Friday, February 25, 2011

Love and Success

Yesterday I was blessed with quite a bloggy surprise! I logged into Blogger, and checked my stats as I usually do, then checked recent posts of blogs that I follow.

I clicked over to Rediscovering Domesticity, and saw that my bloggy friend Audra had just entered her first post as a new editor at Gather Inspirit. I was all excited for her. Then I clicked over to read her post, and saw something called Love Ambush.

"What a nice idea," I thought. She encouraged readers to click over to another (unnamed) blog to love on the author of that blog by leaving comments, following and/or praying for her (among other things). I was all ready to join in the fun, when to my surprise, I clicked over and landed right here. Yep, on my blog! (I actually did it twice just to make sure I wasn't trippin' or something. And yes, that word is a part of my vocabulary!)

So, thanks to Audra and the team at Gather Inspirit for making my day yesterday! That was totally awesome, and now I have a few more blog friends because of Love Ambush! (Hello, new friends!)

That was such a timely happening for me, as I was thinking about blogging success (and just success in general) recently. Am I a successful blogger when I have say, 200 followers? When I receive a steady stream of comments? Or maybe when I master blog design? What goal am I working toward with this "lowly" blog of mine?
I think as a blogger it's really easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to other bloggers. It's easy to become discontent with your look, your content or your features. I know I see other bloggers that post daily, who have thriving communities, or weekly link-ups that attract hundreds. But I'm not them! At least not yet. And that's okay!

Ultimately, the conclusion I've come to with blogging success, or any success, is that I just need to do what God directs me to do! No more. No less. Sure there are things that will be revealed to me in time that are key to advancing my blog so that I can reach my goals. I'm still pretty new to all of this (my blog just reached 8 months a couple days ago)! But I know that I'm right where God wants me to be. I have a young family, a home to take care of and other stuff to do. I need to make sure I'm doing all those other things well, and not get caught up in making my blog "all that it can be." I know that God will promote my blog (and other projects and things that I undertake) as I trust Him to lead me. Just like the Bible says in Proverbs 3:5-6:

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths."

What does success look like to you? Do you struggle with trying to build your blog while maintaining balance in other areas?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Could a Co-Op Save You Money?

I think so! Not only that, it would probably improve your health!

I got the idea to join a co-op just last week. I had been reading a blog post somewhere and the author was talking about having joined one. I wondered if we had one in our area, and as I had never heard of one nearby, I "Googled" "co op near (nearby city, my state)."

I was so excited to discover Bountiful Baskets. I pretty much read their entire web site as soon as I found it, looking for the drawback. I couldn't find one. Even my husband was excited about it. I have brought other ideas to his attention before, looking for ways to get healthier food into our home. CSA? Nope. Too expensive right now. (The ones in our area require you to pay for an entire 10 week agreement up front). Farmer's market? Did you see those prices? I tried every rebuttal I could think of, to no avail. (But we'd be supporting our local economy. Don't you want to keep our dollars in our state? We'd be eating fresh produce in's healthier...) I do feel those are valid reasons, and if we had room in our budget, I would love to support our local farmers directly.
Here is what we received for $15
So anyway, in case you don't know, here's how it works: You "opt in" at any particular time. Ours is a week by week agreement. (We make a contribution on Monday, and pick up our basket on Saturday). It costs us $15 for about $50 worth of conventional produce- the same stuff you would buy in the grocery store. The people who run the co-op (all volunteers- so you're eliminating more cost there) scout out the best deals for the members, and basically the cost is so low because there is no retail mark-up. The middle-man (in this case, the supermarket) is eliminated so we get produce straight from wherever the grocery store gets it, and also local farms. In our case, our produce comes from our state first, and then other items come from regional suppliers...other states and some come from Mexico (which is pretty close to us). I think in the case of Mexico, pretty much the only thing that comes from there is bananas, and that is opposed to getting them from South America. The co-op is able to get them at a better price, and in doing so, supporting smaller farms in Mexico rather than a huge conglomerate in South America somewhere.

They also have organic produce available for $10 more per basket. They offer other special deals on pantry staples such as rice, beans, granola, and different oils. These vary from week to week. Produce by the case is available as well. For instance, for the past two weeks, we've ordered 8 lbs of strawberries for our smoothies! It's cheaper than the frozen strawberries we've been getting from the supermarket. We also ordered some really awesome bread. We chose 9 grain bread which contains nothing artificial and nothing I'm unable to pronounce or buy from the store myself! And it was cheap! I'm talking $2 per loaf! And really good, by the way!

a Jerusalem artichoke
Another awesome feature is the opportunity to try foods that we wouldn't normally eat (or even see in the market, for that matter!). It's kind of an adventure! In our first basket, we got Jerusalem artichokes (or sunchokes), which looks like ginger's more full-figured cousin, but is actually more closely related to a potato. We also got a bunch of Forelle pears, which I had never seen or heard of. They're like cute little mini-pears.
a Forelle pear

You really can't beat the prices, and joining a co-op means fewer trips to the grocery store! My husband is happy, I'm happy, our children are happy, our planet is happier. In my opinion, you really can't go wrong with this option.

The only reason I could see that it might not work for someone is the fact that you have very limited time to pick up your basket. We have a twenty minute window in which to pick up. And you have to pick up from a specified location. Bountiful Baskets has several pick up locations near us, and I noticed they are active in several states. Is one of them yours? Do you have a co-op in your area? I think it would be totally worth it to look into it- if you haven't already!

I can hardly believe that it's taken me so long to discover this awesome program. I've lived in my area for over 15 years! I don't even know of anyone nearby who is a member of a co-op. Now that I know about it, there's no way I will go back to paying full price at the grocery store for produce! (Unless there's just something I need).

Could this opportunity be a benefit to your family and your budget? Have you ever been a part of a co-op? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Linking up here:


Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Love Story

Several months ago, I shared the story of how my husband and I began our pursuit of marriage. Here is the rest of our story, in honor of the month of romance.
                                                                               . . .
After that phone conversation, we agreed that we would talk to our pastor as a way to receive accountability and counsel for our relationship. It would've been something I would talk to my own parents about, but for one, I was already living on my own, and two, my mother passed away when I was a teenager, and I was basically estranged from my father and my step-dad was mostly out of the picture at that time as well. Plus, we were both on staff and wanted to make sure we had the blessing of our pastor/employer. We did not want our good to "be spoken of as evil" (Romans 14:16).

We met with our pastor, and by the end of the meeting, he said "I don't see any reason why you two shouldn't go ahead and start making plans to get married". Of course, I left his office totally giddy. We had already known that he usually advises a couple to have at least a year-long courtship. We were not any different.

I'll take a minute to bore you (just kidding) with some details about what I believe about courtship and premarital relations. While I know that God can use any situation to bring about His will, I don't believe in casual dating. You know, the kind of relationship that people say, "let's just see where this goes." I believe in being more intentional than that. And I believe that is what God desires (at least from me). I feel that people should not really "date" unless they are already intending to marry. Not to say that you must marry any person that you get involved with, but if you have no intention of ultimately entering into a marital union (or if you aren't ready for that) you should hold off on getting involved, period. I feel like that's setting yourself up to be in a relationship that does not honor God. That's what I mean by casual dating. If you have come to the point in life where you feel you are ready to consider marriage (and I know this point is different for everyone) you should take the time to get to know someone. Both should be mature enough to be upfront about their desire. Too many women don't want to talk about marriage because they're afraid of scaring the guy off. Let him go! Seriously! I think as ladies we waste too much time playing games with guys that have no intention to get married.

But I digress. Two people should be mature enough to let their intentions be known. And mature enough to walk away if those intentions are not compatible. Besides, we as believers should follow Matthew 6:33 "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you".

Anyway, I had already taken a lot of time to think and pray about my relationship with William long before anybody said the M word (marriage). So it wasn't like it was a crazy, spontaneous decision to pursue marriage with him. I know that our relationship happened in the best way (for us) in that we were receiving counsel from our pastor, and also living it out in front of everyone. I think that a lot of times when two people get involved, they isolate themselves, and that makes it way more tempting to go down a path that will dishonor God. Not only physically, but it might take people away from their family, friends or their church, and ultimately their relationship with God. Sadly, I've seen this happen too many times. If the special people in your life don't approve of your relationship with someone, it really might be time to re-evaluate your involvement with them (I'm talking to single folks, so you married people don't get any crazy ideas, okay?)

Shortly after the meeting with our pastor, we set a date. August 5th. One year from the date of "the talk". We were so excited to plan our wedding (okay, I was excited to plan our wedding), and there was so much to do.

Ultimately, during our courtship, we spent a lot of time together getting to know each other even more. We discussed all sorts of things from sex, to money, to children, to what our future aspirations were. During the first part of our courtship, I had my sister living with me. Then after she moved out, I had another friend move in temporarily. She needed a place to stay, and I needed help paying the bills, so it worked out great!

William and I already knew that we would not live together before marriage. It was just a conviction we both had. Personally, I don't believe that living together before marriage is a great idea for anybody. We had committed to sexual purity until we were husband and wife, so living together was out of the question. In fact (and some people will probably think this is crazy) we usually didn't even travel together alone. We would meet at restaurants or wherever we would go for a date. We usually were out in public when we would spend time together. Admittedly, we were not perfect in following our own rules, but I think having those guidelines really helped to keep us from giving into temptation.

Well, we continued to meet with our pastor on nearly a weekly basis for our premarital counseling. We covered lots of ground, and we discovered that our pastor was definitely not shy about discussing the S word! (As it should be! That's such an important part of marriage that many people are not equipped or ill-equipped to handle.)

As more and more people began to become aware of our impending marriage, we were often met with comments like, "I knew you guys had marriage in your future". To which I often replied "I wish you would've told me!"

Ultimately, that year was spent working quite a bit. We spent a lot of time planning church events, and we even had a small group that we led together. (We met at my place, but my groom-to-be would have to wait outside until the first people showed up! Ha ha!) We also went out to dinner on a pretty regular basis. Our favorite places to eat were Italian restaurants. A mutual love of Italian food aside, we discovered we had vastly different tastes. He's a big meat eater, and I'm a big veggie lover, for example. We never could share a pizza!
The cake from my bridal shower

We really are quite different individuals. He is a majorly talented musician, and I...not so much! In fact, I've been involved in almost every single area of ministry except for music! He's very outgoing, and I am more reserved. We are similar in the most important areas, though. We both love the Word of God, so it's always easy (okay, easier) to settle a disagreement between us. God's Word is final authority. We both love serving others, and have strong convictions about commitment to our local church.

In the summer of 2006, we were wed. We got married at our church, and had our reception at a local hotel/conference center. We had a traditional wedding, officiated by our pastor. We each chose three members of our bridal party...and each of the people we chose either represented someone from our past (like a close friend/family member), someone we looked up to, and someone we had a mentor relationship to. (That was not really deliberate, but it was the connection I made later on.)
In retrospect, I probably wouldn't have opted to spend so much time or money on our wedding. It was really beautiful, don't get me wrong. But it really flew by! I'll admit, it was fairly stressful to plan everything too! Ultimately though, we both enjoyed the day. We loved seeing so many people that have been positive influences in our lives in some way or another. And, we really wanted to be a blessing to those people for helping us to become the people we are.

We ended the afternoon's festivities tired, but ready to get on with married life! We drove home together, gifts in tow. I think we opened all of our gifts and cards that afternoon! That evening, we drove up to Sedona for our honeymoon...alone. In the same car!

I feel that God really blessed our desire to honor Him in our relationship. Sure, we have our challenges, just like anyone else, but I know He's always with us. And He is faithful!

So, how did your marriage story unfold? Share in the comments! 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Keys to Overcoming Anger- Discovering Physical Causes

For those of us that seem to constantly struggle with anger, it would be prudent to look for hidden physical causes. I'm not usually one to use physical problems as an excuse, but there actually is some merit to looking to imbalances in our bodies and what not for clues about where our anger issues are coming from. They may not be the entire reason we struggle, but solving these problems can go a long way to helping us overcome anger in our daily lives. If you take some time to discover these hidden issues, you will be glad you did (and so will your loved ones!) Here are just a few conditions that could explain the role of anger in your life.

I first learned about Candida during a health seminar several years ago. I didn't think too much of it back in those days, but since I've been researching ways to overcome food allergies and other health issues, this one resurfaced for me. Candida is caused by an overgrowth of the yeast Candida Albicans that naturally occurs in our bodies. When Candida overgrowth is a problem in your body, it can emit over 70 different toxins into your bloodstream! Some symptoms of Candida are digestion related, like gas and bloating, but it also has mental symptoms. Some of those symptoms are anxiety, hyperactivity, irritability, mood swings, depression, inability to concentrate and PMS. Some other "interesting" symptoms include sensitivity to fragrances, migraines and low sex drive! Wow!

Candida can be caused by many factors. The most common causes of Candida is repeated antibiotic use, extended use of birth control pills, and a diet high in carbohydrates and sugar. The best way to get rid of Candida Albicans overgrowth is to follow a (temporarily) strict diet that avoids sugar (including fruit), certain grains, caffeine and some other foods/ingredients.

So if you have anger issues accompanied with any of the other symptoms, you may want to read more about Candida.

Adrenal Fatigue-
I had been hearing about Adrenal Fatigue here and there, but I didn't really know what it was until recently. Basically, our Go! Go! Go! lifestyle is taxing our adrenal glands (which are there to aid in our fight-or-flight response which is useful in stressful situations) and our bodies aren't able to cope under stress properly. What happens when we mistreat ourselves by being constantly on the go or being under stress all the time (or having an unhealthy "relationship" with caffeine- meaning you can't go without it...even if you only consume a small amount). These kind of things really mess with your adrenal glands, and can knock your body out of whack. (I know that's really scientific sounding, right?) The anger connection with adrenal fatigue may be something for you to look into if you tend to be "quick" to anger...and back down easily when confronted. A few more signs of adrenal fatigue are excessive tiredness (you wake up tired, and don't really get into the day until evening time), feeling unable to cope, and being slow to recover from illness or injury. Click here for a more extensive list.

Adrenal fatigue can be relieved by cutting out caffeine, processed sugars and carbohydrates, and making sure you are getting to bed at a reasonable time (no later than 10:30 p.m.)

Leaky Gut-
Leaky Gut is a condition in which the lining of the small intestine becomes permeable. Undigested food proteins can "leak" through into your blood stream wreaking all kinds of havoc on your body. You may not think that you could possibly suffer from this condition, and go along thinking that what you experience is just "normal"- but take a look at some of these symptoms and see if you experience any of this (in addition to anxiety and mood swings): abdominal pain, bloating, heartburn, migraines, poor memory, hair loss, brittle nails, and constant hunger pangs. (There are more signs, but those are just a few that you may not suspect would indicate Leaky Gut).

Many of these symptoms seem to be unrelated, but every part of your body is connected, and dependent on the proper functioning of the other parts. Also suspect leaky gut if your children have any kind of digestion-related challenges (like allergies or allergic symptoms) or any kind of mental issues- many moms of children diagnosed with Autism have also been found to have Leaky Gut Syndrome- as well as the children themselves (sorry, I can't find where I read that or else I would link to it...or give a more accurate statistic!)...which to me would indicate that mom was passing stuff onto the child during pregnancy. 

If you suspect you have any of these issues, I encourage you to do some more research into these conditions for yourself. It would also be beneficial to contact a local naturopathic doctor who can help in diagnosing these conditions (as I am obviously not any kind of health practitioner- just a mom who has been searching for ways to combat health conditions in our family- including anger on my part!) Yes, anger can affect your health even further too! We put ourselves under a lot of stress when get overly upset- especially at little things in our everyday lives.

Getting proper amounts of rest, eating well, eliminating too much sugar, caffeine and carbs is a good way to overcome most of these problems if you can relate to any of this. It may seem like a big sacrifice to give up a "normal" lifestyle, but at the end of the day, it will pay off! You will have more peace and definitely be more pleasant to be around (especially to the most important people in your life)! Consider this passage from the Bible:

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 1 Corinthians 6:19 (I know in context, it's talking about sexual behavior, but it applies to how you take care of yourself too!)

Oh, and just as a side note, I've basically eliminated caffeine (except for the occasional chocolate "fix" and the iced tea I just drank) and I've noticed a huge increase in my ability to be patient with my family members- I am way less irritable than before! Lest you think I'm dispensing advice without following it myself!

Have you experienced any of these symptoms? Do you think they may be linked to the conditions I've described? Share your experience!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Home Management Binder

Okay, so would you all believe that we JUST got our van back (yes, from the "great van towing of 2010")! Now, I can finally finish moving in (because you know I had already done as much moving in as I could, right? Umm...not so much!)

Anyway, I'm super excited to have all of our stuff in our possession once again (including the two hampers full of dirty laundry- ahem!) By the way, our cup now officially "runneth over" and my new stance is that no more stuff can come into our home until further notice!

In the recent influx of stuff, I came across my handy-dandy Home Management Binder, or Control Journal, if you will, (a la Fly Lady).

As you can see by the picture, the last time I used it and actually adhered to my routines, was November 18th! I was still getting ready for the move. I really believe that this will help me get back on track with my housekeeping and such.

Here's a tour of my Control Journal:
Here is the front cover. I had sent my husband to the store to pick out a new binder for me after back to school time (when all the school supplies were on clearance) and told him to pick out a "fun color". He picked out orange! Now I know you're all wondering how much we paid for it, but I don't remember now. Sorry! But you can likely get a binder like this for just a few dollars. Anyway, in the front cover, I inserted an inspirational confession that I adapted from Women Living Well. The title says "Your Home is a Haven" and basically, I changed all the pronouns from the example of Home #2 so that I could confess it over myself during those times when I need some motivation in my homemaking everyday. I think it's important to put something here that represents the vision that you have for your homemaking. It could be a picture from a magazine (or of your own home on a really great day), a Scripture, or something else inspirational that represents the goals you are working toward.
Here is the first page in my Control Journal. I took Fly Lady's advice, and used sheet protectors, and I also picked up some fine tip dry erase markers so that I could cross off the tasks that I complete. (And then wipe it off to start anew the next day!) I once learned in a Franklin Covey workshop that when you cross off items on your "to do" list, it releases endorphins. I'm all about any kind of perks that come with being diligent! The Fly Lady says that one should have a morning routine and an evening routine. You can even add in an afternoon routine if that helps you. I could see that as being something helpful for those with children that go to school or working moms (depending on what time you get home) or for college student wives, as I know some of you are. :)
Next is my evening routine. (Note in bold lettering the admonition "GO TO BED AT A DECENT HOUR!" I really need to read that everyday!) You can't really tell by this blurry picture, but this routine includes getting your clothes ready for the next day, as well as shining the sink. Can I just say that it is so refreshing to wake up to a nice, clean, shiny sink? Try it sometime if you aren't in the habit, and you'll want to make it a habit in a hurry!
Your Control Journal can include many other things, like important phone numbers and other information. Even a monthly calendar! Check the Fly Lady's site to get some more ideas. In the back of mine, I have past weekly menus along with shopping lists. One of these days, I'm going to get uber-organized and make some kind of master shopping list. Maybe even a master list of meals my family enjoys along with ingredients that are needed to prepare them. You can get really creative and make up all kinds of helpful sheets- whatever may help you run your home more efficiently.

Using my Home Management Binder helps me answer the question: "What do I need to do today?" I already know, at a glance, what I need to do to keep my home in order and when to do it. And, the more in the habit I am of doing all these things, the faster it goes, and the more time I have to spend doing fun things with the children during the day (and of course other stuff too)! 

She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. Proverbs 31:27, NLT

What helps you to stick with your routines?