Wednesday, July 16, 2014


For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;  if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12: 3-8)

Growing up in the church, I was often taught about spiritual gifts and that we should use the ones we possess to God's glory. I always had a hard time figuring out which ones were mine. I was no prophet. Although I could teach, was I really good at it? I can give, but when I gave did I give generously or with strings attached? And anyone who knows me, knows that I sure as heck don't show mercy. Encouragement always stuck out to me as not a "real" gift. Anyone can encourage (which is true). But can just anyone have a heart for encouragement? 

I'm often at a loss for words. I have never been the outgoing, center of the conversation type. I'm much more awkward than insightful. In the past, when I've had conversations with people about their situations, frankly my mind goes blank and I am terrified of inserting my foot in my mouth and causing more harm than good. So all I've ever done is listen and inserted a "wow" or "goodness gracious" or the best one, "I'll be praying for you." While all of those phrases were heartfelt and genuine, they were never really the best response. And while I'm now no Shakespeare when it comes to situations like this, I've realized what my response should be. 


It's not telling people what they want to hear. It's not giving out fake compliments or empty phrases. It's not lying and saying things will get better if you have no idea if they will or won't. The true gift of encouragement is looking at people through Jesus' eyes, seeing what he sees, and then saying it. When I slow down and listen and observe and take every preconceived notion and thought out of my mind and just see people... how can I not see the beauty that is within? How can I not see the strength and resilience that shines? How can I not see that we're all just getting by?

A funny thing happened to me I started to do this. When I encouraged people for their strength, it spurred me on to be stronger. When I encouraged people for their positive attitude, it made me see just how ugly negativity is. When I saw that everyone struggled, I gave more grace for myself and for them. The more I encouraged others, the more encouraged I was. 

We think we have to tell people what to do or what they're doing wrong or what they did wrong. While there are, of course times when we need to speak truth in love... IN LOVE.. and if we can't honestly speak it in love then we shouldn't speak it at all. I'm learning that every conversation doesn't need to be peppered with my opinion. At times, whether in agreement or in disagreement, all people need to hear is encouragement, and maybe... just maybe... if your opinion is right, the Lord will lead them to that on their own. It's about using discernment. It's about cultivating a love for our God so we can really learn to love people. 

So I challenge you. Take a day to build one another up. Encourage your husband. Encourage that person at the gym who runs faster than you. Tell your kiddos just why they're awesome. Have a person and situation that you're just on the fence about? Take a step back and REALLY look at the situation and find something to encourage them with. Take yourself out of the equation and focus on others. You'll be amazed at what you see. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

C-Section Confessions


The number of unplanned c-sections that I have had.


The number of times I dealt with failure over unplanned c-sections.

I know it sounds crazy. I know I may be too hard on myself, but I'm being real. I'd like to say, I don't judge anyone who has had planned c-sections, anyone who has loved their c-sections, or anyone who wonders what the big deal is. All I'm telling you is about MY OWN journey. MY OWN -isms and MY OWN picture of how I wanted my babies births to be. 

We took the natural childbirthing classes (and great classes at that). I remember doing an activity during one of our sessions about when things don't go as planned and what the most important thing should be to us. I remembered thinking that the exercise was one we didn't need. 

Things would go as planned. 

I would do this.

C-sections were for uninformed women who couldn't bear the pain of labor and didn't have enough endurance to make it happen. 

I'm not one of those women.

I know, the thought process was ignorant. Arrogant.

And absolutely ridiculous.

Child number 1. Exercises done nightly, relaxation practiced daily. Labor started on a day before his due date. This was going to be spot on. 24 hours later. No baby. Exhausted and defeated Momma. Not past 4 cm. I won't tell you the exact words that were running through my head, but it wasn't good. This child was transverse AND posterior. And no amount of labor positions would straighten him up or turn him around. My midwife recommended pitocin to strengthen my contractions in hopes of getting him in position. Strike 1 to my birth plan. And because I was already laboring for 24 hours, and my contractions were going to get stronger, we should start an epidural to get you through. Strike 2. 

6 hours later, no change, no progress, fetal distress. C-section now. Strike 3, the birth plan was out the window. 

Relief. Yes. Indescribable joy. Yes.

Lurking failure. Yes.

It haunted me for months afterwards. I would talk about it and reason it with everyone who asked. Yes, there was nothing else I could do. I trust my midwife and her guidance (still do). He came happy and healthy and that's all that matters. But honestly, I don't know if I believed all of that. My midwife was amazing and I don't feel as though she forced me into anything, I knew she did all she could to make my little man get here as naturally as possible. And while she did her job, did I do mine? 

I came to the conclusion that I did not.

I moved past Colt's birth and set my sights on Baby Number 2.

I would get it right then. I would have another chance. I would do this.

Baby Girl was late. Four days late. My contractions began just like my first. I was ready for this. I knew what to do this time. I labored through the night and on to noon the next day. It was time to go, she was close. 

She was only 1 cm.

What went through my mind at this point was neither Christian or polite.

Anger at myself turned into fear when they could barely pick up her heartbeat. No more labor. It was time to go. And go quickly we did. 16 minutes from the time my midwife called the hospital to the time I was wheeled in the OR. Strike 1-2 and 3 happened all in one phone call. No birth plan considered this time.

Relief. Joy. Excitement. Love.

Delayed failure.

It took a little while this time, but it set in about three days later. I didn't understand why I couldn't do it. 

I processed. And processed some more. And not until recently, almost 8 months later, have I realized what was wrong with this whole picture. Why I couldn't do it. Why I dealt with guilt and failure. Why this was such a hard blow.

It was all about me. 

How could I be so selfish and so self-absorbed to think that the birth of my two gorgeous children was about how great I was at childbirth. Seriously. Reading that last sentence, it's actually laughable. Instead of celebrating the miracle of having a child and rejoicing and praising God that I have two wonderful healthy (and easy) babies, I am lamenting about my so-called failure? Let's talk first world problems. Let's talk reality check. Let's talk about getting over yourself. 

So today... I'm choosing to be thankful for them. I'm choosing to thank God for doctors and decisions and that deep red scar on my abdomen. And if another one comes along and if the doors of that OR swing open for me for a third time, I will still be thankful and not view it as something to be won, but as another grand adventure. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Bread Part Dos

I have been making our own bread for six months now and I was led to do so after staying with the besties for a few days. I had a piece (or 8) of Miss Andrea's bread and no store bought loaf could ever compare. I do believe her hubby said that it was "bread crack". Yes... yes it is... Anyway, who better to talk about the choice to start making your own bread than the lady who inspired me to do so... Sooooo without further ado, here's Andrea:

It all started with an offer from my dear (no, really - she's wonderful!) mother-in-law for a hand me down bread machine. At the time, I was 8.5 months pregnant with my second daughter, chasing a two year old and could barely muster the energy to brush my teeth, much less produce a loaf of bread fit for The Little House on the Prairie. I politely declined. Fast forward about a year, and my husband and I start to really dig into what is in our food, who put it there (Monsanto anyone?, and how to best equip our bodies nutritionally for lifelong health. I was finally ready to give that bread machine a try, and a year and a half later, I am still making 100% of the bread we consume and I've never looked back. Our journey ultimately brought us to start a large organic garden where we grow the majority of our produce, and raise free range organic chickens along with two Nigerian Dwarf goats who my husband would like to milk one day. (I'm not sure I'm on board with daily goat milking yet!)

I'm now on my second hand me down bread machine and what I love about it, is it is so incredibly EASY. Really, it is. My favorite recipe takes me about 7 minutes (with a 5 year old "helper") to prep and get into the bread machine which works tirelessly for the next 3-4 hours to bake up the most delicious, fluffy and nutritious bread you will ever taste. All the ingredients are easily found in your local grocery store, and baking your own bread is also much CHEAPER than store bought. For an artisan style sandwich bread, you'll be shelling out about $4/loaf at the grocery store. I can make one at home for around $1.25, and it's completely chemical and preservative free. And really, you can't beat a kitchen that smells like a bakery for the rest of the day.

Here is my favorite basic sandwich bread recipe. Note that all bread machines are a little different and you may have to experiment a little bit until you get the perfect ratio of wet/dry ingredients.

1/3 cup honey (Or I use a sugar alternative - sucanat cut with honey)
1 1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil (go with coconut - you won't regret it)
3 tbsp dry milk
3 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 tbsp gluten
2 tbsp ground flax seed (or whole flax seed for an awesome crunchy texture. Just know the whole seed won't be absorbed by your digestive system and you'll be missing the nutritional benefits)
2 tsp yeast

If you're not sure you can stick with it and therefore don't want to spring for a new bread maker, I would encourage you to send out a plea on Facebook to borrow one. You may be surprised to find a grandmother, aunt, friend or neighbor has one they're not using anymore and willing to lend out. Once you fall in love with making your own bread, consider also grinding your own fresh flour. (Don't look at me like that.) Did you know that flour can lose the majority of its vitamin content in the first 72 hours after milling? I can only imagine how long some of the flour has been on the shelf in the stores. It only adds about 2 minutes to the prep time, you pay for your flour mill in about one year by purchasing grain in bulk from your local co-op. The fresh flour makes the bread incredibly soft with more fiber and naturally occurring vitamins.


So first off, I would encourage you to at least try to make your own bread. Like Andrea, I have a bread machine, plop all my ingredients in and press a button. Once a week, 10 minutes, really, is all I do. I started off with Andrea's recipe and then tried a few different ones and have settled on a mix of her recipe and an oatmeal loaf! It has been really fun to experiment and I've had a few mishaps along the way. I remember at one point, I texted Andrea a picture of the bread machine kneading TWO dough balls. It was pretty hilarious.

Like Andrea said, you might have to find to right mixture of ingredients for your particular machine.  I began with her recipe and then went from there to find what worked best for us. I tried letting the bread machine do the kneading, then baking in the oven, more water, less water, more salt, no salt, stone ground wheat, white whole wheat, adding gluten, taking out gluten. While all were decently good, they were too dense or too crumbly and didn't last very long. Well, I finally found the combo that works for us... and the angels sing... seeeeeee you get TWO tried and true bread recipes with this post! Here is mine:

1 1/3 c water
2 tbsp honey
1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1 1/2 cup bread flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 packet of yeast

One note to keep in mind, homemade bread is made to be eaten pretty much right away. It does not have the preservatives that store-bought bread does, hence, after 4 or 5 days it's sorta blah.

So.... there's Bread Part Dos.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Week Full of Lunches

I often get asked about what I eat... and how much of it I eat. As far as "cheat day" is concerned, don't ask, I don't keep track of that and frankly, you don't want to know. BUT on every other day of the week, I tend to be pretty strict so I decided to write a post about a week full of my lunches. What I'm eating, WHY, and the WW points calculated for each lunch.

Since I'm working out hard, I want to be refueling my body with some good protein. I opt for natural food sources of protein rather than supplements. That's just me, I have an opinion about it, but I know many others that swear by their protein powder, so to each their own:). I also am really watching my grain intake. Grains are good for most, serve a wonderful purpose, but need to be eaten sparingly. We Americans tend to overindulge in the grain area... bread, granola, crackers, rice etc. Lastly, nothing replaces FRESH fruits and veggies of which I eat alot of, so, I shape my lunches around those principles.

It's no surprise that I'm on WW. Although I know what I need to be eating and how much of it, the whole tracking thing and points thing just really works for me. WW isn't for everyone, so FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. So with that said, I give you... a week's worth of lunches... in no particular order.

 1/2 c black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 T organic peanut butter
1 T roasted red pepper hummus
Handful of cucumbers
1 c of strawberries & blueberries mixed

1 c vanilla lowfat yogurt
2 T grape nuts
1/4 c dried fruit

1 piece of toasted homemade whole wheat bread
1 T roasted red pepper hummus
Cucumber slices and a handful of spinach
1 apple sliced
1 oz of sharp white cheddar cheese

1/2 container of coconut yogurt (this stuff is GOOD and rich)
1 T organic peanut butter 

1 apple
2 oz. lean deli turkey
1/2 red pepper
9 dry almonds

I normally try to separate my points out like this: heavier for breakfast, smaller for lunch and a little heavier for dinner. And I'm constantly eating between meals, an apple and banana between breakfast and lunch, cucumbers or strawberries between lunch and dinner. 

So there you have it, nothing fancy or complicated, but something very effective in keeping you full and FUELED for until your next meal. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Crafty McCrafterson

I regret that the next blog post took so long to post. With a husband out of town, for a full week, it literally took me three days to take pictures of my finished product. Seriously, some days go by and I have no idea what I did all day long but I know I had no time to do anything. Sound familiar?

Anyway, while I don't consider myself homemaker-ly, I definitely can't sew or knit, I have finally come into my own craftiness. I'm proud to say that I'm a whizz with a glue gun, although you must note: no craft of mine will stand up to hurricane force gales. It's held together by hot glue and a little "here's to hopin". All of my ideas have been stolen from Pinterest. I am not an original and when I do go out on originality it almost always crashes and burns and once it has stopped smoking, gets thrown in the trash.

So I have always experimented with the easy/non-expensive end of crafting, a little wreath here...

A felt nativity there...

Fun cake decorations over there...


Nothing monumental or risky. 

So a few weekends ago when I stumbled upon these beauties:

I decided to take the plunge and try out something a little larger and that couldn't get thrown in the trash if it goes south. 

They had a price tag of $15 and $25 respectively and when I asked the lady if she was serious and did the mirror come with the $25 price tag, her response was, "Do you want it to??" I went all Napoleon Dynamite on her and answered, "HECK YES!" So $40 later, these two were sitting in my back yard ready to get chalk painted.

So, as it is with any of my craftiness these days, nothing takes a short amount of time to do. Which is totally fine, as is life right now. It's a start...stop... put away...almost start again...don't touch that...rush...finish... sort of process. So when I had a free moment, Rory and I hopped on down to Rule 42 and talked to the girl there who helped me choose two fun chalk paint colors for these bad boys. Teal (eek!) and a yellow for the inside of the drawers. Although I love bright colors and wish I decorated with them more, I'm a little scared it's going to turn out looking like a carnival, so I have traditionally stayed away from anything other than browns, soft blues or greens. So this teal and yellow thing is huge for me.

Two coats of the teal, and two coats of the yellow.... Next two coats of the gloss finish... and viola!

Now the dilemma was the drawer pulls. While they were ok, I wanted some fancy ones. Nothing seemed to work. So I spray painted them with a hammered blackish and I think they look decent-ish.

Once all settled in their new home in our bedroom, I got a little nervous, because, well, ya'll, they're TEAL. But now that I'm used to them, I love them. Now onto the rest of the bedroom makeover! Who wants to go to World Market with me?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bread: Part Uno

So let's talk about bread. I had a request about writing a post about it, and funnily enough it was already a thought in my head. While many people have chosen to go gluten free / grain free for various health reasons. We have not... yet... or ever. I'm not sure. Never say never. BUT, if that has been your choice then unfortunately portions of this post won't be so helpful to you, but yay for you! :)

As I started to write this post, it started to get VERY VERY long so I decided to split it up into two different posts. ONE about making your own bread (because I do!) and one about what sorts of bread to buy in the stores. So part one is about buying the best bread. Once again, I'm not scientist or dietitian but I do try to make the best informed decisions and have the most accurate information, but sometimes I could get it wrong, so with that disclaimer, don't you want to read more?

When I went to do some research I got a whole lot of articles about the best bread to buy, but it really didn't address ingredients as much as it did nutrition facts. Now, while nutrition facts are important, they aren't the only thing to look for. Sometimes seemingly "good for you" really isn't good for you at all. So in my research, amazingly enough, Spark People had a great article about the ingredients in bread and what means what. Check it out HERE. While it's good information, I don't completely agree with all the breads that they recommend. For example, one of the breads they recommend is Nature's Own 100% Whole Wheat Bread. This is the ingredients list:

So we get an idea of why it's probably not so good, let's dissect a few ingredients:

Calcium Carbonate - this is stuff found in calcium supplements and things like TUMS, ok in small doses, harmful if alot is consumed. You'll see it lists it as less than 2% in the ingredients list, which YAY for a small amount of it, but think if you buy that bread for a lifetime, that'll add up.
Yeast Extract - we all know that yeast is used as an leavening agent to get the bread to rise, but why yeast EXTRACT and not yeast? Yeast extract is CHEAPER.Yeast extract is a is used as a flavor enhancer and also is a hidden form of MSG. See a good article about it HERE and HERE. It's got so much hulla-ba-loo that whoever manufactures (that should be a tip off right there) yeast extract has made their own website to defend this product. HERE they are.
Azodicarbonamide - ahhhh this is the "yoga mat" compound. You know the same ingredient that Food Babe revealed Subway sandwich bread is/was made with? Gives foods a fluffier texture as well as spongy-ness to yoga mats. Yep, it's in this bread as well. 

So delving deeper into some research, it's Food Babe for the win again. I'm sorry guys, she really does the hard work for me. I do believe a friend posted this article on Facebook a few weeks ago and it's good! I was even going to go into the whole, what's-wrong-with-our-culture-and-our-grain-dependence, but she does here in this article as well. So, frankly, I don't have much else to write about.  Read the article HERE.

Did you read it? Because if you didn't the rest of this post won't make much sense.

Ezekiel Bread, that Food Babe (and Snack Girl and a host of other online food bloggers and reviews) lists as a good go-to bread, won't be found in the bread isle... it will be found in the freezer section. Just an FYI.

So that's sandwich bread, what about buns or rolls or baguettes? Looking in the store, Ezekiel makes sprouted whole wheat buns. So, sorry, I just can't find a good mainstream white roll/bun on the shelf that's not full of stuff not good for you. So use the same guidelines as you would sandwich bread... unless you buy local.... which leads me to artisan breads.

Artisan breads...this one is easy. Local. Local. Local. Meaning buy those things from a local shop or bakery that you know makes quality breads with quality ingredients. Newtown Bakery in Staunton is one of those shops that has some of the best artisan breads around!! Organic top notch ingredients. Sometimes local bakeries do not use the best ingredients, so it's important to ask and to buy from one that not only tastes good, but that also puts quality ingredients into their products.

So, let's talk realistically. Do I buy all the best breads all the time? No, but as with everything it's baby steps. We first started out with our sandwich breads, which I make my own, and we're slowly converting all of our artisan breads (we love those baguettes). So I hope that helps, and gives you better knowledge of what to look for when you read ingredient labels and look at that long bread shelf. Stay tuned for Part Dos on why I started making my own bread and a guest post of why it might just be for you!

Monday, May 12, 2014

They's a-Growin'!

So since I know you are so riveted by our life... *enter sarcastic eye roll here*... I thought I'd give you a little update on our straw bale venture.

It's working.....!!!!!!!!!!
 Green Beans...


Squash, Zucchini, Peppers...

Peas, Kale, Cucumbers

Cabbage... (Can you see them??)

Herbs, Kale, Peas, Lettuce and Onions....

Can you tell I'm a little excited?? Things are popping up all over the place and we're gonna have some good food in just a little while!

What have we been doing to maintain? Weeding? NOPE!

Watering? YES.

We've had some good rain here over the last few weeks and I used that as an excuse to not water, but apparently, straw doesn't absorb and keep water like the ground would. It dries out much easier so it really is a water-almost-everyday type of venture. Hence, the soaker hoses buried under the dirt and the downside for those of us who live in town and not on well water anymore, a higher water bill.

So you take the good with the bad, I think I'm just excited about not buying produce at the store for awhile.

How does YOUR garden grow?