Thrive

20130214-134619.jpg

Thrive. Do we thrive wherever it is God has planted us? “To everything there is a season and a purpose under heaven,” Solomon wrote in Ecc. 3:1. Seasons. Our lives are comprised of season after season. Some times it is frigid, frosty and gray. Other times it is warm, sunny and delightful. During those sunny times all we want to do is sit in the sunshine and enjoy the delightful rays of God’s goodness towards us. During winter, we often question, ponder and pray. Each season serves a purpose. In nature each season brings forth different fruits much like the seasons of our lives bring forth their own unique fruits: Love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, faithfulness and so forth. God is always there, always with a purpose for each season of life, whether it be in nature or our hearts.

When we first started looking into eating more wholesome foods, it was primarily because we had a child. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew eating vegetables was a good thing, but I never liked vegetables. Ever. At times I could choke down a salad, but usually I was hungry twenty minutes later and ended up eating more food than if I had skipped the salad. My parents can attest to this. My parents would sit with me at the dinner table for hours some nights trying to get me to eat just a few bites of broccoli. As a child, I mastered the art of discreetly hiding my vegetables anywhere I could (napkin, in my shirt sleeve, and so the list goes) just to make it look like I had eaten something and could be excused. As I got older and could decide whether or not to make or order vegetables, I opted to skip them more times than not.

Growing up and entering the workforce, I heard rumors of people who went to farmer’s markets instead of buying mass grown vegetables. I thought they were nuts. I could understand maybe having a vegetable garden since I assumed it would be cheaper to grown one’s own vegetables (like my mom did), but I could not wrap my brain around why someone would go to a farmer’s market to pay more money for vegetables, fruit, meat and dairy.

One blustery winter night our daughter decided to make her grand appearance. Soon thereafter, I realized, I would somehow have to get her to eat vegetables. I could not feed a child what I had been eating. I already had a few digestion issues from our diet back then. How could expect to raise a healthy child on what we were used to eating? Simply put, we could not.

Since my husband and I both worked full-time at jobs we loved (e.g. had no problem working extra), dinners for us had always been quick, heavily processed foods if we decided to “cook” at home. Sure, we would make the occasional homemade feast, but even those were mainly a few processed sides (instant mashed potatoes, etc.) paired with decently cooked meat (bought as cheaply as possible at the grocery store).

After our daughter arrived, I realized we would need to make some changes. It did not take a rocket scientist to realize our eating habits were not the greatest. So, we started to look into what types of foods to eat and the healthiest way to prepare them. There is an incredible amount of information out there about food. My inbox was and is continuously bombarded with articles on diet and health, most of which try to motivate us with fear in order to get us to eat or behave a certain way. Fear is a powerful and often highly effective motivator. However, fear stunts any ability for a person’s self to truly thrive. It forces people to do something not because they truly intrinsically believe they should, but because they are afraid of what will happen if they do not do something a certain way.

After doing months of research and trying to sift through an inordinate amount of information on food and health, we initially made several resolutions for our family, such as no food in our house containing HFCS or MSG.

Now, three years later, looking back at all the things we have “resolved”, we have realized for the most part our wholesome eating practices come down to eating food most closely resembling how God made it (e.g. in its natural form). For instance, our meat is grass-fed because cows were created to eat grass. We found that avoiding HFCS and MSG (along with all the other bad chemicals put into our food for flavor or as preservatives) means avoiding nearly all processed foods. Eating food that does not contain pesticides means buying local (where we know our farmer) or organic. If we want more affordable food, we buy seasonally because it is cheaper.

It is easy to get caught up in the “fear-factor” so many, hopefully, well-intentioned groups and doctors utilize to motivate people to a healthier lifestyle. I am constantly astounded by the atrocities found in the American food industry. It’s interesting and terrifying. For most of us, we are so far removed from the food industry that we are both fascinated by it, since we do not understand how it all works and fits together, and terrified by it since we most of us buy our foods from the supermarket where we have no idea where it came from or whether our food will recalled because it was a part of a major food catastrophe.

When my husband and I started to peel back the layers of meaning behind all the food directives sent out by large and small entities who attempt to motivate people by fear (do not eat X because it causes cancer or high blood pressure), we realized, at least for us, most of the recommendations we decided to adopt in our own home can be summarized into the following: Eat “real” food and eat food most closely resembling its natural form (unaltered by chemicals or processing). Do not misunderstand me. I have a healthy respect for people and organizations who are trying to raise awareness in our culture of the link between diet and health. I am guilty of this myself here at Wholesome Living. However, even entities who are disseminating accurate health and diet information can do so in such a way that we can find ourselves being motivated by fear (fear of cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.).

At some point in our own lives, the choices we have made motivated only by fear will stall out because they are not authentic choices. Yes, our family initially made our choice to avoid HFCS because of its negative health effects, but today we continue to avoid it because we no longer prefer its flavor. HFCS is counterfeit for the real thing. We have come to appreciate the natural sweetness of a raspberry or a peach.

Eating seasonally has taught us a lot of things. I am always reminded of the parallel between God’s outstanding creation and our own lives. I have found eating seasonally helps us not to “stall out” or grow bored of a certain food. We only eat certain foods for a few weeks or months out of every year. In the case of my beloved fiddleheads, we only get the luxury of eating those once or twice per year. Yet, we look forward to the foods associated with each season. It’s like a passionate love relationship, only with food. It is the same with Christ. If we have only come to Christ because we fear hell and do not develop a relationship with Christ, it too will stall out or we will drift. The seasons He brings us through help us to thrive and grow in relationship with Him. If we were always in summer, we would grow tired, even of the sunshine. It would cease to delight and amaze us because we would always be in it. If we were always in winter, we would grow utterly despondent and never understand the joy and goodness of the Lord. Seasons help us each to grow spiritual fruit in due season.

I hope today, no matter the season you find yourself in, you are able to grow and thrive in the Lord; and I pray if you are in a difficult season, you courageously continue on and learn to thrive even now knowing He will bring forth fruit in His time. “For we are His workmanship” (Eph. 2:10).

*This post is shared on Raising Homemakers.

Advertisements

Wholesome Living Hotel Challenge Home Again!

Today, I am writing this post of the wholesome living hotel challenge series from our home. We found out we were able to head home a few days after my husband’s store opened. Turns out, the grand opening was such a success my husband was told he did not need stay on location for the typical requirement of two weeks. Instead, we stayed a few days after the store opened and were able to return home yesterday night after the girls and I had stayed in the hotel for a total of eleven days.

I will most likely write a few follow-up blogs as a part of the series, but I will not be posting “live” from our hotel room anymore. I am incredibly thankful to be home again. I admit, I almost cried when we walked through our front door.

The most difficult part of the trip was our lack of sleep. Most of which was because of the fire alarms. The alarms gave our girls horrible nightmares and, from day one (when five alarms went off for the hotel’s annual alarm testing), our girls were terribly frightened to go to sleep. They could see the alarm on the ceiling each night and at nap time. Anytime they heard a beep of any sort, they woke up in tears. There was only one night during the eleven days we were there when the girls slept through the night completely. Most nights, we were up with them in the middle of the night for at least a few hours or the girls would end up in bed with us if we could not get them back to sleep. Even if the girls were in bed with us, it still took some time (on average-an hour) to get them to calm down enough to sleep.

The best part of the trip was getting to see my husband at his store on opening day. It was a blessing to see his success and him in action at work. I am so thankful he has a job he loves.

The best part of the trip, wholesome living-wise, was successfully learning to cook in such a tiny space. With only two stove burners, microwave and a dishwasher, cooking on a regular basis for a family of four was quite a challenge. I am proud I we were able to have so many “home-cooked” meals during our stay. We ate thirty-three meals while we were there and only ate out five times total. Granted, eleven of those meals were from the hotel’s breakfast buffet, but we tried to have mainly healthy foods from the buffet. The hotel had a fabulous made-to-order omelet station, which was wonderful. So, if we account for the breakfast buffet, really, we were only responsibly for twenty-two meals and five of those we ate out. Not bad. We only had one fast-food purchase and one pizza delivery. The other meals were at sit-down restaurants where we ordered responsibly. Yes, we could have made all our meals in our room, but there is a time and a place for eating out and enjoying a break from cooking, and so we did.

The worst part of the trip, wholesome living-wise, was my re-addiction to baked goods. Even though Starbucks does not serve any foods with HFCS, artificial flavors or dyes, etc., I still do not think their foods quite meet the definition of wholesome. But, they do pair oh so well with coffee and there was a Starbucks right across the street from our hotel. When I am stressed (and I was for most of this trip), I crave warm drinks and baked goods. It’s awful. I caved far too many times to a baked good to go with my afternoon coffee on this trip. Actually, now that I think about it, I only caved four times (and those four times happened to be on the last four days we were there…), but still. I am disappointed in myself.

It feels surreal to be home again. Driving around, getting groceries this morning with our girls, I kept thinking to myself, “Did we just do that?” “Was that a dream?” “I can’t believe we just did that!” Isn’t it amazing the things God brings us through? Since we have been back (e.g. this morning), I converted our daughter’s crib to a toddler bed (since she was already in her own “bed” at the hotel) and packed up our cloth diapers. She is asleep right now in her “new” big-girl bed and potty-training starts up again bright and early tomorrow morning! I am excited for these two new adventures and thankful we can work on them in our very own home!

In closing, our three year-old daughter was praying today for our lunch and during her prayer, she prayed, “and God please bring us more good adventures…” So be it!

Wholesome Living Challenge Day Ten

Day ten: There is nothing like being stuck in a tiny space with your kids to show you where your parenting skills need work and where your parenting skills are bearing good fruit in your children’s lives. In many ways the past week and a half has felt like we are living in a fishbowl where everyone can peer through the glass and see our family round the clock. Whether it is neighbors, housekeeping, front desk or maintenance, there are plenty of people around to watch our family at all hours of the day or night.

Sometimes we have neighbors in the room next door or across the hall. Then, I worry they hear all that is going on in our room. If I know some of the rooms around us are occupied, I try to keep the noise down in our suite, hoping not to disturb anyone. Keeping kids quiet all the time is quite a task. We also see the guests in the hallways and breakfast.

Just this afternoon, I had to take Moses out for a potty break. He had to go right during our lunch so I got his leash and the girls and I went mid-lunch to take him out. We ran into a guest in the hallway and I instantly realized I should have wiped our youngest daughter’s face before we left our room. She had been eating blackberries at lunch and thought it was funny to take the blackberries, put them up to her eyes and pretend she had blackberries for eyes. It was cute, but messy. When we were talking with the other guest, I realized our young blackberry comedian looked like she had been in a boxing match or fallen down a flight of stairs. She looked like she had two black eyes. I tried to think of a way to creatively work into our conversation an explanation why her face looked so bruised, but could not come up with anything without it being awkward. So, I just prayed the guest would not notice. The guest was busy chatting about and petting our puppy so I do not think he noticed. Of course a few hours after the fact, I realized I probably could have said something like, “Yeah, Moses is great to have around. He does a great job cleaning up after these two. I bet he will love to clean up the blackberries off my daughter’s face once we are back from his potty break.”

Then, there is housekeeping. They get an intimate, up-close look at our rooms every time they come in to clean. On the days I know housekeeping is coming, I frantically dash around tidying up. I clean throughout the day, but the puppy is constantly pulling toilet paper off the roll and shredding it about the rooms. The girls have their limited supply of toys out and about, and seems just before housekeeping arrives the girls decide to pull out all their toys or clothes. Despite my diligence in attempting to keep up with my two girlies and the puppy, it seems there is always just one more thing to pick up.

The front desk has been quite helpful and friendly, but the front desk staff can hear when our girls choose not to obey us and instead take off running and squealing down the hotel halls. This happens about once a day. They also see our children at breakfast where my husband and I daily work with our children on eating the foods they were given. I am sure the front desk has heard us often tell our children something like, “No, you cannot have a chocolate covered donut for breakfast” or “Please do not dump your milk all over your eggs or drink syrup right from the bottle.” Actually, a few of the front desk employees have chatted with me about having to tell their kids the very same thing, so I know this is not just my imagination. They have admitted to me they have heard us at our breakfast table.

One of the front desk clerks also saw us last night when we requested a new room key. I had forgotten to lock the upper bolt on our door and our daughter opened our door for Moses to go “out”. Moses dashed out the door and down the hall. I darted after him and the girls darted out after me, laughing hysterically. All four of us ended up locked out of our room just as our pizza delivery guy (yes, I caved a second time and ordered pizza) was coming down the hall. Moses made it down two hallways and nearly to the front desk before I caught him (I was delayed in my chase because I had stop and politely tell the delivery guy to wait just a minute, we would be right back). The pizza guy was very kind and thought the whole thing was hilarious. I do too, in hindsight.

This adventure has been a humbling experience. We are not used to living our life around so many people. For the most part, I have enjoyed the interaction with others. Most people have been gracious when our children are not behaving as well as they should. Many, many people have congratulated us on our children. Not because of anything special our children did. They merely congratulated us on having children. The first time it happened, I did not know what to say. I was surprised. I have heard parents congratulated right after a child is born, but never a few years after a child is born.

After staying here several days, I realized our children are just about the only children here. In ten days, we have only seen three other families with children. Two of those stayed just one night. The other family has been here for a few days I think. There are several guests who have been here quite some time for whatever reason. These “regulars” have wholeheartedly accepted our children and seem to enjoy having them around to observe. I do not think it is because we have exceptional children. I think it is because these people, who are living away from their homes, are not used to seeing children around. They have laughed at our children’s antics and sympathized with us when our children were having trouble sleeping because of the fire alarm.

I tend to think of life in a fishbowl as people always looking at us being critical. In our “regular” non-hotel life, we have always tried to be transparent with those around us. We have an open door policy at our house and often have people over. We have the same expectations for our children in public and in private.

One of the greatest blessings of this trip is being able to see how others view our children. Peering into our glass fishbowl, they see children. Little people who are able to bring joy, laughter and a smile to the face of even the grouchiest of guests without even trying. Children bring wonder back to our lives.

As a mom, I often lose sight of the beauty of childhood. It gets lost in the daily grind of cleaning up mucky messes, training, and making sure everyone is healthy, clean and fed. At times it is hard for me to pull my head out of all thousands of details involved in taking care of children and look at the big picture.

Life in a fishbowl is not just people staring in at us. It is also us staring back out at them. Instead of the critical eyes, I almost always expect to see, I saw eyes that, for the most part, recognized something in my children that I often overlook or take for granted: their value as children. I love my children. I do. Allow me to explain. These people saw my children from outside the fishbowl. They saw our children for who they are as people. They did not see our children in light of how many things need to be done to to take care of them or what areas of our children’s character need strengthening. Outside the fishbowl, these people saw our children simply as children and that, I must say, is refreshing and rejuvenating. I need to do a better job of balancing these two perspectives.

This adventure has also shown us areas where our diligence in parenting our children a certain way has brought forth good fruit in our children’s hearts. I have noticed more than ever the various character attributes of each of our children. Indeed, it seems those attributes have been magnified during our stay in our itty-bitty hotel suite. Much like being able to see the big picture, knowing our children better is always a wonderful thing. Even if there are areas of our children’s character that need work, knowing our children and how they tick gives us a better idea of how to parent them. It takes spending time with our children to know them and since we have had a lot of extra time here, I feel as if we know our children better than when we arrived.

So, here at the end of day ten, I am thankful for:

-Lots of one-on-one time together
-Somehow being able to laugh instead of cry during some of the more challenging moments of our trip
-Slow blinks and sleepy smiles
-Books
-Chance to workout on some fancy equipment
-Squeals of laughter from our girls
-All the crazy and brilliant ways our girls have decided to amuse themselves while we are here