One Year to Live

Photo by cerasaragirl
“On the average day, we live caught up in ourselves. On the average day, we don’t consider God very much. On the average day, we forget that our life truly is a vapor.”
- Francis Chan (Crazy Love)

Think for a moment with me... What if you were given the knowledge that in 2012 your life would somehow end. How different would your life look like from what you were doing last week or from a few months ago? What would your new passions, priorities and goals be with this new-found knowledge? What would people remember you for in ten, twenty or hundred years from now? Would your love for people and God be a consistent theme in your life?

After our Christmas Eve service this year, our family drove a mile up the road to visit my mother-in-law's grave site. As we huddled together in the dark and cold of that night, amidst the tears and laughter, one thing resonated with us all... she was a precious soul. She loved her family beyond words. She was meek and so humble. She never complained even through years of battling cancer. Her overwhelming virtuous character and obvious love for the Lord were truly the things we remember most about her. What would people say about you if they huddling by your grave a year from now?

David reminds us in Psalms 39,
“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.”
Our lives are incredibly brief. One day you will be gone. The Bible describes our lives as a mist, vanishing, a moment, a breath, the width of our hand. If your life ended in 2012 would God be honored with the life you lived?
How many times this past year have you had regrets? Regrets over not doing something you knew you needed to do or say. Regrets over harsh words that came out of your mouth. Regrets for not giving more. Regrets for not slowing down to spend time with those most important to you. I can tell you... I know I've had too many.
But that's where Christ enters the scene. We all have regrets and ways we wish we could change. Why not make 2012 your year to be who Christ truly wants you to be. Don't rely on New Year's resolutions to make yourself better... anything conjured up by guilt and shame will definitely fall by the wayside at some point. Find every possible way to simply enjoy Christ. Find your treasure and joy in Him. Only through Him will you experience the grace and love you need to help you iron out those parts of your life that need a little repairing... we all have them.
I pray all those who read this post will strive to truly live more like Christ in 2012 and beyond if God allows. May our actions, words and thoughts be a reflection of the grace we find in Jesus. Let this grace filter down to our relationships and anyone we encounter.
Would you be thrilled if your life ended in 2012 because you had the reassurance you passionately pursued the things of God and found your joy in Him alone and in turn, had a successful ending to your journey on earth? May this be our prayer as long as we breathe.
The clock is ticking... go do your thing!


I See this Baby...

"Let’s not allow the traditions of the worldly celebration of Christmas to distract us from Advent, but spend time preparing our hearts to cry out with joy."

Lately I am overcome with the selfishness of my heart in regards to Christmas. The obsessions of this season really get in the way of what this baby was bringing that night. Sometimes I want to find the "escape" button.

But then I realize the side of finding joy in the things God has given us, and yet keeping my focus... a perfect balance...
and then I start to see this baby.

I never want to lose sight of the incredible wonder and miracle of this baby. A sweet, innocent baby coming into this fallen and broken world. A world that hasn't changed from 2,000 years ago. We might have the internet and modern conveniences, but nothing really has changed. Selfishness is still looming over all our hearts. Getting ahead. Putting on airs. Having our way. What is making me happy?

I have to stop. Completely put on earthly brakes and alter my focus.

Knowing that this baby is really it
He is our joy.
He is truly bringing heaven to us.

Are we seeing it? The light from the smelly manager... it is illuminating with the sounds of hallelujahs from heaven. Can we slow down enough to hear it?

I'm so thankful for this baby. So incredibly in awe of that holy night. As the church, I pray we let this joy stir in us in amazing ways all year long. Envision the manager. Keep your focus on this baby.

Do you see his sweet face? Look at his precious hands, how small and without scars... for now. I don't ever want to escape the knowledge in knowing his little round head would someday be pierced with thorns... all for me. Graciously remember that this baby Jesus, is our salvation.

Let's hold on to this thrill of hope in knowing that Christ has come!


My Favorite Things ... Part 2

If you didn't catch Part 1, go here.

It's really unbelievable that Christmas is only 10 days away. If you are trying to finish your last bits of shopping, I hope this list can help. If you're done, congrats, but you still can check these things out for future gifts or treats for yourself... either way, enjoy!


The Help - I love this book so much so, this is my second time blogging about it. As one description says, it is "... full of heart and history". Available at discounted prices on Amazon, Target and Wal-Mart. Price $10 (paperback).

Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine - "Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine is every busy home cook's go-to-guide for great food; good fun; and inspiring ways to relax, laugh and enjoy life. Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine features 30-minute meals and menu planners, Rach's faves for fun, beauty, style, entertaining tips and much more." Price $12 for 1-year subscription.

Horton Hears a Who - On Thanksgiving night this movie was on I seriously can't get this heart-warming movie out of my head... "a person's a person no matter how small". I love Horton. For me, Dr. Seuss outdid himself with this one. Please buy someone or yourself this movie or book.
Price $7-10.

Soul Surfer - This true-life story is yet another movie that everyone should experience. It's a story of courage, extreme determination and faith. Rated PG but I would say it's mostly appropriate for ages 7 and up due to the graphic shark attack scene. Price $10.

.... My husband's two-cent's on book recommendations...
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, (ironically) The Tiger's Wife by
Téa Obreht and lastly, The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

Kids/Toys & Games:

oes - A fresh twist on a classic game... connect fruit instead of dots. This game is great for any age. It's a great way to get little ones to make color associations, teach counting and cause and effect. Price $13.

Paul Frank - What is it about this monkey? From bedding to key chains to sock and pajamas, the products from this stylish primate have made their way from the west coast largely in part to Target. I am especially in love with this toddler puffer vest. Prices vary.

ut Balance Bike - "The Skuut is a wooden bike for children ages 2 - 5. It has no pedals and no training wheels. Children kick off the ground as if running, thus pushing or "skuut-ing" themselves and the bike forward. The Skuut is perfect for learning balance, steering, coordination and independence." Price around $70.

The Game of Things - It doesn't matter if you're a kid or adult... this game is simply hilarious. Similar to Balderdash in that it is a bluffing game and you make up your own answer then try to guess who said what. Price $31.

Gifts for Women
: (my favorite!)

Bead For Life jewelry - This company sells items made from impoverished women living in Uganda. These hardworking women make beautiful handcrafted paper beads from recycled paper and turn them into necklaces, bracelets and earrings. What a beautiful gift for any girl. Prices $5 and up.

Gratitude Journal - Life is so much more bright when you choose to focus on the good things. This little journal will help you keep records of insightful prompts and inspiring quotes as you jot down all your blessings. Price $10.

Merona Kamischel Suede Boots - These are super stylish for a casual boot. A comfy cushioned insole give these boots even a higher score in my book. They can be worn with jeans or dressed up with a skirt.
Price $45.

H&M Messenger Handbag - I am into practicality and being a mom to four boys, I need a purse that can handle all my things plus a diaper or two. This bag is made of imitation leather, but with all the kids and mess I have most days that's probably better. Anyway, it's fun and cute and CHEAP! Price $25.

Satin Wonders Pillowcase - Cotton pillowcases (and terrycloth when drying your hair) actually grip and damage the hair causing it to break. Terrycloth tends to make the hair frizzier. So satin is the answer... for sleeping on and also to use for drying your hair after a shower. Genius! Prices start at $20.

Gifts are great and I love giving them, but in closing this two part post, I hope you truly know that Christ is the best gift ever! This year has been one of many ups and downs for my family and I really can't picture my life without Christ being my Savior and friend through everything. I pray you experience Him this Christmas and in every
day of your life.

Merry, Merry Christmas!!


WB Meal Plan

Do you plan your meals or are you more spur-of-the-moment meal planner? Some weeks I'm super planned and other weeks... I'm scrounging in the pantry at five-ish. This week I needed a kind push to get myself ready for this week. You know when you have lots on your mind, planning food plus going grocery shopping just isn't your favorite thing to do. That was me today (Sunday).

So after a whole day of delaying, avoiding and doing everything else but plan my family's meals... here they are. Oh, and now that it is done, I am actually really excited about them!


Turkey Burgers
Sweet potato fries
Caesar Salad


Salmon & Noodle Bowl (I'm using whole grain cappellini noodles instead of fettuccine.)
Whole grain baguettes
Orange slices


Black bean quesadillas
Spanish Rice - I'm going to use brown rice instead of white.
Sliced peaches


Greek-style chicken with pickled onions, tomatoes and tzatziki
Zucchini oat bread - I'm going to use whole wheat pastry flour, brown sugar and coconut oil instead of the white flour and sugar and butter.


Homemade pizza

Have a great week!!


My Favorite Things (2011 Gift Ideas - Part 1)

All through the year I have mentally and physically kept track of my all-time favorite things. Whether they are for the kitchen, kids or for him or her, it's here. So if you're in a bind and need to purchase those last minute gifts, I personally think the following will please almost anyone!

For the Home::

Cuisinart Immersion Blender - Puree soups, emulsify homemade salad dressings, blend drinks and mix pancake or crepe batters in a zip with this immersion blender. Comes in stainless steal and other fun colors. Price $30.

Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler - I can't tell you how long I've had my eye on this. It works as a full grill, panini press, and griddle. It has a drip tray for healthier eating and all the cooking plates can be removed and are dishwasher safe. Who can resist this thing of beauty? Price $80.

Reisenthel Market Basket - This innovative and collapsible bag is used all over Europe and is known as the essential basket. Can be used in place of the cart at the grocery store to cut down on germ exposure or to throw last-minute items in before heading out for errands. Great eco-friendly alternative to paper or plastic shopping bags. Throw in some favorite food items from Trader Joe's and you have a perfect gift in a gift! Price $40.

Yonana's Maker - I'm really not into a lot of convenience-type appliances, but this one may have to be an exception. It seems like an amazing invention if you ask me. You freeze the bananas or other fruits and voila', out comes frozen fruit yogurt. Great way to pack in vitamins and minerals in a little bowl of frozen fruit! Price $60.

Produce Calendar - This unique gift would make a great stocking stuffer for the health conscious person looking to see what produce to plant, harvest and eat according to each season. Features beautiful illustrations and is tailored to your particular region. Price $26.

For the Man in Your Life

Black Walnut Cologne from Banana Republic - I love to smell my man. Nothing overpowering, but just enough to grab my attention. This scent has nice, subtle notes of cognac, tobacco leaves and cedarwood. Yum! Price $55.

Timex Weekender Watch - I know everyone has phones today to help with telling time, but there's something manly about a watch. This watch has a striped, nylon strap and is fashionable and affordable. These are available at Target, JCPenney, Walmart and REI. Just go buy one. Price $35.

ething Leather... Colsen Keane - The husband of a college friend of mine makes a variety of handmade leather goods... from ipad and kindle covers to belts and wallets. These items would make such a classic and timeless gift for any man. Prices $45 and up.

Bulldog Original Moisturizer - Even men need a good moisturizer. This all natural one is packed with 8 essential oils, green tea, green algae, konjac mannan and vitamin E to help rehydrate the skin. Does not contain harmful parabens, artificial ingredients or laureth sulfate. My hubby's gonna find this one in his stocking... shh! Price $14.

For the Fitness-Minded

Bob Harper: Yoga for the Warrior - We actually just rented this from our local library and let me say, it is extreme. As the video states, "Temperatures and heart rates will soar as you push your body to the limit, triggering both physical and metabolic responses that work to deliver your most streamlined physique possible". A must-have to get you geared up for those New Year's resolutions! Price $10.

Hula Hoop - Believe it or not, the hula hoop is now one of the hottest fitness crazes. It's an exercise that provides low impact movement on your joints while burning 400-600 calories an hour. These weighted hoops you will strengthen your abs, shape your waist, burn fat and speed weight loss while building core strength. Price $35.

Bobble Water Bottles - Enjoy filtered water on the go with these sleek water bottles. When water passes through the carbon filter it removes chlorine and other contaminants. This is a stylish alternative to plastic bottles plus each filter equates to 300 single-serve bottles. Bobble is free of BPA, phthalates and PVC. Prices $9 and up.

There you have it, part one of my favorite things this year. Stay tuned for the remaining list of gifts for women, kids, food gifts and books/dvd's.

What favorite thing are you gifting this Christmas?


You Are Fine With Me

For those of you who follow my blog, I apologize for the lack of posts lately. My husband and I just returned from a little trip, well, guess you could say, BIG trip from Colorado. I spent many days getting ready for my parents to come watch our boys. Then the actual days we were gone... phew! I'm tired and ready to be a stay-at-home mama again... oh, and blogger!

Awhile ago, I blogged about a fear of mine. Well, I faced that fear this week... the dreaded airplane. {{don't laugh}} All of our flights were fine... and if you're wondering, I did... "ok" (notice, I didn't say, "great" or "awesome"). I struggled, I admit. It's just a fear that the Lord and I will have to work through. Read this quote recently and boy, did it hit home with me...

"Anxiety believes the lie that there is no more grace left in your situation." - Lacrae

My fear is coupled with much anxiety. Anxiety over the unknown. Anxiety over being out of control of my situation. Anxiety over a TON of "what if's...".

But obviously I am here now. Any anxiety and fear I once had is now gone.

So just wanted to leave you with a short quote which is really hitting me tonight. But first let me give a quick intro to it. I am reading The Help. This particular chapter is narrated from a well-to-do girl, Skeeter, who becomes quite close to their hired help taken place in the 60's in the South. Skeeter is constantly hammered with reprimands from her ostentatious mother. Her hair is too frizzy. She needs to find a husband. She's too tall and lanky and so on. But when she finds true friendship and love with the family "help", Constantine, her outlook on life changes...

Skeeter describes Constantine as.. "someone whose eyes simply said, without words,

With Me."

How can I not think of God and how he sees me when I read this quote? Regardless of how I mess up. How little faith I have some days. The words, "You are fine with me" should be what echoes back in my heart. The world will hate me (Jn 15:18) and see me for my mistakes and shortcomings, but God loves me just how I am.

Are you feeling hammered down by the world? Are you tired of trying to prove yourself time and time again? Well, I can tell you that there is great peace in knowing God.

So go in peace tonight. And remember, you are just fine with Him.


9 Foods to Think Twice About Over the Holidays

I am seriously not trying to be a holiday food "Debbie-downer". To be honest, I am often times guilty of enjoying overly fat and sugary indulgences this time of year just like anyone. This blog exists to encourage people (including myself) to a healthier and better life. After doing a little research into our culture's favorite holiday foods, I realized even though they taste great, they deceitfully wreck havoc on our body's systems specifically the heart. Don't just take my word for it, you can read more about heart disease in this article.

Knowledge is power.

This holiday season, I am pledging to think twice before I pick up food. We can all enjoy holiday eating, but with some slight adjustments. Like staying away from creamy vegetables, taking smaller portions of those sugary goodies, and basically avoiding some foods altogether.

So here is a list of foods (and what makes them so naughty ) you need to think twice about before devouring...

(The nutritional content are from just normal, average servings.)

1. Turkey skin

350 calories
44 g. fat
102 mg cholesterol

2. Cranberry sauce

400 calories
105 g. sugar
Read more about some interesting facts about high-sugar intake here.

3. Creamed vegetables (spinach, green beans, artichoke dip, etc)

284 calories
20 g. fat

4. Pecan pie a' la mode

810 calories
64 g. fat
55 g. sugar

5. Candied Yams

400 calories
76 g. sugar

6. Prime rib

750 calories
45 g. fat
450 mg cholesterol

7. Egg nog

350 calories
19 g. fat
22 g. sugar

8. Cheesecake

707 calories
29 g. fat
33 g. sugar

9. Starbuck's Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha

440 calories
10 g. fat
59 g. sugar

So take some of this knowledge with you as you enjoy time with your loved ones and be well!

I wish you many, many blessings this holiday season!


WB Meal Plan - Happy Thanksgiving!!

Are you getting excited for Thanksgiving in a few days? I definitely am. I am anxious to be with family, have my hubby off work for a few days and of course, enjoying some really good food. What would life be without food??

This week is a short one as far as making meals at home. But since I still need to have meals for part of the week, they are going to be blogged about :) And if you remember, we don't do red meat in our home. Sorry. We enjoy meatless meals along with ones made of ground turkey, chicken and fish.


Shepherd's Pie ~ I'm using ground turkey, roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes.
Sweet Potato Graham Muffins


Zesty Slow-Cooker BBQ chicken on whole wheat buns
Healthy chopped slaw
Cubed pineapple


Whole Wheat Waffles with Blueberry Syrup
Breakfast turkey links
Sliced peaches

Happy Thanksgiving!!

(Here's what we're having for breakfast)
Cinnamon Rolls
Turkey Bacon
OJ & Coffee

Friday or Saturday (not sure if I'll be cooking on Friday):

Chicken Enchiladas from The Busy Mom's Slow Cooker Cookbook
Mexican Rice
Black beans


Don't Let the Holidays Ruin Your Health: Use This Plan of Attack

Photo Credit: Edel Rodriguez

"He who fails to plan is planning to fail."
- Churchill -

I will be the first to say, I love holiday foods. Maybe it's just me, but nothing says Turkey day like a buttery stack of stuffing mounded on my plate. I can down some sugared yams like no one's business too. But if I think back to why I have chosen a healthy lifestyle, not only for myself, but for my family, some decisions on what I eat automatically get easier to make.

The holidays bring many good things. Family, food, time off work, slowing down (a bit), and lots of fun. But the holidays can bring even more. According to a Weight Watchers report, the average American usually gains 7 to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving to New Years. In my opinion, it doesn't have to be this way. With a little vigilance and a healthy plan of attack we can all enjoy a healthy, holiday season.

1. Eat a great breakfast. Sometimes we may think, "I know I'm going to eat a truckload today so I will just skip breakfast to save my calories for later". This is wrong thinking. Eat a nutritious breakfast so that later you are not starved and eat more calories than you would with breakfast combined. Chose something light like a whole-grain cereal with skim milk, toasted Ezekiel bread with natural peanut butter or a hard-boiled egg.

2. Drink lots of water. (Preachin' to myself, here!) If we are dehydrated our bodies sometimes recognize this signal as hunger instead of thirst. Keep a container of water near you throughout the day to help feel more filled up. (I personally love these.) Drink several glasses of water well before your big meal then hold off drinking a lot during the big meal... this way your body will absorb more of the food's nutrients. (Also, I personally prefer to drink water instead of sodas especially during the holidays. I like the idea of saving the calories for the great foods instead of drinking them.)

3. Don't hang out around the food. This may seem silly, but if you are around the food, it's inevitable you are going to snack a lot more. A little bite here and a little there... the calories will add up. The holidays should not be an "all-you-can-eat-buffet" mindset. I like to search out a relative I haven't talked to for awhile, grab a cup of coffee and get caught up. Before you know it, your food is settling, you're feeling full and are more focused on the person than grabbing another piece of pie.

4. Keep portions in mind. It is fine to try samples of each of the foods you love. But keep it within reason. As a general rule for eating healthy during the holidays, fill your plate half with veggies, a quarter of lean meat (skinless, white-meat turkey is best choice) and the rest with a starch. Eat slowly and chew your food up very well. Enjoy every single bite. Think about what you are eating and do not scarf it down without realizing what you are eating.

5. Bring your own sides. This is really a great way to control what you eat. If you love a certain holiday food, then why not make a healthier version of it? If you love mashed potatoes, go to google and type in "healthy mashed potatoes recipe" ~ the internet is amazingly full of healthy recipes. I love cranberry sauce, but the average recipe for cranberry sauce can have up to 105 grams of sugar!!! So here is a healthier version which I plan to bring.

6. Go on a walk. After your food has digested and the turkey-day coma is beginning to set in, grab a buddy, your gloves and coat and set out on a 20 minute brisk walk. In just 20 minutes, the average person will burn up to 300-400 calories by walking. Walking also releases endorphins so not only will your midsection thank you, your mental state will be much better too.

So there you have it. Enjoy your holidays. Eat well. Savor every bite, but don't go anywhere without your own plan of attack.

Keep posted for the foods you must avoid during the holidays to stay healthy this week on the blog as well!


So I Have This Fear...

Gone are the days when I thought I was invincible. When all I cared about was where I was going with my friends on Friday nights after the game... the movies, Pizza Hut or back to a friends house to watch country music videos and talk about the boys we thought were cute. Life was so carefree then...

I never worried about anything. With school on the other side (the not-so-great side, that is) of town, I usually had to drive many miles every day then to some kind of practice 20 or so minutes another way then back home. I remember being careless and a show-off when I was driving. I almost enjoyed being a little dangerous. Even when I heard of tragedies, it didn't count... it was me - I was invincible.

Then I grew up. Growing up does something to steal the naivety away from you. Not sure which is better.

Now I am overly careful and will avoid danger at any cost.

With being a wife and mom to 4 boys, the rules have changed. My responsibilities have quadrupled from 20 years ago. Speed limit, observed. Seat belts, buckled. Slow down for lights, etc. These are all things I can control... within my own little world.

But there are some things you can't control. And then what? There are times when you are in the face of danger or the unknown. When you are forced to plunge into something that is beyond your measure of control that completely strikes fear into you, what are your initial thoughts? Where is God in all of this?

To be honest, I sometimes and maybe subconsciously think, "This is in my court", "I'm gonna find a way to deal with this on my own"... and as downright horrendous as this sounds, I find myself believing this lie... "God surely isn't big enough".

So there's this fear. It's beyond what I can control. I thought for many, many years I could avoid it, but it's coming to face me... and soon. Just when I thought I had life in my realm of control, now it's becoming not so. This fear may seem trivial to you. It may even be enjoyable to a few. But to me, it's so unimaginably scary, it sends me into complete anxiety.

So would you pray for me and this fear? I am a believer. I do know Christ. I know He is big enough to help me through. I just need to pass over this control to Him.


So what are your big fears? Can you take a guess what my fear is, by the way?


5 Ways to Keep Your Holidays Simple

Photo Credit: Keith Scott Morton

I often have a romanticized view of the holidays before they arrive. I picture my house immaculately cleaned, my family in our most beautifully, pressed Christmas outfits, a fire illuminating in the corner next to the glimmering and distinguished fur tree that is adorned beneath with presents wrapped weeks beforehand.

But in reality, those things never happen... to me, at least. I'm usually super uptight and feeling somewhat out-of-control. But, over the last year and a half, I have come to a place where I am beginning to see that less is more and being simple in life, truly is richer.

After recently experiencing the death of my sweet mother-in-law, the preciousness of life has unfolded before me. Material things have lost their appeal. Things I once got irritated over, now seem trivial and silly. Through this loss I'm learning what it means to embrace a simple and more meaningful life, especially when it comes to Christmas.

Here are a few ways I've learned to simplify the holidays.

1. Learn to let go. Let's let go of expectations or what we think we "need" and get ourselves to the point of living with what is really important. Does your child really need the newest toy on the shelves? Do we really need to spend hundreds of dollars on those Christmas outfits, cards and table decor? Let go of thinking material possessions bring happiness and enjoy what is already around you... mostly your relationships.

"Our life is frittered away by detail... Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity."
- Henry David Thoreau -

2. Spend time with people you love, not stores. Whether this means shopping online after your kids are in bed or making homemade gifts together as a family, decide now that family comes first. If you must go out to grab a few things, make a list and stick to it. And if you're a parent, remember that to a child, love is spelled t-i-m-e.
"The only gift is a portion of thyself."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson -

3. Don't over-do it. Somehow we have found ourselves in a society of complete excess... we are over-committed, over-worked, over-entertained, overweight and so on. We have lost our ability to enjoy and find real peace in the little things in life, you know, the things that really bring meaning to our lives. Be selective in your commitments this holiday season. Slow down and don't buy into the idea that more is better.

"There is more to life than simply increasing its speed."
- Gandhi -

4. Observe Advent. Advent is the 4-week period before Christmas. It is a quiet anticipation, a season of prayer and reformation in our hearts. We tend to be busy in our preparations for Christmas and all the while we are actually missing the most important part: the coming of Christ. To help keep you and your family focused during this special time, consider putting together a Jesse tree like the one here. I also recommend using this devotional to read to your kids.

"The Word who found a dwelling in Mary’s womb comes to knock
on the heart of every person with singular intensity this Christmas."
- Pope John Paul II -

5. Think outwardly. Another great way to simply embrace Christmas is to think of one thing you (your family) can do share God's love with others who are in need. This can be anything you feel God leading you to do. Whether it is serving dinner at a local soup kitchen, taking cookies to residents in a nursing home, or maybe using part of the money you would use on gifts for your family to give to a relief organization such as Compassion, World Vision, World Concern and Samaritan's Purse.

"Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work."
- Mother Teresa -

I truly wish you a holiday season full of joy, peace and simple, yet beautiful things.


The Benefits of 30 Days of Green Smoothies

- Nicholas Sparks, Message in a Bottle -

The green smoothie challenge ended a few days ago and I must say I am a little sad about it. For me, it was definitely a challenge, but I enjoy a challenge. Having some great friends along for the ride made it even easier.

I guess the older you get, the wiser you start to become. I am to the point where I am I realizing the importance of eating foods that really aid in the overall health of my body. That isn't to say it is easy to eat a carrot over a piece of cheesecake... no, it is usually a battle for us all. We know the things that are good for us, but deciding to choose them is really the key.

It is never too late to do your own 30-day (or 10 or 20-day) green smoothie challenge. I would encourage you to go back and read this post on how to do one and why your body needs this challenge. And remember, I am here for you! I love to encourage other people to live and eat well. I have seen and know the benefits of eating well over not. So know that this blog exists to encourage YOU!

Here are just a few snippets of the benefits I saw while doing the GSC.

1. No signs of irritability/moodiness. I guess you could say this was the best benefit I experienced soon into the challenge. I can be a little "up and down" as far as moods go. But I can honestly say, I was very chipper during the 30-day challenge. Now to be honest... I did skip 2 days where we were gone most of the day and I just did not get my smoothie and crazy enough, my moods were wacky those days. Call it coincidental, but it was obviously true! Next day back on the smoothie challenge, things were definitely better.

2. Increased energy. Even on the days that were gloomy and dark out, I was feeling good. I had the energy and motivation to do the things I don't normally want to do. I had the energy to go out for a walk with my toddler and not be dragging later on in the day. The most radical times I was aware of this was in the morning. I woke up feeling very rested and ready to go and this is not normally the case with me.

3. No aches and pains. Sometimes I suffer from joint pain. From my history and doing a few food (allergy) challenges, I have recognized I am gluten/wheat sensitive. I know if I have had a lot of that in my diet, I tend to get very sore joints and sugar usually exacerbates it even more. When I was on the GSC, I had absolutely no aches and pains... anywhere. It was amazing.

4. No sugar cravings. It's really hard to believe this until you have experienced it. No. Sugar. Cravings... seriously. When you are putting into your body the things it truly craves and properly uses, the junk food cravings completely diminish. If you can get past the first 3 or so days, you will start to see what I mean. I was actually wanting a salad, carrots, nuts and apples.

5. No headaches. I do not enjoy drinking water. I know it is so good for me, but it is a huge chore for me to actually consume it. I know I am borderline dehydrated most days. One of the biggest signs your body sends you to say it is dehydrated is headaches. So I tend to suffer from headaches several times a week. Well, on the challenge, I had zero headaches. I know I was well hydrated because my smoothies were no smaller than a quart every day.

6. No bloating. I love salt. And consuming salt brings on water retention and bloating. On the challenge since I was craving mostly fruits and vegetables, I was not eating as much salty foods. Also, the amount of water in all the fruits that I was adding to the smoothie definitely made my fluid intake much, much higher which acted as a diuretic in itself. My rings were quite loose and the numbers of the scale went down as well.

7. Sense of well-being. I just felt well on this challenge. You know when you are on a cycle of eating well it just naturally filters into other areas of your life... it just makes you feel good. I didn't have a brain-fog that I sometimes suffer from and life seemed more optimistic from all angles. I could directly feel the benefits of eating healthy and it usually continued throughout the day.

So there you have it. If you are on the fence about trying a 10, 20 or 30-day challenge, I would encourage you to go for it. Remember that anything worth trying takes some discipline... and remember that nothing worthwhile rarely comes easy. Great health does not come easily, it takes hard work, a focused mindset and a determined will.

If you were along for the ride with me, please share what benefits of the green smoothie challenge you experienced too!


Wedded Bliss

Yesterday I celebrated 15 years of marriage. It was a normal, hectic day as a mom of 4 boys. But in my heart, I was beaming...

Well, it didn't start off that way. Rewind 15 years back. Two young kids, straight out of college... pretty self-centered... and a whole lot of maturing to be done.

Sometimes and especially for me, we look for someone whether it be a friend, a spouse, a parent or a child to fulfill parts of us that haven't been filled. Whether it be from a past of neglect, abuse, hurts and so on. Maybe it has been filled and we are too selfish to know it. Regardless, I went into marriage thinking "he" needed to fill me up. And he didn't. Or so I thought.

After the "honeymoon" phase wore off and we were settling into our jobs and seminary, it hit. He wasn't doing "this". He wasn't saying "that". It wasn't this "picture perfect" life I had waited my whole 23 years of life for. So I complained. I whined. I cried. A lot.

But then, God broke in and revealed almost more than I could handle. Thankfully through a young-marrieds class at church, I learned about the 5 love languages. For once, I realized that marriage is really about serving. About giving, not always receiving. Being Christ to our partner.
I also learned that I was wanting filled up with something humanly which would never bring true satisfaction. I wanted this man, my sweet husband, to fill me up and make me happy in ways that only God can. I realized that only in Christ can we really live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28). And the verse, "the joy of the Lord is my strength" became real to me.

I finally, truly understood that when I am "in Christ", there, I am most satisfied.
We have come a long way in our marriage. I can honestly say it is "wedded bliss". We are not perfect. But we have grown in our love for each other, but more so in our knowledge and love for Christ. That's what brings about a great marriage.

*Linked up Women Living Well Wednesdays


5 Types of Meal Planners - Which One are You?

There are many things that influence our individual style of how we feed our families. The styles are influenced by our personalities, our upbringing, our income levels, our schedules and careers and so on. I believe that healthy eating can be incorporated in all these areas (maybe) if we are purposeful in seeing that it happens.

So I have compiled a list of five general types of meal planners. Read each one and see which one(s) you are... and please leave a comment to let us know which one best describes you. And of course, there is no judging going on on this blog... everyone is unique and we all live different lives.

1. The Drive-Thru Diva... Ok, maybe you're really not a diva, but you get the gist. Your weekly meals are planned around your local drive-thru and your particular mood at the time. You tend to be on the run, busy with kid's sports, appointments and other events that keep you in your car many days. Now I am not judging... because believe it or not, our family has been seen a time or two in the drive-thru lane! I do believe there are healthy choices, although challenging, but who can pass up the fries??

2. The Coupon Queen... Your budget is tight. Coupons are your friend. You plan your meals around what is on sale at the store and you stick to your weekly allotted grocery budget. Some weeks you may have leftovers for dinner, PB & J's or soup from a can to meet your budget. Your eyes are quickly drawn to the "Manager's Specials" and you can ingeniously design a meal around what you snatched up cheap that day at the grocery. This meal planner can definitely incorporate healthy meals into her squeaky budget.

3. Planned & from Scratch... Budget usually isn't the main driving force with this planner. She is driven by her personality of having things in order and cares about having a well-balanced meal, too. She usually has her menus planned for the week and does not rely on frozen meals or boxes from the pantry. She labors for a good amount of time in the kitchen to prepare her daily meal and is happy to provide a meal that her family would enjoy. This planner definitely has an advantage in bringing great health to her family.

4. Convenience Rules... This meal planner is usually concerned with budget and time. She enjoys convenient foods, but also values eating at home. Frozen pizzas, mac-n-cheese are just some typical meals you'll see on her table. Not everything is out of a box though as she uses meats and other things to incorporate a balanced meal as well.

5. Designated Diet... This person doesn't have too much of a choice. Someone in the family needs to eat a certain way to be healthy. Whether it be a gluten-free, diabetic or so on, this is the driving force around how she plans her meals. She is focused on the health of that person more than the budget or convenience of things. Most people in her family follow the diet as well, to aid in it's overall effectiveness.

I know there may many more types of planners than the ones I have listed and there always combinations of all of the above as well. But we generally tend to fall into one or two of those categories.

So I'm dying to hear which meal planner are you?