Birthday Boy

Today is my hubby’s birthday, and as some of you know, we have a little family birthday tradition around here of listing our favorite things each year, to record how each of us changes and grows.

Ben

Ben’s a hard person to do this with, however, for a couple of reasons:

1) He is so easy-going, it’s difficult for him to label something as his “favorite”. He likes a lot of things, but he’s not as expressive about it as the rest of us, and is not naturally inclined to feel very extreme about his preferences.

2) His memory can be a little on the sketchy side. While I could describe, in great detail, exactly what he was wearing on our first date, fourteen years ago, he has trouble remembering his favorite moments from this last year. Just another example of how God knew we needed to be together. I tell him all kinds of wonderful things about his life that he’s completely forgotten about.

Ben

But last night while we were eating supper, Anika helped me “interview” him, and we managed to list a few of his favorite things:

Favorite Breakfast: At home – yogurt and homemade granola; In a restaurant – an omelette with shredded hashbrowns

Favorite Lunch: A Bacon Cheeseburger, or some kind of sandwich on toasted bread with melted cheese

Favorite Supper: Enchilada Casserole

Favorite Snack: More yogurt and granola, or chips. (The smellier, the better, it seems to me. I will never forget the time we were driving along in the van late at night, and he pulled out a bag of chips to eat while driving, to help him stay awake. He opened the bag, and the smell of sweaty feet filled the vehicle. Unbelievable. And he ate them with a big grin. He always looks very pleased when he’s eating snacks, especially smelly ones.)

Favorite Things to Do: play hockey, golf, spend time with people, hang out with his girls, spend time with me 🙂

Favorite Books: Byzantium, Lord of the Rings

Favorite Thing to Watch: He said if he’s watching something with me, his favorite is Once Upon a Time, and if he’s watching by himself, it’s hockey or The 4400

Favorite Thing That Happened This Last Year: graduating

graduation

My Favorite Things About Him:
His wisdom, and his ability to choose his words very carefully.

His extremely calm, easy-going spirit.

His sense of fun, and ability to make anyone feel at ease.

His desire to try new things, and his steady stream of big, wild, new ideas.

His tendency to burst into loud and lovely falsetto singing at the most unexpected moments.

His ability to keep his priorities straight.

His passion for spiritual growth and discipleship.

His habit of coming in the door and calling out, “Hello, my girls!”

snuggling

Oh, I could go on listing my favorites for a long, long time, but I have much to do today, in preparation for tonight’s birthday festivities. Food will include as much cheese, bacon, and mushrooms as possible, as well as the traditional “picaken”, later on in the week. ( I’ll be sure to share more details about the wonderous picaken once I have pictures!)

How do you celebrate birthdays in your family?

And Here We Are, At Home

So. Coming home from vacation.

Yesterday morning I was doing yoga by the beach, and by evening, I was home in the snow.

beach

I’ve been thinking about the pros and cons to coming home.

My cons included:

1) No beach.

2) Being reunited with my winter jacket. (It is so much fun to run out the door without it.)

3) Loads of laundry, and suitcases full of sand.

4) Jumping right back into the regular, busy schedule.

But because there are two sides to everything, I must admit that I’m very aware of the pros to coming home, as well:

1) I missed our house. (And I really love sleeping in our own bed!)

2) I LOVE having good, clean drinking water running from our taps.

3) Flushing toilet paper down the toilet now seems like a luxury. (I kept forgetting all week! And then I felt super guilty about all the clogged toilets I was leaving in my wake. Now I can flush with freedom. I might throw extra toilet paper in just for the fun of it.)

I was going to come up with an equal number of pros and cons, but for right now, that’s all I’ve got.

Kaylia

pool

flowers

ocean

Have a wonderful Monday, and flush your toilet paper down that toilet with a big smile of appreciation on your face.

Okay, want to help me out?! What’s your best “pro” for being at home, and not in some tropical location?:)

Not Really Adventurous

I’m not really very adventurous. Not much of a daredevil. It’s just not my thing. But every once in a while, I’m driven to do something a little bit exciting.

It always has to do with something other than the excitement, however.

For example.

Parasailing was all about feeling like a bird in the sky, above the ocean, surrounded by blue.

parasailing

And climbing a 126 foot Mayan pyramid? That was about looking out over the green, lush jungle from the very top, watching the birds flying around beneath me.

IMG_3468 IMG_3457 IMG_3463

I don’t do anything for the rush in my stomach, or the desire to do something slightly dangerous. I do it because I want to see the trees, the ocean, and the birds better! That’s a dangerous confession to make publicly, because Ben could easily use it against me. He tried to convince me to go skydiving with him once, but I was completely uninterested.

However. If he would tell me all about what it was like to float through the sky, let’s say at sunset, perhaps, and see all the green fields spread out beneath him, and threw in some descriptions about clouds and/or birds? You’d probably soon be reading a post about me skydiving.

Who knows.

It’s all about the pretty stuff.

ocean

P.S. Ben read that last bit over my shoulder, and got really excited about the possibility of me going skydiving. I still don’t think it’s likely to happen, but if it ever does, you know why I’ll be doing it!

Let’s Go Have a Surprising Adventure

These days, I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s will.

It’s something I often think about, but even more so right now, because I’ve been asked to speak on the topic at a ladies’ retreat in March. And suddenly, every verse I read, every book I pick up, every sermon I listen to, relates to the topic, and it feels like there’s a ton of thoughts simmering in my mind, all slowly coming together and shaping my thoughts in new ways.

And lately, that new shape to my thoughts has to do with God’s will being like an adventure, and a surprise…

god

source (Oswald Chambers)

That’s new for me. I’ve written before about how I was a girl with a plan. I like to be in control of each and every detail, so the idea that the unknown could be a “breathless expectation”?? This has not come naturally to me.

I love how Bob Goff writes about it in his book, Love Does:

I think a father’s job, when it’s done best, is to get down on both knees, lean over his children’s lives, and whisper, “Where do you want to go?”

Every day God invites us on the same kind of adventure. It’s not a trip where He sends us a rigid itinerary, He simply invites us. God asks what it is He’s made us to love, what it is that captures our attention, what feeds that deep indescribable need of our souls to experience the richness of the world He made. And then, leaning over us, He whispers, “Let’s go do that together.”

Most of my life, I’ve been almost paralyzed with fear when making major life decisions – What if I make the wrong choice?? What if I MISS God’s will for my life?

But I don’t think it works that way, anymore. I don’t think He wants it to be something that causes stress and uncertainty. I don’t think it has to be such a big deal. I want to do God’s will, and He wants me to do His will, so I pause and listen, get close to His heart, allow Him to speak to mine, and then He takes my hand and we skip off into the world to have adventures.

Ooooh, there’s part of me that still feels it might be wrong to even say something like that – so flippant and careless! We must be so serious about God’s will, after all!

I seriously want to be in it. Now let’s go do it, and have some fun. We’re going for joy and exciting surprises!

What about you? Do you see God’s will as a stressful mystery to solve, or an exciting surprise to discover?

Pursuing Health in a Temporary World

I realize I’ve been blogging a lot about health in the last month or two. This is the last post I need to get out of my system for awhile, I promise!!

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Sometimes, it feels like I spend an awful lot of time pursuing health.


Much of my day is spent cooking healthy foods from scratch, making natural cleaning products, running from one health appointment to the next, exercising regularly, and trying to resist temptation constantly.

yams

I do these things because all of them are helping me feel healthier than I have in many years. But every once in a while, I wonder if I’m wasting my time…

In the end, I don’t get to keep this body, anyway. Pursuing health is chasing something as temporary as material possessions. Is it worth the effort I’m putting into it?

My friend’s husband says he will keep eating the unhealthy food he loves, die sooner, and therefore get to heaven faster than I will. Junk food for a lifetime, and then, eternity.

Either way, we’ll both come to the same end.

But I can’t find it in me to agree with his strategy. Even though I’ve struggled with health issues for many years, I keep seeing this body as a gift, entrusted to me to care for.

I remember reading about how Jim Elliot kept his body in good physical shape, not for his own vanity or pleasure, but because it was his vehicle for getting the message of salvation out to the people living in the jungle. He wanted to be fit to do whatever it took to spread the gospel, and he did not want his body to hinder him.

As I care for my family, I am reminded over and over that this body is all I get for this lifetime. If I want strength, energy, calmness, and the ability to enjoy today fully, I need to care for my “vehicle”.

If I don’t get enough sleep, I am impatient and short-tempered. If I eat pancakes for breakfast, or anything sweet mid-afternoon, it puts me in a horrible mood – I seem to crash, and am unable to cope with the surge of sugar in my body. I never used to notice it, but as I cut out the unhealthy food in my life, I am better able to pinpoint these patterns.

I’ve been told that pain makes people grumpy. Experience tells me this is true.

This body wasn’t made to last forever, but that knowledge drives me to care more for it, rather than abuse it and view it as “disposable”.

I have no idea if making healthier choices will lengthen my life. But I’m going for quality, not quantity. And it doesn’t take much to see how healthy choices are increasing my quality of life.

Sometimes I still wish that all my efforts were producing more of a difference, and I get frustrated with the body I have to work with.

But the verse that continually pops into my mind is, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”

I think God cares about health, too. I just finished reading The Maker’s Diet, which was extremely informative and enjoyable. Rubin writes about how the laws given to the Israelites in the desert by God are today being scientifically proven to still produce ultimate health in the human body. The Israelites were extremely advanced in their hygiene at that time, and by following God’s laws, avoided many common types of sickness, just by the foods they ate, and their habits of cleanliness.

If God directed them towards health back then, I think it’s important for us today, too.

He made my body.

He has a plan for my life.

It makes sense to me that He desires this body to function well, so that I can live a full life, for whatever length of time He chooses.

I don’t believe Christians are immune to disease. But I do believe He’s given us a lot more answers to health than we may realize, or choose to act on.

And I do look forward to Heaven, but in the meantime, I want to really do this life. I want to enjoy my family, and see God in nature, and be in deep, meaningful relationships with other people. I want to discover my strengths, and use my gifts, and if there is anything holding me back from enjoying all of this, I do not want it to be something I could have avoided by making better choices.

I want to be a good steward of the gift God’s given me for right now, and when it’s time for Him to call me home, I will gladly trade in this body for whatever He’s got for me up there!

I’ll end up in the same place either way, but I want the journey to be as good as possible!

What do you think – how much is health worth to you? To what lengths are you willing to go to care for your body?

What We’re Reading

We are a reading family.

reading

This became clear to me, once again, when I looked over our Christmas gifts, and saw that between the four of us, we received 18 books, and were extremely excited about each and every one of them.

In addition to this, the highlight of the week is going to the church library, and finding even more books to read.

In case there’s another family out there in need of some good reading suggestions, I thought I’d do another book post to share our recent favorites, seeing as it’s been awhile since my last one.

Here are my most enjoyed reads:

1. Undaunted, by Christine Caine. I love listening to her speak, and since her new book is about getting past our fears and embracing the opportunities God sends our way, Ben thought I’d enjoy it, so he got it for me for Christmas. I’m not quite done it, but I’ve enjoyed it. Very challenging.

2. Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne. Friends of ours told us about this book a year ago, and it’s been on my “Wish List” ever since. I’ve read it once, but I think I need to read it a few more times! SOOOO challenging, with many, many fantastic, practical suggestions for how to clear the clutter from our children’s lives, including toys, schedules, choices, and media, just to name a few. LOVED it. I think every parent should read it.

3. A Family of Value, by John Rosemond. I was given this book as a gift when Anika was a baby, and when I started reading it at the time, it seemed like our family wasn’t at the right stage for it. I started reading it when I was down with the flu this Christmas, and am so sorry I waited so long! He has such a down-to-earth approach to family, and I love his ideas on how to teach children what he considers the three most important things: respect, responsibility, and resourcefulness. We will be making some changes in our family…:)

4. Love Does, by Bob Goff. Loved it. I can’t even sum this one up. I wrote about it last week, and I think I’ll be doing another post or two on this one.

And on my packing list for our upcoming vacation, I’ve got: Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Makes You Free, It’s Your Kid, Not a Gerbil, In His Steps, One Thing at a Time: 100 Simple Ways to Live Clutter-Free Everyday, and The Power of Now.

Ben says he’s read so many books in the last year as he finished up his Masters that he can’t remember what he’s read. He did say he enjoyed  Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church, as well as Love Does, which was the book I bought him for Christmas

Anika tends to get a little hooked on certain books for a stretch of time. Since Ben first read The Hobbit to her, she’s reread it on her own about five or six times. They have started The Lord of the Rings, which she loves, but her dreams at night have gotten a little intense, and we’re wondering if it might be a little scary for her, so Ben’s skipping the really intense parts, and giving her a summary.:)

Her other favorites are Mandie books, as well as Canadian Girl and Teddy Jo books.

I just came across this reading list on Pinterest, which looks fantastic, so I think we’ll start working our way through it.

reading

Kaylia completely loves Brambly Hedge, which is so much fun to read, and is beautifully illustrated. She is also going strong with Little House in the Big Woods, either the chapter book, or the illustrated version for younger kids.

And that’s what we’re reading! Any great suggestions out there? I’d love to hear them!

An Invitation to Live

I bought Ben an awesome Christmas gift. I’m not sure who likes it more – me or him. Maybe me. But it’s so good!

It’s the book Love Does, by Bob Goff, and I completely loved reading it. It’s a book full of stories and examples of all the ways in which we need to stop saying we want an incredible life, and actually run out the door to start living it – going out and having adventures, finding people who need help and love, and just doing the stuff we sit around dreaming about.

I’ve never been invited to the Oscars or to Paul McCartney’s birthday party or to a space shuttle launch. I’m waiting for my invitation to National Treasure 3. If I got an invitation to any of those things, or for that matter, to the real White House Easter egg hunt, I’d definitely go. There’s nothing like feeling included.

There is only one invitation it would kill me to refuse, yet I’m tempted to turn it down all the time. I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to actually live a life of complete engagement, a life of whimsy, a life where love does. It doesn’t come in an envelope. It’s ushered in by a sunrise, the sound of a bird, or the smell of coffee drifting lazily from the kitchen. It’s the invitation to actually live, to fully participate in this amazing life for one more day. Nobody turns down an invitation to the White House, but I’ve seen plenty of people turn down an invitation to fully live.

Turning down this invitation comes in lots of flavors. It looks like numbing yourself or distraction yourself or seeing something really beautiful as just normal. It can also look like refusing to forgive or not being grateful or getting wrapped around the axle with fear or envy. I think every day God sends us an invitation to live and sometimes we forget to show up or get head-faked into thinking we haven’t really been invited. But you see, we have been invited — every day, all over again.

If there is one thing I want to learn from these years of being a mom at home with my kids, it’s to accept the invitation, and be fully here, with my girls, every day.

reading

Sometimes I need to slow down and remember that the big, beautiful life I’ve dreamed about is actually happening right now, even though it may look a little small sometimes.

Sometimes I need to be reminded about that invitation to fully live, and I need to really think about the fact that these girlies of mine are the most important part of my adventure, even when the everyday stuff starts to feel repetitive.

The little things are actually the big things.

We remember that, and then we keep going, fully present and alive, ready to experience the next adventure together.

I’m sure there will be many more amazing adventures when our girls are all grown up, and there’s no one continually hollering for Mommy, but I bet I’ll look back on this time and think it was my favorite. What is ordinary and everyday right now will someday be a very beautiful memory, but I don’t want to wait until then to see all the beauty.

I don’t want anything to stop me from showing up and being all here.

3 Reasons Why This is Not a Food Blog, But I’m Trying Something New…

Today, it is exactly five years since I stopped eating sugar.

smoothie

That seems like kind of a big deal to me, so I decided this would be the perfect day to introduce you to a new little project of mine, which involves food.

I love food. I love eating it, making it, and taking pictures of it.

I love the bright colors of vegetables, or when healthy food looks super appealing, and I really enjoy a plate of food with great presentation. If I had time in this life, I’d be a food stylist.

But I will never have a food blog. For the following reasons:

1) I very rarely make up my own recipes.

I love following other people’s amazing recipes, but I don’t “experiment” in the kitchen. That’s just not my thing.

2) I don’t know anything about food photography.

Although I’m often taking pictures of food, I really don’t know how to do it the way professionals do. I could learn, but it’s not close to the top of my list of priorities right now.

3) I’m interested in too many other things.

While healthy eating is very important to me, and something I’m passionate about, I can’t see myself limiting this blogging hobby to food. I love Jesus, I love my family, I love photography, reading, writing, organizing, simplifying, etc, etc. The list could go on and on. A food blog or even a health blog would feel very limiting.

However.

Despite the fact that I don’t want to write an entire blog about food, I’ve been working on a little surprise for all of you who are interested.

I have been approached by several different people who are curious about the way our family eats. I am often asked questions about how I have navigated the different diet transitions my family has been through, including going gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free. (Lots of free…)

Because food intolerances are becoming increasingly common, and healthy eating is on the rise, I have been asked a number of times if I could put together all of the recipes our family uses on a regular basis, as well as any tips for where to find great products, resources, or any other helpful tidbits.

The only qualification I have when it comes to healthy eating is experience. I have read and researched for hours and hours, and I have lived it for five years.

I will never forget that day, five years ago, when my naturopath called me with test results, and her solution to my health problems: a total food makeover.

The day she called me with the results, I was lying flat on the couch, recovering from a surgery which was supposed to treat my infertility issues. I felt about the worst I’ve ever felt, which was probably a good thing, because I was ready to agree to ANYTHING she suggested.

And her suggestion was: No more gluten, dairy, or sugar.

I had no idea what to eat. No idea how to cook. No idea how to survive within the new limitations I’d been given.

The first two weeks were completely terrible. Because I couldn’t eat the very things my body was desperately craving, I felt hungry all  the time. I lay awake at night, thinking about food. I cried a lot.

But I stuck to it, and slowly, things started to change.

Slowly, I found a new normal. And then things went well for a few years.

Until our girls started having too many digestion problems, and Ben and I decided it was time to make some changes in the way our whole family was eating.

So I started all over again. I could feed myself in a healthy way, but it wasn’t appealing for kids.

I’ve spent the last year figuring out how to feed a family in a healthy, appealing way. It is a constant work in progress, as I learn more about what is truly good to eat, and as I discover more recipes.

But it doesn’t stress me out anymore. I enjoy it.

And I don’t ever want to go back to the way we used to eat.

I love what our family eats. I feel truly good about the food I serve. Part of me would love it if our girls could enjoy what “normal” kids eat, but mostly, I’m just thankful for how much healthier we eat because of the food intolerance issues we deal with around here. I have so much left to learn, and many more healthy habits to add to what we’re already doing around here, but I feel that we’re on the right track.

So this is what we’re going to do around here on the blog:

For all of you who have expressed interest in what our family eats, or for anyone who just loves to check out new recipes, and you want some ideas on how to eat gluten-free, dairy-free, or sugar-free, I have decided to add a new page to my blog labelled “Recipes”. I have put together a list of links to all of our favorite recipes, and I will pass it on to you, in an effort to make it easier than it was for me in the beginning.

Also, I am working on a second page which will include all of the resources and health tips I have picked up over the last five years, from the reading I’ve done, and the multitude of healthcare professionals I’ve seen.

What I know, I’ll share!

And...if you have great gluten/dairy/sugar free recipes to pass on, I’d love to have you email those to me, and we’ll share with everybody.

But if you love your wheat and sugar, then by all means, avoid those new pages, and keep coming back for the usual blog stuff! The only thing that will look different are a few new tabs across the top.

And now, I must ask: How many of you out there are with me on this food intolerance adventure?? Any suggestions on how to navigate through all of the obstacles? Any recipes to share?

*Update: I have decided to remove the recipe page from my blog, and to replace it, I have started a Pinterest board with all of the online recipes we use on a regular basis. It is much less time-consuming to keep it updated, and more easily accessible, so I hope you find it enjoyable and useful!:)