apple tree. This one looks much better and has many more leaves. I hope we get a few apples this year! I still need to get a layer of mulch and probably some fertilizer around these trees.
This is the finishing cilantro from the winter garden. It grew so nicely, but especially flourished when the weather warmed up a touch at the end of winter. It will likely be setting seed in the next few weeks, in which case I think I will just let it reseed itself and stay nice and happy in that spot.

Doesn't this oregano just look happy! I didn't know oregano looked this way! It has a soft, furry leaf on it and smells divine. The plant looks so much better than last year, so I am excited to see how it does this season.
Here are the strawberry plants, also looking so happy for spring. I just received an order of 25 plants in the mail from Burgess Seed Co., which had some awesome prices, so I will need to get them in the ground soon. I do not think that the new plants, though, will bring a harvest this year. We shall see...I don't know enough about strawberries to know how they behave yet, lol.
My Swiss chard is loving the warming weather, though still cool. These are the plants from the winter crop. I haven't pulled them because they just looked so great!
This is a row of spinach beginning to say hello through the soil. =0)
And right behind the Swiss chard and next to the spinach are the sunflowers and pea plants beginning to sprout out of the ground. I hope that my plans for the two to grow in harmony works out! The plan is for the sunflowers to become the climbing poles for the peas. =0)

The grass looking plant in the front is chives, which I can't believe how big they got so fast! Growing like crazy behind it is mint. The kids love to come and pick this to eat.
And, last but not least, the rosemary plant. I think this bad boy may become a lovely and fragrant bush over time! Behind it, unseen, is a little sage plant that is enjoying the rosemary. Apparently they make a nice couple =0)
Here is the mound of wood chips waiting in the backyard...there is another just like it in our driveway.

And, the unfinished project of the season...the raised garden beds. Pray we have the perseverance and diligence to see this project through to the end before the end of the summer!

And, that is all. Are you planting a garden this year? If so, what are you planting? If not, have you considered doing any kind of gardening, like with containers? What is exciting you this season?