Slaying our dragons…one day at a time.

lifeishard-godisgood

There are so many times I just *sigh* and think, “God is good.” And there are those days when I think, “Life is just so hard.” Luckily, I believe God has got this in balance. He balances our days and give us hope for those days to come.

Don’t get me wrong, I am no saint. I am not holier, nor more sinful, than the next mom driving to the grocery store. I am just me. And somedays I feel the joy in my heart of God – He resides there and I know it; I sing as I drive to the grocery store. I sing as I load the dishwasher. I sing as I carry another load to the washing machine. Why? Well, the alternative would be that I have no money to buy food; no one to buy food for. Or perhaps I have no dishes to unload because I have no family to eat with, or a place to eat my meals, or plates to eat them on. I have to wash the clothing, because I have clothing. So many blessings in amongst the sighs of life’s trials.

Today I was reminded that Lent is almost here. I read a post I had written a few years ago on this date and it brought me up short. I have nowhere near the spiritual experience going on now that I had then. And I am a little sad about that. But I also know I am surrounded by blessings. And there are many things I can do, in order to get more out of Lent.

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I posted this on my Facebook page today. I had a friend respond that she is not Catholic but it still sounds like a good idea. And I realized that so many people approach our seasons without any preparation. We see things in the stores and say, “Oh. Look at all the green. Saint Patrick’s Day is coming.” Or we see all the cute Easter decor and realize that Easter and Spring are right around the corner. I will tell you, that living in a snow state that is seeing a ton of snowfall and cold temps (today it was -5 this morning!) it is hard to even wrap your mind around the fact that Spring is coming. My Merry Christmas sign is frozen in place and we cannot even see the top of the flag part. So to see Spring in the stores and cute Easter eggs on display, it is hard to prepare for that, let alone Lent. For me, this approach of purging every day for 40 days is perfectly timed. I am busting out of our little house. We all need to purge (meaning the three of us who live here). So for me, giving up my clutter and over-abundance in clothing and, well, all our stuff, is a wonderful idea.

In the light of the Church’s seasons, we always fast before we feast. And if you have not experienced that, I feel bad for you. It changes everything – especially how you look at holidays. It’s like always attending banquets and formal events, you get inured to it. They mean nothing. It’s one of the reasons I hated “Kindergarten Graduation.” Or formal graduation from Elementary/Primary school, another for Junior High/Middle school, and then finally, High School. So many kids think HS graduation is no biggie. Half of them don’t show up. For college, barely 25% participate in walking for that diploma. It becomes something not worth the effort. If you do not understand the affluence you experience daily, you will come to stop appreciating it.

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Fasting from food, without a change of heart, is worthless – it’s just a diet. Instead of giving up chocolate, give up yelling at your mom or dad. Instead of spending money at McDonald’s, drop those dollars in the collection box at a homeless shelter. Instead of being envious of someone and disliking them for their success, why not have a coffee with them and get to know them? Instead of hating someone who disagrees with you (and there are so many issues we can disagree about) perhaps spend some time with them, exchanging ideas about something else. I have many dear friends who I disagree about politics with, but who are close to my heart and very loved. I have so many friends who are Protestant, or Orthodox, or Jewish, or many other styles/types of worship traditions, and we meld together beautifully. It’s like this amazing, colorful tapestry.

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One year many years ago, when we first discovered the eastern Churches, specifically the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, we experienced true fasting for the first time. I have never eaten so much tofu in my life. I have never been so sick of salads, ever. Melkites are sticklers for the rules of fasting; however, our priests and Bishop would always tell us, “Do what you can do. And each time we have a fasting period, try adding something else you can do.” They never expected us to keep the full fast, as most monastics do. (The full fast is no meat, dairy, wine, or olive oil for all 40+ days of Great Lent). But we tried the full fast that first year, and it was when all our kids still lived at home. The kids protested when they saw tofu again, and cringed at that next salad or bean dish.But we persevered for the entirety of Great Lent. (And below is a favorite fasting recipe of mine, that I enjoy year-round. It is called Majedra. You can add meat to it when you are not fasting. Google the recipe. Divine!).

majedra

In the Melkite tradition, Easter is celebrated on Holy Saturday, starting at about 10pm and lasting until well after 2:00am. There are prayers, singing, processions, and all sorts of tears and laughter. And the incense? Oh my word! We used to have to open the side doors and let that Holy Smoke out! Ha-Ha-Ha! A good Melkite Easter Vigil and Liturgy is something I wish everyone could experience. It is a sensory experience I will forever treasure. Each year, one of our parishioners would make a deal with a local hamburger place (In and Out Burger) and would leave Liturgy just before the end, to pick up a stack of burgers for our Priest. And when those arrived, we could smell them over all the incense in that Church. Because we had fasted every, single, day of the 40 days of Great Lent; not a morsel of meat crossed our lips; not a sip of wine; not a drop of Olive Oil. And not one bit of dairy. But after the Liturgy, we all paraded to the Hall and boy oh boy, did we Feast! I have never experienced such an incredible thing in my life. Our youngest was asleep on the floor that first time, but our older sons were devouring everything meat they could. Our pastor used to say, “This is the one feast day when no vegetables are allowed!” Ha-Ha.

feasting-words

We had denied ourselves and it made the eating and feasting, and sharing with one another, such an amazing experience. It heightened our experience of Easter. We wept with Christ as He denied His very life for us. And we celebrated when He rose again, and showed each of us the Paradise that awaits us, all of us who believe. Each time the Church requests we Fast, we try to comply, because it makes the Feast afterwards incredible. It makes that “Holy Day” aka “Holiday” that much richer. Christmas is an incredible experience when you have fasted from before Thanksgiving, which is called the Apostle’s Fast, for those 40 days before celebrating the Birth of Christ. (Most American pastors allow feasting on Thanksgiving Day, here in the States).

So, to deny yourself allows you to appreciate what you have. What you have gathered to yourself. When we have over-indulged and allowed ourselves to be gluttonous about life, we do not appreciate the intricacies, or the inherent but tiny blessings in all aspects of our lives. Trust me, to live with a leaner closet and sparser walls, fewer items in your pantry, and a clean or orderly home and garage, does much to help you appreciate what is contained within it. For me this Great Lent, I am going to focus on a learner life. In all aspects of it. I have already begun by containing my social networking presence. I have left groups and stopped watching things like programs that do not enhance the best of me, but rather feed the worst that is in me. I have stopped communicating with lots of people who do nothing more than make my blood boil. I now pray for them instead. But I no longer expose myself to them. Sometimes things, situations, and people do not enhance our lives. They do not make us better people. They feed the worst that is in us and in order to be our best selves, we sometimes have to cut people, situations, and things out of our lives.

cartoon-dragon-slayed-by-knight

We all have our dragons that need to be slain. When my husband and I started Whole30, we both had Sugar Dragons that needed slaying. Some people have issues with alcohol, and some will say that is also a Sugar Dragon. Carbohydrates are also like sugar for some metabolisms. And some of us have dragons that interfere with our healthy interactions with others. We have issues that are perhaps mental or psychological. We all have things that need to be plucked from our lives, in order for us to live a better life. And Great Lent is offered by the Church every year, as a time for us to focus on our dragons. This year, orderliness and cleanliness, less clutter and junk in my life, is going to be my focus. How lean can I make my life? How can I be simpler? It has such huge ramifications. And right now, I am going to start by bringing a large, black, plastic bag into my room and tackling my dresser. It is a start. I will pick up my sword daily, starting again, for these 40+ days, to slay the clutter/gluttony dragon that is part of my life. I thank God He gives us this time every year, to rededicate ourselves to becoming better at this thing we call life, preparing us for eternity with the God who created even the stars.

“Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars; the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.” Isaiah 40:26

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“Not from the mouth of the Lord…”

yelling-at-laptop

I have once again had my tail handed to me – online – by people who assume it is okay to yell at others, slam their integrity, and impugn them. All without ever having met them, even being “Facebook friends,” or other social media connection. And man oh man, has the vitriol gone viral!

I find it interesting that when you disagree with someone, or even point out holes in their argument, they unleash the hounds of hell on you. Online. Wow. In a forum, someone was bemoaning the fact that people are constantly using the forum in place of google, as I alluded to (well, I actually said it) in a post yesterday. Today, I opined basically what I said on my own blog post yesterday, that perhaps if you find the information yourself, it becomes your knowledge. And that growing and stretching and changing is painful, but it is satisfying in and of itself. And then I was accused of a litany of defects, most of which were assembled around the fact that I cannot acknowledge that others have feelings, too, and are insecure and cannot function without seeking confirmation or ratification from others. And therein lies my problem with all of this.

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:16

When our society has continually lied to its people, and perpetuated false truths, the result of that can be seen in its young people. At 60 years old, I guess I am no longer a part of the “younger generation,” the “cool kids” like I was in the 70s and 80s. And I have seen the awful results of poor education through experimentation with what is presented, and how it is presented, in our schools and other institutions (even Little League and Pop Warner football). Everyone has to be treated “sensitively,” and we have to be sure “little Johnny” isn’t offended by anything. The false god of pride is alive and well in America and is manifested in our plethora of entitled youth. If “little Johnny” cannot read at grade level, well, we don’t want him to feel bad (and I, his teacher, am so overwhelmed with having to show good scores for my job safety) we promote him, even though he is not ready for it. There’s a movie I love, that is really inappropriate in so many ways, but I love it nonetheless, “Easy A.” I love that Emma Stone takes a stand against the gossipers, and that she “takes one for the team” of inept and socially outcast students, and eventually even a guidance counselor. I love how her parents (Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson) totally get her and support her, even when she changes her style of clothing and sews an “A” on everything. And I bring this up because a boy says he got a venereal disease from her, when in fact he got it from that guidance counselor I mentioned. And he is 21 years old, and only a senior in High School. The girl who likes him (Amanda Bynes) says it is because it is “his choice” to go slowly through school, so he can be a good role model and Christian (he belongs to a Christian group trying to have an affect on other students and it is woefully lampooned in this movie). It becomes obvious this kid is about as dumb as a rock, and that is why he is still in HS at 21 years old. He smoked way too much funny tobacco or something. It is played so well by Cam Gigandet, an actor I like, who was also in Twilight (but that is another post, Bryce. No, he did not sparkle). The guidance counselor (Lisa Kudrow) keeps saying that it is okay because he is over 21 (although it is still wrong because she is married – to her wonderfully unaware husband, played by Thomas Haden Church). He is caught by his mother (and doctor in an hilarious hospital scene) and sent to live with his grandparents in Arizona, where he sits, reading Scripture to them in a short clip.

easya

The movie shows in so many ways what a massively wrong turn we took, as a culture, somewhere along the way. The fact that this movie, in all its graphic details, shows how kids treat one another, demonstrates why I was taken aback, but not surprised, at the attack on me today. After I shut my computer, I re-opened it and looked at the people lambasting me for suggesting they do their own research. I “Facebook stalked” them and looked at their profiles. Yeah, they were all young enough (or old enough, depending upon where you are standing) to be my children. At least my college-grad children. And I felt really sorry for them. They have probably been given “A’s” their whole life, along with participation trophies for just being on a team, let alone having to strive to be their best for their team.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” Psalm 32:8

There was a term recently coined during this election cycle and I chuckled when I saw it, and all the glorious artwork accompanying the term. It is, “snowflake.” Now, before some of you get all mad (in case you were not already) let me explain. I live in Alaska. I am around snowflakes all the time. They are beautiful, but extremely fragile. You can only see them if the conditions are perfect, otherwise they will melt away, or become joined by zillions of others and then you are in a snow storm and cannot see them. Right now, the snowflakes are all around us because we are having very cold temps, but no new snow. Everything is covered in this delicious coat of white. It is stunning, truly, to see. Everything is made new in freezing fog and ice.

snowflake-ice

Taken in the social construct in which it was termed, a snowflake is someone who just cannot handle the heat of this election cycle, or the fact that they are going to have to go to work, in order to succeed. One man, on a different site, bemoaned the fact that his 31 year old son was living on his couch and was still asleep at 1:00pm, and had no job. Tons of people jumped on that as a lack of this man’s parenting skills, whereas the man was blaming the system for his son’s lazy attitude of entitlement. I can honestly say I believe it is a combination of both. We ship our kids off for 8-9 or more hours a day to a federally mandated educational system that seeks to mold “yes men” and workers out of our kids. Not thinkers. No doers. People who punch a mindless time clock but don’t invent a new way to conquer cancer. People who do not question but just accept what they are fed. And when they have to step outside that comfort zone, and actually learn to think for themselves, they are unable to do it without constant social media support. And today, these youngsters were complaining about all the rules inherent in the Whole30 program, trying to bend them so they could “handle” it. Well, when you are used to being given everything, it is hard to do it for yourself. They hold up bottles and packages, constantly asking, “Is this compliant?” and when I commented that they needed to learn for themselves, they attacked. Boy, did they attack. And I realized it was because they are “adults” and know on some level they are not healthy and have been making poor dietary choices. And they do want to fix it. But these rules are hard. These words confuse them (galactose – okay…but I see “tose” and I know its sugar!!) and they cannot possibly read the labels by themselves. Wow. It makes me sad for them. How are they going to function as adults in this world if they cannot even follow a dietary rule, without social media help (and I’m sorry, but who checks Facebook in a grocery store????) and without attacking other people??

Psalm 143:8 says this: “Remind me each morning of your constant love, for I put my trust in you. My prayers go up to you; show me the way I should go.”

Our world is tanking, my friends. Our youth have been fed garbage in our schools and universities and us dumb parents have allowed it to happen. Why? We trusted our country and our politicians, our leaders and teachers, to know what was best for our kids. Well, I didn’t too much, as I opted to homeschool my kids. But still, those trophies were given out when our boys played sports. I do remember my oldest son, however, chucking a little participation trophy to the side one time. When we commented on it after his season-ending pizza party, he told us, “It’s stupid. We didn’t win anything. We came in last.” Out of the mouths of babes. These same kids, who all thought they were so awesome all this time, now cannot even follow a diet without a meltdown. God bless America and God help our grandchildren’s generation. I can only pray we bring back law and order, the right to say, “Merry Christmas,” and some industry and prosperity and pride. Perhaps they’ll catch on as they run to catch up.

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“Bethlehem, make ready, for Eden has been opened for all…”

whole30onWell, we made it. All 30 days. Today is, in fact, day 31 and we have chosen to keep on going. When you have made poor dietary choices for so long, it sometimes takes your body longer to adapt to new energy sources and to adjust to eating clean food. It has been hard for us. There are detoxing things like headaches and grumpiness, as well as lethargy and plain old feeling tired. Most people experience that right off. For us, we have just started feeling those effects of clean eating. So we opted to keep this up until at least the 21st of November. Our oldest son has been out of town (in the Arctic Circle, in fact) on a long distance job site and returns about then. So we thought it would give us a good target date.

One of the things about changing so drastically is the fear of falling back into poor choices and being “food lazy.” To me, “food lazy” is hitting the drive through on your way home, or ordering pizza, or eating pre-mixed/frozen foods on those nights when you just don’t want to face the stove again. For me, my go-to then is bacon and eggs! Ha-Ha! And I am also afraid I will go back to the easy recipes I have been boring my family with for the past 32 years, that are not compliant. I truly want to put my “sugar dragon” in its cave, never to see it again. So I am avoiding all sweets for now. I am good with no bread or noodles or rice. Don’t really miss it. Sugar is in everything – try reading a label. It shocked me. So much of our “convenience” foods contain sugar as one of the first ingredients. And if push comes to shove, isn’t homemade always better than boxed?

One of the things that doing this has done for me is that it has focused me on being healthy. It also showed me that my success or failure is one bite, one day, at a time. I am the one who controls what goes into my mouth. I can choose good, healthy foods, or I can plop in an Oreo. Trust me, Oreos are truly like crack! So addictive. I know. It is one of my weaknesses. And I am working, daily, on better choices. An interesting thing about that is it makes you think about other times you make choices.

sparkling-trees-snow

As someone who literally lives near the North Pole, once it snows, we all get sort of “Christmas-y.” It’s not shocking for us, on snowy Halloweens, to have Christmas lights already up and on. Nor is it odd for kids to wear snowsuits under their costumes on Halloween. This year our pumpkins literally froze on our front porch. And promptly thawed and crumpled on a day we had sunshine and 40-degree temperatures (what a mess that day was) just before Halloween! And for us, we are becoming pickier at what we choose to watch and have in our home. And I am going to confess that television right now sort of stinks. The news is horrible, the political garbage is just demeaning and depressing, and the violence abhors me. We spent the morning the other day, standing and waiting for the cavalcade of a deceased police officer to drive by, on his way home to Fairbanks. We all spoke to one another and shared tears for the young father of four who was slain, doing his job. And so our choices as to what we bring in our home have also changed. We have opted for different news sources and for programming – here is the big confession – we are watching the Hallmark Channels’ “Countdown to Christmas” every night! Ha-Ha! They now have two channels – one is for the romantic, “happily ever after” sort of stories, whereas the other is for more dramatic story telling. To be honest, I can’t really tell the difference. Our TiVo is programmed so we don’t miss a single one! Why are we doing Christmas when Thanksgiving hasn’t even arrived, yet? Well, it’s truly that part I took from Whole30 about “one bite, one day, at a time” and transferring it to our entertainment.

advent

If you have never read the book, “Ben Hur,” I highly encourage you to do so. It will enrich you beyond what you can think. Truly. It is the single most read book outside of the Bible in the world. It is how many people were introduced to Christ. And in the book it describes where Mary and Joseph were…the stable, and the process of finding a place to stay. The time and era of when Christ was born. It was messy and crowded and in a town. It was hot and dusty. There were people on the roads and everyone was trying to get to where they needed to be for the census. And the census took a long time. There were only 1-2 people counting everyone in each town. And there were no computers to tally things. No printers or iPhones to record information. It was by hand and it was time consuming and frustrating for everyone. The stable was not off on some mystical hillside, all by itself. It was a common place for travelers to leave their animals, near the city gates. Don’t forget Joseph was returning to his birthplace. He was related to many people who lived there, and all the others making their way to Bethlehem. Advent. That is the time we prepare for the coming of Christ as the Babe…as the God Who chose to become Man to save us all, coming as the weakest of us, an infant. And it is the time to get our houses in order. We begin Advent soon. So why not start by moving towards our “Manger scene” and getting our houses in order?

mary-and-joseph-walking-camel

For us, that means getting ourselves on this Whole30 regime so that it becomes habit, so that it remains, among all the Holiday temptations. We have to make our way through a miasma of things getting in our way, just as Joseph had to guide Mary to his home in Bethlehem. It is nowhere near the same importance, don’t think I am equating it at all. But it descriptive of a journey. We are all on a journey. Ours began with food, but it is making its way felt in so many other areas. What a blessing, choosing to do Whole30 has become!

“Today the Virgin is on her way to the cave where she will give birth to the Eternal Word of God in an ineffable manner. Rejoice, therefore, O universe, when you hear this news, and glorify with the angels and the shepherds Him who shall appear as a newborn Babe, being God from all eternity.”

This is what is sung in the Melkite Church from the Nativity Fast on November 15th, through Christmas Eve, December 24th. It reminds us that Mary is making her way to give birth…but also, “Bethlehem, make ready, for Eden has been opened for all; Ephrata be alert, for the Tree of Life has blossomed forth from the Virgin in the cave. Her womb has become a spiritual paradise wherein the divine Fruit was planted- and if we eat of it, we shall live and not die like Adam. Christ is coming forth to bring back to life the likeness that was lost in the beginning.” We are all Bethlehem…we are all preparing to welcome Christ into our homes and into our lives on Christmas Day. What a better way than to clean our homes and our bodies and prepare to receive Him!

All of the above first paragraphs can also be taken in context of our faith. We mostly make poor choices throughout our lives. We are given opportunities to “eat clean” over and over again by a loving and forgiving God. Each time we stumble, He lovingly assists us to get back up and keep going. The choices we make each day affect our eternity in more ways than one. Each bite I take, each time I choose to be a couch potato, affects how long I have with my loved ones. Each prayer I don’t say, each religious service I duck out of, affects my eternity. Each time God calls and I ignore that in favor of “food lazy” (i.e. not wanting to go to Church or opting not to pray) affects my relationship with Him. He knows our hearts and He often places choices in our paths in order to help us grow. I have grown a lot over the past 30 days, but I don’t think the program had that in mind! To me, that’s totally a win-win! I have learned about healthy food choices and making good choices is affecting my other choices. How awesome is that?!?

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On December 24th, we sing, “Christ is born to renew the likeness that had been lost of old.” Quite often Christ comes so that we can put off the old, and adorn the new. But He also wants us to reclaim what has been lost over time, over habit, over poor choices. I want to truly prepare for this Christmas by making good choices all around. For my health, my relationships, my business, my family, my God. And so we will Whole30 on until we begin to prepare, in earnest on the start of the Nativity Fast, for the coming of the Christ Child.

 

“To everything there is a season…”

“To everything there is a season…” Ecc 3:1
pumpkins

Autumn is my favorite season. And I love decorating with a fall theme. I am not that into Halloween. It has just never grabbed me and my kids never really liked it until they were teens and then it was just to scare each other. The candy thing was always a pain. Do you let them eat it? Do you parse it out, a little at a time?  Have you ever found Easter Candy in July? Well, I have found Halloween candy in August! As the kids got older, we started a family tradition where we would take them to dinner and a movie. The next day, we would take them shopping for one bag of candy each – it was always on clearance – and they usually got more than if they would have trick-or-treated, and they got exactly what they wanted. Worked for me. Tonight, I am attending a pumpkin carving party. We’re supposed to wear costumes. That is so not me. And we got 6″ of snow last night. Kind of dims the party spirit.

The party was actually fun. The people were so very nice. And I had a great time. The pumpkin carving was funny. I was able to drive to and from our friend’s very isolated home, up steep and icy roads, without a problem – I was quite proud of myself. And during this party, I found myself seated at the table…right in front of some cute cupcakes and some sort of peanut butter dip covered in Reese’s Pieces, to be scooped up by chocolate ghost cookies! And after a short chat with a new friend, I was even offered a drink of 15-year old Macallan Scotch!!! The absolute torture!!!

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For those of you who know me, I would much rather have one to two fingers of scotch, neat, than pretty much any other alcoholic beverage. Even after discovering Chocolate Martinis – I still prefer my scotch. And the thing is, I am still on Whole30. Part of the program is no sugar in any form – and no alcohol in any form. None. So far, so good. Today is day 24. About a week to go before we add things back in. Now before you freak out, I had no problem sitting in front of all that sugar. I kept seeing chemicals and pasty-feeling frosting on my tongue and I was not even tempted. I happily reached for the fresh baby carrots and celery sticks. Truly. I did not miss it at all. I was sorely tempted by the scotch (it was Macallan!!) but that was about it.

porkbutternutsquash

Don’t feel too badly for us. Tonight we are having the recipe above – Pork Shoulder Roast with Butternut Squash and tomatoes. I am opting out of the kale, because we are just not kale people. But we are not suffering in the recipe department. Last night I made bacon-wrapped chicken breasts on sliced white sweet potatoes and a side of green beans with garlic. It was amazing! We are devouring eggs and we discovered British Breakfast Smoked Bacon. Oh my goodness – where have you been all my life??? No sugar added. No extra salts or seasonings that are not compliant. It is delicious. We have adopted many butternut squash recipes. I love to eat them but not so much in the prepare department. They are a pain to peel and gut and dice! Ha-Ha.  But they are so tasty! We have discovered that our taste buds were somehow in a coma. We could not taste – we thought we could, but truly, we did not taste. Now, I am in love with all these amazing spices and ways of cooking. I had to go out and buy two more pans because I kept running out. The prep is a  lot but I am re-discovering my joy of cooking.

sausage

I learned how to prepare my own sausage from organic ground pork. It’s simple and fast and we have found we like the flavor much better. I discovered a new way to make meatballs (a family tradition in the Kaiser household) and we discovered we like that recipe better, as well. We have slowly converted our teen son to a better way of eating. He is still eating snacks a lot, but his meals are far better. His choices are better. We found this recipe for “Mexican” meat that is so good. We fry it up and put it on a bed of raw spinach and mixed greens, topped with salsa and guacamole. Oh my goodness! The teenager had seconds. And asked that I make it again.

oilandvinegarcruets

The journey of Whole30 has taught us so much about how we have been trained to eat. How we have also been trained to shop. It truly is less expensive to shop the perimeter of the store! We buy a grocery cart full of fresh ingredients and spend far less that we ever have. I have learned that I actually prefer WALNUT OIL and APPLE CIDER VINEGAR with simple salt and pepper on my salads. I even cook with it. But you have to know that prior to this, I was a heavy ranch and thousand island user! I would dip in it. I would cook with it. I would slather my salads with it. I loved my dressing. But now, I am enjoying the taste of my salads, enhanced by a mild oil and vinegar. Wow. This is big for me. It is huge. Whole30 is changing my relationship with food, and with my kitchen!

masonjarstorage

Because we shop for pretty much all fresh ingredients, I have discovered Mason Jars! Oh my goodness. I have all my dried fruits and nuts in them. We go through them so quickly. I love making my own “trail mix” using fresh, bulk-bought, dried fruits and nuts. I now love shredded coconut with no sugar, and add it to a mix of nuts and fruits and keep in my purse for a pick-me-up. Mason Jars are pretty awesome. You can see what you’ve got and what you are running low on. I am using small and large ones, not having discovered the need for medium ones, yet (give me time). And this week, I am re-doing my kitchen insofar as organizing it for easier prep and use. Whole30 has up-ended our lives.

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Another thing that Whole30 has done is positively affected our budget. One way, other than eating fresh ingredients made at home, is that we have not dined out. Most of the dishes served locally are very non-compliant with Whole30 guidelines. And for now, that is fine. We mostly miss the convenience of grabbing a bite on late, rushed evenings. And we miss the social aspect of Saturday morning breakfast with our grandkids at a local Grill. But, we are eating better and we are eating simpler. And we are sharing it so much, that we are seeing others adopt the process, including some people very close to us, just by modeling this behavior. Eating simple and cleanly has changed not only how we see food, or taste food, but it is slowly changing how our bodies absorb food. Our bodies were so used to using quick energy from sugar-ladened foods, that they are now learning to grab energy from our fat stores, and the healthy fats we are feeding ourselves. This process has causes a few reactions. We have found ourselves sluggish and days of a headache or two. But as we are starting to see the finish line, we are not questioning the process.

This process has caused me to think more about the end of the day when we gather for dinner, the breakfasts and lunches we will share and prepare as the family goes about its day, and the healthy snacks we will consume in-between. We have become planners and label-readers. We have become more concerned about content and quality, rather than quantity.

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But one of the most amazing things, is that it truly has taken the emphasis off food for food, and replaced it as food for health. Think about that. Why would I ingest a BigMac meal with fries and a soda? I can feed my body a healthy meal, for less money, less negative affect on my body, and with very little effort? Convenience? We need to stop being so lazy. The recipe above has you gather whatever you have left over insofar as fruits and veggies, and with some spices, add them to eggs for breakfast…or lunch…or dinner. Why not? I no longer crave McDonald’s fries. No more. It’s simply not tasty for me, nor worth the damage to my body. I do crave that British Breakfast bacon and some eggs over medium. Yum. With a side of a sliced apple. Yes, please. And one of the biggest things? I have discovered that I actually love the taste of coffee. For coffee. Not the creamer or sugar I had added to it. I like black coffee. Who knew? I actually went to a business meeting at one of our local coffee houses and ordered decaf drip, black (it was at night – still can’t do caffeine late in the day!!) in an awesome mug…with free refills. First.Time.Ever.

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I am not sure, once we reach day 31, what I want to add back. I do not miss bread or crackers or cookies or cake or noodles or rice or cheese or many of the other things I have not eaten. My first thing to add back? I have thought long and hard about this. And to be perfectly honest, I am not sure. I am enjoying learning to eat this way. I am proud that my body is now getting better nutrition. And I am not sure if I want to re-introduce the things I have loved eating without. There are a lot of Whole30 graduates who pretty much adopt the Whole30 lifestyle in perpetuity. We just might. My husband misses pizza. I think I would scrape the toppings and cheese off and skip the crust part. Maybe. Sometimes what we think we are addicted to, we really are not. We are just in a rut or have developed a bad habit. And Whole30 challenges you to break these habits. It challenges you to think about your choices. It challenges you to choose healthy over convenience. And I have always liked being that stick in the river, refusing to go the way everyone else does. Whole30 is not really going against anything, but rather, returning to how we once ate, before chemical additives and boxed everything. Join me! You might be surprised at yourself.

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For some, it is not time, yet. It is hard to look at habits and how we live. It is hard to delve into things that are not comfortable. Looking in a mirror is not easy. Trust me. I am overweight and out of shape. I have, however, faced my fear. I have enrolled in a water aerobics class. Ha-Ha. The first laugh is my bathing suit. I have had it since our kids were little. I am surprised the material is still hanging together (sort of scares me, wondering what it is made of). And the other funny thing is I have re-entered the world of the dreaded locker room. When I was in high school there were girls who could walk around naked with no care in the world. Even back then, I could not do it. And being 60 and overweight, it is just not happening. However, those same girls who walked around nude at 14 are still doing it at 70 – and there are some things you just cannot unsee. They are not literally the same people, but are sort of like the same ones, if you get my point. And changing and showering and all of that has been the subject of quite a lot of laughter. The funny thing is that while we do water aerobics, they have children’s swimming lessons. So there are little children from toddlers with their swimming diapers all the way through to us old grandmas, running around the locker room and shower area. The noise level is hysterical – my head just about explodes! But the sights are quite something to see.

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Do not poo-poo water aerobics. Join me, I dare you. During the night right afterwards, I am already rolling over in bed, aching. This last class caused me to wake in the night to revisit my oils and relieve some of the aches and pains, and to ensure a restful night of sleep. It’s been two days and I am off to play with those silly noodles and water barbells again tonight. Those barbells, made of foam, are no joke, either. My arms are killing me. But I am moving. I am out and about. I am giving my body the proper nutrition, and I am moving all my muscles. Movement is so important, even if it is just to walk to the corner and back again. To stroll through the mall. To park the furthest away at the store and walk in (except for in ice and snow – I park as close as possible). The Whole30 program challenged us in more ways than one. I know it has been life changing and I cannot see us returning to the lazy ways, the lazy days, prior to Whole30. And I’m not sure if we’ll add foods we have done with out for 30 days, back into our diets. We are still thinking about the long term process, once we realize the full affects of this program. It is pretty amazing, and so very simple. Think about it, and, again, think about joining us!

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“..be ready in season and out of season..”

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Well, Whole30’ers, it is our 3rd day. I must say that I have discovered some things I did not know. I love butternut squash! Oh my goodness. I made butternut squash soup last night and it was so very yummy. As a family, we decided that the next time (yes, there will be a next time) I am going to add scallops to it! I added chicken this time, but next time we go seafood. And was it ever filling! Wow! Tonight we will experiment with those Brussel sprouts I spoke about earlier. A friend-of-a-friend posted photos of Brussel sprouts cut in half and sautéed until brown in ghee. With a little crisp bacon?? Yum! It’s on our menu!

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I have bought canning jars as I shared before. I have made 2 different vinaigrette dressings and they are in them. I am attempting my own mayonnaise and ketchup and ranch dressing. Wish me luck (my lucky family is my guinea pig!! Ha-Ha!). I am going to look for larger canning jars this time. I need more room!

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One of the ideas I have run across is to prepare salads and meals ahead of time and store them in canning jars. Send the hubby off to work with his lunch layered all pretty in a canning jar. All he has to do is shake and it’s ready! And to get rid of all that plastic in your kitchen (which I have been doing the past few years – Tupperware is gone!) and replace it with glass. You can easily store leftovers in canning jars. And you can re-heat in them, too. You’d be surprised where I have found lots of my glassware! Garage sales, thrift shops, online sales, deals at my local store….I have slowly replaced all my plastic bowls and storage with glass. It is cleaner, and it does not leach chemicals into your food. I am trying to also not use the microwave. Boy oh boy, that is one convenience it is going to be hard to stop using, but I am determined.

Hebrews 11:7 “It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by.”

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I am also stocking up on all sorts of provisions (food, staples, TP, water, my oils and supplements, etc). The weather predictions for this winter are fierce. So many warnings about tons of snow, wind, and very cold temperatures. The Farmer’s Almanac is warning people in the East that last year winter took a vacation! With the storm bearing down on Florida right now, news stories have shown empty shelves in grocery stores and crowded highways as people flee the storm. This year looks to be particularly rough for the east coast, and rainy on the west coast. For us, the Almanac tells us it will be a bit cooler, but also milder insofar as snow is concerned. Except that the old timers around here are warning everyone to be prepared, and that this winter will be extremely cold and there will be lots of snow. Who do you listen to? Well, Noah listened to the Lord and sadly enough, no one else was listening. I keep getting pushed, from somewhere inside of me, to store up food, water, blankets, a generator, extra flashlights and batteries. I think it is the Lord, pushing me to be smart. A local man said to get battery-powered radios, too! We have tons of firewood. At least we think we do. I certainly hope we don’t have to go through all the wood we have stockpiled this season. If we do, I am not sure how we’ll come out the other side! We have a lot of wood. It would be a life-changing winter, that is for sure!

2 Timothy 4:2-5 “…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

I believe it is part of our calling to share when the Lord calls us to minister to our family, friends, and community. As I share this walk along my health journey with Whole30, I do believe the Lord has asked me to share my struggles at finding a healthy lifestyle, free from chemicals. I found my incredible Essential Oils and supplements…I simply have to share the graces I have found incorporating EO’s into our lives. I cannot just discover these riches and not share them with others. I have this blog, which a couple of people here and there read, and I hope that this venue allows me to touch just one soul, one life. If each of us were to do that, the Lord would smile.

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Matthew 24:42-44 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”

There is nothing wrong with being smart and being prepared. I am working diligently on my health and our healthy lifestyle. Hearth and home are a part of that. I am looking into ways to store food and to be able to cook food, should our power go out. We live in a relatively wild area (compared to say, New York City) and help could be a long time coming, or not able to reach our area in time to really help us. That is reality (they don’t call it “The Last Frontier” for nothing). And it behooves us all to realistically look at where we live, what is around us, and what we would do if it all comes crashing down.

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The internet is abuzz with all sorts of theories about the state of the world right now. Germany is telling its citizens to stock up on food and water. Other countries are warning their citizens that times are going to get really tough. In the US, this election is getting insanely ridiculous, with both sides seemingly relentless in smearing the other. Mike Pence seems to be the sole rational person in the mix. Dependent upon the outcome, the world could look very differently by January 2017. And that timeframe coincides nicely with the dead of winter. Civil unrest is real, and it is happening all over the world. What if it gets worse? Are you prepared? Could you live without all the medications you take? What about simple things like water? One man said that to be honest, just save aspirin (general medication), water, and bread. You can survive on bread and water. It’s completely outside of Whole30, so I am going to store other things, but the basics are called basic because they are what we can survive on.

The tempter came to Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” But Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4.

And so I keep the faith. Not blindly, but fully aware. In the time of Noah, the people were warned but did not heed the words of God. Noah was given the graces to hear God speak directly to him. He followed God’s word exactly as it was spoken and his family was saved. It feels sometimes like we want to just throw up our hands and cry out, “Come Lord Jesus, come!” (Revelation 22:30)

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But honestly, as I have said in previous posts, “We are not guaranteed our next breath” (Fr. Justin Rose) The Lord has a plan. He alone knows when this craziness we call our world, will spin differently. We cannot know what the future holds. There is no reason not to prepare for natural, civil, and national disasters. What’s the downside? I guess it would be having a freezer stocked at all times with so much bread, you will never have to buy it, ever again. Or a basement filled with toilet paper and paper towels, water, and matches. You could have piles of blankets and sleeping bags, paperbacks you can read again, and board games to play. But that’s something I think I would rather have, than empty shelves as everyone flees the coming storm. Glory be to God in all things. And in preparing, being smart, eating to honor His Temple (your body), and living and sharing with one another this love He has shown us.

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