The Master Gardener

IMG_0171I love my garden. It is my oasis, my grocery store, my space to be quiet and think, my sanctuary to meditate, an emblem of hope for the fruit and vegetables that are to come. Growth is slow, it is not instant. My little plot is far from finished. I have lots more seeds to plant. Some of them are waiting because I haven’t had time to construct their trellis. Some are waiting because I like to plant in succession, so that I have lettuces and kales all summer long.

Their are spots of ground still waiting to be tilled, spots to be planted, spots to be weeded, and spots to be harvested. The gardener needs to get in there and get to work.

Isn’t that just like life? We have places in life that are bearing good fruit, parts of lives that need to be weeded, parts that aren’t yet ready to grow fruits, and seeds that have yet to be put in the ground. But we cannot get to know the Master Gardener, Jesus Christ, and expect Him not to work the soil of our lives, till the unbroken ground of our hearts, or plant the seeds of new dreams. He will gently, lovingly, kindly transform us into the beautiful, fruit bearing garden He has planned for us to be.

IMG_4212John was a disciple of Jesus, and in his writings, we know him for his thoughts on loving God and loving each other. But John wasn’t always that way – not until he left the Master Gardener in. When John became a disciple of Christ, he wasn’t known for his love. He was known for his rash and impulsive behavior, he was known as a smelly fisherman, a Son of Thunder. But Jesus didn’t kick John out of the disciple club. But somehow, Jesus got into the soil of his heart and began to transform him from the inside out. And then we came to know John as someone we trust, who shows us how to love God and each other. (Think 1 John 4:7-19). The brash, rash, impetuous young man became transformed by the loving, pruning, harvesting hand of Jesus.

What areas of your life are ready to harvest delicious nutritious fruit? What areas haven’t even been tilled? What needs pruned? Planted? Have you turned the whole garden over to the Gardener? Or are you hiding some spots away?

6 Easy healthy foods for the busiest days

Fresh fruit for juggling a busy scheduleI love food. I really really love food. I love eating as much as I need breathing. Ok, maybe I love food even more than breathing. And my food passion turns to serious food desperation on those crazy days that I don’t really have time to cook (that’s pretty much everyday). It’s all about the food.  And I love snacking just as much as I love eating but if I am going to stick to my 80% Paelo lifestyle, I need to make good choices even on crazy days. So I’m working on a list of ‘standard snack fare’ that I keep in my kitchen at all times. It’s gotta be healthy and Paleo friendly because otherwise, I’ll be chowing down on my kiddos’ pretzels and goldfish crackers and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and pretty much everything else that they leave behind. I’d much rather feed their leftovers to the chickens and eat something healthier! And it’s got to be a robust kind of a snack or I’ll eat way too many. After all, I like food. I love food. I NEED food. But I don’t need it making me sluggish or hanging around on my thighs…. So here are my favorite go to snacks and mini meals to keep me fueled up and feeling full when life is out of control. And let’s face it, when is life ever not out of control?

1. Banana with a couple tablespoons of almond butter and a few crumbles of homemade Paleo chocolate.

2. A couple of cuties. Call them Cuties, or Halos, or whatever – but a couple of fresh mandarin oranges are a great way to satisfy the sweet tooth, get your vitamin C, and have a nice healthy snack in its own convenient packaging.

3. Faux apple pie. This is delicious when you’re craving something warm and sweet! Cut up an apple any old way you like – I prefer bite size pieces, but slices are good too. Dump them in a bowl with a little bit of coconut oil and a sprinkle of cinnamon (I love cinnamon). Microwave for about a minute, then drizzle with honey (Raw Manuka honey is awesome). It’s like apple pie without the carbs. The coconut oil gives satiety so it’s a great bedtime snack to replace your sugary, sweet dessert.

image4. Eggs. For years, eggs were the ‘bad guys’ of cholesterol, but new studies are showing otherwise. Eggs are a powerhouse of nutrition and protein, easy to cook, and versatile. Keep some hard boiled eggs in the fridge for when you need a quick protein fix.

5.  Smoothies. Smoothies are filling and delicious, but just watch because the calorie count adds up fast. Frozen bananas, a few ice cubes, almond butter, maybe a little protein powder or a scoop of cocoa powder and a little honey. Toss it in your blender and your good to go.

6. Fresh juice. If you have a juicer, you can throw in 3 apples and 2 cucumbers for a great juice to take on the run. They are super nutritious, helps remove any water retention, and will give you energy. Need juicer? Try this one. It’s easy to use and I love mine. Bonus – the chickens love the leftover juice pulp! If you don’t have chickens just use it to create your own compost pile and the waste becomes fertilizer to grow more veggies!

It’s so easy to reach for carbs – crackers, croissants, or pop tarts, make such easy and neat packages, but the sluggishness that comes on after makes the convenience of carbs so not worth it. Instead, keep an extra supply of fresh fruits and veggies on hand: bananas, berries, apples, carrots, celery…. Fresh seasonal produce is almost always cheaper pound for pound than processed foods and gives you much more energy, satiety, and vitamins.

What are you favorite healthy snacks and meals for when you’re super busy?


6 things no matter the busy

IMG_0895 - CopyDon’t we seem to lose sight of what’s the most important when we’re too busy?  It’s just one day…. it’s just a few minutes… just, just a moment here or there… and in those few busy minutes we seem to lose track of precious years of the things that mean the most to us, the things that are the most critical to us, and the things that should be defining us. I don’t like myself when I am too busy; I don’t like what too busy and too tired and too stressed does to the person that is supposed to be me. Too busy means that I am not kind or creative or contemplative; I am not giving nor seeking to give. Too busy means I am too caught up in my own concerns to see how I can help someone else’s too busy, too. Too busy means that I am just getting by and not enjoying a single moment of the too busy so why bother with all of those things that make it what it is? What is the point of too busy if it isn’t positive and helpful and most importantly, focused on what is most important?

No matter how busy we are, there are things we cannot afford to skimp on; things we just must not let go of; things that need our attention and our affection and our absolute best self. No matter how busy we are we cannot afford to skimp on these 6 things. We cannot afford to lose sight of the most important; we cannot give up on, let go of, or let fall by the wayside the 6 things that we need the most when we are at our busiest.

Exercise. It helps keep you healthy. It creates mood boosting endorphins that counteract stress. It helps you stay younger, alert, and strong. It doesn’t have to be much, or fancy. Just a walk in the park or the yard or if necessary, at the mall.

Eating well. It keeps you healthier, it keeps bad food from weighing you down, making you sluggish, and tired, and sick, and miserable. It makes your body function the best that it can, and the busier we are the better we need our bodies to work.600817_4103356262744_1911529201_n

Sleep. I need my beauty sleep, and even more so, I need my attitude sleep. I need sleep to stay calm and I need sleep to stay strong and I need sleep to work harder, faster, and be more creative. I need sleep so my body can rest, recoup, and recover from stress and sickness. I need sleep to cope with the busy but somehow sleep is always the first to go when busy sets in.

Family. No one needs you more than your family, no one loves you more than your family, no one is probably more willing to let you get by than your family because no one is quite so forgiving as your family. No matter how busy busy gets, you can’t afford to skimp on cherubic faces and toothy grins and muddy hugs with holes in the knees. Nor can you skip on an aging parent’s wisdom or your crazy brother’s shot in the arm. They need you; they need you to need them; and need them, you do and if not today, you’ll need them tomorrow when the busy is hopefully gone.

God’s Word. More than bread. More than air. More than water. We need the Word of God to feed our souls so our souls can thrive under any pressure. We need God’s Word so we can draw close to God even when He seems far away because of the busy. We need God’s Word for its perspective, its strength, its soothing balm, its faith inducing, miracle inspiring, soul healing, life changing words that come straight from the heart and mouth of God and aimed directly at us.

IMG_0926Prayer. Prayer isn’t just a list of demands for a supernatural genie. Prayer is conversation with the Creator, the Maker, the Holy One, the Savior, our Friend. Prayer is when we unload our burdens, share our cares, solidify our hopes, discover our dreams, and become more like the Savior who gave up everything for us.

Six things. Just six. That you cannot forgo no matter how busy. 6 things that will control the busy. 6 things that will fulfill you like the busy never will. 6 things. I need these 6 things. I need these 6 things no matter how busy. I’m working on the six things and I’m working to get rid of the busy.  If you help me with the 6 things, I’ll help you with your 6 things.

New Recipe: I Need a Chocolate Fix 3 Ingredient Paleo Chocolate



In my house, it’s one of the 4 basic food groups. You know, protein, fruits and veggies, coffee, and chocolate. I’ve been taste testing lots of varieties of homemade paleo chocolate, and finally came up with my own version that I love! It’s totally delicious, decadent, easy, and versatile. I’m sure you’ll love it too, so I conjured up a recipe page so I can start keeping these yummy ideas all in one place. Enjoy!

Go here for the recipe: I Need a Chocolate Fix 3 Ingredient Paleo Chocolate 

True confessions: 80% works

532191_10202661568880888_954482986_nI have a confession to make. Puh-lease, please please pretty please with 
sugar and a giant tasty cherry on top don’t yell, criticize, make fun of me, or- worst of all- tell the healthy police. Because I am not proud of what I did.

Yesterday, I ate an Egg McMuffin.

Seriously, it was a weak moment. I was starved. So starved my ribs might have been sticking out a little (well, ok, maybe that’s just a tiny exaggeration, I haven’t seen my ribs for quite a few years and I really don’t plan on seeing them poke out again). And my kids were having those fluffy, carb-laden, chock-full-of-horrible–gluten, sugary, deliciously made with white flour McD’s pancakes. I couldn’t bear the temptation. I had to have it and I needed it right now. Can you feel my agony? Sympathize with my starvation? Well, at least I mustered the strength and courage to pass on those perfect pancakes and chose an Egg McMuffin instead, because, well, at least it had protein. Right? I mean, I gotta eat healthy, right?

Gratuitous chick pic

[insert sigh of defeat here]

As soon as I bit into the hot, tasty goodness I knew 2 things: my stomach would suffer later (about 24 hours later) and I had totally derailed the day’s eating. But only 1 of those things turned out to be true. Here’s why.

I am normally an all-in, perfectionist, do it right and do it all the way kind of a person. If I’m going to do something, it’s going to be 110%. Full steam ahead. Jump right in feet first without checking how deep the water is kind of a person It’s sort of my MO to pick a project and give it everything I’ve got until I either fail or get bored and move on to something else. It’s not a very attractive character trait, I believe. It’s kind of how I ended up with 31 pet chickens (who I really do love and adore), a garden so big I couldn’t fill it (but I will this year), and more than a few stints as a direct sales agent (not so good at sales, here, people, I’m not gonna lie). And it’s happened with

100 percent FitBit

my health and fitness. I’m talking diet plans, exercise plans, gym equipment – been there, done that, and I don’t even have the  t-shirt to go with it. So what normally happens when I start off the day eating poorly, I give up and stuff my face with whatever crap is just laying around the kitchen, especially if it contains sugar, flour, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Please, tell me you can relate. At least humor me here, k?

This time, it’s different. Because I’m making a conscious effort not to be 100%. Is that crazy? Maybe. My goal is to eat paleo friendly fare 80% of the time. And you know what? It’s working.

I give myself permission to snag a goldfish or two from my kiddo’s snack bowl. I give myself permission to eat a half a donut for breakfast, along side some farm fresh eggs or a banana. I give myself permission to indulge in the church pancake fundraiser – once in a while or (ack) hit up fast food when I am exhausted after a long day of schlepping a plethora of kids around. I also give myself permission to mess up – to eat (gulp) pizza during a trip to Chuckee Cheese, or (gasp) indulge in an Egg McMuffin without beating myself up. But I have to stop at 20%. It’s a balancing act, for sure, but it allows me to fail but not derail, indulge but not bulge, treat myself a little and still get healthy, lose weight, and best of all – not feel tired, sick, and disgusted with myself. I’m only 80% in, but it works. I feel healthier, stronger, thinner, and happier than I have in a long time. I pulled a dress out of my closet with the tags still on, because a year ago it was too small. Now it fits like a dream. And even when I’m totally wiped, I can hoist that fully loaded infant carrier up over my head and into my giant passenger van. It’s working, so I’m going to keep going all in 80% in.

Recipe for the weekend: Paleo friendly coffee creamer

Gratuitous coffee and theology pic

Normally, I like my coffee black. Bitter is better and I love it dark, rich, and very very black. But I came across a coconut oil coffee recipe that I cannot wait to try in my no-longer-black coffee. Coconut oil is said to help you burn fat (apparently, this healthy fat has magical properties) as well as a host of other benefits such as being anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and potentially, anti-aging (we won’t discuss my need for anti-aging, it’s a sore sore subject). So eating 2 tablespoons daily will help the pounds fall off, if that’s your goal. Whether it works or not, I don’t know, but I love coconut oil for all kind of things and this recipe sounds delicious!  Check it out here and let me know if you like it!

Gratuitous workout selfie.
Gratuitous workout selfie.

Healthy Food House Coffee Creamer

And if you need to give your health and weight loss a little boost, try this

system from It Works (yes, I get paid if you buy it. but you know that sales is not my forte and I will never pressure you)

Have a fun, fit, food-filled Friday!

Recipe of the Week

Coming up with delicious clean/paleo recipes is always a challenge, especially when I’m short on time – which is pretty much every single day of my life. My dear friend sent me an awesome cookbook for my birthday – Well Fed – you can buy it through the link below (this is an affiliate link which means I might make a little cash if you buy it here):

I am totally in love with this cookbook. It is clearly written, practical, offers suggestions, substitutions, and amazingly delectable paleo meals. Even if I don’t have the time or all of the ingredients to make the recipes exactly as written, they definitely jolt my culinary creativity and inspire me to get cooking (which is not usually my favorite thing to do). My first attempts were zucchini noodles using the Spiral Ninja:


As we as the chocolate chilli.



I am totally hooked on both and I can’t stop making zucchini noodles. The kiddos were enraptured! I even made some fancy cucumbers with the spiral ninja for my salad. But Tuesday was even more of a rush, and I really needed to get groceries. So I got creative and used just what I had on hand. I came up with pan fried coconut lime chicken, which is both clean and paleo. How easy is this!

Coconut Lime Chicken

Dump your frozen or fresh chicken in a large skillet.

Dump in a nice sized scoop of coconut oil (several tablespoons should do the trick)

Pour lime juice over top.

Simmer until it’s cooked.

It was so good that I made it for dinner again tonight!

I also added the cumin-roasted carrots from Well Fed and a heaping fresh greens salad with red and yellow pepper, tomato, and homemade dressing. It was so good that I ate a ton, and the best part of it is that I didn’t have that heavy, boated, fatigued feeling that I get after a full meal of carbs. I had the energy to get up, clean up, and get going to work. What more could I ask?

I admit, I cheated on Paleo just a bit with a little touch of shredded cheese on my salad and this dressing: 

Mayo Dressing

Several tablespoons of mayo or Miracle Whip (there is a recipe in Well Fed for a Paleo friendly mayo but I haven’t had the time to whip it up)

A generous squirt of mustard

A tablespoon of maple syrup

Celery seed, salt, and Italian seasonings to taste.

Stir it up with a fork and add just enough milk to make it creamy.

It’s very sweet and tangy so the kids loved it, and so did the grownups.

It doesn’t take much to get me excited about food, fresh yummy food, but it does take a lot to get me excited about COOKING the fresh yummy food. Thanks Well Fed, for bringing back the joy in cooking. Delish! 

Top 10 Reasons to turn your home into a homestead

At the mention of a homestead, I always pictured Laura Ingalls Wilder running free through the idyllic fields in the tv show, Little House on the Prairie. Are you with me? That tiny cottage where the girls are snuggled together in one bed, the naughty cows that got loose through the fence, the frightening barn fire, the endearing Papa mending the fences and the occasional broken heart of a small child. I totally wanted to live there. Be her. Learn to write on a chalkboard slate. Have a pet chicken.


I don’t know if that beloved show was an accurate depiction of the time period or not, but it did point to the difficulties and struggles of homesteading. Having a homestead was risky business, for sure, overflowing with danger, hunger, and hard work. Modern homesteading is really nothing like that (well, it’s still hard work, I suppose). Oh sure, if you REALLY wanted, you could buy a plot of land and live off-the-grid in your vegetable oil powered camper. Oh, come on, why not? Well, maybe because I like health care, and hot showers, and, air conditioning, and gulp, the Internet. But that’s no reason not to have a modern homestead of your own. In fact, here are my Top 10 reasons that we want to turn our home into a little modern homestead.

10.Food. I like food. Ok, I really really really like food. I mean, I like a lot of food. And what I really like is good, healthy, really fresh food with no additives, no fillers, and no chemicals or pesticides. When you grow it, you get to know what you put on it, in it, and around it, and how long it’s been there. As a closet control freak, I resonate with that. And with food.


9. Homesteading tastes good. Really, it does (and we already established just how much I like food). There is nothing like the taste of a warm fresh tomato straight out of the garden (they’re so good, my favorite five year old eats them like apples). Or an egg you gathered from the coop that morning. And those strawberries that you’ve been watching ripen for days? Freaking amazing, especially when they are still warm from the summer sun. You will be amazed by how good homesteading tastes.

8. Chickens. Do you know how much I love chickens? Me, the worship leading, hair styling, preaching, seminary graduate, bookworm, coffee junkie who doesn’t leave the house without makeup totally loves chickens. If you have a ‘homestead’ you get to have chickens (well, OK, depending on the laws in your neighborhood, anyway).  Chickens rock, but that’s fodder for another post.


7. Fresher air. No matter where you live, plants clean up the air and give you nice fresh oxygen to breathe (You do remember science class, right?).  Urban homesteaders actually improve the air quality in the city. The more plants, the more oxygen. Grow them in your house. Grow them outside of your house. Grow them inside, outside, up sidedown… right side up, around and around and all year round. Your lungs will love you for it.

6. Grass is so yesterday. Vegetables are much trendier. They look nice, taste great, and you don’t even have to mow them (and if you use the right techniques, weeding is pretty minimal, too). (But I digress, because it’s all about the food).


5. You’ll save money on that really fancy gym membership. If you’re homesteading, you’ll get plenty of exercise from weeding, raking, carrying, building, stacking, plucking, harvesting, and whatever other kind of activity you employ to build and upkeep your homestead. Muscles are cool. But muscles you earned from physical labor? Much cooler (and cheaper) than the kind you get at the gym.

4. You can homestead right where you are. Homesteading doesn’t have to mean off the grid living… You can grow a small garden patch or an acre or twenty. Raise chickens and goats, or not. Whatever your space, whatever your situation, you can implement homesteading techniques that positively affect your food, your family, your finances, or even your fun. You can try canning and herb growing right in your apartment kitchen. Or turn  your yard into a gorgeous garden. Homesteading is about making the most of what you have.


3. It’s great for the kids. They’ll learn the value of hard work, and the reward! They’ll eat healthier food. They’ll learn how to care for animals. They’ll get fresh air. (And they’ll get tired, too!) They’ll learn science, biology, math, nutrition, exercise, and a gazillion other things like self-suffiency. They’ll have a blast checking on a ripening pumpkin or seeking out cucumbers hidden beneath their leafy vines. They’ll learn the joys of chasing chickens and playing in the mud…. Oh, the mud… I guess they’ll learn about taking baths, too.

2. Money. You can save money homesteading. You can even make money homesteading. Because homesteaders aren’t the only ones that love farm fresh food – you might make a few extra dollars selling off your extra eggs, earn a little dough by selling your goods at a farmer’s market as a part time job, or even homestead full time and make it your living. Or maybe, like most of us, you’ll just save a few bucks on your grocery bill and be happy with that.

5 tomato plants served my rather large family with more than enough tomatoes to make a summer’s worth of spaghetti, salsa, salads, and more. We figured out that the amount of money we saved by eating our own tomatoes, rather than store bought, more than covered the cost of the garden fence, tiller rental, and seeds and plants for the rest of the garden. Did I mention that I love to save money almost as much as I love food? (Yeah, I know, it’s still about the food, isn’t it?).


1. Homesteading brings joy.  There is something amazing about planting a seed, and with a little water, and some good dirt and sunshine, it grows, thrives, and provides food. Every little plant is a little miracle from God. Every egg a gift, every tomato, every zucchini, or squash, or onion, is a reflection of the nurture and care that God has for each one of us. Every connection to our food gives us a sense of well-being and well, gratitude. Each baby chick is a little  glimpse of God’s tender mercy. Every ray of sun, His warmth, His love. Growing, nurturing, tending, sharing – these things feel so good and are so fulfilling that you can’t help but let a little joy sneak in even on those hard and tired days. Perhaps it’s inexplicable, but somehow, someway, homesteading brings joy…


Ok, food.

Homesteading brings food. I’m really about the food.