"But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philipians 3:13b,14

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Journey to Joy

There is a moment.

......for those of you that have had life-altering situations occur in your existence, you know what I'm talking about.

It's like standing on a cliff, standing as close as you can to the edge without taking your feet off the ground that appears solid. You recognize you're there. It is terrifying and loud, like a swirl of murmuring that eclipses all other thought.

Then, suddenly, you're aloft.

That happened to me this year. My marriage ended.

It hurt. A lot.

It was frightening, and shocking, and never what I planned, and holy-crap-what-am-I-going-to-do-now, and  any other medley of emotional cacophony that you can imagine.

It wasn't anything I had control over. It isn't what I invested in, or expected. 


.......it is ok. Not "ok"..... really, truly, ok.

Want to know why?

Because God is good.

I know that sounds simple, and fake and cheesy. Trite Christian banality at its worst.

But it isn't. It's the truth.

It's a goodness that exists as a quiet, consistent respite in the midst of chaos. It doesn't really clamor for the front spot. His goodness is more like that unchanging, loyal friend that is always there when you need her. Not always the life of the party, but there, waiting to catch you when you need help, or celebrate your successes, or think through a problem. 
God's goodness is reliable, and solid, and incredibly comforting in its predictability and unchanging  nature. This I have discovered over many years that have been filled with unexpected crisis, and loss, and change. Every time I have been at my worst, my emptiest, my lowest, at the point in which I can see nothing but fear and anxiety and overwhelming grief, He has been there, alongside me, providing tangible support. Making the truth known to me in a way I can hear. Loving me through other people. Giving me a path to walk that is narrow, and filled with integrity, and leads to a place with no regrets. Filling me with the desire to do what's right, and not just what feels good. 

...HE does that. 

Because of this truth, I am on a journey that, although started in pain and bewilderment, has been filled with success. And joy- real joy, not a joy that comes from delusional ignorance of reality. 

I am unspeakably grateful.

I stand now, below the cliff, looking up, recognizing that I am blessed to have survived. 

God is good, people. Not in a nothing-horrible-will-ever-befall-you kind of way...... in a "be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age"  kind of way.

I want to write more, soon. But more than anything, I wanted to recognize publicly that God is the source of all joy, all security, all peace, all contentment. 

For me, that's something I need to remind myself about daily, hourly, sometimes moment-by-moment. 

Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know that plans I have for you", declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

That is a good promise. 

Press on, friends. I will too.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Happiness Trap (Or, "How Not to Swallow a Petting Zoo")

~"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their mind to be." Abraham Lincoln

~"Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product." Eleanor Roosevelt

~"The world is full of people looking for spectacular happiness while they snub contentment." Doug Larson


Sometimes, happiness seems impossible.

Have you ever experienced a period in your life like that? It can be due to financial woes, or relationship conflict, depression, anxiety, unemployment, deployment, infertility, being overwhelmed by a personal loss, weight gain, unbearable family tension..... you name it. Often, there seems to be a mile-long list of reasons NOT to be happy.

Happiness is, after all, directly related to our circumstances, right?

......but wait. Circumstances aren't always within our control. If you've lived in this world longer than a nanosecond, you know that to be true. So, then, if we go with the supposition that our happiness is circumstantial...... well.....

.....to put it bluntly, we're kind of screwed.

Here's a thought- what if the notion that we "need to be happy" and pursue any means necessary in order to acquire such happiness..... is a trap? Suppose the very idea that there is a particular road that leads us to the destination of happiness is a lie?

I believe that is exactly the case. I have found, over and over again (ad nauseum) that happiness; true, lasting, enduring happiness, comes as a direct result of doing the right thing. Even if, in the moment, doing the right thing makes me unhappy.


I mean, I want to tell you that you're free to do anything and everything and spare nothing in the quest for your own happiness. Then you'll like me. And you'll want to be my best friend and possibly give me Red Vines and Swedish Fish.

But I would be lying. You want to know how I KNOW that?

...because I've told myself that very lie. And believed it. (How, oh HOW do I continually believe my own lies? You think I would learn.....)

Trying to make yourself happy by chasing after that "happiness feeling" is like this-

Do you know who that is??

That's the old lady who swallowed the fly!

So, you know, you swallow a fly. That's kind of how it starts. There's a small, nagging thing that is making you unhappy. So you seek to remedy the situation. Maybe all of your friends have nicer clothes than you do. Every time you're around them you feel dumpy and this makes you unhappy, so you need to get a new wardrobe.

.....then you swallow a spider. A little bigger. Now that you have a new wardrobe, you see that is was actually your HAIR that is the problem.

.....then you swallow a bird. You feel even worse, because now you're overspent, and you still feel like you're not meeting up to the standards of the people around you.

.....then you swallow a cat. Let's say this scenario started out with a slight bit of unhappiness with your spouse. By this time you've told all your friends what a jerk your spouse is,withdrawn from him or her to protect yourself from getting hurt, and you're at the point of giving an ultimatum- they need to start making you happy or you've had it. What started out as fly-sized unhappiness over a small matter is now cat-sized unhappiness. Or say it was dissatisfaction with your job. By the time you get to this point, your boss is a royal idiot, and possibly violating labor laws, and your co-workers all hate you. Maybe because you didn't get your vacation schedule approved. But it escalates every time you try and fix the situation to make yourself happy. Then it gets to dog-sized unhappiness, then goat-sized, then cow-sized.....

.....DON'T swallow a horse. Seriously, when you're at the fly stage, stop. STOP!

After you stop, take a deep breath. Now, think. Not about your happiness, and how to obtain it.

Contemplate what the very next right thing is. Then do that thing. Then, do that again. And again.

I promise you, THAT will make you far happier than trying to sort out exactly HOW you are going to gain control over the situation you're in so that you can be happy.

The quest for "happiness" leads people to all sorts of dismal destinations. Infidelity. Theft. Overwhelming debt. Lies. Promiscuity. Fraud. Eating disorders. Being phony. Bitterness. Loneliness.

Having the perfect body, or being married to the most wonderful person in the world, or being rich, or being "better" than everyone around you..... none of things will make you happy, in the end. Look around. Look at the people who are in the limelight that have those things. They are some of the most unhappy.

That's the paradox. When I stop focusing on my unhappiness, and think instead of how to live with integrity so that my life honors and glorifies God, I become happy. Really happy. Not just the happiness of finding a $20 bill in my pocket. Happy, like at the end of the day putting my head on the pillow, smiling, and sighing with contentment happy. Getting to the end of your life without regrets happy. That's good stuff.

I challenge you, as I challenge myself- look at happiness as a by-product of right living. Not right as in "I do everything correctly", but right as in, "I keep trying to do the next right thing."

....plus, then you won't swallow a petting zoo. No one wants that.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Products I Do Not Understand

Occasionally, in the course of my housewifery, I come across an ad (Or an actual product) that I just don't "get".

Such products make me question the qualification of the product development committee. More specifically, they make me wonder if I could, in fact, be equipped to handle product development in a more profitable fashion. (That could just be wishful thinking, you know, someone paying me to tell them what products people would buy....a girl can dream....)

Here, in no particular order, are some of the aforementioned products:

Anti- Aging Deodorant:

Really??!! Because, you know, when I describe someone, I say, "You know, Midge, the one with the amazing, youthful-looking armpits!" 

Yeah, someone took the whole wrinkle cream thing one step too far. Please, people.

Shake Weights:

The thing I find most hilarious about this product is the choice of models they use in the ads. I mean, seriously, does anyone truly believe that this guy got his six-pack by using a jiggling hand weight? 

And I want to know just how they figured the Shake Weight to be 7x more effective than a dumb-bell. (And, by the way, is dumb-bell hyphenated like that or did they just do that because their eyes were jittery??)

Shape Up Shoes:

I know I am going to upset some people with this one- I mean, who wouldn't look at that one brand of Shape Ups (Was is Sketchers?) twice after the commercial with Brooke Burke?? I certainly wouldn't mind being toned and petite, with gorgeous skin and flowing hair.

I'm going to go out on a limb here. If a product's main selling point contains the phrase, "Don't have time to work out?" or "Too busy for the gym?"..... it is preceding something that isn't going to work as well as working out or going to the gym.

Plus, I mean, look at those things!!! I have enough trouble not falling down as it is! I don't need to be walking over a hump on my shoe every step- that's just a hazard, plain and simple!


I do understand wanting to be warm. Honestly, I do. But, look at them! When I saw this photo, I thought to myself, "How quickly did Matt Lauer rip that thing off when they went to commercial?"

I ended up with a Snuggie of my own, courtesy of a sweet friend "B", and I tried to use it, but just couldn't do it.

Wade, however, loves the Snuggie. I still love him.

Maybe they can create a Shape-Up Snuggie, with a bump that you have to flex your abs over or something.

...so there you have it. A few of the products I don't understand.

Maybe next time, I'll be consulted.

Probably not though.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Make Your Own Pecan Pie Larabars!

Back when I was in the Larabar-making craze, I tried to concoct a Pecan Pie Larabar, but it never quite seemed right.

That all changed this week. I decided to give it another try. Which turned out to be a great idea!

This tastes just like the store-bought Pecan Pie Larabar, except with the same yummy, non-sitting-on-a-shelf-for-months flavor of the others!!

Pecan Pie Larabars
(Makes 4)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped, pitted dates
  • 1/3 cup raw pecans
  • 1/3 cup raw almonds
  • pinch of sea salt (optional)

So, I measured the dates out then chopped them:

Put the nuts in the food processor, and process until they are the texture of a course meal:

If you're going to add a pinch of sea salt, do it now and pulse a few times.

Then dump the nuts into a mixing bowl and put the dates into the food processor. Process until the dates turn into a paste. They'll sort of "ball up". So you have a date paste ball. Which sounds gross, but is good.

Scrape the date paste into the mixing bowl, and mix together with your hands, or a potato masher (I don't like picking Larabar out of my nails.

After it's well combined, you're going to dump out the mixture onto a piece of saran wrap and form a brick:

I dumped the mixture onto the saran wrap, then wrapped it around the mixture and shaped it using the saran wrap. Again, not needing to get it all over my hands.

So now you have your brick, this will be cut into 4 Larabars in a little bit. But first, pop it into the fridge for like a half hour. This makes it easier to cut:

Wanted: Hand Model

After you chill it, take it out of the fridge and cut into 4 bars! Wrap them up and enjoy!!

If you're interested in making other Larabar recipes, here are the others I've made!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Make Your Own Peanut Butter!! (Regular or Coconut!)

This is one of those recipes that, when I made it for the first time, nearly smacked myself for not having thought to try it sooner!! HOLY COW! It is SO easy to make your own peanut butter!! I LOVE the fact that you can add salt or honey, and make it taste the way you want- my main aversion to "natural" peanut butter is the texture (It can be really drippy), and the taste- I like a little salt and a little honey in mine! The texture of this is fabulous! Spreads easily without running off the bread.

...basically, if you have a food processor and a pulse, you can make this. Easily.

This is Coconut Peanut butter. Unbelievably delicious. 

Start with 1 1/2  cups dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts. I found some in the nut section of the grocery store, then found a MUCH cheaper price at a local health-food store, in the bulk bin. Make sure they're unsalted, so you can control how salty your peanut butter turns out.

Put them in the food processor, and process for about 4 minutes, or until the nuts turn into butter. You will have to scrape the bowl down several times.

Then add salt and honey to taste (If you're making plain pb. If you're going to make coconut pb, scrape the pb out of the food processor at this point without adding the salt or honey) For the plain flavor, I added about 1/4 tsp salt and 1 T honey.

Once you've scraped the processor out, (It doesn't have to be perfect, it's fine if you leave some pb in there, you're going to add it back in after you make the coconut butter anyhow...)

Put 2 cups of unsweetened, shredded coconut into the food processor. Process until buttery and drippy, about 4 or 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl down as needed.

Then add the peanut butter back to the bowl and process. Add salt and honey (I used 1/3 tsp salt, and 2 Tb honey to mine... taste it as you go and add in small amounts until you get the flavor you like.) (Please don't stick your finger in while the processor is running. No one wants finger in their pb.)

The one on the left is coconut pb, which cost slightly over $2.00 for a pint jar. The one on the right is plain pb, which cost around $1.50. So it's GREAT, taste-wise and cost-wise!

The coconut butter is liquid when warm, but solid at room temp, and gets really firm in the fridge, so if you refrigerate the coconut pb, it is difficult to spread. I kept mine in the cupboard, but do what you feel is safe for food storage.

Of course, once you taste this, you'll likely not worry about how to store it, you'll be more concerned with which size spoon to use to eat it out of the jar!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Baking Day 3/26 Recipes and Photos and a Word on Balance

It is Monday night.

I have cleaned up the dinner dishes. I am, as usual, resisting the urge to eat a dessert, while attempting to enter into the delusion that the fruit I am consuming is as delicious as the aforementioned dessert. I am, as usual, not convinced.

The thing I struggle with on Monday nights is this: Monday is baking day. Therefore, I do school with the boys, I bake, I make dinner.... I don't do a lot of cleaning. That's Tuesday. Tuesday I mop, I catch up on laundry, Christopher vacuums. Tuesday night, the house is clean. I like when the house is clean.

But there's a balance to things, you know? I am (Slowly....s-l-o-w-l-y) learning. There are days for cleaning. There are days for baking. There are days when you need to be loving on your kids and your husband, and not baking OR cleaning. Every single thing can't be done every single day.

Balance is good. Tricky, when you like to have order all around you. But healthy, and right. Balance allows you to enjoy the fruits of your labor, instead of just checking items off your "to do" list and filling it up again.

There you have it. My Monday night musings.

Now, for the food!

First thing in the morning (Well, ok, second thing, I had to have my coffee first....) I threw a batch of Eating Well's Southwest Three Bean and Barley Soup into the crock pot. I love having this soup on hand for lunch during the week! 

I like it all packaged up individually, so I can just heat a bowl for a quick meal or snack!

I made a loaf of Easy, No-Knead, 100% Whole Wheat Bread. Well, to be quite honest, I made TWO loaves. The first loaf, I accidentally put into a too-small loaf pan, and it oozed over the sides of the pan into the oven and made a horrible mess!! 

So I cleaned that up, burned my knuckle, and moved on to loaf #2, which thankfully went off without a hitch, like it normally does! Whew!

I bagged up some edamame for snacks and luches:

Baked a batch of Better Than Lofthouse Sugar Cookies- of course, they are supposed to be for lunches, but quite a few were consumed as the day wore on....

Oh YUM.... I made two jars of peanut butter. One plain, and one coconut. I promise I am going to blog the "how to" on these this week- but if you have a health food store near you that sells peanuts in the bulk bins, it is SUPER cost-effective to make your own peanut butter! And awesome, because you can add what you like to it!

The jar on the left is the coconut pb, it costs about $2 to make! The one on the right is plain, it was about $1.50 or so..... both are delish!

Lastly, and I am SO excited about this- I narrowed down my experiments and perfected the Pecan Pie LARABAR!! Oh my.... these are REALLY good!! Recipe to come soon!!! 

Happy baking! (And happy balance!)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Freezer/ Crock Pot Healthy BBQ Chicken

I loved the Freezer/ Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken so much, I started looking for other recipes that could be made in the crock pot, and also frozen ahead for later!! This one caught my eye:

I haven't done a lot of cooking with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but I loved how they turned out in this recipe! They held together wonderfully, and stayed really juicy and moist! Plus, I LOVED that there were tons of great veggies in this dish!

Freezer/ Crock Pot Healthy BBQ Chicken
Click here for the ingredients- Stephanie has several other cool freezer recipes on her blog as well- I look forward to trying them out!! 

Instead of making two for the freezer, I made one in the crock pot for dinner, and froze a second batch! 

It is SO nice to have in the freezer to plop in the crock pot on a busy day, or when it is almost grocery day and we are out of a lot of stuff- we can still have a healthy, yummy dinner!! It is helpful to stick to the budget as well!!

So I put 1/2 the ingredients into the crock pot (Of course, I used the amazing crock pot liner- those suckers are AMAZING!!)

And the other half into a gallon Ziploc bag.

I served this over rice, but it would be great on its own too!! If your people don't like sweet potatoes, I think regular russet potatoes would taste just as good!!

This was fabulous leftover, too!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cake Batter Cashew Butter

I don't like sprinkles.

I know that's an odd way to start a post- especially when the accompanying photo includes sprinkles.

My defense is this- as much as I dislike the taste of sprinkles, I DO like how they LOOK.

They taste like chapstick though. Just sayin'....

Cake Batter Cashew Butter
  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 1/3 tsp sea salt (fine grain)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 Tb. maple syrup, honey, or sugar (I used maple syrup)
  • Sprinkles (optional, obviously)

First, you're going to roast the cashews. Place on a cookie sheet in a 250 degree oven for 30 minutes, turning twice.

Let them cool 5-10 minutes, then place in the food processor, and process until the nuts butterize. (I'm not sure that "butterize" is an actual word, but it suits this recipe.) This will take about 8-12 minutes. You will need to scrape the bowl down several times.

Yum. Ok, now, add the rest of the ingredients, then process until it is smooth again, 2 or 3 minutes.

If you're going to add sprinkles to the whole batch, wait for it to cool first, then add the sprinkles. 

My favorite way to eat this is on a baked sweet potato. (Well, that's actually my second favorite way. My MOST favorite way is to eat it by the spoonful.)

I seriously cannot believe how easy it is to make your own nut butter! It is nice to know it's fresh and to know exactly what's in it- plus, it's fun to experiment!