Healthy respect for “the line”

America has been fired up over the news that Vice President Pence has a self-imposed rule he follows – his rule is that he does not spend time with other women alone. Somehow this has been labeled as backward and he’s being ridiculed and mocked. I don’t know if its just Hollywood and media that think this is absurd or if most Americans agree too, but this man is now the butt of jokes.

I personally know many couples who keep similar boundaries in their marriage, and my husband and I have this unspoken rule as well. I will not spend time with other men alone. My husband will not spend time with other women alone. Its not that we don’t trust each other, but rather its that we both aim to stay away from “the line”.

Here’s what I mean. If the line of inappropriate behavior is right here, then we don’t keep our toes a few inches away from it. toes-in-the-sand1

Yes, technically, this mans toes on are on the safe side of the line. Even if he was only 1 mm on this side of the line it would still be technically safe and fine and moral. But why would we risk it? Why not stay several feet away from the line? Why flirt with temptation? If I’m only 1 millimeter from “the line”, and the wind blows just right, then I’m going to fall over the line. If that happens I should not then claim “I didn’t mean to do it! I was on the right side of the the line!” If I had been 3 feet from the line, and the same wind blows, I make take one step towards the line but I would not cross it. Y’all see where I’m going here?

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post about the RC cola. In it, I wrote about how I avoid drinking soda by keeping it out of our house. I know it’s not healthy for my body and so I don’t want it to be part of my life. And if it’s here in our house, I’m tempted to drink it. Yes, of course, having soda sitting in my house is not unhealthy, but drinking the soda is. And if it’s in the house, I’m much more likely to drink it than if it’s not here, right? So the soda stays at the grocery store, not in my house. Common sense.

My husband and I both know that there is nothing morally wrong with going to lunch with the opposite sex to talk about business. My guess is that Vice President Pence knows the same thing. There’s nothing inherently wrong with eating with another woman at the same table. Talking alone with another woman is not sinful. But here’s some news: affairs don’t start once you cross “the line” – they start when people tiptoe around near the line and then end up crossing it because they were so close to the line to begin with that it didn’t take much to cross it. Most people who have affairs did not set out to do it, but rather they claim that “it just happened”. For the vast majority of these people, the initial catalyst was being too close to the line.

I honestly can’t really imagine my husband or I crossing the line into inappropriate behavior. We have a healthy marriage, and we have abundant love and respect for one another. But it is because we love each other so much and we see what a blessing our good marriage is, that we keep healthy boundaries. We have a healthy respect of the line and we stay far from it. It is a safeguard we have in our marriage, not because we don’t trust each other but because we don’t see any wisdom in tiptoeing around the line. We don’t want to flirt with danger.

This is not backward. It is not ridiculous. It does not deserve to be labeled absurd. It’s about using wisdom, discretion, and staying several feet away from “the line” instead of a few inches. Please don’t put yourself close to the line, and then claim “it just happened”.

Be fruitful, happy, healthy. And stay away from “the line”.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” James 1:13-15

 

 

Easy healthy dinner – Cabbage, carrots and beef

Easy. Healthy. Those are my two criteria for dinner. Well, and frugal so we don’t go broke, and yummy so that the 8 people I’m cooking for will actually eat it. This dinner fits the bill.

The main players in this dinner are cabbage, carrots, and beef. Cabbage and carrots are two relatively cheap veggies to keep around in your fridge, and for a big family like ours, the cost of groceries is a big consideration. The other plus for these two hearty vegetables is that they last for weeks. They won’t wilt or mold in a few days like some fresh produce tends to do. I try to keep both of these in my refrigerator at all times because they can be used alone as a side dish or used together in this yummy dinner.

This weeknight meal that we call “cabbage, carrots and beef”(so creative!) is one of our family favorites. It’s a quick go-to meal that we usually have all the ingredients for and it only takes about 30 minutes to whip up. It’s also frugal because it only uses 1 lb. of meat for 4-6 servings. It feeds our family of 2 adults, 7 children! Those of us who can tolerate grains eat this served over a big bed of rice, and those who cannot eat rice have it with a side of baked sweet potato. It’s great on its own, so if you’re grain-free, definitely give this a try!

Cabbage, carrots and beef

Ingredients:

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 4 carrots, grated or chopped in a food processor
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1-2 t. minced garlic
  • 1 head of cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. pepper
  • 3 t. combo of any of the following: oregano, thyme, basil (I usually do 1 t. of each, but any combo will do)

First, brown your beef in a large skillet over medium high heat. When it’s about half-way browned, add in your onions and garlic and continue cooking until the beef is browned. Now sprinkle in all the seasonings and mix well, and then add in the cabbage and carrots. It will look like way too much cabbage at first, but it cooks down quite a bit! Just keep cooking on medium high until the cabbage is sufficiently tender for your liking. This is about 15 minutes for us. My crew likes it to be very soft (we do live in the south) but I imagine some people would like a little more crunch in their cabbage.

And voila! An easy, weeknight dinner that is frugal, healthy, and filling!

IMG_6139

 

Just do it

There’s a house near us that’s been two colors for years now. What I mean is the homeowner has been in the process of painting his house for a few years now. Yes, a few years. He keeps the scaffolding up. He does a little bit every few months. Now, I don’t know him personally, so I don’t know the story of why it’s taking so long to get finished. But I can bet that this unfinished job is like a dark cloud hanging over him. He’s already started the job- the house is now two colors. He knows he needs to get it done, but maybe he just doesn’t feel like doing it. Or he feels like he just doesn’t have the time to get out there to paint. But every now and then the cloud just gets too heavy so he goes out and paints another small section. But then the cloud continues looming for the next several weeks before he does it again.

Back when I was in college, many classes would have one BIG semester long project due at the end of the semester. Can I just say how much I hated these types of assignments? I would work on it bit by bit, but there was still just this big cloud hanging over me all the time. It was a big “to-do” list looming over me like the cloud over poor Eeyore, until the end of the semester when that project would finally be completed and submitted.

eeyorecloud

Occasionally I get these types of clouds hanging over me. Several months ago, I realized that we had not had any photos printed for nearly 3 years! We had absolutely no printed photos of my toddler (2 years old) or our baby (9 months old). Everything was digital and dependent on our electronic devices continuing to be reliable. (and I recently had a friend lose ALL her digital photos! A lesson to me – Don’t rely solely on your electronics!)

So, we uploaded all our photos to an online store (snapfish), and thankfully found a coupon for 40% off before hitting the submit order button. We had over 1,000 photos to print. And they arrived at our house over 6 months ago.

And then…..they sat in the closet. And the cloud was now over my head. Looming. Following me. Now I had this big project of putting a thousand or more photos into albums, arranged by date. Ugh. The thought of it just made me want to cover up my head with the blanket and go to sleep. (Anyone else deal with stress by sleeping or is it just me?) When I had an hour of free time I would consider those photos, but would put it off and do something else instead. Procrastinating. 😦

Folks, having a cloud like this hanging over you is not conducive to a healthy clear mind. It follows you. It taints your clear thinking. I know, I know. It’s just photos. But it’s still a looming cloud of something that I needed to do.

Well, several weeks ago, I decided to just do it. Just do it. Yes, it was going to be time consuming. And with 7 children, I could not devote an entire day to doing photos. It was going to have to take place in steps. A little here and a little there. But I just had to do it. My husband helped organize the photos by date and put them into numbered envelopes one weekend, and then I set my reasonable goal of going through two-three envelopes each week until it got done.

I’ve been chipping away at it for weeks now, and I just finished! (cue: Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus) Look at these beautifully organized photo albums! Maybe it doesn’t look like much to you, but this was hours of work for me!

IMG_6130

The cloud has lifted. Now instead of Eeyore with a rain cloud following him, I feel like cheery Mary Poppins. The sun is out, the birds are chirping, my looming project is done. I can breathe easier. Rest easier. This project has been completed. It’s no longer that dark cloud over my head.

Mary Poppins

Whatever looming project you have that you need to do today, just do it.  Don’t let it follow you like a dark cloud. If you need to break it into smaller more achievable goals, then do that. If you can get it all done on your next day off work, then just get it done all at once. Clean out that garage. Organize your closet. Print out your photos. Fold that mountain of clean laundry. Weed the garden. Finish painting your house. Whatever it is, just do it. Get rid of the cloud. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. You’ll feel better having it finished.

Be fruitful, healthy, happy. Clear your mind. Finish those projects. Just do it.

Grain-free (paleo) granola

Have you heard the saying that you should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a peasant? Basically this means you should eat a huge breakfast, a little smaller lunch, and a light dinner. It’s supposed to be the healthier way of splitting our daily food intake to maximize our metabolism, keeping us feeling more satisfied through the day and giving us more energy.

We definitely eat breakfast like a king at our house. My children load up every morning on fruit, 2 eggs, roasted vegetables (see here for recipe), and some yogurt (see here for recipe) with this grain free granola. I know it sounds like a lot, but remember, breakfast like a king! By eating this big breakfast, my children easily stay full until lunchtime, with no morning snack or meltdowns because of hunger.

I tried a few different recipes for grain free granola that I found online, but we had complaints about each one – not sweet enough, too salty, too chewy, etc. We finally just developed our own and we’re all happy with it!

It is a little chewy, a little crunchy, just the right amount of sweetness. The great thing about it being grain-free (even if you do eat grains) is that it has a lot of protein, fiber, and will keep you full much longer than a traditional oat based granola.

We typically double this recipe and it lasts us a couple weeks. We do have 8 people eating it though! Also, as a side note, in our experience Amazon or Aldi usually has the best prices on nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. Paleo, grain-free eating can get expensive, but remember too, you’ll eat less volume than with grain based foods because paleo, grain free foods keep you feeling satisfied for longer. (no morning snacks needed for your children!)

(wondering why we’re grain free? See here.)

IMG_6121

Here’s the recipe. It looks like a lot of ingredients, but it’s so easy that my 10 year old daughter usually handles making this one on her own!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups almonds
  • 2 cups walnuts or pecans
  • 10-12 medjool dates (if you have smaller regular dates, use 14-16)
  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut shreds
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 2 t. cinnamon
  • 3 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup

 

  1. First, chop the first 3 ingredients in a food processor – not too long or it will be powder – just pulse until the nuts are about the size of the seeds.
  2. Pour into a big bowl and then add the next three ingredients (seeds and coconut) and mix.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil, vanilla, cinnamon and maple syrup over low heat.
  4. Pour liquid over the nuts and seeds and mix well.
  5. Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet.
  6. Bake at 300 degrees F for 20-30 minutes, stirring about halfway through. Cool completely and then store in an air tight container.

 

Enjoy friends! Eat like a king every morning. And be fruitful, happy, healthy!

 

The hope of the future

We got some baby chicks and ducklings Thursday evening. They are just the cutest little things. Tiny, soft, curious, and cheeping continuously. Why is it that baby creatures of any sort seem to be so much cuter than the grown ones? It seems to hold true for all animals and even people too. There’s just something special about babies.

I think one of the things that draws us to little creatures and babies is the hope and eager anticipation for the future. When I look at a little chick, I can see the potential future – that this little chick will grow to be a hen who will peck around the yard and lay eggs for the family, or will maybe be a rooster who will greet each morning with a hearty “cock-a-doodle-doo”. That little duckling will grow up and fly off to a nearby pond to swim around and eat stale bread thrown by eager, excited little hands. IMG_6104

IMG_6095

IMG_6098

It’s the same with our human babies – we see the potential of the future and wonder about who and what they’ll be. What color hair will she have? Will he like chocolate or vanilla ice cream better? Will she choose to be a teacher or an engineer? Will he enjoy basketball or woodworking? Who will she marry? How many children will he have?

There is so much potential, and so much unknown about who they will be. There’s a sense of wonderment and anticipation.

IMG_5566

IMG_6111

However, once the child is big and grown into adulthood, then, well, we know pretty well what they’re like. They’re already what they’re going to be for the most part. There’s not much element of anticipation anymore. We know who they are, what type of people they are, what they have chosen to do with their life. Sure, they may dye their hair, or take up a new hobby, but for the most part they are who they are. There’s no longer much sense of wonder or amazement when they’re 40, 60, 80 years old.

The beautiful thing for those of us in Christ though, is that we do still have something amazing to look forward to. By the time we reach midlife, our course in life is pretty steady and unchanging for the vast majority of us. But the wonderful thing is that we still have eternity, another world to look forward to. This is one reason why those of us in Christ can live life with such joy! This earthly life is not all there is. This life with bills, sicknesses, hardships, is not the end. One day, we will have glorified bodies and spend eternity in heaven with our Lord Jesus Christ! Hallelujah, Amen.

We can still live with hope and anticipation even when we’re 90, eagerly awaiting the new life that we will experience after death. I know this sounds too good to be true for those who don’t know the Lord, but this is where I have found my hope, my joy. I can’t imagine going through this life thinking that what we see is all there is. How hopeless, depressing and bleak life without a future inheritance would be! But I live with joy because I know my future…and it’s not just what you see right now.

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Philippians 3:20-21

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…” 1 Peter 1:3-4

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

These little tiny chicks we bought are adorable. And I can’t wait to see what color they’ll be and how big they’ll get, and whether we ended up with a few roosters in the bunch or not. And I wonder if the two little ducks will stick with the flock of hens or maybe branch out on their own to start their own little flock. It will be neat to see their future unfold.

And as for my sweet little children, I can’t wait to see what they choose to do with their lives on earth. There is so much potential with their whole earthly lives still before them. But even when they’re grown, and I’m old and gray God willing, we can all continue to have an eager anticipation for the future, knowing that this life on earth is not all there is. We can know and trust that there is something much grander, much more beautiful than this current life.

And because of that hope, we remain joyful, eager, fruitful, happy.

IMG_5592

The RC cola

So, we all know we should eat healthy. We should drink  a lot of water. We should cut down on sugar. This isn’t rocket science, and we all know it to be true. Then why don’t we do it? Why do so many people know the steps for healthy living, and yet can’t just put it in practice? There are many answers as to why for different people, but the one I want to write about today is about cleaning up our environment.

I typically eat very healthy, which for me means no processed foods, no fast food, no artificial anything. But the ONLY way I keep to this is by keeping my environment (my home) free of these things. I have to keep it out of my house because I have very weak willpower. IF there is candy in the house, it will be in my tummy by evening. I just can’t seem to say no. Even though I know it’s bad for me and that I will regret it later, if it’s here, I’ll eat it. But if its not here, then I can’t eat it. Common sense, right?

This is very fresh on my mind today because on Sunday (our church meets in our house) someone left this after the meal.

IMG_6092

Now, I don’t even know what RC cola tastes like – my soda of choice was always Cherry Coke or Dr. Pepper. But, I bet it is yummy, sugary, and fizzy. Just what I think I’d like to have right now. If it hadn’t been in the house, I wouldn’t have even given a thought to soda. Or at the most I would think, “man, I wish I had a cherry coke right now” but the thought would quickly vanish because too-bad, so-sad, we don’t keep that junk here. But with this in the fridge, staring me in the face every time I open it, its taking a lot of will power (that I don’t really have) to drink water instead of this.

This is setting me up for failure. I need to do myself a favor and just dump it in the sink. Stop looking at it. Stop considering it.

Maybe your issue isn’t soda, but some other unhealthy food or drink that you need to give up. The first step is set up your environment for success. If you know it’s not good for you, don’t keep it in your house. Don’t rely on your willpower when you can first keep your environment clean.

So now, that RC is going in the trash. And I’m drinking my 64 ounces of water today!

Be healthy, happy, and fruitful!

Communication help, pt. 5

So far in my communication for the home series, I’ve covered why we need good communication skills in the family, the importance of being intentional and setting appointments, active listening, and filtering our thoughts before we speak them.

Today for my last post in this series, I’m going to delve into the silent part of communication for the home, aka nonverbal communication. I have touched on it briefly already, but I’ll share a little more today.

The first nonverbal to keep in mind is eye contact. There’s a common saying that “eyes are the window to the soul”. There is a lot of truth in that. When we can look into another person’s eyes, we can often understand much more than simply what their mouth is saying. In the eyes, you can often see underlying sadness or joy, or perhaps you can see uneasiness or deception. Also, the lack of eye contact conveys a lack of investment in the conversation. Nothing says “I don’t want to talk to you right now” like shifting eyes or no eye contact does. If you are speaking to someone, please look at them in the eyes. If you are listening to someone, please look at them in the eyes.

Along the same lines as eye contact is matching the eye level between speaker and hearer. What this means is that if you are having a discussion, it is important for the eyes of both parties to be approximately the same level. If one person is standing and one is sitting, the one sitting is naturally going to be looking up at the one standing. This works well to convey authority or command attention for a teaching or preaching situation, as seen below – 🙂

IMG_5443

You see when one is standing and the other is sitting, it sets up an imbalance of power, which is the goal in some types of communication. But for a two-sided conversation or discussion to take place, you don’t want this imbalance of perceived power. It can tend to make the one sitting to feel small, insignificant, or powerless, and is not conducive to a healthy two-sided discussion. This is especially important when talking to children. Get down on their level, stoop down, bend down or sit down with them, so you can look them in the eyes face to face.

The next thing to be aware of in a discussion is what you’re doing with your arms. Crossed arms say “I’m not changing my mind.” or “I don’t want to be here right now”.  This is very subtle, and you may be rolling your eyes right about now thinking this is unimportant, but these subtle changes in your body language can make a big difference in how others perceive you. So try to keep your arms open and relaxed, which makes you appear open and relaxed.

Along the same lines is body position – are you leaning slightly towards the person you’re talking to or slightly away? To show interest and care, its best to lean slightly forward. See this little guy? He’s leaning in, making good eye contact, open arms, inviting you to engage with him. 🙂

IMG_5673

By leaning in, I don’t mean being so close that they can feel your breath on their face. Please don’t invade personal space! Keep a proper distance – if others tend to back away from you when you’re speaking to them, then you are too close, and they are feeling uncomfortable.

Lastly, be aware of the power of physical touch. A light touch on the hand or arm can go a long way in saying “I care”, “I’m listening”, or “please tell me more”.  Always be respectful of other’s personal space, and if they shrink back when you touch them then of course remove your hand. But using touch can powerfully show love in your family relationships for most situations.

These all may seem insignificant or even bordering on silly, but when combined with the other skills I’ve already written about, they can go a long way in making your family members feel cared for, loved, and heard.

That’s all for now friends. Be fruitful, happy, and healthy!