Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Change of Word for the Year 2014

I wrote last week about my word for the new year- I said that it was going to be HEALTH.  I honestly didn't pray at all about it... just assumed that it made the most sense :-).  Health is one of my goals, but it isn't supposed to be my focus. 

I spent quite a bit of time in prayer yesterday, and it was amazing.  God has taught me so much this year, and I have come a LONG way from where I was a year ago... actually, I've come a long way even in the past few months. 

With all the time I spent with Jesus, I came to one conclusion: my word for 2014 needs to be LIVE. 

LIVE life.
LIVE for Jesus.
LIVE to give.
Eat and exercise to LIVE.
LIVE to love others.
LIVE to serve.
LIVE to be who I am called to be. 

These aren't "resolutions," just what I feel God telling me to do this year... I have just survived for far too long... It's time I LIVE. 

This is my song for the year- Running to You by Shane and Shane
"My heart just started beating; Your breath filled up my lungs.  My eyes are finally seeing what You've done and who I am!
To You, I'm a dead man raised, a liberated slave.  I'm running.  To You, my hands are raised.  I'm giving everything!  I'm running!
I'm running, I'm running, I'm running, running to You!"

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Weekly Meal Plan: January 6th-12th UPDATED

*****UPDATE... Apparently I did make this plan too early... I have made some changes based on some crockpot recipes that I have found (and other recipes that I like).  I moved some of the recipes from this meal plan to the following week... so they are still being used, just a week later!

I realize this is pretty early to write/publish a meal plan for the second week of January when it isn't even January yet, but I'm doing some early prep/shopping, so I wanted to go ahead and have it written! 

One thing to keep in mind... some of the recipes/meals aren't considered "Paleo" because they contain dairy or legumes, and I'm okay with that.  My goal is mostly whole, real foods! 

Breakfasts and lunches will be in list form, and the dinners will be listed by day (based on what is going on at home that evening). 

A few more things to know are that we will probably do the same meal every Wednesday (because of church) and Friday (because of game night).  I also typically do a roasted chicken once a week because my kids love it, and I can use the leftover chicken in other meals.  I try to keep it as simple as possible!

Breakfasts: (alternate the following)
  • Green smoothies (my favorite is kale, frozen banana/pineapple/mango, Greek yogurt, and raw or almond milk), boiled egg
  • Grain-free banana bread, fried egg
  • Scrambled eggs and veggies (zucchini, bell pepper, onion)
  • Uncured Bacon and scrambled eggs
Lunches: (alternate the following)
  • Boiled egg, raw cheddar, zucchini muffin, raw veggies and hummus
  • Uncured ham, raw cheddar, paleo bread with raw honey, raw veggies and hummus
  • Salad: Spinach, kalamata olives, sliced bell pepper, sliced uncured turkey, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette (1 part olive oil and 1 part balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp fresh pepper)
  • Leftovers

Monday, January 6th
Crockpost Whole Chicken
Roasted asparagus (I linked this recipe because this is basically how I make it!)
Quinoa (cooked in chicken stock)

Tuesday, January 7th
Skillet Honey Pork Chops (recipe from eMeals)

  • 6 boneless pork chops
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon pastured butter

Season both sides of pork chops with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-
high heat; add pork chops, in 2 batches if necessary, and reduce heat to medium. Cook chops until well browned and juices run clear, about 10 minutes; transfer each batch to serving plate, and cover with foil. Add onion and thyme to skillet; cook 4 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in ¾ cup water; increase heat to medium-high. Bring liquid to a boil; simmer until liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Stir in honey; add butter, swirling until melted. Serve onion mixture over pork chops.

Sweet Potato Planks (also from eMeals)

  • 4 medium-size sweet potatoes, cut into wedges about ½-inch thick
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with foil. Toss sweet potatoes with oil in a large bowl; sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper. Toss well. Spread sweet potatoes on baking sheets. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until tender, turning once or twice.

Wednesday, January 8th
Burrito Bowls
  • Cooked Pinto Beans
  • Brown rice
  • Leftover chicken (from Monday)
  • Avocado, tomato, and raw cheddar
Thursday, January 9th
Venison Vegetable Soup

Friday, January 10th
Game night foods:
  • Coconut oil/sea salt organic popcorn (melt 3 tbsp. of coconut oil in a pot, pour in 1/4 cup popcorn, cover, and move pot back and forth until all corn is popped)
  • Raw veggies with mashed avocado
  • Fresh pineapple, apple, and banana with honey Greek yogurt
  • Uncured salami
  • Raw cheddar
Saturday, January 11th
Citrus Chicken Thighs (this recipe is modifed a bit from Emeals)
  • Marinate chicken in 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/2 cup lime juice, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper
  • Pan-sear chicken in olive oil
Roasted veggies- diced/sliced sweet potato, onions, bell pepper, broccoli with olive oil/sea salt
Quinoa (cooked in chicken stock)

Sunday, January 12th
Baked sweet potatoes with Kerrygold butter and coconut sugar or sucanat (or baked russet potatoes with all the toppings), salad

  • Raw veggies and fruits
  • Apple or banana and nut butter
  • Homemade Lara bars 
  • Boiled eggs with real salt
  • Raw cheddar cubes
  • Nuts and seeds with coconut chips and dried fruit
  • Paleostix

Transitioning to Nutritious Foods in a Balanced Way

One of the things that I have struggled with in the past (when eating nutritiously) is balance.  I completely clean out my pantry (because that's what all the blogs say to do), and throw out anything that is not nutritious.  I focus 100% on a specific way of eating, and I lose my life in it.  It only lasts for a little while because I realize that living that way isn't real life... especially with a full time job. 

One of the mistakes that I made in the past when trying to go gluten-free/doing the Paleo/Primal way of eating is trying to replace the baking that I did with gluten-free baking.  Instead of just focusing on eating meats/eggs/cheese/veggies/fruits/etc, I was trying to bake all these foods that didn't turn out really well... which left me frustrated... and left me giving up.  I will do some baked-foods, but not a whole lot... and the ones that I will do will be simple!

I also have decided that completely gluten-free is unrealistic for a busy life (especially for someone who doesn't have to omit it for specific health issues).  Like I said in my last post, 80/20 is my goal... and my focus will be more on adding nutritious foods into my diet and less on taking foods out.  Over time, adding in the nutritious foods will decrease the "bad foods." :-)

It is SO easy to get lost in all the blogs out there and feel that unless you're doing everything the way they say, you're failing.

I don't have time for that way of thinking, nor is that healthy.

I've learned so much over the years about eating nutritious foods, and I'm going to do my best to put that into the new lifestyle of eating well/exercising.  And if I "fail," I'll just give myself grace and move forward. 

I'm working on a post with my meal plan.  This plan will start the week January 6th (we won't even be home until the 1st, and that's mid-week... I like starting my meal plans on Mondays!).  I'll be working towards transitioning until then... slowly adding things in. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Word for 2014: Health

When I started teaching full time, I pretty much let everything else go by the wayside.  I decided at the beginning of the school year that I needed to be able to focus on my family and my job, and that was all I could handle.  Now that my mental health has improved, I realize I can now move on to the next important thing: my physical health.

I try to always come up with a "word for the year" as a focus (because let's face it, New Year's Resolutions typically fall flat by about mid-January).  My word for 2014 is HEALTH.  In this, my friend and I are going to work together to eat more real foods and exercise regularly.  There are a few things that are necessary to make this work (for both of us... we're both full time teachers): simple, inexpensive, and balanced.  The goal is a more Paleo/Primal way of eating (low grains, more meats/eggs/veggies, but not dairy-free), but I cannot obsess over it, so I'm thinking of making a goal to eat this way about 80% of the time.  That's where the balance comes in. 

Coming soon...
  • My weekly meal plans with simple real food recipes
    • These will include breakfasts, to-go lunches, and simple dinners
    • These will also include the prep work that will be necessary to make this work
  • My weekly grocery list
    • The main stores that I shop at are Costco (for bulk items) and Trader Joe's (for the weekly foods)
    • I will also use a local food co-op for raw milk, yogurt, cream, and eggs (it's not necessary to do this, but I have the resource, so I will use it!)
  • My exercise plan
    • Yet again, keeping it simple to be consistent
I have been trying to get back to eat better/exercise more consistently but have struggled to due to no planning (and I NEED accountability).  That's why I'm starting the new year with a plan: it'll help me to follow through!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Difference Between Anxiety/Depression and "Normal" Emotions

I have struggled with anxiety and depression for years.  Years.  I don't remember a time that I didn't struggle with it.  I remember feeling like the world was ending on a regular basis as a kid.  I remember freaking out inside on a regular basis... especially in high school.

Losing Joey the way I did, then losing other people in my family, then moving, then moving again, then having babies and struggling with postpartum issues, then changing jobs, then........ well, life has been hard...

Like I've mentioned so many times on here and my old blog, it all hit really hard this past summer.  I think all of the things that I've been trying to "be strong" through just overwhelmed me, and I wasn't able to be strong any more.

Often, I believe out of trying to be encouraging, people would tell me that my feelings were "normal."  It was normal to be overwhelmed and have feelings of anxiety.  It was "normal" to feel depressed at times.  It was normal to have bad days.  It was normal to be frustrated with my kids and yell.  It was normal to feel like a bad mom.  It was normal to need alone time.

What I don't think they knew about telling me that how I was feeling was "normal" was the fact that it made me struggle to hope.  I assumed that because this was "normal," I would live in the deep pit that I lived in for the rest of my life.

I was told to focus on the good in my life; I have so much to be thankful for.

I was told that it was a choice... I could choose to live in anxiety/depression, or I could choose to live in peace.

Again, because of all of these words, I felt more defeated.  I kept thinking that I was doing something wrong; I should have been able to stop those feelings.  I have no reason to be anxiety or depressed...

Now that I'm not living in the deep pit of anxiety and depression (which I attribute to finding the right combination of medications and counseling), I now know that those "words of advice" were all wrong. 

I'm not here to make anyone feel bad... just to shed some light on what anxiety and depression is like, and they are not "normal" feelings that can be controlled.

I had a bad day yesterday.  I came home feeling as though my ability to control my class was completely gone... and that must mean that I can't teach (never mind the fact that it was the day before Christmas break and it was "Winter Party Day").  Then, out of stress, I wasn't the nicest to my kids.  Then, even though it was our 10 year anniversary, I didn't pay any extra attention to my amazing husband, even though he deserves the world.

I woke up in the middle of the night after a bad dream (I won't even go there), laid in bed, and over-analyzed everything for a little while.

The beautiful thing, though, is that this over-analyzing didn't last the rest of the night.  I over-analyzed for a little while, prayed, did some of my some relaxation techniques that I learned in counseling, and was able to fall back asleep.

Then this morning, I woke up, spent time with Jesus and felt refreshed.  I'm not worried about things anymore; I'm able to move on.

This is the difference between depression/anxiety and "normal" emotions: I don't live with it day in and day out.  I don't have a 500 pound weight on my chest.  I don't have an upset stomach 24/7.  I don't lose sleep every night.  I can breathe normal.  I can use the relaxation techniques because I can remember to use them.  I can enjoy life.  I can enjoy my family.  I can handle bad days.  I can see the good and be thankful.  I can live with a positive attitude because I feel positive.  I feel like I can persevere through the hard moments.  I know that life is hard, and I can handle that.  It doesn't make me struggle to live each day.  I have peace.  I have hope.

No one really understands the depth of anxiety and/or depression unless they've experienced it.  

I don't hope that on anyone; though, know that if someone is going through it, just love them :-).

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Amazing Music

I just thought I'd share some of my favorite musicians and songs.  I'm a sucker for good music, and well-written lyrics.  I'm thankful that God uses people to glorify Him through music.  
Enjoy :-).

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Reflection during Ice Days

Today is Day 2 of Ice Days at home.  We have about 4 inches of ice on the ground, and we really can't go anywhere.  We'll see how much longer it lasts... it's not supposed to warm up enough to melt the ice till tomorrow or Monday.
Yesterday, I mostly just spent the day relaxing, not thinking, playing games with the kids, working on a few things.
Today, I have started the day with Jesus, and have started some reflection.  I thought I'd share :-).

I will admit that there is some randomness to this post... bare with me :-).

I have an online journal through Penzu.  I haven't used it as much lately, but I was just reflecting through some things that I wrote a few years ago, and God truly spoke to me through it.

I wrote this after my first Kenosis trip to Colorado (our church's 8th grade leadership trip).  This trip was the summer of 2011.  I taught 2nd grade the year of '10-'11 and taught 4th grade for the next semester, then left because I couldn't handle the difficulty.  Now I wish I hadn't left, but honestly, I think we are where we're supposed to be now... and I wouldn't have learned all that I learned if I hadn't.  God can use anything :-).  I am where I'm supposed to be right now, and that's all that matters.

Jesus, while on was on my trip these are some things that I heard LOUD AND CLEAR:
1) Time with YOU is necessary... everyday!
2) Being outdoors takes away anxiety!
3) I am a teacher... that is my calling... it doesn't make me less of a mom, it makes me who I am. Denying that is denying my spiritual gift, given me to serve You.
4) Use the time and money that we have to love others and to make memories as a family... don't waste time and money!
5) Ignore Satan's screams of lies... and listen to the quiet whisper that is Jesus.
Then, this past week, I have learned a few more things:
1) Philippians 4:8... Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think of these things.
We all know that we are all imperfect... why dwell on it? When I struggle with thinking of negative things... turn my thoughts to things that are good.
2) Be who I am... I am passionate about everything... I think deeply, love deeply, feel deeply, and hurt deeply... I process out loud. I like to share what God is teaching me... and through that, He helps others. It's okay! I can't please everyone! And I'm SO glad for that realization!!
3) As I have read my journal and old blog posts, I see Your calling ALL OVER the place... and I have listened to Satan's screams for far too long... I am a teacher!! 

He has made His calling on my life SO clear at some points in my life, and during moments of extremely high anxiety, I have thrown that calling away because I was deaf to Jesus' whispers due to screams of Satan.

I also lose sight of the fact that He has called me to teach for HIS glory very easily.  I often make it about myself... how I am viewed as a teacher.  How good of a teacher I am... and I often miss the mark.

I'm currently reading Comfort Ye My People: The Real World Meets Handel's Messiah as an Advent devotional (it's amazing by the way), and this was part of today's reading:

"Think about this for a minute: 
What am I offering to God?  My work?  My money?  My talents?
Are those things being offered in righteousness?  Or is something in the way of a righteous offering?
What stops me from making my offering in righteousness?"

Now that I know without a shadow of a doubt that my calling is teaching, how is He being glorified through it?  Or is He?
I often find myself getting caught up in pride.  My pride gets in the way of His glory, and I'm learning very quickly that I need to let go of some things.  Is my work about Him?  Or my own glory?  Do I spend my time working on plans, activities, etc for the benefit of my students?  Or my own glory?  Do I desire for Jesus to be seen in me?  Or am I too busy wanting to be seen as a "good teacher" that Jesus isn't even in the picture?

Am I offering my work to Him?  I should be, but some days I'm not so sure.  Is there something in the way of a righteous offering?  Yes, myself.  My pride.

If my focus is more on His glory and not on how good of a teacher I am, the anxiety that is with-in it actually diminishes... because I no longer have to worry about it... because it's not about ME and how good of a teacher I am.  It's about Him and loving through Him.

I also reflect on how we use our money... not so well.  I struggle with a righteous offering of our money because I view it as our money, not His.  I also struggle with faith in this area.  We've struggled financially for years, and I have a hard time letting go of "our money."  I talk all the time about giving, but actually doing it comes much harder.  I'm working on this area, and I know that God knows that I desire to give more.

Good thing is, God's grace is sufficient, and He doesn't NEED our money... it's just all about our heart on this issue.  And His grace is even sufficient for my heart on this issue :-).

Reflecting on these things has been so good, and I refuse to get caught up on the "shoulds and shouldn'ts," I just know that God will continue working in me and through me as He is growing me to be more like Him.  We all have things to work on... and I'm thankful that His grace is always there for us even in the midst of the ugliness.

On another note, I'm so thankful for these days at home with the family.  Here are some pictures :-).

I am more than blessed.  I am so amazed at the fact that for the first time in years, I am able to enjoy life.  I am not weighed down by the burden of anxiety, and I love life!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Simple Advent Season

Last year, I pulled out all the stops.  I found all these amazing ideas for homemade gifts on Pinterest.  I went to Hobby Lobby and spent a fortune on items to make these homemade gifts.  I found amazing Advent activities in which we would do fun activities every. single. day.

And I failed.  Miserably.

When I say I failed, I mean that the gifts didn't get made, the Advent activities rarely happened, and I was extremely stressed by the season.

I spent almost my whole Christmas budget on items to make gifts, then I didn't have time to make them.  I barely had any money to buy gifts after that...

The kids went to our numbered envelopes each day to find what we were supposed to do that day, and if it was too difficult, I said "not today."

It was too much.

This year, I decided to have a Simple Advent Season... one in which the focus is on Jesus and love, and not on activities and hours spent making gifts.

I decided to do all of my Christmas shopping online.  I did most of my shopping before Thanksgiving, and all the gifts are on their way.  I decided to keep the gifts simple, and as much as possible, buying gifts through websites that support people in other countries.

The kids are each just getting a few gifts that they want, some books, and we got a family gift of a telescope this year.  Stocking stuffers are simple, and they are things that they need and/or can use.  No more junk!

Other family will be receiving things that were purchased through the website Ten Thousand Villages (a website in which all items are made in other countries and the money actually goes back to support the individuals that made them), gift cards that are helpful or enjoyable, and some picture gifts.  We also purchased some chickens for a family in need through World Vision in our kids' names.

Our family naturally does activities that are fun during the Christmas season, there's no reason to force it.  Doing things like watching Christmas movies, drinking hot chocolate, making Christmas crafts, baking, making scented playdough, are all things that we do... we don't need a specific day to do them.  That just causes anxiety when it becomes impossible to keep up!

Here are a few blog posts that I found helpful to promote the simplicity of the Advent Season:

Girl Talk: Advent Reading For Kids

Advent: Why It Matters (and how to do it sanely)

Advent with the Jesus Storybook Bible

Printable Advent Jesus Storybook 

We'll be following the Girl Talk one pretty closely; though I don't have some of those books so I'll be subbing some with these:

I purchased this for the Kindle: 

I'm not assigning certain days to our readings because I don't want to set myself up for failure again.  We will read each day, and I will choose what I feel like reading that day :-).    

I'm so excited about the simplicity that we have decided on this year.  I don't feel one ounce of stress, but only joy!

Will you join me?