Monday, December 27, 2010

I almost missed it.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

This year, I almost missed Christmas. Almost.

I almost let all the pressure surrounding the celebrating of the holiday overshadow the real reason and task of Christmas.

It all began on Wednesday the 22nd when I made a major mistake in each of the kid's Christmas pajamas. I didn't realize what I had done until I finished the waistband on the last of the three pairs of pants. And then came the thought that there was no way I could fix the major error and also finish their pajamas in time for Christmas Eve.

Previously, we had filled the week with friends and visits and fun, so the house was a mess and we hadn't gotten anything done.

The 23rd, we had Christmas with Eric's family. I was lucky enough to make the meal, but work and an unexpected recipe change meant just a little bit more stress trying to accomplish everything.

On Christmas Eve, I spent the morning running around doing a few last minute things. I was totally wound up. So was Eric. The kids were wired and we had too many things to do in too little time. There just wasn't enough time to finish everything that "needed" to be done. Finally at home, I sat by my sewing machine, sewing furiously, trying to finish pajama shirts: my machine was jamming, seams were super crooked and there was supportive stitching showing through and making my errors obvious to my eye. I also was thinking about all the food that I had to make: Treats for Jesus' birthday party, yummy food for Christmas Eve dinner, bread for Christmas breakfast. And then there were presents to wrap, Christmas cards to deliver to my neighbors, the house to clean and . . . .

I think you get the picture. I was completely stressed out.

Suddenly, it hit me. I was totally doing exactly what I didn't want to do with Christmas. I was making all the trappings of the holiday outweigh the weight of the meaning of Christmas. The stuff was more important than the people, than the baby.
And God sent some wonderful, gentle, loving reminders, in the forms of my children to help me remember (again) why God sent his son for us.

I managed to finish (with knowledge that I would later fix a major error) two full pairs of pajamas. And the girls danced around the house wearing them.

All three understand why Jesus came to be born on this earth: that our king had to become a baby to grow up and save us from our sins. To hear them declare their love for Christ moved me in a way that is difficult to describe.

At Jesus' birthday party (This year, He was gracious enough to allow gluten free brownies which we all said were really, really good), OG said probably the cutest thing I have ever heard. "Mommy, Jesus is in my heart, right?" "Yep, OG, he is in your heart." "Jesus is in my heart, so he can't see the brownies right?" During our popcorn prayer, their prayers were simple and moving.

Christmas morning was a great time with our family. The kids were excited to have us open the gifts they gave us, they were patient while waiting for their turn. And they all shared their new stuff.

Then at church, our family lit the Advent candles. Each member had a role: Eric (and Yoli, our adopted member of the family) read, the girls and I lit the candles, and J said the prayer. His confidence and the strength of the words he prayed was beautiful. I was one proud mama, not only for how he acted on stage, but for what he said with such strength.

And I ended the holiday with this thought, over and over:
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

And from the real meaning of Christmas, this is the desired outcome. And it gives me great hope and great joy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Reflections on this Season

I adore the season of Advent. It has become my favorite time of year.

There are many traditions and doings that make this season wonderful: exchanging gifts, cutting out paper snowflakes, singing Christmas carols, visiting with friends and family. And while those things are special to me, that is not why I love Advent.

Advent has become a time to worship the God who became tiny for me. It is a marvelous, miraculous movement on God's part that I never deserved or earned, yet he still came.

My heart is always full of emotion this time of year. I marvel the courage of a young girl who accepts without question God's call to bear His Son. I remember holding my own babies, noting their weakness and dependence on me and marvel that my Saviour was also so weak. I think more about that girl and how carrying this baby must have changed her, forever. May I be changed by the Spirit's indwelling too.

I worship with shepherds and wise men who saw the baby but knew He was King. They immediately fell on their faces to worship Him. I should do the same.

I think on Joseph who was asked to do the most sacrificial thing in loving Mary and Jesus, who was not his son.

I think of the stable animals and the physical world. Did they know their Creator had come? I believe they did and the animals worshiped. And the angels who couldn't understand why God would send his son to this dirty, broken world to save people who can't even contemplate the true depth of His love for us or His majesty or His glory. But they proclaimed him with voices full of joy and honor and glory.

I am humbled, awed, inspired, and changed as I think up on our great, big, glorious Creator God, the one who knit me together, who threw the stars into the sky, who sent the rhythms of the season to spin, gave up his most precious gift, his son, for dirty, broken, sinful me (and you).

Christ has come!
Emmanuel, God with us.
Rejoice and be changed.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Saying Goodbye

I have been dreading this moment for months. Officially for 7 months, unofficially, for just about a year.

This afternoon, our family said goodbye to our dearest friends. I said goodbye to my dear friend of many years, Anita and her husband Bryan and their three beautiful kids Elijah, Faith, and Mercy. They're not dying or mortally ill, instead they have been faithful in following the call God has put on their heart to run an orphanage for HIV/AIDS orphans in Maseru, Lesotho, Africa.


The Geurink kids with my kids. From right: Eli [7] Josh [6], Faith & Katie [5], and OG & Mercy [3]. 

And while the calling is great, the emotions of it suck. Anyone who has ever said goodbye to someone for a long time understands what I am saying.

Thankfully, our final time together (their whole family spent the night at our house last night) was not filled with sorrow and the bitter gnashing of teeth--no, it was filled with sickness, two lost teeth, stitches, and lots of laughter. I really love these friends--that even on this day, it was just life as usual with kids and messes and food and discipline and stories and needs and lots of humor. In fact, as we were saying goodbye, my youngest daughter (also the one who received stitches earlier that day) almost pulled my pants down to my ankles.

But still I am filled with many mixed emotions.
1) I am so proud of my friends. Bryan and Anita, you two have displayed extraordinary courage and grace in the midst of a difficult time of transition and planning. You have always been confident of knowing this was God's will and stood firm behind that. There have been a few nay-sayers (and in the early days, I was probably even one of them), but you have accepted this call knowing full well that God is in charge of your life.

2) I am sad--I will miss these friends dearly. Why these friends more than others? Well, all my friends are precious. But Anita and I met many moons ago across a table at Knollcrest dining hall. We were roommates in college, she a bridesmaid in my wedding, neighbors for four years, I was present for the birth of two of her babies, she present for the birth of two of mine. We have shared family histories, stories, many laughs, and many tears. She is the one who dropped everything and rushed to my side when we had to take OG to the hospital after she fell and hit her head. I was a blubbery mess when I called her and she called her husband home from work and drove from 30 minutes to sit with me in the ER. And both of us acknowledge that is exactly what friends do.

3) I am excited for the adventure this young family gets to go on. Come on, they're moving to Africa. is there anything cooler? More life-changing?

4) I am jealous. God has called them to sell everything and follow him, which they have done faithfully. He hasn't called me to anything like that yet. This time of saying good-bye has also made me come to terms with God's calling in my own life, and being content with whatever it is. Even if I am simply a home-schooling mom in a city.

5) I am concerned with the reality of life in a 3rd world country. They aren't prepared well for such a thing. I pray that God gives them strength for the many bumpy days ahead.

Luckily, regardless, I have great hope. We are united in Christ. Whatever happens I will see her again--whether in a few years as is our family's plan to visit, a few more years when they plan to return stateside, or in heaven as might be God's plan.

As is my prayer for them:
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:3-6).

Have safe travels, my friends. You are deeply loved.

 P.S. To the rest of you, check out their blog Our Beautiful Mission. If you want to read about what has brought them to this place, click here. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Question of the Hour

So, here it is, the question of the hour (or week).

Our family is flying to my parents house next weekend. The kids are totally looking forward to the trip.

I have but one worry: the body scanner. Not the invasiveness or even the radiation of it.

But the fact that I wear an underwire bra-and it will set the scanner off which will then make me subject to a "more thorough" pat-down. And I know that they have these scanners at the airport in Salt Lake (not yet here in our medium-sized town airport).

As I see it there are a few ways of handling this:
1) Bra-less (which as a woman who has nursed three children--well, I wouldn't recommend it).
2) Suck it up and spend some cash (which we don't really have right now and that I would wear but 1 time) on a new bra to make the whole security process (with three kids and tons of stuff) bearable.
3) Wear my normal bra and pray I don't get patted down (because that scanner should obviously show that the metal is a thin strip at mid-chest level--oh listening to it that way makes it sound rather suspicious.)

Of all the many parts of travelling with small children and connections and checked luggage, the part that makes me the most anxious is the security check. I guess it's time to get ready.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful

Today is Thanksgiving and my heart is so full. I am so blessed. So I thought that tonight I would share a simple 10 things I am thankful for.  And these aren't in any order.

1) My health. I ate a fantastic dinner tonight. And it was good and healing for me.
2) My sweet husband. He works so hard for our family. He loves me in spite of me. I am thankful God gave me Eric.
3) My three beautiful, creative, energetic, talkative, curious, and intelligent children.
4) I have a warm bed to sleep in, a home to live in, clothes to wear, and food to eat. These things alone are an incredible blessing.
5) My friends. I spent tonight with dear friends whom I treasure. And there are many more who surround me with their love and support.
6) My family--both by blood and by marriage. I love them all.
7) That I have the privilege to homeschool my kids. It is fun to spend this time with them.
8) Eric's job. Yeah, it's sometimes horribly inconvenient and difficult. But it is a blessing to have reliable work that provides for our family. And he's really good at it.
9) The gifts God has given me to be creative: writing, preparing fantastic food, sewing, creating. It is fun to use my brain and create things.
10) My God: He loves me so much he sent his precious Son to die for my sins. Wow! I am amazed. And he shows me his deep love in the world he created, the gifts he has given me, and how he grows me.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Ewwww, Gross

So, we've lived in our house for 4 years. And ever since the first day we lived here our main floor half bathroom has looked like this:
See that spot on the floor? That stain has been there since we moved in. And our bathroom smelled a little bit funny.

Yeah, it was a bit gross.
So we decided it was time to do something about it. Rip out the toilet and sink and put in a new tile floor.
Simple, Easy, right?
Well, it really wasn't that tough--it was just grosser than we expected. Because this is what we found underneath the toilet.


Super gross! Beyond Disgusting, especially condsidering that we have never had ANY problems with this toilet. But obviously, the people before us did.

So we did a little demolishing. Removed the old sink and the wall behind it to make room for the new plumbing for the new sink. And everyone got in on the act.




 So, as of tonight, all the demolition is done and the bathroom shell is clean. There is a spot where the subfloor was so rotted that Eric stepped through it. But the plumber is coming Tuesday and we can start laying tile already later this week.

Stop by next weekend to see how the progress goes!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Health & Food Update

Tonight as I was browsing the cookbooks at Schulers, I realized that earlier in the summer I posted a great deal about how I was struggling with my adjusted food choices, but have never really explained what has happened since or how I have faired since then.

I must say, I feel great! Eliminating Gluten from my diet has eliminated every single problem that I went to the doctor for. The constant tiredness, inability to handle stress, constant bloatedness, inability to focus or think, monthly moodiness and anxiety--all of it, gone! And that is really great. And since I cut dairy, my skin has improved, as have my digestive function and occasional sinus issues. Really, except for the fact that I need to make myself go on a run, I haven't felt this good in a really long time (or at least since I can remember).

I had a bit of a set back when for a couple weeks in early fall I ate a bit too much dairy (almost every day ACK!). But I recognized it for what it was, remedied it, and have moved on.

Other than the physical healing, there have been both blessings and struggles. Struggles: Well, it's hard to eat out and so I bear a lot of the burden of creating food that is healthful and nourishing, but on the flip side, we have discovered some great local restaurants that offer GF options. I miss dairy--specifically cheese and creamy things. This new lifestyle is a bit expensive (GF/CF bread is $5 a loaf--Yikes!) Learning a new method of looking at, planning, and preparing food is time consuming and out of my comfort zone. I don't like failing in the kitchen. However these struggles are not nearly as big as the blessings.

God has shown me, beyond measure, that he has good things planned for me, my health, my family, and my life. Food is a gift and He has allowed it to be used to heal my body. Eric has also made some changes and experienced better bodily health too. I have been provided for. I have been incredibly blessed by my family and friends. I have been surrounded by encouragement and gifts of love, food, ideas, and recipes. Most of those gifts came at my low points when I was struggling. I am so grateful.

This new lifestyle has given me a number of opportunities to have conversations about health with people that otherwise I wouldn't. I wish I had more time to plan for and use new recipes and menus, but such is life.

I am blessed beyond measure. I guess I wanted you to know that.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Quarter out the Window!

What have we been up to? Well, we just finished our first unit (or quarter) of our homeschool year! Yipee! It has been 9 weeks of school that has covered Ancient Egypt, Creation, The Patriarchs and Israelites in the Wilderness. It has included science experiments, field trips to Art Prize, lots of great books. Oh, and don't forget that we are brought to you by the letters A to Z , the numbers 1-10, and addition and subtraction. It has been a busy few weeks--because we also threw in simultaneous trips to Salt Lake and Chicago, the bulk of canning & preserving season, and TaeKwonDo, ballet, PE, and preschool. Don't forget church and friends and reading and writing too!


Whew.


And now we get a week off! (yep, that's the advantage of starting school in mid-August. I planned in a full week break, for all of us!) Okay--so we're going to read some good books and hopefully do a fun art project or two and maybe watch some educational tv or computer games. Education is not all out the window--we are going pumpkin picking tomorrow!


I know that you are more curious, however, about the things that I learned during these first nine weeks. So I will share a couple things.
1) Planning ahead for the whole quarter made school enjoyable and profitable for all of us. (Another reason for the week off--I have to plan next quarter, and clean the house).
2) K is in need of a more rigorous plan and J needs me to add in some spelling. Check.
3) God is an amazing God--he set up everything the Israelites needed to know to live as a set-apart culture in his Law, yet they ignored and whined at him every chance they got. Reading the first five books of the Bible has been enlightening (I love Leviticus!).
4) My kids make pretty good Challah. And Eric can play the shofar. Who knew?
5) I really like this home school stuff.


And now, for your viewing pleasure: Our first quarter in pictures!
Blessings.


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Friday, August 27, 2010

It's Farmer Market Season

So if you know me, you know I love food. I am passionate for good, wholesome, tasty, beautiful food. And now Eric and I have committed to buy more of our food locally. So that meant a family morning at the Farmer's Market. With grocery budget in hand, we went with five grocery bags (one of which we left in the van) and two boxes for some bulk produce I am putting up for winter. As always the Farmer's Market is an overwhelming feast for the senses. There are booths with produce, dairy, baked goods, coffee, and a few handmade crafters. So much to choose from, such a limited budget. But after an hour of walking up and down the aisle, we came home with bulging bags and aching arms with food for our family for the next two weeks. (Yeah, I grocery shop once for two weeks--sometimes that leads to some interesting meals right before payday. But for the next few days, we feast!)

And what we bought was so beautiful and smelled so great, that I wanted to share it with you--to inspire you to use these foods while they are in season, to encourage you to buy some extra to freeze or dry or can for winter, or just to visit your local farmers market. What follows is a list (with pictures of most everything we bought!). Please bear in mind that some of this food is to be stored up for winter--that is part of why there is so much. But also, we like to eat good food.

Vegetables:
Red Peppers, Yellow Peppers, Green Peppers, Jalapeno Peppers and a cutie called the Creamsicle Pepper
Carrots
Red Onions & Garlic
Celery
Mixed Heirloom Tomatoes
Baby Eggplant (I want to make Ratatouille, but know i have to keep the eggplant to a minimum).
Swiss Chard (never tried it, but giving it a shot)
Red potatoes and Yukon gold potatoes (still with the dirt on them)
Cucumbers
Green Beans
Broccoli
And the first pie pumpkin of the season



Fruit:
Blueberries & Raspberries
Personal Cantaloupe
Watermelon
Peaches & Nectarines
Apples (the first of the season here in Mi!) & Pears
Plums



To Preserve:
1/2 bushel basket each of Peaches, Globe Tomatoes, & Roma Tomatoes



Meats:
Turkey Tenderloin
A Whole Chicken Cut up

Miscellaneous:
Fresh Locally Roasted  Whole Bean Coffee
Cinnamon Bread
Gluten-Free Granola

Oh, and Eric bought a little handmade card holder and each of the girls got a little bouquet of flowers for $1. Super cute.

The eating is good at my house. And friends are always welcome.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

School's in session

Yep, it's the 2nd week of school.

And time for the dreaded class pictures.

Except, these class pics were taken on the front steps after a fun walk around the block.

Really, I do say homeschooling is great.

So here is the entire roster for the 2010-2011 school year.

In first grade, Joshua
In Kindergarten, Katie.

In Preschool, Olivia

And now the obligatory group picture:

And lastly, because I promised them they could take my picture if I took theirs,
Teacher, Mom: Sammy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

500,000,000 Eggs

That is the number of eggs being recalled because of a salmonella outbreak linked back to two major chicken farms in Iowa. 500 million (or half a billion) is a lot of eggs. Haven't heard yet? Well, you can read about it here.

Usually, I just run by recalls like this. I feel like I am blessed enough to avoid food poisoning and well, why would I want to panic because of a couple of bad eggs?  But 500,000,000 is a lot of eggs, and we put eggs into everything--breakfast foods, baked goods, dinners. Our family eats a lot of eggs. I don't want us to get sick. Maybe this time I should pay attention.

Oh, but wait. I can breath a huge sigh of relief. Because every other week I get my eggs from a local farmer. His "girls" have access to dirt and grubs. I don't fear an outbreak of illness from my eggs.

Or my honey or beef products or much of my produce.

And this is why I eat and promote and preserve and purchase local food. Because not only does it taste better and is often raised in better conditions, but because I have a relationship with the farmer and the land that produced them.

That makes everything taste better.

Especially my eggs tomorrow morning.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

An Update

So, I must admit that I think life is pretty grand right now. By and large I feel better (although I am super tired from a couple intense weeks of Eric's job) and have learned how to eat, again. But I have energy again--and because of that I also have thoughts, have been able to keep my house clean, and have been beginning to be challenged again. I really do like feeling better.

These past weeks have been challenging as I have been thinking a great deal about many things. Often I want to share them with the world, but I find that I run out of time at the end of each day to share them with you. So instead of giving you a long play-by-play of my many (mostly incomplete) thoughts, I thought I would give you a brief synopsis (followed by a summer picture recap, just to keep you interested to get to the end of this post).

Hang on to your hats:

Food: Now, really, are you surprised? But beyond thinking about my new food life, I have also read  and re-read some influential food books in my life (and now also watched Food, Inc--a eye-opening documentary). So now my thoughts about food are more about where it comes from and what goes into it and how i can better feed my family, along with my restrictions. We have definitely had some interesting meals this summer.

School: Yep, we started our 2nd year of homeschooling last week. This year I have a first grader, kindergartner and a pre-schooler--all of whom love school. In fact, their biggest complaint is often that I don't have enough for them to do. So, I am working on that for them. In thinking about school I alternate between being very confident we have made the right choice for our family to totally questioning my ability or the wisdom in doing this at all. But I think that's normal.

Mission & ministry: Our church is in a time of transition where our pastor of 30 years retired in late spring. So we have started down the path of calling a new pastor. Wisely, while on this journey, there has been a lot of time spent on reflection as to who we are and who God is calling our church to be. So I have been thinking about that--and trying to figure out what role/responsibility/calling I have to be involved in that mission. If we are a multi-cultural, community-centered, growing in knowledge church, what is my role? How am I sharing Christ's love?

Friends: I have been incredibly blessed by such an assortment of people in my life. From the outpouring of love I have felt (in the form of fresh veggies, recipes, links to blogs, even baked goodies or an afternoon margarita on the lawn), God has put some incredible people in my path. But also, I marvel at the different kinds of relationships I have: a dear friend from my growing up who holds a treasured spot in my heart, girl-friends from college who listen to me (even when I talk to much!), a wonderful (and growing) group of friends in my neighborhood, wise women of faith from my church who guide me and walk with me in this life, a phenomenal small group of varied peoples, backgrounds, and experiences in which we all seek to know Christ and serve him fully. I am truly a blessed woman.

Wow this is longer than I thought it would be. So, I'll wrap up, but also let you know that I have had many other thoughts on true health, God's calling in my life, my extended family, my kids & my marriage, and how to keep a clean house (although I still haven't figured that one out yet--I'll take any hints that you have to offer.)

Now, as promised, pictures from our summer:

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Struggling

Yep, I think that's a fair way to describe whats happening right now. I'm simply struggling.

I am profoundly touched and grateful for the many of you who have given me support in a number of ways. It is so wonderful to know that I am thought of and cared for.

One brief comment on all this: this s%6ks. I am "detoxing" right now and feel crappy. For going on, about two weeks. I am ready to feel good. But I don't. The fact that I feel this bad is a clear signal that gluten is an issue for me, but the question I ask myself is "Is this crappy worse than my other crappy? Is this worth it?" Those are the questions of the person in the middle of it.

One philosophical discussion I have been having with myself is this: God created wheat--it is a gift of life he gave humanity at the beginning of creation. There has always been a form of wheat. Peoples have always combined it with water and salt and yeast to make bread. This is a staple of life. Now, our culture is so inundated with elements of that wheat, that gift, that my body is rejecting it and it makes me unwell. What have we done with the created gifts God gave us? What have we done to our food? I, for one, have been repenting for this, because even if I am not directly guilty of the sin of greed that has distorted our food and food chain, I have not been part of the solution.

My other major struggle is this: I now have a Modern & Western Affliction. Yep--although the incidences of gluten intolerance are rising all over the world, it is predominantly an affliction found in Western Europe and North America. And it was completely unheard of 30 years ago. When I told my Dad, he had never heard of it before. Although I have tried to live a life that is not marked by Western diet, I have succumbed to one of its diseases.

Where does this leave me? Thinking a lot about food, about what I put into my body, what goes into my kids. And figuring out a way to live with grace and dignity, even when I feel crappy.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

I "heart" Food

So, I can admit it. I love food--I love fresh ingredients, I love interesting combinations of taste and flavor, I love preparing a home-cooked meal for friends or family, I love eating a tasty meal or treat. I love food.

I especially love cheese. And pastry. And a really great salad with homemade buttermilk ranch dressing.

But now all my perspectives on food are being forced to change. And I am not having a particularly easy time with that.

Essentially, my dr. has ordered some massive dietary changes which are most likely lifetime changes. Why? Well, although no one can really see it, there are some internal system, off-balance, hormonal issues going on in me and I don't want the consequences of those things. Changing my diet is one way to combat both the problems and the symptoms. So, I will do that, as well as take the prescribed supplements (which i have been doing pretty good at)

What are the changes? First, I am casein-free. Casein is the protein that is in dairy products like milk, ice cream, yogurt and cheese. Honestly, I have avoided most of those products for a long time. Ice cream and milk don't make me feel very good. But, my Dr. said, if I cut all of them out for a few months (think 4 months) I should be able to reintroduce cheeses, particularly hard cheeses and goat cheese. Yum. Thinking about that light at the end of the tunnel actually causes me to hope. So, for now I learn to live with out cheese and sour cream. I have been using soy as a replacement for my milk and yogurt. And I just discovered coconut ice cream. I can't wait to try that!

The second change, which is more likely a lifetime ban, is on gluten. Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley that makes bread springy and glues it together. Usually, when I make a loaf of fresh bread, I add gluten to give it the soft texture we all love. Except that gluten exacerbates the times when I am already tired, or irritable or PMS-ing. Reading the current literature on this, it seems that we have so inundated ourselves with so much gluten (because it is in everything!) that for many people, there is a growing intolerance . Statistically, doctors and scientists estimate about 1 in 130 people have some sort of intolerance to gluten. Many will never know, most everyone can benefit from reducing their gluten intake. And it is hereditary.

So a ban on gluten includes some of the things I would expect--anything made out of wheat--bread, buns, pastry, cookies, baked goods. But also some things that you wouldn't expect--beer or malt liquor, pasta, most mass-produced foods (like french fries), and breaded chicken, some meats, a lot of vegetarian meat replacements, and a lot of sauces like soy sauce or babebeque sauce or salad dressing.

One dietary change would be manageable for me. I feel as if I only had to deal with one of these two changes, I would be okay. But trying to deal with both at the same time is pretty hard.

This has been a tough week for me. First trying to wrap my head around the enormity of the lifestyle change is depressing. I have been mourning food. Sounds a bit silly, doesn't it? But food has an emotional and social role in all our lives and in my life, that has to change or I remain unwell. Here's an example: sometimes after a long day, Eric and I will share an order of dessert from a local restaurant and eat it on our couch while sharing some wine. We can't do that anymore because this dessert is made out of bread and the others on the menu all have cream or cheese on them. This makes both of us sad.

So I have a lot of learning to do: learning to read every label of everything I buy, learning what is okay and what is not okay, learning to say no to something that would be so tasty but not feel good, learning to cook again with new and unfamiliar ingredients, learning what those ingredients are, learning to shop and budget differently.

As I walk this journey, you should know two things: first, I know I will be okay--these tough times will pass, I will adjust and ultimately I will feel great. I know that. But this time will be tough. Thanks for bearing with me.
Second, as people who love me, don't feel bad--for you or for me. I am happy that you can eat food that nourished your spirit and fills your belly. Your prayers and encouragement are what I need. If you have a great recipe, feel free to send it my way.

And in four months, we're having a cheese party!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pow-Wow

This has been a crazy week, full of many activities (including a family wedding). But I didn't want to neglect to report back on the Pow-wow that I attended with the kids as part of the WCRC this past Tuesday at a park downtown.

I was super excited to show my kids this part of our national heritage--which is often portrayed in one way that is far from the truth. To show them the pageantry and beauty and faith that is inherent in native culture among native peoples. There is a beautiful understanding of Creator God that has been paired with a knowledge of Jesus' salvific work and the ever present Spirit that is central to life as a Native person. In Utah where I grew up, there were often displays of the cultural heritage of that place. Every summer, our family traveled to a festival of sorts where we would see renderings and depictions of that life. These sorts of things are not as openly a part of the heritage here in the Midwest, although still an integral part of the development and history of the area.

The ceremony was on a hot Tuesday afternoon--all the 1,000 delegates were in attendance, as well as member of the 4Tribes and the community. It was a hot, bright sunshine-y afternoon. First there was a worship service. We sang in Amazing Grace in Cree, we "Got up & Danced" with the Holy Spirit, we listened to praise and worship that was not in my language. The stories that are told with drum and voice are both varied and unique, although it is hard to imagine that it can truly be that way.

We listened to a sermon. And I was bothered by it. Because as I listened, I heard anger--a lot of it. At the church for failing the native peoples of this land (which it did), for people for standing by abuses and stereotypes (which we do), for a lack of desire of the current church to engage or minister to and with the native peoples that are among us, for a lack of compassion (which is evident). I am still bothered by the anger that I heard. Not only as a white woman whose people came and stole land and am guilty of all that I was accused of, but also because the anger was not appropriate to the unity of the situation. But I feel that perhaps that anger was not out of place because she was simply pronouncing truth, and this was a truth that condemned some. And her truth reflected what has been experienced by those she loves and her ancestors. Again, I have been changed, and not in an expected way.

I guess God shows up everywhere, doesn't he.

It was remarkable to see how many of the ceremonies of the Native Americans truly embody our One God: that the Holy Spirit is acknowledged as present and active--in the drumming, in the dancing, in the fellowship.

One cool thing about this whole experience is that unlike other pow-wows, the dance circles were open to everyone. They were "Inter-tribal dances" which allowed any person at any time to join in the circle and dance. So we did. The girls and I--but it was also hot and crowded in the circle. But during that time we met two girls from Indonesia, a woman from the Netherlands, and blessed by smoke (symbolising the presence of the Holy Spirit). (Man, I really did have compassion on those people who were wearing native costumes--they were heavy and hot in that blazing sun.) J really enjoyed watching the drummers (the lead drum had just been award the 1st place prize in "Pow-wow Idol" meaning that they were the best drum team in the nation.)

I am glad that I got to share this with my kids. I am even more glad that it had a natural rhythm--that there wasn't entertainment in every moment, so it gave my kids an opportunity to be kids--lay in the grass, roll down the hill, meet a new friend, observe the people around us from all around the world.

And at the end of the event, as we were getting ready to leave, the kids found the fountain to play in. That makes everything great.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Little Piece of Heaven

What can I possibly say about these past few days? A lot, but words are not quite what I want them to be. They don't express how awesome this reality that I have been living in is. I'm pretty sure I can't fully express these past three days, but I will try. Honestly, it will probably sound like rambling.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I have volunteered at the World Communion of Reformed Churches. My job has simply been to be hospitable and kind to the many visitors who are here from around the world. Although my work has been limited (a total of 12 hours), my life has been changed.

For me there is such joy in watching people of faith from around the world live as one body. That's what a lot of this was for me: observing interactions, allowing freedom to interact. On Saturday I watched a world cup match (Ghana v. Australia) with people from those countries. One group reserved, the other not so reserved. It was joy for me. I have built three small relationships (small to them, perhaps, life changing to me) with a woman from Hungary who is a pastor's wife to a Hungarian congregation in Allen Park, Michigan, a pastor from Guyana (that's at the northern border of South America)--Winnie is wonderful! , and a pastor, Tial, from Myanmar. To learn about their countries and lives through conversation and questions is an honor for me (and something that I have always found easy to do). I have learned I have a place to stay if I ever visit Guyana and where to visit if I have the privilege of traveling to Myanmar. I have met and had brief encounters with men and women from Switzerland, Kenya, Kiribati, Canada, United States, Korea, and France.

I have seen (if only in brief form) the work and struggles of the world church--and I am humbled by them. Within minutes of conversations with different peoples, major issues are brought up: the environment, food and hunger, woman's equality, and economic justice. I can no longer live here without thinking of "there" Pastor Winnie asked me what happens to the extra food at the opening reception. I answered truthfully (but sheepishly) that it was thrown away. And she mentioned that she had people in her church who needed that food. Yet, here I live in the midst of such excess.

The delegates at the conference are doing very hard, emotional, tedious work. There has been much discussion about the equality of women as represented by the churches who are part of this world body. Initially I thought "what's the big deal?" But I have since learned, that there are churches and countries where women are not important, celebrated or respected. They have neither rights nor representation. And although this is not on my radar, as a member of Christ's body, unified by his blood, it should be. For even if I cannot act upon the things that I know, at least I can live with a grateful awareness.

And then there was worship.

Oh the worship! How can I possibly describe it? A taste of heaven, perhaps, but those words seem so inadequate.

There is something beautiful and holy about 3000 gathered together to worship our God, to honor Christ with communion, to welcome the Holy Spirit. I am emotional just thinking about it. 3,000 people singing "Hallelujah" or "Praise to the Lord" in their mother tongue. People diverse and distinct unified together by our Salvation, being challenged to go forward and be unified, to do justice, to show God's light to this world. Hearing God's word and knowing it is true for all of us. Seeing the children of delegates and knowing that we build these bonds of unity for our own children--that they might know that God works in many wonderful and mysterious ways in many parts of the world, in the old and the young. I can hear the trumpets and drums and choral voices--as hints of the glory to come. I see dancing and raised hands and singing and clapping. God was present, and I believe God was honored.

There is still more to come. God has been using many things in my life to hone my thinking on what it means to live as a member of his world church. I am eager for tomorrow when I take my kids to the Pow-wow downtown (and hopefully take pictures and be part of the dance circle). I am hopeful they meet some of my new friends.

On Sunday, about 20 delegates from the conference attended church with us at Oakdale. I was able to bring a special greeting to certain delegates from the island nation of Kiribati (which was an honor for them to receive). I shook every person's hand and truly welcomed them. But what impressed me the most is when I sat down, J whispered in my ear, "Mommy, I shook one of their hands and said hello."

There is a part of me that thinks that that is what all this is for. To teach my kids that they are part of a larger body, that they are part of the world church, that God loves them and they can give that to others. And if in all my volunteering that is what they learn, God will receive honor and I will be a proud mommy.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude no one could count, from every nation, people, tribe, and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. And the cried out in a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God, and to the Lamb who sits on the throne."

And that's what I'm doing this weekend. Nope, I am not predicting my own death or even Christ's second coming. I am spending the weekend worshipping Creator God with a great multitude. From around the world.

And I am SO excited.

What's going on? Well, two ecumenical bodies who represent Reformed churches around the world are dissolving and merging to create on representative body of Reformed peoples. The Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC) represents 75 national church bodies around the world and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) represents about 200 national church bodies. Joining to make the World Communion of Reformed Churches, this body will represent 80 million Christians world-wide. From every continent (well, except Antarctica) and many nations.

(Want to learn more? Check out the website for specifics.http://www.reformedchurches.org/index.html)

The meeting to both dissolve the two previous bodies and join together a new group is taking place here this weekend. And I get to be a part of it. Nope, I don't have any official role--I'm not a delegate or steward. I am a volunteer. And in this capacity I get to meet people from around the world: show them my college (where everything is taking place), my town, my church, and my family. About 1,000 people are arriving from around the world: Latvia, Uganda, Malawi, Indonesia.

Two highlights everyone should know about (and kick themselves if they live here and can't find a way to experience this). First, Sunday at 4 p.m. is an ecumenical worship service at which over 6,000 people are expected to worship our one God! 6,000 people unified in worship, 6,000 people singing praises to our Holy God. The Holy Spirit poured out on all of us. A mess of languages, peoples, nations, and tribes worshipping together. A true glimpse of heaven. I won't miss this opportunity.

Second, on Tuesday afternoon/evening there will be a Pow-wow downtown where people from around the world will experience our land's cultural heritage. The Pow-wow will be attended by Native Americans and First People's from both the US and Canada. There will be a drum-line and dance circle. I am attending as both a volunteer and a parent. I get to show my kids that God works all around the world--they get to meet people from everywhere, experience God's spirit, and show them part of our nation's heritage.

Yeah, some of this has been inconvenient for my family--I am paying for childcare for some of my volunteering and Eric is giving up golf to volunteer with me on Father's Day. But I wouldn't miss this for the world.

The world is coming here.
And I am going to meet it.
Praise be to God!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pursuing a dream

So I hereby publicly declare that I am pursuing my dream.

Sort of.

For my entire life I have dreamed of being a published writer. Actually, to be specific, I dreamed I was such an excellent writer who had such mastery of words that I was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

Now, I just dream that I can complete a piece of writing.

But to that end, I am actually doing something about it. I am now meeting regularly with a woman who is interested in writing and words. Every time we meet we will each have something written to share with the other for critique, enjoyment and ideas.

It is fun yet scary to think about having someone critically read my writing. Honestly, I think, "what if my writing really stinks--'cause in my head I think it might be the beginning of something good."

To practice my writing skills, I have actually started writing. Because in the end, I can talk about how i love to write all I want, but it is the act of putting pen to paper and letting the words flow that makes me a writer. I try to write every week. Sometimes it's great, sometimes its horrible. But at least I try to write.

But here comes my problem. I don't know what to write about. If left to my own too long, I always come back to two topics (which while they are worthy topics, they don't always have to be my focus in my writing): parenting (both that I am doing and that I experienced) and faith. And usually, it is the intersection of those two things.

So I would like to ask you, dear reader, have you a brilliant glimmer for me? Some inspiration? Some fantastic thing I should write about? Ultimately I know any writing will have to come from my head, but I don't mind gleaning any ideas I can (isn't that what Ruth did to survive in a difficult time?)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Reflections

Wow! It sure has been a long time since a last post, but life has definitely not been quiet. It has been a busy few months--full of school and family and drama and parenting.

But today is a milestone. Today will be J's last day of school for Kindergarten. I can't believe we did it! We have successfully completed our first year of homeschooling. And no one killed anyone! And we still really like each other! Amazing! (not really, but some might think so!)

So as one should whenever ending a major task and looking forward to a new one, I have been doing some reflecting--on what worked, what didn't, what was good, and what was not so good. And because I am a writer, I am writing it down to share with you.

First let me share with you some of our highlights:
This year we followed the drinking gourd (and learned there are certain ways not to treat people), we made our own homemade napkins (including dying, hemming, and decorating). We spent a week in Florida learning about the beach! J learned to read (and is a voracious reader) and K is not too far behind. We have marvelled at how the ant does his work (without anyone telling him how or when to do it) and watched the seasons change from winter into spring. We celebrated four out of five birthdays (the last one is in a week) and lost a first tooth.
Also, as a mom, I have learned when I have had enough, how to ensure I get time for myself, and learned to define what is restful for me (as clarification, going to the grocery store without kids is not restful!).

1) Homeschooling was and is really hard work. But it wasn't ever the teaching that was tough. It was using so much energy to focus on school yet still having to done mundane things like wash the dishes and fold the laundry. It was wanting to shut down from the kids after we were done with school so I could have a little break.



2) I am not an organizational goddess. Not even close. Part of the big challenge of this year was learning where and how to keep stuff. Lots of stuff--from books to teaching tools & manipulatives to many, many "art" projects. In January, I had an organizational meltdown and invested in some shelves that have helped tremendously. But in this coming year, we are adding a new Kindergartner (K) so that means more books, more paper, more things to do. I think some more organization will be needed in the next few months.
3)In many ways, school this year was more about character refinement than academic skills. There was learning to communicate and obey, learning how to appropriately express anger and disgust, how to walk away from a troublesome situation. And so as I look towards the summer and next fall the question I am asking myself is "What do we need to work on? How can we each be better reflections of Christ to our world? How can my young children impact this place?"

4) I loved Five in a row for its access to great books, but I have a sponge for a student who came to abhor reading a story for five days in a row. That has played a big part in choosing next year's curriculum. I am really looking forward to learning about the ancient world with my kids next year: Egypt, Rome, Greece, Mesopotamia, biblical history! Yipee! It makes me all goose-bumpily just thinking about it.
5) I have come to accept that I am a creative person. I love to write, brainstorm, diverge, and create. However, when it comes to schooling, I do so much better if I have a plan in front of me--a comprehensive guide of what books to read and how to cover a topic--then I can diverge. But I need a goal. This realization alone has been incredibly instructive in this past year.

6) Most importantly, I have loved this year. I have loved learning and exploring with my kids. I have loved spending time with them and watching them become excited about this world that God has created for us. Our adventures to the Calvin Nature Preserve, Meijer Gardens, and other places are great times for their curiosity and questions to come out. We have learned so much. About everything. About what it means to be a family, about what things are important to us, about learning to communicate clearly with one another, about how to work together. It has been a wonderful year.


I can't wait for next fall!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

QUITTER!

Yep, we quit--like over the weekend, on Eric's birthday on Saturday. Threw the whole thing out the window.

It was a huge relief--but now I kinda miss it. Go figure!

Going into this diet cleanse, we knew we would run into Eric's birthday. We had made plans to adjust a little for the day. But when we got there, I was still sick enough, that neither of us really wanted to deal with it anymore.

And while I am glad that we are not functioning until severe restrictions anymore and that does give quite a bit more breathing (and eating) room, we miss it. Does this make sense? We miss how healthy and clean we felt, we miss meals full of vegetables and fruits, I actually miss gluten free bread (The good stuff is really yummy!).

In many ways, I learned a great deal about my body and how it reacts to food. I learned that dairy and I, while I still can eat it without great discomfort, are not going to be best buds anymore. I will miss you, cheese! I learned that good food takes a lot of work and thought, but at the same time, it is enjoyed so much more for that extra work. I also learned that we eat way too much of the bad stuff without even realizing its the bad stuff, how we sabotage ourselves from good health by making seemingly "healthy" choices.

Some of the changes we made are going to stick around in some form for our family. We are going to eat a more heavily plant based diet. Don't get me wrong, I still like meat, but I think we will try to stick with meat that we know where it is processed. For this time that means, using up the rest of the cow that is processed and packaged in my freezer. I am going to cut down on gluten in our home by using low gluten & other kind of flours, relying more heavily on other grains and trying to cut a dependence on bread. Also, I am going to try to further reduce the amount of dairy we use, although not cut it out completely.

If someone were to ask if they should try this--I would tell them to go for it, but be prepared to work, to recognize the value of your food, and to be frustrated by how much stuff is in the "easy" food that we buy and consume every day. We felt great (until I got sick) and I think I would be willing to try this again--in the height of harvest season, where fresh everything is abundant. Mmmm, now that would be yummy!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Detox

Okay, so we are more than a week into this and I am also almost a full week into being sick. Hmmm, unfortunate coincidence or connected somehow? It has been suggested to me that possibly this sick stuff has a direct connection to this diet cleanse. But honestly, i am not sure. One thing I can say about this sick stuff is that I do not recall being this sick and for this long since I had pneumonia when I was in college. Is this related to my food? I don't know. I have people who are incredibly knowledgeable in the realm of health-eating telling me that this is a normal reaction that my body is having and when I come out of it, I will feel wonderful. Apparently, my body is pushing out years of toxins that have built up in my fat and this sickness is a result of that. So, as the toxins leave my body, i will feel better than I have in a long, long time.

Is it true? Again, I don't know. But I do have these two questions to accompany this line of thinking. First, why in the world am I this sick and Eric is less sick? I maintain a pretty healthy diet. Meat is not my mainstay (dairy and bread may be). I don't eat a ton of drive through. Beans, vegetables, and whole grains are a normal part of my everyday diet. Why would my body react this way when others around me eat the same or worse and they aren't? Is this a combination of a flu bug and a cleansing body? This to me seems most likely.

But that leads me to my second question: If my body is really rejecting something in my system, how in the world am i going to know what it is when I have rid myself of so much to begin with? How do I choose if it is the meat, dairy, gluten, sugar, or caffeine? (Okay, to be honest, I can probably rule out sugar and caffeine as the culprits, but the point still remains.)

And finally, I cannot find a single reputable site that lends any credibility or gives me any answers. Sure, I can find info on sites that are selling colon cleanse products, but I am not sure that they are 100% trustworthy. Maybe someone, somewhere can shed some light on this for me.

Oh well, until the time when I gain complete clarity or I become well enough not to need the answers any more, I am going to bed--after I take some meds to keep this cough from keeping me up all night! Good night.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Respect

If this journey is teaching us anything, it is that people who have genuine food issues/preferences have a difficult time of it. To buy the specialized foods requires a specialized store; to order out requires restaurants that are cognizant of eating issues. So far, we have purchased prepared food from two establishments: a pizza place that offered vegan toppings and gluten free crusts. The kids had a fantastic veggie pizza (with real cheese) on a tasty gluten-free crust. Eric and and I had an 'interesting' pizza topped with bright green and fresh salad (which in all honesty, I did not enjoy that much!). And then the other night, we went out for a date dinner (with a buy one/get one coupon) and had fresh Tex-Mex with no issues at all. So to those of you who have real issues with food, you have earned our respect as you navigate a world that doesn't always accommodate a serious need. (But on the other hand, I am almost positive that you are healthier because of it and you have more money!)

But what we are finding is that this seriously restrictive plan is almost impossible with the kids. The thing we have run into most is eggs. Meaning, if you want any sort of baked product, it probably has eggs in it. Now I know there are egg substitutes, but in my mind they aren't worth it. So instead we add eggs to our gluten-free bread and pizza crust (and to tonight's bread pudding). That is our one family-friendly accommodation to this diet.

On one final note, Eric has been feeling much better, in fact we both are in better moods and have noticed each other laughing more. Also, I am noticing that I have a clearer thought process. Before I was always foggy and scattered. This week I have been able to focus more, have more energy, and consequently get more done. Many things have fallen into line this week.

The downside: I am now officially sick. And a gluten-free, vegan, caffeine free, and sugar free diet (although tasty) is not comforting to me. A mug of hot chocolate, toast with cinnamon and sugar: those are comfort foods to me. I have done my best. I have not caved in and opened that can of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup (although the salty broth sounds wonderful!) But I have had some hot chocolate. And this morning I was given a coffee drink as a treat (and honestly, it made me feel more sick. . .hmmm). I have had a hard time staying motivated because this cooking is not easy or familiar to me--and hard is hard when you don't feel well.

1 week down, 2 to go.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Day 3--Hmmmm?

Could this be working? Could this change in eating really be changing me already? I think the answer is yes, but I am also hesitant to give too much credit yet--there are still 2 1/2 weeks left on this journey. But at this point, I can say I feel good. It is 9:30 p.m. and while I am tired and ready for bed, I am not dog tired--I can still think. This is an improvement.

But I didn't feel good this morning. Again, I just wanted a cup of coffee and to sit and read for a little bit. So yep, I cheated a bit this morning and with my cup of decaf hazelnut coffee I had a half-spoon of sugar and some milk. It was heavenly. I think I drank the whole thing. Soy milk and agave nectar just don't cut it in a cup of coffee. But if that is my "cheat", so be it.

Yet, the proof is in the pudding and it is still too early to give a whole-hearted thumbs up or down.

Let me share what I love about this plan. I have great meals planned--I have loved the pizza for lunch and the black bean tacos with spanish rice, guacamole, corn-mango salsa, and fajita veggies for dinner. Yum!

What I haven't loved: the fact that I have to prepare everything--breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner, and do the dishes for all that preparation. I feel like my dishwasher has been running non-stop. I know that I could go and buy appropriate snacks, but the $ value is way too much, especially for the number of servings I would get for it. It is stressful to think about this too much. But hopefully tomorrow, I will find time to prep a few different snack items (and some granola) so they are ready to snack and go. (I am also looking for some snack ideas, so if you have any, please shoot them my way!)

This is not an easy way to live. Eric has experienced this most when he is on the road for his cases, he hasn't been able to find many things on menus that he can eat. This has been frustrating for both of us. We are still hopeful it becomes a positive experience for our whole family.

Still, the proof is in the pudding. And I am anxiously looking forward to some promised sugar-free, gluten-free treats! (honestly, I never thought that I would ever utter those words in my entire life)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Day 1--This Sucks!

No really, it was a bad day.

Not only could I not put any sugar in my tea (which needed just a hint of sweet), but I struggled with what to feed the kids at lunch, because I don't have a suitable bread for them yet (i have found a recipe and will make it tomorrow--hope it passes!) And now, Eric's off for a case and we just don't have the right kind of snack foods for him in the house.

We are edgy and I am tired. I really just wanted some coffee today--really, just a bit. I had a headache and at one point, while I had 6 kids at my house, wanted to lay down on the floor and take a nap.

I would hazard a guess that I am suffering from withdrawal--from the sugar, from caffeine, from flour. And I really miss cheese. (I didn't know I ate so much of it) I know today and the next two won't be pretty, but I'm sure I'll make it. I just know that this would be easier if I could hide away all day and not face any stressful situations--you know kids, deadlines, conflict, food preparation.

I also know I sound so whiny right now--but it will get better. I expect that by the end of the week, I feel good. Maybe with more energy, I get the hang of how to cook and feed all of us. I am hopeful.

On a positive note--the kids did not bat an eye at any of the food today--not the oatmeal without brown sugar, or the weird tostadas I made for lunch or the Gluten free veggie pizza (with cheese, for them) for dinner. In fact, they asked for more.

On the menu for tomorrow--peanut butter and banana, a mango dal with sweet rice, baked fruit medly, and something yummy for breakfast.