IMG_0174I never saw myself as much of a gardener, until last year when I suddenly developed an appreciation for being able to plant, nurture, and harvest vegetables right in my own yard. Maybe it was the joy of my 5 year old, who would grab a juicy tomato right off the vine, and bite into like a golden delicious apple. Or maybe it’s how my very picky 8 year old will crunch away at fresh green peppers just as willingly as a chocolate chip cookie. Or maybe it was knowing where my food was coming from. Likely, it was the peace and joy I found from connecting with God in my garden. When things got hectic, I would steal away and visit my garden, and enjoy a little alone time with God over my precious tomatoes. My husband called it therapy. Tomato therapy.

Well it must have worked wonders, because last summer, I had a bumper crop of tomatoes. I mean, massive amounts of tomatoes. I mean, had I sold them at the grocery store, the profits from the tomatoes alone would have covered the cost of putting in the entire garden, from renting the tiller, to buying the fence, to buying all the pre-started plants for the garden.  But I didn’t do that. Instead, I learned to make salsa. I love salsa. And I especially love homemade salsa, because I can completely customize it to my taste. We ate  lot of salsa last summer, froze a lot of salsa last summer, as well as a few other tomato based dishes. It was completely successful, so I am planning my own little ‘salsa garden’ within my garden. You can do this too, and you can start it now, inside. (Keep reading for the link to my homemade salsa recipe).IMG_0171

Salsa gardens do very well in pots, raised beds, and in regular gardens. They are pretty much fool proof, even for beginners like me. Tomatoes and peppers are self-pollinating, so you should be able to bring your pots indoors at the end of the season to get at least a few more weeks out of your plant. Just be sure to bring them back in before it frosts!

Here’s how to start – Fill up a couple of empty cardboard egg cartons with organic seed starting mixture (yes, you can buy organic dirt! ) Plant your peppers, tomatoes, and cilantro seeds in your egg cartons. Keep them moist and place them in a warm sunny location inside, away from frost and cold. After the sprouts have started, you can cut apart the cartons and plant them right in your pot, green house or garden (after the danger of frost is done). You’ll also want some onion sets! And anything else you’d like to put in your salsa!

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If you’re not ready to try your hand at starting seeds, you can pick up already started plants at Walmart or your local garden store. Or get one of these cute little kits from amazon (this is an affiliate link): Salsa Garden Kit.  I’ve already got some seeds started in my library, but I’m ready to plant some more. I’m planning on at least 20 tomato plants and 20 pepper plants this year, but maybe I’ll find room to squeeze in a few more! After all, you can never have too many tomatoes to share. And with your abundance, you can pass on a little bit of the peace and joy and love you feel from God when you spend time alone with Him, over your tomato plants.

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And now… the moment you’ve been waiting for… SALSA! I hope you enjoy the recipe – please let me know if you try it and how you adjust it to make it your very own. And may God fill your heart abundantly
as you enjoy an abundance of delicious summer garden salsa.

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Chocolate.

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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 

Are you a believer? In zombies, I mean. In that utterly fascinated, can’t turn away but totally can’t bear to look, peeking out from behind your fingers at the gory, horrifying images kind of believer. My seminary profs labeled it ‘fascination with abomination’ – when the horrors of this life, the frightening, the gory, the abhorred and abhorring, the terrified and the terrifying- capture our attention and we cannot break away, cannot escape its grasp.

Zombies are in the Bible.  Yes, zombies. In the very Bible. You probably didn’t read that story in Sunday School, did you?

Well, maybe they aren’t exactly called zombies, but the Bible has some remarkably similar imagery. I’m not gonna lie, there is some stuff in the Bible that even Stephen King couldn’t have dreamed up. God has a pretty amazing imagination and I’m pretty sure He can imagine anything He wants, zombies or not.  (If you like zombies and horror movies, you can read more about some of the imagery here, in this nifty article by Michael Gilmour). We don’t talk about in church much, but it’s there. Right there, in this Bible of ours.

There is this crazy, horrifying, can’t-turn-away zombie-esque story in the Bible that speaks to me. It hits me in the gut, in hits me in the heart, and leaves a mark on my soul. You might know it from an cliche of a children’s song, but the prophet Ezekiel experienced it as a kind of zombie apocalypse, a frightening, gory, can’t turn away, can’t get away kind of a vision – and it was all God’s idea.

I cannot bear to watch horror movies. I hid under the covers when my husband watched Kujo. I still have nightmares of Freddie, and Sweeney Todd turned my stomach sour in the first five minutes. But this story – this little piece of history that is just one small part of His Story, I cannot break away from. It’s the Valley of Dry Bones.

IMG_7754I love this story because it shows me that God doesn’t always do as He’s told; He doesn’t always fit that mold we made for Him- He is an imaginative cinematographer, a detailed Creator, a hope-instiller. Ezekiel trained His whole life to be a priest so he could serve God. And in that apportionment of history, in that little time-lapsed view we see what an honor this was for Ezekiel and His family. And when he was just about 30 years old, when Ezekiel was just about to step into that honorable position of serving God as a priest, God gave him a new assignment. Ezekiel was to be a prophet instead. Ezekiel kissed his honor goodbye and stepped into the unpopular role God had been designing for him all along. Isn’t that just like God? To do something surprising to us but something  He had planned all along, something beyond our imaginations.

IMG_0201Fast forward a bit, to a time when the nation of Israel felt utterly hopeless. A whole nation of people without hope. Feeling alone. Feeling abandoned and rejected by God.  But God was up to something, and he showed Ezekiel what He was up to through a horrifying, can’t-turn-away zombie kind of a story. God showed Ezekiel a valley of dried up old bones.  Maybe you’ve watched enough horror movies that a valley full of old, sun-bleached, dried up bones wouldn’t make you a bat a pretty little eye. But to Ezekiel, who was taught his whole life that he, a dignified, ceremonially clean priest-to-be, must never come in contact with a dead body, it was the worst. It was stomach-souring, hide under the covers, peek behind his fingers, vomitous stench, kind of awful. And then God told Ezekiel to talk to those bones, to tell them to get up. And then those bones did the unthinkable, the ultimate, silent-screaming-inducing kind of a thing that only an old skeleton could do. Those old dead bones got up.  And they grew muscles. And veins and arteries and tendons and organs and everything else that makes the difference between a skeleton and person. Those dead bones became living, breathing, hoping people. And this entire, horrifying, stomach-souring show was so Ezekiel would know without any kind of question that there was HOPE for his nation, that God was going to bring that dead and deathly ill nation back to life. Ezekiel became far more than just a priest that day, he became a hope-instiller for an entire nation that needed to reconnect with God.

I hate to admit that I have a few dead bones around – dried up dreams, hopes that fell by the wayside. Plans that went wrong, horribly wrong. There’s a few spots in my life that have felt abandoned, rejected, dead. There are skeletons of failures tucked away in a few dusty closets, buried beneath smelly old shoes and lost mittens. But God is the hope-instiller, the breather-of-new-life into dead bones. The resurrector of people and broken plans and dead dreams. And this story is exactly what I needed, this gory, horror movie created by a loving God to show me that nothing is too dead and old for Him to imagebreathe into it new life.

God, the instiller of hope, the imaginative designer of our stories,  is breathing new life into some of my old dead and zombied dreams in surprising ways. What old bones, and dreams, and zombies, and plans, are you hiding away that need new life?

Most folks are well-intentioned, merely curious, really good , kind people who simply don’t know all of the foster care lingo that we, on the parenting side, have become quite comfortable with. And after being a foster mom for several years, I think I’ve heard it all from complete strangers, from very sweet, kind comments about my darling babies, to funny, witty, and sometimes even dirty looks and down-right rude remarks that secretly make my blood boil. Usually, though, I’m too busy tending to my bustling brood to actually care what other people think, but sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I had a snappy comeback to pass along with an impish grin and a sticky hug from a quite thoughtful child. So here’s a quick list of some of the funny things I’ve heard – and what I wish I had said in the moment. Enjoy!

  1. You’re a saint for taking in those children.  ME? A saint? You must have me confused with someone else, because I’m just a normal, boring, imageregular, non-perfect, plain old, run-of-mill human being with normal, boring, regular, non-perfect, plain, old, run-of-the-mill problems who happens to be a mom. I’m taking life one day at a time just like everybody else. I make messy mistakes, sneak chocolates when the kids aren’t looking, beg God to let me sleep a little longer each morning, and I long for the peace and quiet of bed time every night. I’d say those children are saints for not complaining when all of the yummy dark chocolate has completely disappeared from their Easter baskets after I accidentally ate it all.  Shhhh don’t tell them I told you…

2. Are you a daycare? Not since the last time I checked.IMG_3428

3. Which one is yours? All of them. They are all mine. Every single one. Some people collect shot glasses, I collect children. Hoard them, as a matter of fact. And no, I won’t trade, sell, or barter any of my precious collection, they are worth far too much, but I’ll gladly help you start your own collection of highly adorable, completely priceless miniature human beings.

4. Is the mom in jail?  Well, I’m the mom and I am definitely NOT in jail. But thanks for asking about how I’m doing… as a matter of fact, I do feel a little trapped by the all the laundry I have to do each week…. How about I bring over a couple of loads of wash for you to fold?

5. What’s wrong with that one? What’s wrong with you?IMG_1655

6. I could never love another person’s child. Wrong. Just wrong. If you’re saying that (out loud even), you’re just trying to convince yourself not to get involved. Here’s how I see it. Any child under my roof is MY CHILD. And I will love him or her for the rest of my life and well into the next. Because that child is lovable and worthy of love. Love is a choice, an action, and I double dog dare you to choose it. You haven’t learned what love can be until you hear that child call you “Mommy” and I promise it will make your little heart burst with joy.

7. They’re lucky to have you.  I don’t believe in luck. I believe in Jesus.IMG_1628

8. Don’t you have enough kids? Nah. There’s always room for one more.

9. Are you going to adopt that one? Which one?

10. Doesn’t the mom want them?  Of course I want them!

11. Did the real mom do drugs? I’m the real mom.

12. You look great for just having a baby, I didn’t even know you were pregnant. Gee, thanks, at least someone thinks I look good!

13. Is the kid safe? Does he ‘have something?”  Well, the last time I checked, IMG_1528there were a couple of rocks in his pocket and he had just picked up a frog, but I’m pretty sure they don’t bite because frogs don’t have any teeth.

14. You must be in it for the money.  Hahahahahahaha.

15. Your husband must make a lot of money. Again. Hahahahahahaha.

16. Is that a drug baby? Nope. “That” is a child. A tiny soul, created by God, to grow and love and live and spend eternity worshipping Him. Why do you ask?

Clutter kills my calm. I cannot stand to work in a cluttered messy environment. In order for me to be my most peaceful, creative, content, joyful self, I need visual order. I need ‘white space’ in my home and work. I need a clean slate when I wake up in the morning so I don’t have to deal with yesterday’s dirtied baggage before I start a brand new day. I need to be able to vacuum, scrub, and put things away quickly and easily. And I need to be able to childproof thoroughly. Very very thoroughly. That means clutter has got to go or I cannot function well. And as a mom of 6, I need to be running on all cylinders, all the time. There is no time for me to misfunction over missing stuff because there is just so much stuff that I can’t find what I need when I need it. It’s amazing how much stress clutter adds to our lives – whether it’s junk mail, email, extraneous stuff that piles up around the house, junk drawers that are too full to even close, and basements full of boxes unopened since the last move. It takes so much time and energy to deal with all of the stuff, and to me, a cluttered home means a cluttered brain. People often comment how clean, picked up, uncluttered my house surprisingly is for being a mom of 6. It’s probably not so much clean as it is uncluttered and picked up. And don’t you dare look in my overfilled cabinets which have to contain food for 8 or especially, my garage, where all the clutter actually hides.

10. Get the kids on board. Have you ever noticed what happens to a child’s playskills when there are too many toys at their disposal? The play area becomes a dumping ground, and the actual playing turns into chaotic game of running around and screeching rather than developing age appropriate play schemes and scenarios. But given just a few flexible toys, the imagination unfolds and amazing worlds and characters develop into delightful play. So get those kids involved in sorting, tossing, organizing, and storing toys. Let them show you their favorites and make some of the decisions.

Throw out anything broken, old, hazardous, junky, or that comes out of a happy meal. No ifs and or buts. You’ll thank me for it in the long run.

Donate anything that is clean and in good condition that isn’t played with on a regular basis. No matter how much you love it, if your kids don’t play with it, send it to someone who will. Hint: If it’s lost in the bottom of the toy box, they probably won’t miss until you show them that you’re getting rid of it.

Put away anything that isn’t age appropriate and save it for the next child or donate it, sell it, pass it on.

Keep it if it is sentimental, the kids play with it a lot, or there is a developmental need for it.

If you can’t possibly bear to part with toys and books, at least put some away for short term toy rotation. Just make sure that they are well-labeled and stored without batteries (trust me, you’ll think you’re going crazy when those plastic bins start talking in the damp basement). After a few weeks, take out the current toys and replace them with the stored toys. Unless your children are very young, try to only keep as many toys in rotation as your children are able to clean up with minimal to no help from you.  You can always add toys back if you see they are able to handle cleaning up after play.

9. Avoid it. If you have an older child, it’s ok to just shut the door. Don’t look at the clutter if they are capable of managing it on their own. My bedroom rule is not that the rooms must be clean but that I must be able to walk to their beds and dressers without tripping, falling, or suffering from lego induced agony to my naked toes. If there is some clutter that you just can’t get rid of (um, bill paying, perhaps?) find a way to hide it, disguise it, or cover it up so you don’t have to look at it when you don’t need to. I keep my vacuum cleaner in the garage because the closets are full of coats and clothes (yup, mom of 6 equals an overflowing coat closet) and I don’t want to see it every single time I enter a room.

9. Home it. Do you remember the old saying, a place for everything and everything in its place? All of your stuff should have a home of it’s own. Shoes go in the shoe cabinet by the front door when you come in the house (plus it helps keep dirt, germs, and chemicals out of your home). Keys and wallet go right in the drawer (the one with the baby locks on it). Have the kids put their backpacks and coats away as you come in the door so there isn’t extra clutter just lying about for people to trip on or little kids to get into.

8. Rehome it. If there isn’t a space for it, rehome it. Give it away. If you have more coffee mugs than can fit in your coffee mug spaces, than find them a new home – either a cabinet that’s bigger or one that belongs to someone else!

7. Eradicate it. Seriously. Be ruthless. How often do you really use the waffle maker? When was the last time you made yourself an espresso? Examine your closet and get rid of anything that doesn’t fit, anything that is worn, broken, out of style, or that you don’t wear on a regular basis. You probably have just a few outfits that you love and wear all the time. Get rid of just about everything else and you’ll spend much less time digging through your closet, your dresser, your laundry bins for the perfect shirt.

6. Erase it. The delete button works wonders! Treat your computer like you would your home – either file it, send it, or delete it.

5. Deal with it.  One of the reasons we have clutter is that we hang on to things in order to deal with them later. For example, we put the stack of mail on the counter to ‘look at later.’ But later gets busy, so the mail piles up and pretty soon, the counter is full, something gets spilled, and the pile of mail, which is mostly just junk, gets sticky and gross. Do yourself a favor – as you bring the mail in the house, deal with it. Toss it, file it, put it with the bills to pay. Same goes for kids’ papers, lunch boxes, toys, and receipts. Procrastination leads to piling. And piles of stuff destroys your calm.

4. Don’t buy it.  Just don’t. Don’t buy pictures, or pretty things, or anything at all unless you absolutely need it. The less tchotchkes the better. It means less things to distract your brain, less things to dust, less things to clean around. Less things to get broken, less things to have to child proof, too.

3. Sell it. If it’s saleable, consider selling it. Make a little cash and get rid of stuff. It’s a win-win.

2. Organize it.  Give it a home, the right home, in the right spot, in the right order, with the right label. And put it away every single time.

  1. Exchange it. The best rule is 1 in, 1 out. Kids got a new toy for their birthday? They get to choose one to donate or toss. Hubby got new underwear or socks? Make sure he remembers to remove the “holy” ones. Got a new purse? Send one packing so you don’t have to store the other.

Yes, yes, I make it a mission to seek and destroy clutter so that I can think clearly, create easily, and clean more quickly. But please please please, just don’t look in my garage..

 

Waiting is hard work. It is blisteringly, back achingly hard work. I wish it was as simple as sitting around with thin mints and a black coffee, watching the chickens go by, but it isn’t. And I wish I was better at this waiting game thing (Why the heck do they call waiting a game anyway? It’s not like it’s fun or even entertaining. It’s more like waiting torture). This is one of those hard lessons in the educational institution that is my life that I just can’t quite seem to grasp. The answers on the test somehow elude me just when I need them most and I cannot seem to study hard enough to get a passing grade. Somehow, I cannot learn seem to learn to wait well.
Oh sure, I can bide my time in line at the grocery when my smartphone is handy. I can manage to entertain my kiddos with sugar laden lollipops while we wait in the car line at preschool pickup, but what I cannot ever seem to do well is wait on God. I want to turn the next page of the chapter of this book so that I can see what God has planned for me, to get started on the next stage, but the page won’t turn. I have to wait. And waiting is hard. It is blisteringly back achingly difficult.

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I was thinking about it today, as I started prepping my garden for spring. Technically, it’s still winter. And there is still a heavy danger of frost for another 2 months even though we had summery temps all last week. I cannot wait to get my garden planted, to see the tender shoots breaking through the soil, to taste the warm tomatoes and smell the earthiness of fresh picked carrots. But it isn’t even time to plant much less harvest. If I placed my tender plants out in the garden, they would wither, and freeze, and die. It would all be wasted.  And so I have to wait.


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Like in the middle of the winter, when everything seems dark, and cold, and endless, I know that spring can only be so many weeks away. But I cannot feel the warmth of the sun or smell the sweet spring breeze. I have to wait. I know it is coming because after winter, spring always comes. And just like in the waiting, I know that God is at work and the next chapter always comes. I just have to wait for it.

But in the waiting, there is so much work to do. I thought about that as I raked straw from the garden this afternoon, hands blistering, back aching raking to remove the excess dead plant material and reveal the damp, meaty soil below. The chickens followed me around, digging around for bugs in the places I had raked, filling their bellies up from all the work I just did while I am waiting for planting time to start. I thought about all of the planning that I needed to do to decide what to grow, and where to grow it, and when to plant it and where. It thought about the friends that came to help us begin construction of our hoop house, and how we all need friends that are willing to pull on their work boots and muck about with us in the mud to help us in our waiting. I thought about the miracles of new life that God would bring about from our preparation, when the time is just right for those tiny seeds to be planted and grow and provide food that fuels our family. And I thought about all of the work I had to do right now during this time of waiting as we all laughed and giggled and chased wayward chickens back to their coop.

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Waiting is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes, I think that God is silent when I’m waiting for Him to show me my next move in life. I have asked God to show His plans, to direct my path, to give me a vision or have an angel – or at least a good friend – tell me what to do so that I can get beyond this time of waiting. But angel didn’t knock on my door, the vision didn’t show, and the answer hasn’t come, and I am still just here waiting. Why won’t He answer me? Did I screw it all up and now I have to wait? Is this a spiritual time out? And what is wrong with me, that I am still floundering for His answer – why can’t I just wait to hear His voice at the right time? Where is my faith that God is at work even when it doesn’t seem possible? Why am I in such a rush to be something significant when I know that God can do more in a single word than I can do in a lifetime of homesteading?

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But perhaps God is already at work, doing that hard work in me, the blistering, back aching work that needs done to prep my heart to become the fertile soil that is ready to grow and nurture something new; something that will become a miracle. Perhaps in my waiting God is raking away all of that hard deadness in my heart, gladly taking on the blisters of digging out all of the stuff and sin and baggage and wasted time that gets in the way of His work in my life. Perhaps God is prepping me for a new kind of planting and a harvest beyond my wildest imagination; perhaps He is turning me into just the right soil for a special kind of seed that only He can nurture. And just perhaps, I’m not waiting on God so much as I’m waiting on God to do His work in me.

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Friend, what are you waiting for?

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Philippians 1:3-6, NLT 

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

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:

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As we as the chocolate chilli.

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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! 

My ‘normal’ state of being is a happy contendedness. How I feel when all is well, life is normal, and I am simply feeling pleasant.  It is where I feel most like myself, with an inner calm and a sense of excitement about what life will bring. It is my happy. It’s usually accompanied by coffee.

Only most people would probably agree, my life is far from normal. My family size is definitely not normal – an almost 20 year marriage and 6 kids (a combination of biological, adopted, and fostered) under the age of 9. My dream  profession, also not normal. My deepest desire and calling is to be a pastor. My lifestyle – not typical – trying to build a miniature farm on a suburban 3 acre lot. My preferred food plan – clean/Paleo with an occasional cupcake – is not for everyone. My love of chickens, and cats, and baby everything. My passion for foster care and special needs. My love of fitness and essential oils. My excessive furniture rearranging. My penchant for dreaming up possiblities. My collection of books, both physical and electronic. And my need for creative expression through music and writing, well, OK, that might be the most normal thing about me. These are all of the things that are a part of who I am, whether they are normal or not. And they are the things that bring me to my happy.image

But sometimes, I simply lose my happy. I’m not talking about clinical depression here. Not grief, not chemical imbalances. Sometimes, I simply cease to be happy. Maybe it’s when I feel stuck and the possiblities for moving forward have been exhausted. Maybe it’s when I’m taking on too much at once, when I allow the mommy guilt to build up and set in. If you have a child, you know all about that mommy/daddy guilt. Maybe it’s the state of my budget (red), or when I feel like I’m not accomplished enough for a person of my age (kind of old), when I’m overtired, or when I think everyone else has it better. There – I said it. Comparison.

Comparison. It kills my joy. It steals my happy. It makes me cease to be me because I’m looking outward, wanting to be someone else. I’m pretty sure that this part is normal because a lovely friend – who happens to share a lot of the things of life that I love -reminded me that research studies have shown that Facebook causes depression. Facebook. A freaking website, where we all – in college dorm style – share our breakfasts, heartbreaks, triumphs, vacation pictures, job changes, children, and dirty laundry. All in the same place. All at the same time. It is a caucaphony of life’s stuff. And then we look to see if each other’s best moments are better than our own. Facebook is fun, but Facebook sometimes steals my happy.

But if facebook steals the happy, did you know that exercise restores it? Somehow, exercise brings out some feel good endorphins, causing us to feel happy. Today, I did Pilates from Daily Burn. And it was tough, not because this intermediate level, 19 minute, core strength workout was so hard, but because I was simultaneously managing 2 toddlers who were climbing, throwing, shouting, hiding, singing, playing, dumping, and crashing all around me while I was trying to get 19 minutes to do something to make myself happy. And in that moment, I didn’t feel very happy. It tested the limits of my inner sanctum, but I did it anyway because I know that even though it was difficult in the moment, over the course of the day that little workout would help me to restore my happy, as well as burn fat, get stronger, and seriously stand up straight like my mother used to say. (Guess what – standing up straight can help you feel more… happy).

Other things that help me restore my happy – sleep! Oh how I need sleep, and I also crave alone time with God (but I am never ever alone), taking pictures of my 31 (yes, 31, you have a problem with 31?) chickens, dreaming about the next step in building my homestead (hoop house, goat house, or just a plain old bird house), rearranging the furniture, playing with my 6 children, and blogging during their nap. At least, I pray-plead daily that they really really take a nap.

So if you’ve lost your happy – (not a depression or grief type of lost your happy), but more of a daily grind got you down kind of lost your happy – consider this. Shut off the phone. Close the computer screen. Grab the kids. Go for a walk. And then move the sofa. It will get you moving forward towards your happy.

 

 

At 14 years of age, I mastered squats, wall sits, pull-ups, bear plank leg lifts, and dieting. Because I didn’t  like the way my body looked.

In high school, I biked, I lifted, I did calisthenics for 5 hours a day and I secretly followed my parent’s Weight Watcher’s plan. Because I still didn’t like the way my body looked.

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I thought that once I achieved the right degree of thinness I would like myself more. By age 20, I was 20 pounds underweight. I was skinny! But I was tired, I was very weak, and I felt sick.  And I still didn’t like the way my body looked.

Loving your body has nothing to do with how skinny you are. No doctor
ever told me to lose weight. No doctor ever told me to change my diet and get skinnier. In my twenties, Weight Watchers turned me away because I didn’t weigh enough to participate in their program. My BMI was probably never too high. But still, I thought loving myself and having a positive body image would come when I was the right weight, the perfect degree of skinniness. But it never did.

It took something else entirely. It took learning to see myself as God sees me – as fearfully and wonderfully made – to start to get my body image under control. And I’m not there yet; I sometimes still have to remind myself to be healthy, not skinny. To be strong more than slim. To love the body I have and not compare it to someone else’s. For too many of us, we see ourselves as ‘fat’ no matter how thin we are, because we try to compare ourselves to models in fashion magazines, to our thinner friends, or to young teenagers who haven’t even hit puberty. But God doesn’t compare you and me to someone else. He designed us, He loves us just as we are.  I love – and I need-  that verse in Psalm 139 that shows us that God’s works are wonderful – and we, yes you, yes me – are one of those works:

Psalm 139:13-14

New International Version (NIV)

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

I need to let those verses sink in to my head, my heart, my soul. I need to see myself with the awe and the wonder that God created in me and recognize all of the amazing things my body can do (birth a tiny human, for instance). I admit, I still want to shed a few pounds that somehow appeared as I worked my way through seminary to earn my MDIV. But I’m working on healthier, happier ways to go about it because I don’t want my daughters or my sons to equate thinness with self-love. I want them to learn to love their bodies and show love to their bodies by eating mostly healthy meals, by being strong and fit, by seeing themselves as I see them, and most importantly, as God sees them. I wouldn’t love my children any less if they were short or tall or obese or thin – so why would I put the same pressure on myself? God’s love means I can love myself no matter what my outsides look like.

I’ve done Weight Watchers, Pilates, the Daniel Plan, biking, low fat, low carb, It Works!, Zyng, I’ve juiced, given up sugar, flour, and attempted just about every other diet plan you can imagine. And none of them ever filled up my soul and made me happy because my soul simply doesn’t need to be skinny. My soul needs Jesus. My identity is in Him, not in the shape of my outsides.

I don’t have all the answers, and I’m not totally sure what the right fit and healthy me looks like yet, but that’s ok. I’m just taking a little step at a time, finding the right balance between Paleo and clean eating alongside an occasional donut, staying active every day and exercising sometimes, and trusting that God loves me enough to have made me wonderfully. And that feels better than skinny ever did.

 

Psalm 91:1-4, NIV from www.biblegateway.com

 

I never intended to become the crazy chicken lady.

I just wanted a few chickens to run around my yard and lay a few eggs for breakfast. Honest. But somehow I ended up with 24 Silver Laced Wyandotte hens and 1 chicken of a rooster named Captain Jack. And that’s when the ‘addiction’ began.

There is a never ending supply of chicken pics on my Facebook page. I post far more chicken pics than pics of my kids. I sent my poor hubby out to the coop in the middle of a blizzard with cracked corn – because digesting cracked corn makes the chickens warmer. The chickens know my voice. And when I pull my big white van up next to the chicken run, they all come running to see what I’m up to.

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Lucky for us, the rooster mostly crows from inside the coop. But I love seeing my chickens dig around the chicken run, winging flight as high as the hardware cloth allows. I love bringing them my kids’ leftover Mac N Cheese, peanut butter and jelly sand which crusts, and the leafy celery ends that no one wants to nosh. They are happy, well-fed chickens, for sure.

But my chickens are stubborn and they don’t head to safety on their own. Our yard is not a safe haven for chickens – there are hawks soaring overhead, ready to swoop up a wayward chick. There are bobcats, and coyote, foxes, and raccoons, all waiting at edge of the tree line, salivating for a tasty chicken wing. One snowy evening, the wind howling, snow spinning around the yard, and the chickens huddled up against the side of the coop. It wouldn’t take much for them to go in – they could fly, hop, walk, and bob the few steps up the ramp and into the coop to safety. But they refused. They refused to be tempted by treats, by light, and warmth. Those ridiculous chickens just wouldn’t head for safety from the storm and hungry predators. Instead, they waited, cold, scared, and without protection.

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I don’t know what was wrong with those chickens – maybe they’re just stubborn. Like me. I had to pick up each and every chicken in that freezing snow squall and move it inside to the safety and warmth of the coop.  God is our shelter and our safety. He’s waiting to spread his wings over us when He seek our haven in Him. We, stubborn at times, look for safety in all kinds of places – homes, alarm systems, guns, family, church, work. I get it, because I seek comfort and safety in those kinds of things, too. But our ultimate place of shelter is in the loving arms of our Heavenly Father.  This is what I need to remember when the storms come. And they will come, just like they already have come – in the form of snow squalls or hurricanes, financial difficulties or the stormy days of bad health, family dramas, or lost jobs – God is the shelter I need to seek.

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Where are you seeking shelter? Are you huddled up on the outside, getting battered by the winds and the storms, quaking from those that would devour you? God has spread His wings and all you have to do is go in.  I still don’t mean to be the crazy chicken lady, but if it helps me learn about God’s loving kindness for each of us, well, then, just maybe it’s worth it…

Psalm 91