Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rivers of Living Water

Jesus was talking one day about the fact His followers would have “rivers of living water” flowing from their “innermost being.” I’m wondering why a whole lot of days I feel lucky to work up a trickle. Sometimes my “river” slows to the point where I’m surprised if a drop or two slowly oozes out.

My mother has been a diabetic for years and lives in a nursing home. Four times a day they come and prick her finger to test her blood. Many times when I am there it takes a lot of squeezing just to get out a single drop. That’s how I feel sometimes…like it takes an awful lot of effort just to squeeze out a single drop of Jesus.

Other things seem to flow without effort like anger, impatience, and selfishness. Why does there seem to be an abundant supply of these vices and such a limited amount of the Christian virtues I long to exhibit?
I grew up near Niagara Falls, NY. We took scores of trips there when I was a boy. I was always amazed at the fact the Falls never ran out of water. If you travel a mile or so back from the Falls you can see that the source of that beautiful spectacle is an unending source of water from the Niagara River. What makes the Falls so spectacular is what flows into the Falls. 

I think the reason I have such trouble seeing Living Water flow out of my life is because I don’t let enough flow in! After all, what flows in is most likely going to determine what is flowing out. 

So…once again it boils down to my personal responsibility to read God’s Word, meditate on His promises, and spend time in His presence. When I allow Him to be the predominate influence in my life it will undoubtedly show in what flows out of my life. So test the waters. See what’s flowing out of your life today.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mandi Forester's White Chicken Chili

Ingredients
32 oz. chicken stock
3 cans white beans, undrained
5 C. cooked chicken, shredded
16 oz. salsa, heat level to taste
One 8 oz. block pepper jack cheese, grated

2 tsp. ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
Black or white pepper to taste
Pinch of salt
1/2 C. finely crushed corn chips (optional for making the chili thicker)
Sour cream, black olives, and green onions optional for garnish


Procedure

Place all of the ingredients except corn chips in a large pot. Cook on medium to medium-high until all the cheese is melted. Add crushed corn chips, stir, and serve. Add garnishes as desired.

You can also make this recipe in a crock pot set on low.

Enjoy!



Sunday, March 27, 2011

John 8:32

John 8:32: "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."


In my current bible study we are Breaking Free. It occurs to me how often what we think is true of our lives often is not. In my own life I have held on to this “truth” for so long that it has seemed the chains of bondage this “truth” has bound me with would hold me forever. I have believed that God couldn’t possibly “really” forgive me because I couldn’t forgive myself. It doesn’t even have to be anything major any old sin will do.

I think a lot of times we are harder on ourselves than we would be on other people. If one of my children do something, I forgive them. I assure them that there is NOTHING that they could do that would ever change that. They can NEVER make me stop loving them, ever. Even as I type these words I can hear the soft whisper of “then why would you not think the same of me?” It’s true of course. As a child I had many difficult times. My mother did the best she could but she married a man who didn’t like kids, my own dad mostly just came around on birthdays and holidays. I didn’t grow up in the church with my family. I always tagged along with friends. There was a bus that would come through my neighborhood and pick up the kids to take them to church. Come Sunday morning I would be on the church bus, and I would come home singing. When I was eight years old I gave my life to Christ and was baptized in the church. No one in my family was there to witness it. So I guess to say that I never expected much from my parents in the way of forgiveness or support would be an understatement. My mother was the queen of the silent treatment. Eventually I would have to talk so much she couldn’t take it anymore and she would break down and talk to me.

In looking back, I guess I expected God to be the same way. Why would my Heavenly Father be any different than my earthly parents? Because He is. Getting that through my thick stubborn head has been tough. Currently in my One Year Bible, I’m reading about the Israelites and all the complaining and sinning they did against God AFTER He had rescued them from the Egyptians. I keep getting so frustrated with them. Honestly I get mad and think to myself “Really? What is wrong with you people?” Then I pull the plank out of my own eye and think “What is wrong with ME?” How thick must I be that I can’t get that God has forgiven me every time I have asked. It’s a done deal. Stop listening to your own lies, stop listening to Satan’s lies and accept the truth. God’s truth is the only one that is real and God’s love is what matters.

John 8:32: "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."  It’s so simple really, yet was so hard to accept. I get it now. I’m so glad to know His truth is different from what I imagine mine to be. As far as Breaking Free goes… I’m feeling lighter and freer all the time.

Dear God, Thank you that your truth is different than my own. Thank you for your love and for your patience. For You are not me and Your thinking isn’t like mine. You are steadfast in your love. You delight in your children, just as I delight in the children you have blessed me with for this time. You are Holy and we are blessed. Thank you Lord.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A New Normal

During our theme of Health Week here at The Intentional Journey, I had to narrow down topics to write about.  There are many health topics that are extremely near and dear to me and I find myself to be most passionate in my journey when I am able to advocate and educate others in these matters.
 
Today, I will share with you a topic that is very close to me, something that changed my life completely and has been a part of my life for as long as I’ve been a parent.  It has changed me at my very core, and I advocate loudly for research funds, treatment options and fair treatment for individuals living with this condition.  In fact, later this week, I am traveling with my twins (Daniel and Jonah, who are almost 11), one of our exchange students and Lyla, Jonah’s service dog, to Washington D.C. for a conference.  Jonah was nominated and chosen to be a 2011 Ambassador for the Kids Speak Up program through the Epilepsy Foundation, a national organization the promotes research and lends support to those living with Epilepsy, a fairly common disorder here in the United States and around the world.  We are looking forward to our journey and covet your prayers for good health, safe travels, effectiveness and also that we just have a laid-back and relaxing trip.  I’ll be the sole driver and we have to leave my youngest back home with Daddy and Grandma and Grandpa, so part of my heart will be at home for our whole trip… but, without further ado… Epilepsy - Our Story.  

My twins were born at 34 weeks gestation after an extremely complicated pregnancy.  They were in the hospital for a while, Baby Daniel came home after 11 days and I treasured having him home with me.  Jonah remained in the hospital for over two months, so my time was spent traveling back and forth to the hospital to see Jonah, taking care of Daniel and healing after that difficult pregnancy.  Around 4 weeks of age, Daniel began having what I thought might be seizures, but being an early baby, twitches are quite common, so (having a medical background by education and experience) I didn’t think too much of it.  He did his twitching thing precisely one time a day, for up to ten or fifteen minutes each day, for several days.  I made a mental note to tell the doctor when we next saw him.  When I told the doctor, and Daniel had an episode during his appointment, my world, at that very moment, slowed to a stand still.  Frankly, things moved very quickly around me, but my world halted.  The doctor was very concerned by these episodes and before I knew it, we were scheduling appointments with neurologists, for tests and for hospital admissions.  Little did I know, Jonah had begun to have seizures in the hospital NICU as well.  

Through all of this, I was, pretty much as I remain today, pretty unfazed by all of the commotion and chaos.  The reality is that a certain degree of chaos is and probably always will be, a part of my life because of the nature of this disorder.  The way we choose to deal with the stress, our reaction to the pressure, is entirely our choosing… it is something I deal with on a daily basis and I am getting better and not feeling so much negative stress, but it is always something I have to intentionally and purposefully work on.

By the time Jonah came home from the hospital, Daniel had already been diagnosed with Pyridoxine Dependent Epilepsy.  This is a genetic, metabolic disorder that results in seizures and other not so fun stuff.    There is a link at the end of this blog entry for more information about this disorder.   When Jonah came home, we took him over to my parents house and Jonah had his first seizure that we witnessed.  My heart broke all over again.  And we went through the same things all over again - neurology, MRI, blood work, spinal taps, EEGs… hospital stays.

We did, however, even with the chaos of new babies at home and some very serious medical issues to deal with, settle into a schedule, albeit a baby schedule, and our situation with high medical needs infants became our new normal.  From time to time, we’d have a “big” event… “Events” in the epilepsy world are not such good things… so we dreaded the “big ones”, but with medication, we got into a groove and did OK.

By the time the boys were almost a year old, we gave into the reality that our lives, once again, would have to settle into another new normal.  This is when we were no longer able to put blinders on and had to admit to ourselves that the boys were wonderful, but significantly delayed in their development.  So, the therapies started.  They both had developmental therapy once a week and this was all Daniel needed.  Jonah also had physical therapy and occupational therapy once a week.  Jonah was dealing with low muscle tone and the beginnings of having many sensory issues.  On top of their therapists coming to the house 3 times a week, we also had daily therapy sessions with Jonah to work on his physical weaknesses and sensory issues.  

It was right around the time the twins turned 2 that I had a “God moment”.  I realized that these little people were supposed to be with me.  God had uniquely prepared me for a life of handling medical issues.  I had no idea that my schooling and work experience would have so prepared me for what I would live with for the rest of my life… but indeed, God’s Hand has been in my life and evident long before I made the choice to trust Him and Him alone.  As far back as middle school, I was volunteering in the “multiple handicap” classroom, feeding peers who were unable to feed themselves and helping with other classroom activities.  In high school, I did the same in a new setting.  Later in high school, I worked at a pediatric nursing home, and worked there until my 2nd year of college.  After college, I was a supervisor for a cluster of group homes for special needs adults.  Through all of this time, people frequently would say things to me like “Isn’t that the saddest place?” or “How can you work there?  It is so tragic!”   I never once thought of my charges as anything other than happy individuals who had different abilities than I had.  The vast majority were born into their disabilities and knew no other way of life.  They were content and loved.  They were happy and playful.  The tragedy of their situations, in my eyes, was that parents would put their children into a home, not that these children were alive and making others uncomfortable by their mere existence.   I didn’t know it at the time, but my thoughts as a teenager would meet me when my twins were just about two years old.  

God gave me these amazing little people to care for and teach and love and nurture… and because I was chosen to be their mother, I was able to experience a full circle of care - certainly taking care of someone else’s child (Especially when you are a teenager or young 20-something working in a care facility) is much different than caring for your own… but I got to experience taking care of my own children on such a deep level - I was caring for not only their little fragile bodies, as I’d done so many times before with the children of others, but I was “in charge” of all of the other aspects of their life as well.  Sure, I had moments when I felt completely and utterly sorry for myself for having to deal with it all, but I realized very quickly that God had prepared me for this.  My two year olds could feed themselves, my two year olds had even begun to walk…  Honestly, I never looked at my years of caring for special needs individuals in terms of “Oh, he is worse off than she is.” or  even in terms of “That is really bad.”  But I had an epiphany that God gave me these children, He gave me a maverick spirit to fight for them… My children were not as “bad off” as some of the children I worked with.  Of course, they were “worse off” than some… but I realized with my whole heart that God had shown me that they could have been much, much sicker than what they were, and that I would never again feel sorry for myself and I would never start to pity them.

Time has continued.  The twins will be 11 in May.  We had a new addition to our family when the twins were 4.  Sam had his first seizure when he was three days old, and we’ve gone through many of the same things with Sam as we did with the twins.  Therapies, tests, hospital stays, endless appointments… but things are looked at through different glasses now.  “Can’t” is a word that is not allowed in our home.  The boys are always allowed to ask for help in doing anything they’re having difficulty with, but “can’t”… it just isn’t in our vocabulary.  I work so hard, and I like to believe that with two 10 year olds and a 6 year old, that that is already firmly instilled in them, but we still have moments of self-pity and those are the moments when tears are shed, “can’t” is thrown around a bit and then we pick ourselves up and move on to completing the task at hand. 

God is so gracious to us.  He has given each of my children the exact temperment they need to deal with their challenges.  Daniel doesn’t have many seizures these days, and it is a good thing!  He is a sensitive soul, easily bothered by some things.  Jonah has a tough edge and what some would call a jaded attitude - a gift from God, in my book… he has enough toughness to endure the trials and struggles he faces, but enough common sense to know that, even at his young age, those struggles are rotten.  This is sometimes difficult, but most of the time, it is a true gift to see this little person who is so completely OK with who he is.  I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who is as comfortable in his own skin as Jonah is.  And sweet Sam… kind of in between Daniel and Jonah as far as the severity of his issues, but he has a sweet disposition and I’ve pretty much decided that, seizures and other neurological issues aside, the biggest issue with this one is “Youngest Child Syndrome”.  He wears the baby role well.  So God has prepared not only my heart for my children, but He has prepared each of them so completely for this journey.  It is breath-taking to be witness to these little souls each day, watching God’s plan for them unfold before my very eyes.
  
I’m including some links that are good sources for Epilepsy information.  There are many misconceptions about Epilepsy, seizures and seizure disorders out there and it is helpful for all of us to be at least minimally aware of the different types of seizures and how to help if we suspect someone is having a seizure.  The majority of seizures are NOT “big” ones (which used to be called “grand mal” seizures, now called tonic-clonic seizures), but  “smaller” or more subtle ones that can easily be mistaken for other things (daydreaming, wandering around, speaking gibberish, an action repeated over and over again, eye blinking, lip smacking… lots of different things).  Please take a little bit of time to familiarize yourself with Epilepsy, I promise you, it is not time wasted.  The millions of Americans living with Epilepsy today appreciate the time others take in learning about this condition.


http://www.intercom.net/npo/eaes/facts.htm

http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/985667-overview

Doing it Naturally...

Several years back, I joked on my website that we had made it official... we would be homeschooling our twins.  It occurred to me that it was "Official"... we were now THAT family.  Christian, homeschooling, long skirt- wearing, more than 1 child (in the suburbs - how very weird of us!)... little did I know... we would become more and more "THAT" family than I could EVER imagine!  It makes me laugh now, because the more time that passes, I think we were such "beginners" at that time! As time has passed, I've become increasingly more natural in my approach to life.  Simplicity, an increased trust in God's creation and provision, increased interest in learning about natural modalities and an increase in natural health and nutrition have brought us to where we are today.

It should be made clear that I am not opposed to conventional medicine.  I have three boys who have some pretty significant medical needs and we've seen pretty close to every imaginable specialist between the three of them.  I'm not opposed to allopathic medicine, I just lean toward believing a certain way... namely 1) Prevention is better than treatment. 2) If there is a natural treatment available for a problem, we will try that first. 3) If we don't like the side effects or potential for problems with an allopathic (or natural, for that matter, although I've never encountered this with natural treatments) treatments or preventive care or remedies, we don't employ that treatment.

It is all pretty basic, in my mind...common sense.  If you don't like the way something works or how something feels, don't use it.  But, boy oh boy do I get the third degree on some of my choices.  One of the "biggies" that we get a lot of questions over is the fact that we do not vaccinate our children.  They were selectively vaccinated in their early years.  We delayed vaccines, did one at a time and decided there were some that were not necessary.  Until one of my children endured a vaccine injury.  A substance that I was wishy-washy over at best, I allowed to be injected into my child.  He is permanently visually impaired because of my choice.  I don't beat myself up for it anymore.  When I knew better, I did better.  This is the right choice for my family.  I don't appreciate the disapproving looks and questions I get from people (medical folks as well as the peanut gallery who thinks they know our situation better than I do), but I'm used to it and know that defending my choices is part and parcel for our lifestyle.

Other than not vaccinating, some of the other modalities we have used include chiropractic (which we've used for chronic pain control, constipation, weight loss, headaches and seizures), naturopathy,  homeopathy, aromatherapy, herbals, water therapy, a natural diet (especially in the spring through Fall, we raise and grow much of our own food - produce and meat and dairy), natural hygeine and we strictly limit the use of chemicals in both our diets and as far as products we use for body care - no flouride in our toothpaste, no PABA or parabens or petroleum in our soaps, shampoos, sunscreens or lotions.

See... I told you that we are OFFICIALLY THAT FAMILY.   Please enjoy looking through the following links.  Find something new to read about.  It may or may not be "for you", but at the very worst, you might learn something new and find something new or different that might just be worth giving a try.   One note... the alternative health world is very heavy on new age-y concepts.  It can be an effort to sort through the "spiritual" aspect of things that are not according to your world view, but if you can wade through a certain amount of this, you will find that the "guts" (the how and why) behind many treatments make a lot of sense.  God gave us a wealth of substances and compounds to use for our health.  It is up to us to learn what they are and how to use them.

http://www.worldwidehealth.com/index.php

http://www.natural-treatment-guide.com/

http://www.naturalremediesandtreatments.com/

http://www.home-remedies-for-you.com/

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Choice: To Bottle Feed

I’m not a mom. And I’ve been verbally chastised enough by mothers to know that when you’re not a mom, you’re generally not allowed an opinion because you just don’t understand.

I don’t know if I ever will be a mom. I’m not married, so the option is out right now. And if I get married, I’d like to have kids – but only if I marry someone who is committed to being an actively involved dad. I’ve watched too many of my friends live as married single mothers, and I have no desire to do what they do, nor do I desire to ask children to live in a home with a dad who is there – but not really.
So all of my upcoming opinion may never matter. But just in case it does, it’s an opinion I do have. It’s wildly unpopular, but I stick to my guns on this one.

I do not want to breastfeed if I ever have a baby.

And by “I do not want to,” I mean unless God writes otherwise on the wall or it is 200% financially necessary, I will not do it.

The mothers who are fond of verbal chastisement have let me know in no uncertain terms that I’m already a terrible mother by even thinking this direction, and essentially, my children will be not only dreadfully unhealthy but also stunted in intelligence because of my selfish decision.

Perhaps.

But here are (some of) my reasons, and I would like to say that the majority of them were introduced to me while I silently observed women who breastfed their children.

• I will not argue against research. Any article you read will tell you breast milk is better for a baby than any manmade formula. But this I know: some of the healthiest people I know were bottle fed babies. And some of the lectures I received about the health-merits of breastfeeding were spoken to me during said child’s breathing treatment or after a visit to the allergist to try to figure out for the 150th time just what might be the culprit. So while I won’t go so far as to say breast milk isn’t the best for a baby, it’s not a selling point for me. Not when I see just as much, if not more, general health battles in that population of children.

• Ouch. I read a lot of mom blogs. I don’t know why, since I don’t have kids and don’t need to read 765 comments on which brand of diapers is preferable. But I still read them. And many of these women are passionate about promoting breastfeeding. As a non-mom, I submit to you that writing about the pain of being bitten, anything involving the word engorged, talk of blood, infection, or plugged ducts does not inspire another person to go thou and do likewise. A couple of years ago, I had to stop reading one blog entirely because I couldn’t handle reading the physical horror stories anymore. I felt horrible for the poor mama – but if she was trying to convince me this is the way to go, she um…failed.

• This is where I start getting called selfish. I’m old, y’all. Old and set in my ways. I’m quite used to doing what I do when I do it, and I know if I ever have kids, that is going to be an enormous adjustment. But I can tell you right now that I will be a much better mother if I do not have to worry about being so tied to a feeding schedule. I know myself. If I have to be there every minute of every day (or be within reaching distance of a pump) – I will go nuts. Literally, certifiably nuts. If I need to run to the grocery store, I don’t want to stop and do mental math to see if I can make it there and back before the next feeding – and Heaven forbid Wal-Mart pull one of its stunts and hold me hostage in line for 30 minutes while I lactate all over my shirt. If babies sense stress, my kid will be much better off with a bottle and a mom who is at peace about her schedule.

• The guilt. Oh. The. Guilt. This is another one I learned from those blasted blogs. The guilt of – oh I only lasted a week. I failed my child. Next blog. I only lasted a month. I failed my child. Next blog. I only lasted six months. I failed my child. Next blog. I only lasted eight years. I failed my child AND get hate mail after making the evening news. There’s never a good time to quit. They all feel guilty, no matter how long they lasted. I live with enough self-battering. I don’t need to add that.

• The worry. I have examined my baby’s poop by digging it out of the diaper with a spoon – and I can’t tell…is he eating enough? I will look at the bottle and see how much he’s eating and thereby eliminate that worry. Should I breastfeed here without offending or should I go hide somewhere? No worries for me. I have a bottle. Did I eat something that upsets the baby? Bring me a cup of coffee and some Mexican food. I will be worried enough about things like body temperature, breathing while sleeping, cutting fingernails down too far, and the actual security of the car seat. If I can save myself this one, I am all about it.

• Dad. I have an image seared in my mind. I’d gone to visit some friends. Mom was a breastfeeding mother. As a result, baby generally only wanted Mom. Dad had been nervous about the role of fatherhood anyway, and I knew it. He and I sat in the living room one night while Mom tried to put the finishing touches on dinner in the kitchen. The baby howled, wanting Mom and dinner. Dad, trying to be a good father, took the baby and tried to comfort her. She screamed louder. The helplessness was evident and my heart broke for him. He just wanted to be useful and he felt anything but. That was actually the moment I decided this was not the path I wanted to take. I want my husband to be able to be a dad without reservation. I want anyone else who wants to pitch in and help with a feeding here and there (either to spend time with the baby or just to be a help) to be able to do that.

So that’s my stance. If I ever have a baby and God pours conviction over my heart to change my mind, I’ll obey. And if there’s absolutely no way it can be financially possible, I’ll give in. (But I’m giving up cable and eating out first to see if I can make it work.)

The Pharmacist's Wife

I am married to a drug dealer. Now that I have your attention. What I meant to say is that I am married to a pharmacist. I would like to further clarify that I am MARRIED to a pharmacist and as such have no training whatsoever about drugs in general. I cannot answer your questions about medications, I have no idea which cough syrup is the best for your condition and I wouldn’t know a blood pressure pill from Viagra by site. What I do know is this, you’ll have to ask my husband.

A brief bio: My husband is a pharmacist. He graduated from Purdue University. He went to college for five years, the last class to do it in five as now they go six years. When we were in college at times I would help him study. He would have to name pills on site. He would have to draw chemical structures. He is really quite brilliant. I don’t know the difference between an Advil and a Tylenol other than the fact that they are different colors.

I get questions about medication quite a bit actually. More than you would think. In fact, when I go to the doctor the doctor will ask me which medication I want to be on. As if I have a clue that there is a difference. I will tell him that I have no idea but he can call my husband and ask him what he thinks is best.

When I first heard that we were writing for health week. I said I didn’t have a clue what to write about. I was told that being married to a pharmacist surely gave me some insight into something health related. Usually when people find out that I’m married to a pharmacist they will say something like “You are married to a pharmacist? I bet you have all kinds of “good” drugs at your house.” I would like to tell you what being married to a pharmacist, well mine anyway is like. We do not have medication lying around. We have to go to the doctor to get a prescription just like everyone else. For things over the counter he does bring home things for cough and cold that he thinks is best if it’s likely a virus and not something a doctor is going to give a prescription for. We do not go to the doctor until our “read his” best efforts have been exhausted. He brings home Advil for headaches. I have to go buy Midol myself because he doesn’t think it’s necessary.

All of our kids are vaccinated. And this year I was given my first flu shot because he had to go to have all the training to learn how to do it. It would have looked bad if I didn’t trust him to give me a shot. I will say that he was quite good and I barely felt a thing. I do have an associates degree in Medical Assisting so I do know a bit about giving shots. While it’s been many a moon and my only “patients” have been my children I know a bit about bandaids and injuries. He does not handle blood well. Illnesses he handles like a trooper and if vomit is involved he usually cleans it up.

He is a retail pharmacist which has spoiled me in ways you wouldn’t necessarily expect. I rarely buy milk. He brings it home from work. The first time I had to buy it after it went up to $3.00 a gallon I freaked and called him at work. In addition to milk he brings home, tea, laundry detergent, fabric softener, Advil (but never Midol with three women in the house?), things for school (pencils, poster board, etc.), shampoo, body wash, dishwasher detergent, and I’m sure a slew of things I’m forgetting.

So I guess the moral of the story is this. I cannot help you. I am married to a pharmacist. I am however not one. The best help I can be is to give you his work number and have you call him. I am not the person to ask. I would be the middle man. The person you ask if you are looking for a good pharmacist, as of course, I married the best one.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gluten-Free Recipe #2

 PIZZA!

Now here's a subject I am really passionate about!!!

Upon finding out that I was gluten intolerant, this was by far the biggest blow to accept: NO MORE PIZZA!

Or so I thought!

Here's a SUPER EASY recipe for Pizza Dough!

First of all, you start with a mix. This mix is enough dry ingredients for (4) 12" pizzas.

Pizza Mix
2-2/3 C brown rice flour
2 C tapioca flour (or starch)
1/2 C dry milk powder (non-dairy milk powder works fine, too)
4 t xanthan gum
2 t salt
4 t unflavored gelatin powder (just check Jell-0 section at grocer; everyone has it; 1 pkt= 2 t)
4 t Italian seasoning
Mix all together and store in air tight container.

Pizza Crust
*Makes (1) 12" pizza
1-1/3 C pizza mix
1 T dry yeast
2/3 C warm water
1/4 t honey
1 t olive oil
1 t lemon juice
Mix with electric mixer on high speed. Press into a 12" pizza pan (or a 9x13" baking dish).
For thin crust, immediately place dough in 350F preheated oven for approx 5-8 min. Remove, add toppings, and place back in oven for 15-20 min, or until cheese is starting to brown nicely.
For a thicker crust, allow the dough to rise in a warm/non-drafty place for 30-40 min. Then prebake in 350F oven for 5-8 min, remove, add toppings, and bake for 15-20 mins.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Now, there is definitely a SCIENCE to "pressing the dough into a pizza pan". GF dough almost always is sticky! But I've finally figured out how to beat it into submission!

1- spray pizza pan with non-stick spray, like PAM. If using a pizza pan with the itty bitty holes: spread out aluminum foil on pan and then spray that with PAM.
2- spray the hand you plan on using to "press the dough" with PAM. You may have to do this several times until the dough stops sticking to your hand. Since I'm right handed, I press with my right and have the PAM spray in my left at all times, so I can spray as needed without making a greasy mess.
3- press all the way to the edge and then some so the dough curls up and over the edge of the pie pan. I then curl the dough back onto itself to make a rounded crust (see picture above).

ENJOY!!!

*Note: if wanting to freeze dough for easy pizza making later, let dough thoroughly cool after pre-bake, wrap well in plastic wrap/aluminum foil or large freezer bag, and freeze. When ready to prepare, allow to thaw completely, add toppings, and bake in preheated 350F oven for 15-18 min, or until cheese starts to brown.

My Gluten-Free Journey

I rather sort of stumbled upon the realization of it in the summer of 2010. To jump start some weight loss, both my sister and I took a personal 30-day challenge to remove ALL grains from our diet and eat what the nutrition world has entitled a Paleo Diet: nuts & berries, fruit, vegetables, meats, eggs, and healthy oils. If it wasn't real, natural, or straight from the ground/animal, it wasn't consumed. No processed foods, no grains. After muscling through a few days of some pretty decent withdrawal symptoms, both of us felt better than we had EVER felt before. Night and day difference! We had energy and normal digestion... No more backaches, cramps, gas, bloating, indigestion, or heartburn. It was amazing!

After our 30 days were up, we slowly started reincorporating grains back into our diet. Corn was fine. Rice was fine.

Then... we reintroduced our bodies to wheat...

I'll spare you the details. But anyone who's walked the road of gluten intolerance knows what symptoms I'm talking about. It was not pretty.

We both backed off the wheat and within 3 days returned to our "digestive zen" so to speak. Every once in a while we'd try wheat again and the not-so-fun list of symptoms reared their ugly heads again.

What was going on?!!! Why was our beloved breads, grains, and pastas raging a digestive war within?! It never bothered us like this BEFORE! At least not this bad!

Then I remembered a long-ago conversation I had had with a girlfriend about a thing she struggled with called "gluten intolerance". I had never heard of it before until our conversation. I remember hearing what all she could and could not eat, how it totally affected her daily diet, but how much better she felt now that gluten had been removed from her diet. Praise God our conversation had been stored in my memory bank for fast retrieval!

I then started devouring (no pun intended) all the resources I could find concerning gluten intolerance and Celiac Disease. I read symptoms lists, "eat this" & "don't eat this" lists, Celiac forums, recipe blogs and websites... I researched topics such as "what will happen to the body if GF intolerance is never addressed", "what does gluten do to the body/intestines", "why do our bodies crave that which it shouldn't eat", etc.

After a LOT of research (and personal experience) I accepted the fact that I do, indeed, suffer from a gluten intolerance and I must make some changes to my diet. Drastic changes. MUCH of my diet consisted of grains... healthy grains, WHOLE grains... but grains nonetheless. Whole wheat. Oats. Barley. I loved them all. I craved them! It was a VERY difficult change to come to terms with. I remember researching "can I ever eat grains again?" and being terribly disappointed when EVERYTHING read said "no".

What was I going to eat?!

All I could seem to focus on at the get-go was what all I COULDN'T eat. I was discouraged. What was even more discouraging was the price tag on all the gluten free items in the health food section! $6+ for a small bag of brownie mix?!!! You've GOT to be kidding.

For a long while I clung closely to the Paleo diet, not knowing how to cook gluten freely... and being scared to eat out at a restaurant... Everyone else was eating normally, but me. So I also had to deal with the constant "it's right here in your face" torment. I knew if I ate it it'd make me sick. Sometimes I'd cave and eat something anyway... and would pay for it miserably for the next 3 days.

And what was I going to do with all these old recipes and cookbooks now?! Of what use were they?! Will I ever be able to eat normally?! Do I have to say good-bye to my favorite foods forever?!

In desperation, I started reading blogs and recipe sites coined Gluten Free. My favorite was General Mills' liveglutenfreely.com site, which actually posted NORMAL meals and dessert options. That's where I was first introduced to GF Bisquick. Albeit costly, it was quite thrilling to eat pancakes, fried chicken, and strawberry shortcakes once again.

To sum it all up, it took BABY STEPS! I was SO incompetent in the kitchen at first. Which was a hard blow because I was all about eating healthy, consuming whole grains, soaking grains, etc. I felt like an amateur in the kitchen once again.

But with time, PRAYER, and research I began taking these baby steps. And now, after almost a year of trial and error, persistence, and determination, I've mastered the basics and feel comfortable in the kitchen cooking gluten freely!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Gluten-Free Recipe #1

GF Pie Crust and Strawberry-Raspberry Filling

Heading off to the oven
*I dedicate each of my pies to my sweet hubby! A little something I picked up from my mom!*

All done!

Worth every last succulent calorie!!!
GF Double Pie Crust
*for a single crust, simply divide in half (all but the egg)*
Dry Ingredients:
1 C white rice flour
1/2 C cornstarch
1/2 C potato starch
1 T granulated sugar
1/2- 1 scant t salt (to taste, really)

Wet ingredients:
1/2 C (1 stick) cold butter, cut into pieces (or 1/2 C vegetable shortening)
1 large egg
3-4 T cold water

-In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Using a fork, pastry cutter, or stand mixer (my favorite method!), work cold butter (or shortening) into flour mixture. Add egg and water. If dough is dry, add more water 1 teaspoon at a time. Stir until a dough forms.
-Divide dough into 2 balls and wrap each individually in plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour.
-Remove dough from the refrigerator and place on the counter for 15 minutes.

At this point, the dough is ready to roll out! Use parchment paper or waxed paper.

In all honesty, I like working with this dough better than flour-based pie doughs. It is SO MUCH easier to work with!

Thank you, Easy Gluten-Free Baking by Elizabeth Barbone!
------------------------------------------------------------------

Strawberry-Raspberry Pie Filling
1-1/4 C white sugar
1/3 C GF all-purpose flour
1/2 t ground cinnamon
3 C fresh/frozen (but thawed) strawberries
1 C fresh/frozen (but thawed) raspberries
2 T butter

-Preheat oven to 425F. Place bottom crust in 9" pie pan.
-Mix together sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Mix lightly through the berries. Pour filling into pastry lined pan and dot fruit with butter. Cover with top crust. Cut slits on top. Seal and flute the edges.
-Bake for approx 45-50 minutes or until top crust is golden.
-Let cool approx 10 minutes before serving.

Thank you, AllRecipes.com!

Gluten Intolerance

What is Gluten Intolerance?

At a very basic level it can be defined as: a genetically inherited disorder in which gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, spelt, and barley) causes an abnormal inflammation of the intestinal lining. This, in turn, causes a malabsorption of vital nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in the foods eaten.

An extreme form of Gluten Intolerance is called Celiac Disease, a chronic autoimmune condition that presents itself with actual damage to the intestinal lining and bowel.

What are the symptoms?

Here is a list of the most common symptoms:
* Stomach and abdominal pain/cramping
* Bloating
* Constipation
* Diarrhea
* Gas, often very foul
* Heartburn or acid reflux

A list of other symptoms:
* Weight loss
* Stubborn weight gain
* Vomiting
* Floating/fatty stools
* Foul smelling or bloody stools
* Delayed growth/puberty
* Failure to Thrive (in infants/small children)
* Type 1 Diabetes
* Irritable Bowel Syndrome
* Autism/behavioral issues
* Bone loss/osteoporosis/bone pain
* Depression, irritability
* Fatigue
* Infertility
* Arthritis/Joint pain
* Mouth sores/ulcers
* Seizures/epilepsy
* Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
* Hypoglycemia
* Hair loss (Alopecia)
* Lactose intolerance
* Teeth and gum problems
* Mineral and vitamin deficiency, esp anemia
* Dermatitis Herpetiformis (a skin rash)

Pleasant, eh? It's all because nutrients are NOT being properly absorbed in the intestines! Even an individual with an extremely healthy diet can show signs of malnutrition. If the intolerance progresses to full-blown Celiac Disease, the villi and microvilli of the small intestine experience actual damage and proteins and toxins will freely pass through the intestinal lining into the bloodstream (called Leaky Gut Syndrome), causing a myriad of health issues (as seen in the symptom list above).

How Can I Get Tested?

Saliva, blood, or stool samplings are the methods.

As unpleasant as it may seem, a stool sample is best in testing for gluten intolerance because it will directly check for antibodies, your body's defense mechanism against the intestinal inflammation, that are already in the bowel. A blood sample would work for an actual Celiac patient because proteins and toxins have already entered the bloodstream through Leaky Gut Syndrome, causing an autoimmune response within the blood. Someone that only has a gluten intolerance may very well come back with a negative blood test result, as they are only producing antibodies within the intestines.

*Note: do NOT cut out gluten prior to taking a test. Maintain your normal diet for at least 4 weeks in order for an accurate test result.

Another simple way to test for gluten intolerance is to introduce your body to a gluten free diet for several weeks and see if the symptoms resolve themselves. This can seem very daunting and overwhelming at first because gluten is often "hidden" in foods, like "modified food starch" and "barley malt extract", etc. You have to read labels militantly and learn all the code words for gluten, like:

* Binder or binding
* Bulgur
* Couscous
* Duram (durum)
* Farina
* Filler
* Flour
* Graham
* Hydrolysed wheat protein
* Malt
* Natural Flavoring
* Semolina
* Starch
* Thickener or thickening
* Triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye)

As I began my journey of eating gluten free (summer '10), I stuck to meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, berries, and dairy pretty much exclusively until I began to feel comfortable and brave enough to branch out a bit. I was terrified of seasonings and processed/pre-packaged foods because I didn't know what everything meant on the labels. As I became more learned, I stepped out and began eating a more varied diet. I still eat mostly from scratch and as homemade as possible because I don't want to risk getting sick. An introduction to gluten causes me gastro-pains for 3 days!!!

Ultimately, for me, it comes back to a stewardship issue. My body is a temple of the Holy God and He truly and fully cares about what I eat and how I care for my body. He has opened my eyes and understanding to what gluten intolerance is and how it has been hurting me. How and why would I knowingly continue to feed my body that which is bad for it? How can that be pleasing to Him?

Hopefully, I have shed some light on this topic so that others may discover for themselves if maybe they have this health issue. And if so, they can begin taking steps of obedience and caring for their bodies to the glory of God!

**I am by no means a medical expert on this topic. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please contact your physician.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why Homebirth?

Considering today's cultural trend to have hospital births, having a child at home may sound quite foreign to many of you. Homebirth, though, has been the norm for centuries. We've experienced both sides. Our first two children were birthed at the hospital, while our last two have been birthed at home. Unless there is some sort of medically necessary reason I must birth at the hospital, we will continue having our children at home!

Here are a few of the reasons why we have chosen this birthing option.

1- Women have been doing this since the time of Adam and Eve. It's only been within the past two generations that hospital births have become the "norm".

2- Midwives and hospitals approach birth completely different. From a midwifery (pronounced 'mid-wif-er-ee') perspective, birth is viewed as a healthy life process. God has uniquely designed the female body to conceive and give birth to children. It's a normal function of her body, something she was created for and is fully capable of doing. From a hospital perspective, birth is viewed as a medical condition that requires medical intervention(s), something that needs to be "monitored" and "treated". There is so much fear surrounding the process of labor and delivery nowadays. We wonder how much of that is due to doctors turning something normal into a perceived medical problem or complication.

3- For low-risk women, homebirth is a safe alternative... possibly a safer alternative. High infant mortality rates of the past were largely due to issues of cleanliness/hygiene. Nowadays, we take MUCH better care of our homes and bodies so it's not so much an issue. Also, we are immune to the germs in our own homes whereas in a hospital, one comes in contact with all sorts of germs and viruses that they'd never meet at home. Plus, toward the end of pregnancy, we are required to order a Birth Kit. In this kit are sterile, hospital grade items necessary for birth, like gloves, pads, cord clamp, etc. so the baby will not be introduced to an unsterilized environment with unsterilized equipment.

4- The level of care is much better with a midwife. At the hospital, prenatal appointments usually consist of very impersonal/very brief meetings with the doctor or nurse. To me, it felt like I was just a number... get me in-&-out so the next patient can be seen as quickly as possible. With a midwife, it's the exact opposite. Our initial consultation with the midwife was 1-1/2 hours long (and free of cost!). Prenatal visits are at least 30 minutes. Our midwife wants to know me, my family, my history, my fears and concerns, etc. I also get to know her, her family, her experience, etc. It is a VERY interpersonal relationship. The more she knows about me, my family, my health, the better she can fulfill her role. So when I'm in labor, it's not a stranger wearing scrubs I'm with... but a close friend.

5- The process of birth itself was so much more relaxing and rewarding at home. At the hospital, it was cold, brightly lit, I was confined to bed and IV, and was denied food and drink for the entire duration of my labor and delivery (which left me dry-heaving during transition- which was AWFUL!). Apparently the hospital's reasoning for the "no-food-no-drink" thing is two-fold: 1- having an empty stomach is necessary for emergency c-section and 2- vomit could potentially enter your lungs (which rarely happens). At home, I had all the comforts of home: my lazyboy recliner, dim lights, I was free to walk and roam about the house as I pleased, and I was allowed to eat and drink as I needed (which provided me the strength and energy to sustain me during intense labor and delivery). I delivered both Cassandra and Edmund in my bedroom, which for me was the most comfortable, private, and secure place. Their deliveries were unlike the two hospital births I'd had before. Arianna and Benjamin came out screaming because of the cold and lights. I was only able to hold them briefly before they were whisked away for cleaning, shots, and goop to be put in their eyes. Both Cassandra and Edmund came out bright-eyed, alert, content, and were allowed to stay in my arms for a long time. Immediately following birth and cord cutting, I was urged to nurse. Then, after a good nursing/time of bonding, we took an herbal bath together. We were pretty much inseperable from the moment they came out. And they never cried. Night and day difference. One more thought here... when a woman is laboring at home, she is comfortable and secure and usually labors continuously without interruption. Yet, how many times have you heard of (or experienced for yourself) labor stalling or altogether stopping when a woman leaves for the hospital?...

6- Most midwives deliver more babies than OB/GYN's. Part of that is not the Dr.'s fault, though, as they do more than just deliver babies. Our midwife has certifications and training and a TON of experience under her belt (she's been birthing babies full-time for well over 10 years). There's probably not much she hasn't seen yet. To us, experience means more than a degree. We trust she knows what she's doing. And contrary to popular medical belief, IF something DOES go wrong, it doesn't usually crop up out of nowhere. A seasoned midwife should see signs and symptoms of something wrong long before it becomes a problem. And at that point, she either takes care of the problem herself or she will recognize it requires medical help and will transport momma to the hospital. There's not a whole lot that a midwife can't do that a doctor can, besides do c-sections. And there are a lot of natural ways to curb normal complications during birth that doctors either won't do or are unaware of.

7- I get to choose what position I want to birth in. At the hospital, it's laying down on a bed with your legs spread and up. Not comfortable. At home, I birthed on a cresent shaped stool where gravity could actually work FOR me rather than against me. Made pushing SO MUCH easier... and quicker! Many midwives also provide the option of having a water birth.

8- Less internals with a midwife. I had my first internal exam with my midwife when Cassandra's head was in the birth canal. They are usually an "un-necessary evil". My midwife jokes that she is willing to do internals if asked, but I then have to provide her with a homemade pie. :-) I think she's serious! Think about it... everytime someone checks momma internally, the risk of infection increases. I cannot count how many people and how many times I was checked internally during hospital prenatal visits and the actual hospital birth experience.

9- The cost is dramatically different. Even with insurance, Arianna and Benjamin cost RD and I several thousand dollars a piece. Cassandra and Edmund cost us $1,800 each.

I realize that this is a sensitive subject and my goal is certainly not to ruffle feathers. I'm simply wanting to share some of our main reasons for choosing this birthing option. Perhaps, also, someone will be encouraged to research this topic out for themselves and decide whether or not to pursue homebirth for themselves.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Size Does Matter

We live in a society that is, if we are all honest, is overweight isn't it? We live in land flowing with McDonalds, Burger King, Hardees and various other fast food resturants.  Hardees has the Monster Burger, Burger King has the Triple Whopper, and McDonald's has the Double Quarter Pounder.  The land of "bigger the better."

Just read the slogans: Burger King, "Have it your way."; McDonalds, "I'm loving it."; Hardees, "Home of the Monster Burger."  There was even a guy that a few years ago made a movie, Super Size Me.  In the movie he ate nothing for a month but McDonalds for breakfast, lunch, and supper.  What happened?  He ended up in the worst condition of his life.  Chlosterol went up, his weight went up, blood pressure went up, everythig went from good to worse.

But the opposite side of the coin is we also live in a society with The Biggest Loser.  Gyms on every corner, GNC Stores everywhere, we have almost become obsessed with losing the weight that comes from the burger wars.  This leads me to the verse in the Bible that says, "Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial."

I am not saying that eating at McDonalds is bad, and we all could stand to lose a few pounds, I know I can.  Here is a tip that I am still working on when it comes to eating, size does matter.  Instead of ordering the large meal at fast food joints, order the normal meal.  Instead of the Monster Burger, would we not be satisfied with the regular cheeseburger?  When fixing a meal at home, how about following the serving size on the back of the packages?  For snacks between meals, instead of the king size candy bar, what about an apple or grapes.  With that though we still have to be careful with how big the apple is and how many grapes we eat.

We all can use more exercise, joining a gym is not bad, but what about getting out, going for a walk, a jog, or playing some ball in the park, going for a bike ride around the block.  Remember when it does come to our bodies, they are a temple of the Holy Spirit and we do need to take care of them, we only get one, let's not destroy it.  Food: size does matter.  The bigger the meal, the more calories it has and the more caloies we consume the bigger our waist will get.  We are God's property, let's take care of it.

Rethinking What Makes a "Meal"

In the past seven months, I have lost 40 pounds. I believe that the biggest key to my success has been revamping how I define a meal. The standard in our society is to eat three big meals a day, if we even get that. At least half of you reading this entry may make it a habit to skip breakfast. I used to be one of those people; little did I know that it was setting me up for weight-loss failure. Follow along with me here and make a decision that will change not only your metabolic function and, therefore, your weight but also your overall feeling of wellness and mental clarity.

I am challenging you to ditch the three-meals-a-day mentality and change over to 5 to 6 small meals a day -- 200-300 calories each. [An easy way to judge this portion size is to make a fist. A fist and a half of food is about where you want to fall.] You need to start your day by eating within an hour of getting up in the morning. This will rev up your metabolism (your body will start burning calories immediately) and feed your brain. (Skipping breakfast promotes fat storage because your body is essentially in hibernation mode, thinking it needs to store fat for energy later.) For example, if I get up around 6:30am and try to get my breakfast in by 7:00am, this is what my eating schedule for the day might look like:
7:00am Breakfast
10:00am Snack
12:00pm Small meal
3:00pm Snack
6:00pm Small meal
8:00pm Optional meal or snack (SKIP if you're not truly hungry)

Eating in small, consistent increments will allow your blood sugar to stay stable throughout the day. This is your goal. Most of us naturally eat three large meals or load in the majority of our calories at the end of the day to make up for skipping breakfast in the morning. This sabotages weight loss and wreaks havoc on our metabolism. You may also find that this affects your mental focus and feeling of general wellness, as you experience the "crashes" that come with falling blood sugar. Conversely, you keep your metabolism running high and your blood sugar stable by stoking it like you would a fire: feeding your body in small increments all day to keep a steady flame going.

Making It Happen
Plan ahead -- Make a meal plan and stick to it.
Make a grocery list and stock up on what you'll need. Plan for lean proteins and protein-filled
snacks like Greek yogurt, nuts and nut mixes, and also fruits and vegetables.
If you are going to work, pack your meals.
Eat within one hour of getting up to get your metabolism going and to facilitate your eating
schedule for the day.
Eat "by the clock" if necessary at first -- especially the first half of the day -- to ensure
success. If you eat too much during the last half of the day, you are not going to wake up
hungry. If you even out your calories, you will start waking up hungry.
Good Rule of Thumb:
Have half your meals in by 2:00pm.

If you're anything like me, you like to see examples; so I am providing some examples below for what I eat for "meals" and snacks.
  • Half turkey sandwich on high-fiber bread
  • 2 eggs with yolks + 1 slice dry toast
  • Greek yogurt + apple slices with 1 Tbsp. peanut butter
  • Open-faced sandwich with meat, veggies, and light mayo
  • Meal replacement shake
  • protein or breakfast bar
  • 1/2 C. of cooked brown rice + 3 oz. chicken
  • 1/2 C. oatmeal (not instant) + 1 scoop of protein powder and almond milk, if needed for consistency
  • 3 oz. tuna fish (no oil) with whole grain crackers
  • 25 raw almonds + fruit + protein drink
  • 3 oz. salmon + salad greens
  • 3 oz. grilled chicken + 1/2 C. grapes
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs mixed with light mayo & mustard on 1 piece high-fiber bread
  • 1 small apple + 1/2 C. cottage cheese
My weight-loss journey began when I felt the need to develop discipline in this area of my life and be a good steward of the health and body that God has blessed me with. One verse that has spoken to me so powerfully during this journey is Isaiah 58:11 -- "The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs...and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." I want to be healthy and whole to meet the needs of my family and to be able to spend quality time with my athletic little girls. I want to live my life to the fullest and healthiest to be able to carry out all of God's plans for me. Revamp and refresh your thinking; exercise choices that will lead you to a happier, healthier lifestyle. Here's to better health!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Don't Miss This... (Mark 12:28-34)

Last week I read a scripture in my daily reading and at first I just went on a finished the reading and didn’t really think about it. But later in the day, that scripture kept coming back up and perplexed me. I would like to discuss it with you.
The Greatest Commandment

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. Mark 12:28-34
I know that many of us have heard this scripture, over and over again, but there were a few words that really bothered me on this particular day. It is when Jesus says to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” ‘Not Far’…Those two words really bothered me.

When Jesus gave his answer to this man, the man essentially said, “Yes, I am doing all of those things. I love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. And I love my neighbors and I know that all of this is the most important.” Then Jesus tells them, well, you are not far.

I would have wanted to say…NOT FAR….I just told you that I did all of those things….what else does it take?

See, I have a fear of being ‘not far’ from the kingdom, but not actually getting in. I have always had a fear that when I get to judgment, God will say.”Well, you ALMOST made it, but there was this ONE thing that you didn’t ask for forgiveness for…SORRY.” And send me packing. When I read this verse it brought all of those old feelings back up again.

But then God reminded me what the teacher of the law was lacking. He was lacking JESUS. In John 14:6 it says, “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This teacher, for all the good works he had done, missed the ONE thing that was standing in front of him.

As I read it now, I can almost hear the mans voice, proud that he knew the right answer and proud that he had done all of those things. But still all of his works and knowledge could not get him into heaven, only the person of whom he asked the question could…and that part he missed.

Please, if you are reading this post and you don’t know Jesus Christ as your savior, don’t wait another minute!! Don’t miss the kingdom of God because you think you know all the right answers and you do all the right things. NO ONE comes to the Father EXCEPT through the Son. If you need help, find a church, find a friend, email me…just don’t WAIT ANOTHER MINUTE to get the only one in your life who can EVER save you.


God bless you, have a wonderful Sunday!

Friday, March 18, 2011

What Do You Expect?

I've been pondering several things lately, not the least of which has been my current church life.  My husband and I have been called to and have started attending a new church that literally just began.  That means currently we go to one church in the morning and continue our service commitments there and then repeat the process at another church in the evening.  We are usually very energized but simultaneously drained by the end of the day.  However, we couldn't be happier about it because we are doing God's work in both places.

What strikes me is how different the churches are from each other.  The Sunday morning church tends toward being stoic and sometimes even stuffy.  Not much clapping to the music, due largely to the music generally trending towards slow over fast.  It's very routine - a trait I generally prefer - to the extent that I don't know that anything unplanned would be allowed to take place.  Sunday nights are exactly the opposite in that there's a plan but no concrete.  I like flexibility in my churches because I sometimes wonder if the Spirit is hindered by our rigidity.

A few weeks ago, Sunday morning church started a sermon series on the Holy Spirit - who he is, what he does etc. Given our church's demographic, we really shouldn't need introduced to the Holy Spirit, unless it's like a reintroduction to someone it's been a while since we've seen. "Holy Spirit meet Church, Church meet Holy Spirit."  Could we really have come to this?  Sunday morning church has felt to me like a string of lectures or keynote addresses.  Well researched, well developed and well spoken.  No umph.  Is it any wonder that the church doesn't appear to be going anywhere?  There's no sense of urgency, no call to action, only a string of ways to be obedient to gain personal rewards and bolster self-confidences.  Honestly, I have no time for that.

By sharp contrast, Sunday night church is fluid, organized and structured - all while knowing that at any moment the Spirit may take the service in a completely different way than planned.  My first Sunday listening to the sermon (instead of being with the children) was clear evidence of that, and it was great!  The pastor's willingness to sense the Spirit and obey His leading was refreshing.  I almost felt like I was at youth camp again with the nearly palpable moving of the Spirit that occurred.  It was amazing and the same type of "feeling" as we experienced during the preview services.  I truly believe that our pastor feels that the service as a whole is sacred, but no one part of the service is so sacred that it can't be removed or skipped over if the Spirit prompts.

I grew up being taught that when we go to church we should go expecting something to happen.  Judging by some Facebook comments I have read, we're almost surprised when the Spirit "shows up."  He's always there, we just don't allow Him to do His thing.  I'll confess some Sunday mornings I go to church with no extraordinary expectations.  I expect worship music, announcements & offering, more singing, a sermon and more singing.  Do you know what? That's exactly what I get.  My Sunday night attitude is completely different. I expect to sense the moving of the Spirit and expect to be challenged in my thinking and again, I'm not disappointed.

Two churches - the same day - two totally different viewpoints.  Amazing, isn't it?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ducks and other Lessons

I just returned from my first ever trip to Florida. I've been recapping the fun (and drama...because any trip with me always has some only-Bekah drama attached) over on my blog. But one of the things I loved about Florida was the constant access to the beach. (And not because I wanted to work on my tan, though that was certainly a perk!)

I hear God best when by the water, and last week, He had plenty of things to say. I could hardly take notes quickly enough.

Thursday morning was cold and windy, following a storm in the early hours. I had a bit of a cranky attitude, so while all my traveling buddies got ready, I sneaked down to the water for a time-out.

God was dealing with me on the issue of perseverance, and I was a poor student. My memory verse for that portion of the month was James 5:11 - As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

The verse ran over and over and over in my mind....and God urged me to keep going. To keep going even when Satan pummeled me (which he was doing with alarming frequency that week).

As I stood by the water, pondering the verse, I glanced over to see this duck in the water:
He rode along, surfing the rough waters...up and down. Up and down.

Every few seconds a wave rolled in and buried the duck.
(He really is under that wave.)
When the wave relaxed into the sand, that duck would shake his head and keep riding. Another wave would roll in, bury him, and he'd shake it off and keep going.
Be like the duck, God urged me. You're pummeled, but don't let it drown you. Shake it off and keep going, even when the waves come faster than you can handle. You really can do this.
He's right. The waves aren't fun. They hurt when they crash over my head. But the Lord is full of compassion and mercy and He'll carry me right through that storm!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Top Ten Best and Worst Things About Being Pregnant

My husband and I just recently spilled the beans to our family and friends that we're expecting a third child. So, to celebrate the announcement of adding a third child to my clan, I'd like to share:

The Top Ten Best and Worst Things About Being Pregnant

The BEST:
10. Some of my favorite maternity clothes actually feel like I get to wear my pajamas all day! What a great concept! They look (mostly) like regular clothes, but feel like pajamas!

9. Not feeling too guilty about pouring M&M's over my popcorn (Seriously, have you tried this? The chocolate melts on the hot popcorn...I'm making myself hungry....).


8. Knowing where every bathroom is, at every store, (when you have to go every 15 minutes) makes it much easier in a few years when your kid is potty training.


7. Sweet talking my husband into giving me nightly back rubs (You did this to me, now rub my back!).


6. Getting to see God's sense of humor. My mom was always trying to talk me out of having a third baby, and this one just happens to be due on her birthday!
 
5. Finding the best midwife who lets me totally relax because I can completely put my trust in her. Thanks, Goldie!


4. My husband being really excited, but not surprised, when I told him about #3, but mercifully not adding that my disposition for the prior two weeks left little doubt.


3. The first time you feel the baby kick. It makes it feel so much more real (and tests your bladder).


2. Watching my daughters sing and talk to the baby. I adore seeing how much love their little hearts already hold for their future sibling.


1. Getting to experience one of God's miracles first hand. There is nothing more amazing than nurturing, protecting and growing a little one inside of yourself.


The WORST:

10. Looking longingly at other people who get to wear pants with actual zippers and buttons (not the pretend ones they sometimes put over the elastic on maternity pants).


9. Doubling my 5K time in just a matter of months. In another few months I'll be lucky to walk 5K without having to go to the bathroom. In one of my grumpier moods, I accused my husband of getting me pregnant to ensure that I wouldn't beat him in the 8K we were going to run this summer!


8. Buying a new pair of sexy shoes for date night with the hubby, and having to try not to waddle.


7. Saying goodbye to diet pop. OK, I know it's not good for me anyway, but I do like to indulge occasionally and most moms can use a jolt of caffeine from time to time!


6. No NyQuil induced sleep comas when you're sick. I REALLY miss this one!


5. Feeling like you need 12 hours of sleep a night when your kids still thinks it's fun to get up at 5am (the best cartoons are on then, you know!).


4. At some point, no amount of money spent on fancy pillows will make your sleep any less miserable.


3. Everyone somehow feeling like they have the license to tell you how a 7-9 lb baby should exit YOUR body. The little old lady standing behind you at the grocery store is always the worst!


2. Wondering when you're nauseous, really tired or generally miserable, why you actually tried so hard to do this to yourself.

1. Two words: Stretch marks.


Hope you enjoyed! Feel free to let me know any you think I missed!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Truth Guides but Love Wins

I must confess to being somewhat hesitant to write on this subject. So many are already weighing in and I fear that much of it is little more than riding the coat tails of someone else’s success, and that is not my intention here at all. I find that I can not, however, refrain from speaking up on a matter which both stirs my heart and conflicts it.

What I’m referring to is the much talked about and controversial book “Love Wins” by Pastor Rob Bell of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, MI. ( http://www.robbell.com ) Then again, it is not actually my desire to speak on the book at all. You see, unlike many who are speaking and writing at such length on this book, I actually intend to read it before weighing in.

What concerns me more is the response of other Christians and theologians, who seem surprisingly quick; even eager, to launch accusations of error and heresy. It’s certainly an ironic contrast considering the book title “Love Wins”. Now I have seen the trailer for the book and just watched his live interview where he fielded questions in regard to the book and his theologies in general, and I certainly confess that there are definitely questions to be posed and cautions to be considered. What I don’t see are the grounds for such vitriolic scaremongering as I have seen in the last week. It pains me to see followers of Christ behaving so poorly, especially where such questionable motivations and such shaky justifications exist.

What I really want to say, I guess, is that I find this all very unfair and disingenuous. After all, many of our historic orthodox church fathers and some of the great church doctors through history have wandered themselves into questionable areas of theology and teaching. Through the diligent and honestly faithful process of developing our doctrines, they had to ask some very tricky questions and some came up with answers that are or long were considered outside of the norm of historic consensual orthodoxy. Augustine, Tertullian, Luther, Calvin and Wesley have all ventured into teachings that have been questioned throughout the history of the church. I do not, of course, mean to place Rob Bell directly into such company; posterity will have to do that, or not. What I do mean to say is that faith and theology are not so neat and orderly that they can be practiced or explored without treading into tricky territory – even by the very legends of the church. These are hard questions of faith which Bell addresses and the generation he addresses them to have got to be allowed their shot and weighing them for answers. I once heard it said, “If you aren’t willing to be wrong sometimes, you’ll never come up with anything original.”

So, are we so rigid and unsure of our own faith that we aren’t willing to wrestle with some scary questions? Or, on the other hand, are we so very sure that we have it so exactly right that we’re not willing to listen to someone else’s thoughts and ideas? Are we? Maybe we should hold our loveless and prideful condemnations until after we read the work and prayerfully consider it in the balance against historic consensual orthodoxy. Is that so unfair? Is that so dangerous? Do we have such little faith? Or are we so utterly sure of ourselves? Just questions. That’s all. Are we willing to pause long enough to consider?

And while we consider, I will leave you with this personal anecdote … I was lost … completely and utterly lost … no friend of the church and no follower of Christ by any stretch of the imagination. Oh, I had grown up with daily Bible classes in a private Christian elementary school, but I had long since given up on the hypocrisy and loveless pride which I saw as a rife cancer among “believers” and I wanted nothing to do with any of it. That is, until God got ahold of me in my own Damascus Road encounter. In a moment, my life was changed and I was launched on a journey which sees me now having consecrated my life and everything I am to the vocational ministry of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I am here, in mid-life as a husband and father of four, training full time for that purpose. And yet, after that Damascus Road encounter, there was a period of “OK, now what?” and into that gap stepped a small handful of brave and faithful coworkers who shared with me a collection of videos … Noomas … by Rob Bell. It has been a long journey and I am blessed to be studying under some of the best theologians, church historians and practical pastoral professors; but in those early months after my rebirth, it as Rob Bell (along with a few others on radio and video) who helped to lead me back to Jesus Christ and His Church. I have most certainly, since then, read things by Bell that I can not agree with and would never defend. I do know, however, that he is a shepherd with an honest heart toward pointing others to Jesus, and so, considering the role he has played in my own life, I am willing to give a little bit of grace and latitude. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether you will or not.

Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side.” - Mark 9: 38-40

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Planner in Me

I have been continuing to read through the book, "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day", in the moments of time that I can catch throughout the day (i.e. bathroom breaks - come on, when else does a mom have a couple minutes to herself) and God is challenging me so much.

Here is a little bit of what I read yesterday...

Are We There Yet?

"I believe in planning.  I believe in goal setting. But there are some things in life you can't plan or predict.  And that drives the obsessive-compulsive part of us crazy.  We want control, but the decision to follow Christ is a relinquishment of control.  Following Christ is letting Jesus take the wheel.  Of course, some of us act like backseat drivers.  Or worse yet, we're like little kids that make their parents crazy by asking one question over and over again: Are we there yet?

I honestly think that question reveals something genetically wired into the human psyche. It comes standard.  And while we may stop pestering our parents, we never outgrow the desire to know exactly where we're headed and exactly when we'll get there.  We want a complete itinerary with everything mapped out.

What I'm trying to say in a nice way is this:  We're control freaks.  But faith involves a loss of control.  And with the loss of control comes the loss of certainty.  You never know when a five-hundred-pound lion may cross your path.  And faith is the willingness and readiness to embrace those uncertainties."  (Batterson, pg 86 and 87).
I know that is a pretty long quote...but I wanted you to see what I am dealing with here.... :)

I AM A PLANNER.  I love to plan things: trips, parties (especially parties), events, all kinds of things.  But more than I love to plan things, I love things to work out the way that I have planned.  One of the hardest things that I have found in my marriage is to not really plan things.  As the wife of a millwright, I have found that even the best laid plans fail.  I don't know how many times I had something wonderful planned...only to have Mike called to work that day.  I would get mad, cry, sometimes yell at him...but nothing changed the fact that it was not going to work out.  Even over this Christmas break, I made a long list of the things that I was going to get done in the 11 days I had off...But then we all ended up sick and Mike ended up working...only one or two things at MOST got finished. 

For me, the completion of the things that I have planned show how successful I am.  I am the type of person who likes to be able to check things off at the end of the day to show what I did that day.  When I was on phones at work it DROVE me crazy because it always just seemed that I was answering phone calls and never really able to put that I DID anything on my little tally sheet.  I know that for some people, the answering phone calls would be enough, but for me, it just seemed like that wasn't really helping me contribute to the office. 

That compulsion to have things to check off has come into my relationship with God too.  I want a 10 step plan of where I will be in a few years.  I look forward to the future like I do a checklist.  Get the Elijah out of diapers...check.  Get Josiah in kindergarten...check.  Get Mike to finish his degree...check.  Then we can get on with our lives...

But when one of those things doesn't work out exactly like I think they should...my world crumbles.  I get mad, cry and sometimes scream at God...wondering why it didn't happen the way that I had planned on it happening.  How stupid am I??

It is really easy for me to remember where I was 11 years ago on New Year's Eve.  It was the last night of 1999 and Y2K fears were in full swing.  No one knew what would happen as the computers of the world switched from 12/31/99 to 1/1/00.  There was talk of every computer in the world failing...and the entire world 'going dark'.  I didn't really care about it, I was at a friend's house with her, her husband, and a bunch of our closest friends.  I had the next ten years mapped out...I knew where I was going to work, who I was going to be married to,  the vicinity of where I was going to live...everything was planned to the slightest detail.

Then life got derailed.  The man I just KNEW I was going to spend the rest of my life with ended up being VERY different than I expected him to be...my job got to the point where I knew that I could go no further in it, and I got the opportunity to go to college in a state that I had barely visited, let alone ever thought about living in. 

I would have never guessed that last night of 1999 that on the last night of 2011 I would be married, with three children, have a college degree, and be a pastor's wife.  That was not in my plan...but it was God's plan.

I know that I would be a lot happier in life if I could get past this need to know exactly where I am headed and just enjoy the ride, but this is something that is going to be one of the hardest things for me to let go of. 

I want to, don't get me wrong, because I hate the feeling of being disappointed if things don't go my way.  I hate being disappointed ALL THE TIME.  I want to be surprised.  I want to feel the excitement of something new happening in my life...not dread knowing that something I WANT to happen is not going to happen. 

I just realized that while I have been sitting here blogging, I have also been going back and forth in a game on FACEBOOK called CountryLife.  I love these games.  Time management games are my favorite.  These are the ones where you kind of play "god".  You tell the characters in the game to do something, and they do it.  In country life, I plant things, and they grow, I then give the things I grow to animals or machines and they make different things.  There are no disappointments, what I tell it to do, it does.  There are no tornadoes that take out crops, or dry spells that kill the animals.  There is only pure, heavenly, bliss.

That is how I wish my life was...instead I am here trying to make it all go the way I hope, and trying not to be so disappointed when it doesn't work out.   Please God, help me to give up the control and let you have it, I don't want to feel this way anymore.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hebrews 11:1

Hebrews 11:1  "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." 

Nine years ago, our family experienced a true test of our faith.  Our oldest daughter, Nicole, was born at 26 weeks.  In other words, she was born 6 months early.  When she was born she weighed 2 lbs. 2 oz., if you think about it, a Big Mac weighs as much as Nicole did when she was born.  This was the darkest time, in my life.  This was the point in my life when I almost walked away from God and my call to ministry altogether.  This is when I truly learned what faith was and is.  Simply put, faith is trusting God when we aren't in control.   
Forsaking  
All  
I   
Trust  
Him. 

When all of the doctors came and said that Nicole needed a shunt put in her head to relieve the pressure, we had to remember that God told us that He would take care of everything if we would just trust Him.  Nine years later, Nicole weighs about 100 lbs, and is healthy as can be.  During that three months, we had no idea at times if Nicole was going to die, but we knew that whatever happened, God was in control of the entire situation.  There were times we had to go against the doctors advice, but we knew our faith was in the Great Physician and Healer.

Whatever situation you find yourself in, remember that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  If it is wisdom you need, ask.  Sometimes that means that we will be going against what the "conventional wisdom" says.  Forsaking All I Trust Him=FAITH.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Quick Cinnamon Rolls

I'm not really a morning person, so carry-ins of the breakfast hour are always a challenge for me. Mom gave me this recipe, which she got from a substitute teacher at the school where she worked for many years. Now you know you have a good sub when she's willing to pitch in on work carry-ins! :)

This is a great meal to make because it truly can be assembled in less than ten minutes...the night before! All you have to do is remember to bake it in the morning! I've taken this to church and work and it gets rave reviews. Love rave reviews on easy stuff!!

Recipe:
2 loaves frozen bread dough - thawed
1 box butterscotch pudding - NOT INSTANT
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 Teaspoon cinnamon

Slice each loaf of bread into ten slices and arrange in a greased 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle dry pudding mix over all slices. Melt butter and mix with brown sugar and cinnamon. Spread over each roll. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake, uncovered, the next day at 350 for 25 minutes. Serve warm.

I used Rhoades white bread dough because...it's the only bread dough I can find in Wal Mart. The packages I buy come with 3 loaves, so I use 2 and keep the third for the next time. I have found that if I keep it too long, it doesn't raise (rise?) correctly. This was especially embarrassing the time I made it for work and had one old loaf and one new loaf, so half my pan was high and fluffy and the other half sat like little hockey pucks. Attractive.

I am not sure I would like this recipe in anything but white dough. I don't even know if you can buy frozen wheat dough, but I'm just saying....

Very important to remember to take the bread dough out so it can thaw! I usually cut the dough down the center and then cut each half into five slices. I score it first so if i mess up, I can re-measure before actually cutting.


The dough will come together as it bakes, so it's okay if the slices aren't all smashed up next to each other. They will be eventually.


Make sure you buy the cook and serve kind of pudding, not instant. That's the only reason I had name brand. :) I just sprinkle it liberally over each slice. It's okay if some goes down in between the pieces, but I try to get as much as I can directly on the bread. There's more pudding than you'd think in those little boxes, so you'll have a nice little pile of powder on each one.




Like I said....there's a lot in there!



I cut my butter up into cubes and melt it in the microwave. If you're speeding through it, just melt the butter while you're cutting the bread or sprinkling the pudding.




Add the brown sugar and cinnamon right to the bowl.



You'll find that the mixture is pretty thick - because you have as much sugar in there as you have butter. I've made this with real butter and with margarine and both work well.


I just kind of spoon the mixture over it - again, trying to hit the tops of the bread slices as much as I can, but it will kind of leak down into the pan as well, and that is fine.



This is what it will look like the next morning after it has refrigerated all night. No it's not mold...it's pudding powder that didn't get covered with the butter mixture.




And here is the fully baked version! So yummy! I think it warms over pretty well for leftovers, but it's definitely best straight out of the oven.