Thinking About Goats

Life can be confusing.  Is it a time to courageously step forward in faith?  Is it a time to patiently wait?  A beautiful truth we can know is that God will make His perfect plan known to those who seek Him. The Holy Spirit and Bible are both readily available.  When sought together, they bring much wisdom and direction.  However, that can be easier said than done.  After all, isn’t it more convenient to only talk the talk instead of also walking the walk?

This season of my blog seemed like the perfect time to share more about who I am and where I’m at in life.  My husband and I have been considering all the directions we could go as a family and asking ourselves many questions. 

“You must not only aim right, but draw your bow with all your might.” Henry David Thoreau

So far, I haven’t shared a whole lot about my personal life in my posts.  This is since most of the time I find it’s not necessary.  Blogs can be incredible resources and Facebook has brought a new social experience to the world.  While I take part in and thoroughly enjoy what both have to offer, it seems to me they could often be handled with more care and leave less details available for all eyes to read.  So, while sparing you the unnecessary details of my journey, I’ll hopefully give you something beneficial along the way to take from this writing :).

My husband and I will be married six years this July and our daughter will be two years old in just a couple of short weeks!  We’ve had a home in the town of Ulen, Minnesota our entire marriage, all the while considering a move into the country.  We’ve also always known we would like to have our own business.  These are the BIG topics that have been building up recently, causing us to explore our options.

Time does fly...

Time does fly…


...and keeps on flying!

…and keeps on flying!


Through lots of prayer, research and late nights talking, we finally have direction!  Our plans take both courage and patience.  We’re planning to stay put in our current home for the time being, but are moving forward on a new business venture.  By combining Joe’s woodworking and metalworking skills with my flair for arts and crafts, we’ve put together a business called Against The Grain!  For more on our business and pictures of what we create, check out our Etsy shop.

Even though Joe’s facility for piecing together his creations is a single stall garage…and my end is accomplished in our living room, we’re trudging ahead!

“Start where you are.  Use what you have.  Do what you can.” Arthur Ashe

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This is one of our handcrafted, black walnut benches.

This is one of our handcrafted, black walnut benches.

Days that I’m able to be at home, which are thankfully quite often, are my favorites!  They’re filled with cooking, artwork, writing and housework.  Having a toddler, all of those tasks are obviously accomplished between puzzles, coloring, dress up, countless trips to the potty chair and multiple laps running around the house!  Oh, and I can’t forget the small toy or dog bone that’s stepped on at least once along the way… Of course big chunks of the day also slip by cuddling with my sweetie.

Princess time!  For Gracie, not me... Hey, why don't I have any princess dresses?!

Princess time! For Gracie, not me…
Hey, why don’t I have any princess dresses?!

However, like everyone else, we definitely have our off days.  Instead of singing while doing dishes, some afternoons I’m plugging my ears to muffle the noise of a screaming child.  When she’s struggling through one of those random fits, I look at Gracie and think, “Who is this demanding, crabby-pants and what did she do with my sweet, little girl?!”.  Parenting is a more wild, emotional roller coaster than anything else I’ve experienced.  Thankfully though, having a child has allowed me to have a better understanding of how God must see me. I’m certain He looks at me and thinks, “Who is this demanding, crabby-pants and what did she do with my sweet, little girl?!”.

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At this point, you’re most likely wondering why, oh why, is this titled Thinking About Goats?  Allow me to explain.  My guess is that by now you’ve realized I’m not your normal twenty four year old girl.  I get my milk from a local farm and have homemade cheese aging in my fridge.  Chunks of wood and art supplies are piled on my kitchen table and the entire bottom half of my picture window is completely covered in toddler fingerprints and doggie nose smudges.  The goats only further my oddness by being involved in my future plans.

Down the road, I hope for my family to be in a modest home in the woods…with a shop just large enough for Joe to actually function efficiently.  I want to wake up and gather chicken eggs with Gracie and milk a couple goats.  Then continue on in my days with homeschooling, gardening, cooking, artwork, writing and “necessary” tasks such as laundry and cleaning. It seems like the hardworking, yet quaint existence I’ve always imagined…

So, those are my exciting and probably quite unique plans.  Now, time for the waiting game to see if they line up with God’s design for my family. Until then I’ll continue to lay awake at night planning my little homestead – wasting away my precious time for sleep while thinking about goats.

“I’m an idealist.  I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.” Carl Sandburg

Photo credit for goat picture:

Does greeting us via photopin (license)

Cake Without Frosting?

This post is going to be short and sweet 🙂

I sincerely apologize for the unforeseen hiatus I’ve taken from blogging. There will be an update soon, but know that I fully intend to continue pursuing this blog. It has become a passion of mine that I’m incredibly excited to grow. My head is filled with a billion different topics, sentences, recipes, etc that need devoted time to be organized into coherent writings. The task before me is not a small one…

Here’s a sneak peak of upcoming posts I have planned:

• Series on Making Dairy Products at Home! Ex: yogurt, butter, cheese

• The MANY Uses of Coconut Oil

• Healing Clays – A Forgotten Practice

• Reviving Biblical Roles of Men and Women

• Practicing Self Control in an Out of Control Culture

I’m extremely excited to write these posts! In order to accomplish them, I NEED your prayers. Satan has been attacking my mind and making it near impossible to focus.

So for now, you get this simple thought to ponder:

Living a life without love is like eating a piece of cake without frosting. When it sits in front of you long enough, you will end up eating the whole piece. This leaves you destined to have one of those moments where you look at the empty plate in front of you and think, “Hmm, I don’t even remember eating that…”

Baking cake is an effort made with the intention of seeing joy brought to others through the fruit of ones labor. This frosting-less square clearly did not bring joy. With a little extra effort it could’ve been the most delicious, make-you-sit-down-and-say-Mmmmm piece of cake in the world! Instead, it was consumed without notice.

Don’t be like that piece of cake.

“…but the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13

P.S. Check out my husband and mines new Etsy store 🙂

Against The Grain

photo credit: gateau chocolat / ガトーショコラ via photopin (license)

Bone Broth – A Rediscovered Superfood!

Guess what steaming, hot liquid a popular take out window in New York is serving? And it’s not coffee. You guessed it – bone broth! The establishment, Brodo, has made simple, homemade broth a new health trend. And for good reason!

Until recent times, using all the parts of an animal in cooking was the normal way of life. If a person wanted chicken broth, they made it from chicken bones. They couldn’t go to the nearest grocery store and pick up a can of broth or jar of bullion cubes – which I suspect the majority of American households do more commonly than not. I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty for taking advantage of a convenient option. Don’t we all occasionally? It’s simply a good way of life to be well informed concerning what goes into our bodies.

The bulk of store bought broths aren’t actually real. They contain meat flavors produced in a lab and monosodium glutamate (MSG). Mercola’s website says the following:

“MSG is one of the worst food additives on the market and is used in canned soups, crackers, meats, salad dressings, frozen dinners and much more. It’s found in your local supermarket and restaurants, in your child’s school cafeteria and, amazingly, even in baby food and infant formula.

MSG is more than just a seasoning like salt and pepper, it actually enhances the flavor of foods, making processed meats and frozen dinners taste fresher and smell better, salad dressings more tasty, and canned foods less tinny.

While MSG’s benefits to the food industry are quite clear, this food additive could be slowly and silently doing major damage to your health.”

To get real bone broth, you can simply make it yourself at home for much cheaper! Here’s an awesome quote from Sally Fallon Morell to inspire us to do this –

“What America needs is healthy fast food and the only way to provide this is to put brothals in every town, independently owned brothals that provide the basic ingredient for soups and sauces and stews. And brothals will come when Americans recognize that the food industry has prostituted itself to short cuts and huge profits, shortcuts that cheat consumers of the nutrients they should get in their food and profits that skew the economy towards industrialization in farming and food processing. Until our diners and carryouts become places that produce real food, Americans can make broth in their own kitchens. It’s the easy way to produce meals that are both nutritious and delicious—and to acquire the reputation of an excellent cook.”

So, let’s look at why bone broth is so beneficial!

* It’s rich in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, silicon and other trace minerals. These nutrients are absorbed easily by our bodies.

* Bone broth’s nutritional value also includes glucosamine and chondroiton – which have been shown to be helpful for arthritis and joint pain.

* It helps promote strong bones.

* Bone broth has an anti-inflammatory effect on our bodies.

* It’s also a support to the immune system.

* It’s filled with gelatin, which is amazing for digestive health and beneficial for a multitude of diseases. Here’s information on gelatin from the Weston A. Price website –

“The French were the leaders in gelatin research, which continued up to the 1950s. Gelatin was found to be useful in the treatment of a long list of diseases including peptic ulcers, tuberculosis, diabetes, muscle diseases, infectious diseases, jaundice and cancer. Babies had fewer digestive problems when gelatin was added to their milk. The American researcher Francis Pottenger pointed out that as gelatin is a hydrophilic colloid, which means that it attracts and holds liquids, it facilitates digestion by attracting digestive juices to food in the gut.”

* Bone broth can help to overcome food allergies. It’s thought that one in five Americans today have a food allergy!

* The collagen and gelatin in bone broth is great for hair, skin and nails.

* Some say it can even be helpful in eliminating cellulite and the appearance of wrinkles ;).

How is this superfood made? Some nutrition seekers add ingredients and steps to the process that make it seem difficult. But I assure you, it is not hard in any way! The terms used for bone broth throughout society can get somewhat confusing. It all has to do with how long the bones are boiled. Here’s the the most common terms and the differences between them –

Broth – This is simmered with meat and bones for 1-2 hours. Broth has a light flavor and is a good source of protein.

Stock – This is made with bones, typically roasted before simmering. It’s generally simmered for 3-4 hours and is a good source of protein and gelatin.

Bone broth – This is made with bones, typically roasted before simmering. It simmers for 6-24 hours. This long period of time allows for not only gelatin from the collagen-filled joints to be released, but also rich minerals from the bones such as glycine and proline.

Now, let’s see how to simply and cheaply make chicken bone broth!

1. Purchase a whole, preferably organic chicken.

2. Roast the chicken with whatever flavors you want. Enjoy the meat with a meal!

3. Remove the majority of the remaining meat and place the chicken carcass in a large pot or crock pot. (I recently heard about using a crock pot for this and am excited to try it!).

4. Add about 3 quarts of cold water to the pot. To be completely honest, I don’t ever really measure. I just fill the pot until the chicken is covered by about 4 inches. Then add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. This helps to draw out more nutrients from the bones.

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* Those are all the ingredients I use. Since I always use a roasted chicken carcass, there’s enough flavor in the bones themselves for my preference. If I happen to have fresh vegetable scraps available, which I happened to for the pictured broth, I throw ’em in the mix. Many people, especially if using a raw chicken, add vegetables such as onion, celery and carrot to add flavor. They also add seasonings such as salt and pepper. If you desire to, throw some other ingredients into the mix at this point!

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5. Preferably, allow the carcass to sit in the water for about an hour.

6. Place the pot on the stove and slowly bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.

7. Bring down to a simmer and skim off the residue that has risen to the top and throw it away. Allow the broth to continue to simmer over low heat for 6-24 hours.

8. Pour all of the contents in the pot through a strainer into another pot. Throw the contents left in the strainer away.

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Either use the broth right away, keep it in the fridge for a few days or freeze it. Frozen broth will last up to a year and can be used for many purposes – soup bases, for boiling rice in or for any of the many recipes that call for a cup chicken broth! If you choose to freeze your bone broth, don’t make the some mistakes I have. Such as pouring the still warm liquid into glass jars and freezing right away. This results in many a cracked jars and ruined broth…

The process for beef and fish broths are very similar. Beef broth requires 12-24 hours of simmering and preferably roasting the bones for 30-60 minutes at 350° beforehand. Fish broth requires only 2-4 hours of simmering.

Enjoy your delicious, soul-warming broth! Not to mention the healthy immune system, digestive system, smooth skin, strong hair and reduced cellulite that comes with it!! Woohoo!

Other sources researched for this article:

http://nourishedkitchen.com/bone-broth/

http://draxe.com/the-healing-power-of-bone-broth-for-digestion-arthritis-and-cellulite/

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/02/23/bone-broth-superfood.aspx

http://nypost.com/2015/01/03/nycs-latest-health-trend-is-a-steaming-cup-of-bone-broth/

http://www.weedemandreap.com/3-ways-heal-food-allergies/

Banana Nut Ice Cream – Guilt Free, Only 3 Ingredients!

Does anyone else like to avoid sugar….but still have a sweet tooth? Well I do. And that has led to much experimentation in my kitchen – a pinch of failure here and a dash of success there in attempts to find healthy alternatives to traditional sweets. Making this recipe made my heart happy! Not only did my toddler love it, I made certain that every remaining bit left in the blender was thoroughly enjoyed before washing :).

Now, for the 3 simple ingredients! Drumroll please………

Bananas, any nut butter and pure vanilla extract – which I bet you have all of in your house right now! I used organic peanut butter, but I’m certain almond or sunflower butter would also be good if peanuts don’t jive with you – let me know if you try it!

Bananas tend to get a bad reputation among some health food crowds. Don’t be fooled. Yes, they have high sugar content. But they’re also high in many amazingly beneficial contents as well. When consumed in moderation or in place of a processed sweet, bananas are an incredibly healthy option. They’re high in vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese, potassium, copper, fiber and biotin. These nutrients make bananas beneficial for normal blood pressure and heart function, maintained digestive health and muscle cramp prevention. Additionally, bananas coat the lining of the stomach which protects against corrosive acids. And high levels of tryptophan make bananas helpful for depression. They’re also high in antioxidants. Whew, that’s one nutritional fruit! So, feel happy about eating bananas – not guilty.

This recipe is a variation of one found on Pinch of Yum – a wonderful and inspirational food blog!

Ingredients

2 ripe bananas
2 heaping tbsp of any nut butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Instructions

Peel the banana and cut it into chunks, roughly 1/2″. Place them in the freezer for about an hour, or until just frozen.

Put the frozen banana chunks, nut butter and vanilla in a blender. Blend until well mixed and smooth.

Voila!

You will definitely be surprised at how closely this mixture resembles real ice cream! It’s a truly pleasant surprise. However, the bliss doesn’t last forever – you definitely need to eat it right away or stick it in the freezer for later enjoyment. It should never see the refrigerator. The characteristics you love about it will leave and become somewhat slimy in texture. I know from experience…

This healthy snack disguised as ice cream is enjoyable by itself. But it can also be viewed as the beginning of a whole new world of possibilities! Top a bowl of it with fresh fruit and cinnamon, caramel and sea salt or chocolate chips and chopped nuts. Mm mmm! Get creative and see what new creations you discover with banana nut ice cream!

Caprese Egg Bagel

I must be missing summer. This meal is absolutely delicious with tomatoes and basil fresh from the garden. Oh, to be outside, smelling tomato leaves and getting dirt packed under my fingernails. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen in February in Minnesota… So, store bought produce will have to do. Caprese being absent from the menu all winter long would be ridiculous!

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I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that while I love cooking from scratch, I thoroughly appreciate quick, healthy meals. This one fits the bill!

The following recipe is for 1-2 servings. It would be great served with a side of fresh fruit as an easy lunch!

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Ingredients

2 tbsp butter
1 bagel
2 eggs
2-4 slices mozzarella cheese, depending upon the size of your block.
Tomatos, either a handful of cherry tomatoes or a few slices of a large tomato.
Red onion, two thin slices
Dark balsamic vinegar and olive oil for drizzling.
Salt, pepper, garlic powder and basil for seasoning.

** If you don’t want all the carbs of a bagel (they’re a weakness of mine…), you could layer everything in a low-carb tortilla wrap. I would suggest eating it with a fork and knife to avoid a frustrating mess!

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Instructions

Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Slice the bagel in half and place face down in the pan. Add the two eggs to the pan.

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Season the eggs with salt, pepper and garlic powder and cook to your preference. Add the cheese to the top of the eggs just before done so that it melts a little.

Remove the bagel halves from the pan. Place the eggs on top.

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Add the sliced red onion and tomato…

Drizzle with the vinegar and oil…

Sprinkle on the basil…

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Then eat with a fork and enjoy! Mmm mmm 🙂

Explore The Uses Of Honey!

“My son, eat honey, for it is good, Yes, the honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.”  Proverbs 24:13

It can be spread on bread, added to tea, and used in baked goods. The possibilities with honey are endless! Not only is it sweet and delicious, but it’s also packed full of benefits to your health. Think it’s too good to be true?

Well it’s not! History shows us that honey has played an important part in medicine for hundreds of years. That’s due to its many amazing properties. Let’s look at some of the practical, fun ways to use honey and the ways we benefit from it!

1. Sugar substitute – As a general rule of thumb, use 1/2 – 3/4 cup of honey to 1 cup of sugar. Honey is much more beneficial than sugar. Looking at history, there’s a link between the increased intake of processed white sugar and a rise in obesity, mood disorders, cancers, lowered immune function and heart disease.

2. Full of nutrition! – There’s protein, fiber and 22 amino acids in honey. It also contains the minerals iron, sodium, potassium, phosphorous, zinc and calcium. AND honey has the vitamins folate, niacin, vitamin C and vitamin B6.

3. Weight loss aid – Honey is beneficial for metabolism function. It helps digest stored fat when consumed with warm water. In fact, honey has over 5000 enzymes! One of them being amylase – an enzyme that assists in digesting carbohydrates.

4. Energy source – Since the 64 calories per tablespoon in honey are so pure, they are easy for the body to digest. Which means less energy spent digesting and more left available for other activities!

5. Antioxidant – Honey has the ability to remove free radicals in the body. This helps to prevent cancer and degenerative diseases.

6. Antibacterial and antifungal properties – This makes honey a natural disinfectant.

7. Wound management – The antimicrobial properties of honey help to begin the healing process and speed it up. This makes it useful on sores and scrapes, skin ulcers, burns and wounds. Honey kills bacteria and reduces inflammation.

8. Soothes sore throat – Honey’s antibiotic properties make it very effective for this. Simply add it to tea or eat a spoonful.

9. Creates heathy skin – Drinking milk mixed with honey daily is a regular practice throughout much of the world. It’s known to bring smooth skin.

10. Combination soap and moisturizer – Simply rub onto skin and rinse off with warm water while gently exfoliating. This helps to treat acne and create baby-soft skin!

** Important Information: Do not feed honey to an infant under 1 year old. Here’s a quote from a reputable website that has information I’ve thoroughly appreciated on numerous topics:

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that raw honey not be given to infants under one year of age because of the rare possibility of being infected with the bacteria that causes botulism (Clostridium botulinum). Once a toddler reaches one year old, their digestive system is mature enough to kill any botulism germs.” Ask Dr.Sears

I’m providing that information because I never understood why everyone says no honey under one. In case you’re curious about what botulism is, it’s a serious food poisoning that if left untreated can lead to paralysis of the respiratory muscles, arms and legs.

However, our children with mature digestive systems can very safely consume honey. Once you begin regularly using it, I guarantee you’ll be hooked! But it’s important to remember that with honey, quality matters. Raw is by far the best way to buy honey. Commercial, processed honey is filtered and heated. This removes the majority of its nutritional value and instead creates a basic sweetener without all the benefits. Alternatively, raw honey is unaltered and possesses all the natural vitamins, enzymes and other nutritional properties. Buying raw honey can be a little more expensive, but it’s definitely worth it. It can be found at many grocery stores and health food stores. Here is the link to my source for the local, family owned honey I like to buy.

Three Bears Honey

I’m consistently pleased with the product!

Enjoy exploring the numerous uses of honey and reaping the benefits! I would love to hear any of your input on honey 🙂

Sources researched for this article:

Organic Facts

Pure Healing Foods

Whole New Mom

CDC Website

Controlling The Tongue

“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words with out a heart.” John Bunyan (1628 – 1688)

The tongue is a small part of the body. But when allowed to act freely, it can bring on a world of destruction. Words guide the entire course of every life and possess the power to light it on fire. Today’s culture throws out rash words without a second thought. Social media keeps a track record of all the careless posts, texts and tweets plastered up for any interested eye to read. Once announced, there’s no real way to take a statement back. In some ways, our words are like creatures that fly. They drift into the distance and leave us no way of knowing the many places they will land. However, they are unique in that once released, they are impossible to retrieve. (Concept from a Russian proverb). We are known by our words. They expose the condition of our hearts and can lead towards life or death.

Matthew 12:33-37 shows the extent to which words impact individual futures – Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

We’re aware that what our tongues produce is of utmost importance to the Lord. But what can we do to regularly produce good fruit through our speech? One simple and productive step is to talk less. The foolish use miles upon miles of words while possessing no destination. Whereas the wise use few words that lead in the direction of knowledge and life. When I see someone hold back a statement that I know is dying to be released from their lips, I feel that I’m witnessing true wisdom in action. Words can be hurtful, cause dissension and make us look incredibly foolish. Many times it’s best not to speak at all and instead remain silent. It’s God’s job to avenge and He will in His perfect time. The Lord looks with fondness upon those who practice self control in their speech. Statements that don’t build others up are not worth saying at all. A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4). Do you think God observes you with joy when you allow corrupt talk to pour forth from your lips? If so, you have been deceived. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? (James 3:10-11).

God formed our bodies with two ears and one mouth for a reason – it would be a good decision to take the hint. The moment we cease listening to wise instruction we stray away from true knowledge. A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Proverbs 18:2). After all, if no wood is added to a fire, the flame will die. In the same way, if no harsh words are added to a heated conversation, the disagreement will subside. (Concept in Proverbs 26:20-22). Any married person knows that middle ground will never be discovered if both parties refuse to listen and only wish to speak

So the question needs to be asked: Why did He even create us with tongues? Let’s look at a couple of Jesus’ disciples for an example. Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13). When proclaiming Christ and the kingdom of God, we are to speak boldly and without hindrance! If we ask for the words to give out the saving message of Jesus effectively, He will give them to us. When is the last time you asked that of God?

We’re also instructed to edify and build one another up. A kind word given at the right time can instill confidence in someone who formerly never possessed it. An encouraging statement prompted by the Holy Spirit can give someone the courage to move forward in a ministry when tempted to give up.

Words can break down, lead astray, cause strife and destroy. They can edify, give life, show grace and spread love. How drastically this world would change if we attentively listened and prayed before allowing our mouths to open.

Discerning Sin

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

Satan is not the boogyman or villain from a horror movie. He’s real. He’s a smooth talker. And he’s working full time to win you over. We live in a fallen creation ruled by the prince of all rebellion. He’s constantly at work battling for each and every one of our minds.

It’s high time we pay attention to what Paul wrote the believers in Corinth, “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3). The pull and false allure of a degraded humanity is a constant in our day-to-day lives.

I realized there was a struggle in my own life that needed to be dealt with when I began to cry for no apparent reason on my drive home from a gathering. My struggle had been creeping up for months previous to that occasion.

Around groups of people, I was often dealing with feelings of attack and battling defensive thoughts. I can remember lies being planted in my mind – It really looks like you’re doing a terrible job. Everyone thinks you’re being lazy. They all think you’re dumb and can’t decide anything for yourself.

I’m generally not overly affected by other people’s thoughts towards me – but I am a chronic people pleaser. Satan knows that field of my mind could potentially have prime soil for him to deceitfully plant his lies.

The devil knows our weaknesses and takes advantage of them. But we have a Lord who not only knows us intimately, but also created us. He has so much more power! However, they both have the ability to observe and take note of our repeated sinful tendencies. They can read our weaknesses as easily as a person out to dinner can read the longing in a dieting woman’s eyes as the brownie she just turned down gets slowly walked away from her table.

Let us not be like that woman. Constantly battling whether or not to gratify our sinful desires gives Satan way too much of an opportunity. And it also disappoints our Lord by not focusing solely in the ways He directs us. Remember Lot’s wife? (Genesis 19:26).

I became aware that I was holding myself back from a life 100% surrendered to God. Without actually being aware of it, my thoughts were seeking to glorify myself. As a follower of Jesus, my goal should be a life of Him being glorified through me. Now, realizing that my battle was with pride, I’ve been able to deal with those emotions immensely easier. I can recite to myself Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall“. Immediately confess and turn from it!

Making an effort to recognize our sin is imperative in order to possess lives purely devoted to Christ. Proverbs 28:13 says, “People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.” How can we expect to triumph over a struggle if we don’t acknowledge our sins and repent from them?

In order to notice the presence of sin, it’s important to remember that we are to live by the standards given in the Bible. We cannot conduct our lives and make decisions based on the moral code we’ve been spoon-fed by our culture. God desires followers who pursue clean minds.

That is not easy with a media who immerses us in everything our Father hates – arrogance, lying, hatred, murder, lust, wicked schemes, dissention, idolatry, et cetera. The battle in this fallen world is for our thoughts. “…The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

But have hope! James 4:7 tells us, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you”. As believers, we have power over the evil one. Discernment through the Holy Spirit within us can turn us from darkness towards light. It can direct us to the power of God’s rule in our lives instead of the power of Satan, who is the father of lies. Then we can receive forgiveness and become sanctified through our faith in Christ.

I’ve experienced God’s power to take away a repeated sinful tendency. I used to constantly worry about finances. Even when my family’s bank account was sitting just fine and our bills were easily being paid, I would find one way or another to worry about money. I hated my lack of trust and it took a toll on my husband. As of late, we make less money together than any other time in our marriage. And I honestly do not stress about money!

I did nothing different except for begging God to take that worry away from me. And He did! Focusing with too much emotion and obsession on our finances is an important sin to run away from. “You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24). It’s that simple. By putting any amount of faith in money, we strip away any trust put in God.

There are a multitude of sins that can creep into our lives. And they first become acquainted with us by being allowed into our minds. Isn’t it awesome when we recognize a sin early and give it the boot? A teacher I know told me a statement that showed me the importance of stopping a sin early: a slow drift leads to a quick turn. No human lives a perfect life. However, it’s important to be aware of the fact that every seemingly small, but wrong behavior that we justify will eventually have consequences.

Discerning sin requires the Holy Spirit to work within us. If we ask for discernment He will give it to us. We simply need to be willing to let God lead and follow in the way we’re directed. Many times He will speak and direct through His Word. Seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit and reading God’s Word need to go hand in hand.

God’s Word and His Spirit are full of might. Authority over all of this world is possessed by the Lord. His kingdom is not an affair of mere talk but of power. And we’ve been given the invitation to have the mighty and righteous Holy Spirit live within us. So, who’s power are you allowing to rule in your daily life?

Explore The Uses Of Garlic!

We are blessed to live in a time of advanced medical technology. Taking advantage of what our current clinics and hospitals have to offer can be a very wise decision. My family definitely does when circumstances deem it necessary. But I absolutely LOVE when I’m able to treat something at home with natural, “old-school” methods!

Hippocrates, a Greek physician often referred to as “the father of Western medicine”, commonly prescribed garlic as a treatment for multiple medical ailments. He said the following,

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”

That’s a beautiful philosophy I hope to successfully implement in my home. Throughout history, several cultures have used garlic not only for cooking, but also for its therapeutic benefits (or possibly for warding off vampires, close-talkers, etc). I’m pretty much obsessed with cooking with it, so I might as well see what else I can do with garlic-the-wonder-vegetable!

It’s a natural antiinflammatory and antibiotic. Garlic is also high in Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, manganese and small amounts of many other beneficial nutrients. Unfortunately, heating garlic removes some of these amazing qualities. Heating it over medium heat for less than five minutes has been shown to allow garlic to keep most of the benefits from its raw state. It’s still a wonderfully rewarding food to cook with, but in order to fully reap its wide array of benefits, garlic is best to eat raw.

I know, I know…yuck! In order to eat raw garlic you don’t have to plop a whole clove into your mouth and chew away while trying to disguise feelings of horror. We’ll discuss some enjoyable ways to add raw garlic into our diets….but after we look at a list of its many fascinating benefits and uses!

1. Boosts immunity – Garlic’s been shown to aid in preventing the common cold and flu. It can also help to reduce the level of their severity.

2. Improves high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

3. Prevention from certain cancers – When consumed raw, garlic’s been shown to help protect against lung, prostate, breast, stomach, rectal and colon cancers.

4. Treat ear infections – The use of garlic for ear infection treatment is a common remedy used throughout the world. The bacteria that cause ear infections can be killed by garlic. Simply drip a couple drops of garlic oil into the infected ear canal as needed throughout the day (as long as the ear drum is not perforated). Garlic oil can either be purchased, or you can make some yourself. Mince a clove of garlic and saute it in 1 tsp of oil for just under five minutres. Allow to cool and strain out the garlic.

5. Treat yeast infections – This is another common remedy known throughout the world. The antifungal properties in garlic help to get rid of the infection.

6. Cure athlete’s foot – Garlic has natural antifungal properties that come in handy for this, too. Just put a few cloves of crushed garlic into warm water. Soak your feet in it for about thirty minutes.

7. Get rid of cold sores – Cut a clove of garlic in half. Apply it to a cold sore for ten minutes several times a day. No, you won’t smell good for that day and the acid levels of garlic can cause some discomfort when initially applied. But it has been shown to be equally as effective as expensive treatments that can be purchased and comes with no side effects. You’ll have to weigh out the pros and cons for yourself.

8. Treat acne – The antibacterial properties of garlic can help lesson a difficult to treat breakout. Slice open a raw clove and apply to the effected area for ten minutes.

9. Pesticide and mosquito spray – I’m excited to try these ones! For instructions on making the pesticide spray look here: Pest Control Options ; for mosquito spray look here: Wise Bread.

Now, here’s some ways to add fresh, raw garlic to our diets.
– Add minced garlic to homemade ranch instead of garlic powder. (Homemade ranch is so easy! Simply mix mayo or yogurt with milk to your desired consistency and add salt, pepper, onion powder or dried minced onion, dill and garlic!)
– Add to homemade salsa.
– Add to homemade guacamole.
– Put on toast with butter.
– Put in oil and vinegar salad
dressing
– Top spaghetti or any other pasta dish
with raw, minced garlic.

Get creative and see what you can come up with!

Well, who knew? Looks like you better add some fresh garlic to your next grocery list!

Sources researched for this article:

Medical News Today

Authority Nutrition

Dr. Weil

Eco Salon

Intentional by Grace

Discovering Prayer

A beeping alarm clock demandingly pulls me out of a pleasant slumber.  I don’t appreciate being woke up at an hour that polite society still considers nighttime.  But the fact that I’m only here for five days gives me enough motivation to hesitantly slide myself out of the hotel room bed. 

I skip my normal routine from back home – a hot shower, applying make up, putting every hair in its necessary place and mulling over what shirt seems right for the day.  I trade it in for a quick face rinse, tooth brushing and throwing on whatever outfit I happen to pull out of my suitcase.

Arriving at the church van, I see my friends are in the same groggy state as I feel.  As we speed down the pothole-filled streets of Reynosa, Mexico, I attempt to remember why I signed up for this mission trip.  “I appreciate the privileged life I have.  I’m involved at youth group.  Do I really have to be doing this?….” –  My thoughts are interrupted by the van abruptly coming to a stop.  It’s now 5:00 in the morning.

We follow our leader up the stairs of a quiet building and enter a large, dimly lit room.  I was told we would be meeting for an hour of prayer time every morning, but this is not what I had envisioned.  Brothers and sisters in Christ from around the city met here every morning to pray.  Most of them were walking in one large circle around the perimeter of the room – some quiet and somber, others fervently talking out loud to God.

Feeling completely out of my comfort zone, I join in the activity of walking and praying.  But instead distracted thoughts bounce through my head – “Some people I know back home complain about getting up one extra morning a week for Sunday School.  They do this every morning here! This isn’t a mission trip for them – this is their actual lives!”.

Sharing a memory from a mission trip I went on when I was fifteen might seem like a strange way to lead into the topic of prayer.  But it’s where my eyes were opened and I began a journey of discovering how a true Christian life looks.

I learned a lot on that mission trip. But something that stuck with me the most was the faith of the people. They were full of self sacrifice, devotion to prayer, gratitude and love – qualities I knew needed to be brought into my own life. And now many years later I’m still working on consistently living them out.

So, why do we pray? Does God hear all of our prayers? Are we even praying right? Prayer can be a frustrating concept. But it’s an incredibly important aspect of a Christian life – a concept that we must understand.

An unfortunate and common misconception is that God must answer all our petitions with a ” Yes” in order to be responding to them. Here’s a hypothetical scenario to paint a picture of this – My husband walks in the door after work one day exhausted and filthy. I ask him to please wash the dishes. He responds, “Honey, I had a rough day today. I’m going to shower first and wash them after that, OK?”. I then respond over and over, ” Wash the dishes? Wash the dishes? Could you please wash the dishes? “. As if I’m completely deaf. I do this until he relents with a quick, “Alright, crazy person”, and begins washing the dishes without showering first.

That would not be a healthy move AT ALL for our relationship. I hope to never treat my husband in that manner, and I highly doubt you would interact with that attitude towards anyone you love either. But many times that’s how our prayer life looks. We act ignored and rejected when God simply responds, “Wait, dear one. Have faith in My plans for you.” or, “I have something so much better in the works for that part of your life.”. If there’s no immediate results, He must not be answering our prayer. It’s forgotten that God knows all things. The past and the future are in His capable hands – and He has a beautifully perfect plan for everything.

As God’s children, we are to approach Him with the consistency that we do a close friend and interact with Him in the same caring, devoted and present manner that we do with loved ones. But we are also to show Him a respect, reverence and holy fear that we show no other.

Another unfortunate trend is only spending quality time in prayer when we are in need. What if we went to a close friend only when we wanted something from them? They would probably cease being our close friend. We are so blessed to have a gracious and forgiving Lord.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to pray without ceasing. The prayers of God’s children are like sweet smelling incense and glorious music to His ears. They’re the way we acknowledge our desire for His leading and dependence on His redemption. He is a constant source of grace and love that can be found nowhere else.

Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”. While the frequency of prayers are worth addressing, there’s something of more importance – Are they rooted in a right heart?

We’re told to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing (Timothy 2:8). Harboring unforgivingness taints the condition of our hearts. A step in prayer that cannot be forgotten is to notice the plank in our own eye instead of complaining of the speck in someone else’s eye. Without recognizing this, our prayers run a high risk of not being within God’s will.

God doesn’t always answer “Yes” like we want. Could it sometimes be because we’re praying with wrong motives (James 4:3)? Even when our ways seem innocent to us, our motives are weighed by the Lord. If we first commit all our plans to Him, we will succeed (Proverbs 16:2-3).

Righteousness is defined as holy and upright living, in accordance with God’s standard. It’s said that the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective (James 5:16). So how do we become righteous? Jesus’ death on the cross made it possible for Christ’s righteousness to transfer to those who trust in Him alone. By trusting God, our faith is credited as righteousness (Romans 4:5).

Verses throughout the Old and New Testiment express the importance of ridding oneself of unrighteousness before prayer. It’s a necessity to repent and humble ourselves prior to approaching the throne of God.

Prayer is how we build a relationship with God. He is the Creator and Ruler of all things! He unleashes lightening and tells the rain and snow when to fall on the earth. Hawks take flight by His wisdom and eagles soar at His command. (Job 38-39).

This Almighty God, Alpha and Omega and Living One is available to each one of us! He’s standing at the door knocking – we have free, constant access to Him through prayer! Seeking wisdom is good. Evangelizing is good. Gaining knowledge is good. But it’s all to no gain if we’ve failed to build it on the foundation of knowing God.

“This is what the LORD says:

Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
or the strong man boast of his strength
or the rich man boast of his riches,
but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises
kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in this I am delighted,
declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah 9:23-24

Becoming Wholly Present

As I look at my floor scattered with toys and laundry, a lump of emotion forms in my throat. Someday those colorful dolls and clothes will move out of my home – just like my sweet daughter once she’s grown. And I will be so very grateful that I played, laughed and created memories with her on that floor instead of endlessly cleaning it.

My role as a mother thus far has been far from a picture of perfection. I’ve yelled, pulled my hair in frustration and at moments felt like a failure. But I’m so glad I’m not letting her childhood slip by without notice.

I’ve watched as my daughter, Gracie’s, cheeks turn a perfect pink while she peacefully sleeps. I’ve enjoyed the sound of her hysteric laughter at the sound of a toot and wild screams as she chases our dogs. Her sticky hands have grabbed my cheeks for dramatic kisses. Layers of her snot and drool have dried on my shirt during sick days.

I know I’m not alone when I say becoming a mother has made me realize how fast life passes by. A scheduled routine moves one day into the next without notice. Taking moments to pause and appreciate our existence is imperative to a whole life. Not only is enjoying our children important, but also our other relationships and surroundings.

The realization that I was beginning to neglect listening to my husband was disturbing. I think it slowly began happening after we became parents, which sadly seems quite common. When Joe shared with me about his day or anything on his mind my thoughts would quickly wander – “What am I making for supper? Where did I stop in that last writing? Oh, Gracie’s so cute! Did I switch the the laundry?” – Honestly pathetic behavior. Being ignored is not a good feeling. The Word of God gives us some instruction on listening to others:

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”
James 1:19

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Proverbs 18:13

Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding.”
Proverbs 2:2

Moments when our thoughts are paused to listen are sometimes the best opportunities to glean wisdom and understanding – opportunities that would have otherwise been missed. Make it a goal to be attentive in your conversations – quick to listen and slow to speak – and see what it does to your relationships. Delight in the people God has put in your life.

Listening with amusement to my husband’s incoherent mumblings while he sleeps are cherished moments of mine. His hugs and kisses before he leaves home are one of my fondly memorized feelings. With joy, I soak in the sight of Gracie and my two little dogs excitedly realizing they hear their dad’s diesel pickup approaching from a distance.

God also created an entire world for us to see His glory throughout! Do you take the time to appreciate His work? When’s the last time you closed your eyes and listened to the sound of wind in the trees or a crowd of people bustling about? Or truly opened your eyes and noticed the beauty of a sunrise and sunset? We need to slow down and become people who help elderly couples across the street instead of becoming annoyed and rushing them.

It’s time we end the social norm of frantically organizing and managing our lives. Let’s instead decide to live them! We can become completely present in our daily activities and enjoy who we see when we truly look at ourselves. Here’s a practical list of ways to do this:

• Spend real time with loved ones – set aside time for electronics and distractions to be turned off.

• Communicate together – talk about serious, silly, profound or seemingly pointless thoughts. This is what creates bonds. Not simply existing together in the same room.

• Regularly discuss your spiritual walks – tell each other truths that God has been making known to you. Admit concepts that you’re confused by or discover ideas together on how to apply a verse.

• Forgive freely – nothing distracts away more from joyfully living in the present than negatively dwelling on others faults. This goes back to the importance of communicating your thoughts. If something with a loved one is concerning you, discuss it together rather than hold it against them.

I’m pledging to trade my list of constantly growing tasks in for a daily dose of God’s leading. Rather than simply existing and looking towards the future, I’m going to be present in each moment – moments that I’ll never get back. Once a child is no longer two, a home is sold or a parent has passed on, we don’t get the choice to live that year or decade over and choose to be wholly present in it.

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.

– Dale Carnegie

Easy Eggs Over Avocado

Cooking – A beautifully familiar movement at the end of a trying day.

This post has no step-by-step photos because it’s that easy! When you get home overwhelmed and exhausted….but don’t exactly feel like adding an extra dose of guilt to your day by indulging in junk food, this is an option to feel good about. The portions are only for one serving, so increase according to your serving size.

Ingredients

2 eggs
1 avocado
1 slice sharp cheddar cheese
1 tbsp butter
Thinly sliced red onion for serving
Pink Himalayan salt, cracked black pepper and dried dill to taste
Red Wine Vinegar to taste

The ingredients to top this meal with are very open to creativity. I did the cheese, red onion and red wine vinegar because I had them and it sounded tasty. Here’s some examples of ways you could change it up!

Mozzarella cheese, fresh tomato, balsamic vinegar, basil.

Leftover and shredded fish, Rice vinegar, soy sauce.

Black beans, cumin, paprika, a dollop of plain yogurt.

Instructions

Cut the avocado in half and peel. It must be ripe for this. Slice the red onion and cheese.

Melt the butter over medium low heat in a pan. Fry the eggs until done over-easy. Just before the eggs are done, put the cheese on top of them so it melts a little.

Place an egg on each half of the avocado. Top with the red onion, salt, pepper and dill. Drizzle over with red wine vinegar.

Now, pat yourself on the back and say, “Yep, I just made a healthy, low-cost, filling and delicious meal in less than 10 minutes.”. Woo hoo!!

A Beautiful Will And Perfect Way

Patience, daughter, patience. I will show you in My perfect time. Worry is not of Me. Anger is not of Me. Lust is not of Me. Do not let the world overcome you.“…be holy, because I am holy.”   (Lev 11:44)

Many times it seems life would be immensely easier if God would allow us to know His full plan for our lives. In prayer, God’s children ask questions such as, “Is this the person I should marry? Am I ready to start a family? Should I take this job? Should we sell our home and move? “. These important inquiries would be nice to have an answer of “yes” or “no” formed from clouds in the sky. But I’ve never had that happen….

Knowing and obeying God’s will requires wisdom, discernment, patience, faith and courage. It’s not to be taken lightly.

This time of year, without fail, I begin planning a move elsewhere. To give you a little background, I first fell in love with the mountains as a young girl. My parents took me along on a trip to Idaho. We stayed in a secluded inn outside of Salmon, surrounded by beauty. My parents could NOT keep me out of the mountains. Climbing up, feeling the air get cool and clean, seeing wildlife and beauty I had previously not known existed…the temptation was too much for me to resist. At that point a love was struck in my heart.

Later on when I was seventeen, I went to a camp called Summit in Colorado Springs. I not only learned incredible foundations for my faith, but once again, that I truly loved everything about the mountains.

Then, I had to go and marry someone from California. Throughout the years we’ve taken numerous trips to the Sierra Nevada mountains. We hike, camp, gold pan and create precious memories. It’s an amazing experience I pray we continue on in our family for many years.

All that background is meant to give you the full understanding of why, during this cold and stuck-inside time of year, I begin planning a move. But this year, God showed me something. He made known to me a very convicting truth about my heart during these difficult times. I’m no different than a married man lusting after a different woman. It doesn’t matter whether it’s after scenery, a person, possession or career. There’s a vicious cycle that begins when we start down the road of lust.

We waste time obsessing over something we don’t have.

This leads to complaining about what we do have.

Then, the justification process begins.

Now, our hearts are left vulnerable to making the wrong decision when opportunities arise.

We cannot force God’s will into meshing together with our desires. Instead, we need to pray as Jesus did, “Yet not as I will, but as You will.”
(Matt 26:39). This action of taking every emotion and decision to our heavenly Father keeps us on the straight and narrow path.

Going back to the example from my life, it’s clearly not always outside of God’s will for someone to relocate. But when I finally took my desire to God, He made me aware that I need to be patient and wait on His timing. It’s not where He desired my focus to be pointed.

I don’t need to know the whole plan for my life…and neither do you! When that truth is actually placed in our hearts, it’s extremely freeing. Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”. And Matthew 10:39 tells us, ” Whoever finds his life will loose it, and whoever looses his life for My sake will find it”. I may not be living in a mountain cabin. But God has reminded me that He took time to create specific roles for me to fulfill.

Strive to be a respectful, supportive and joyful wife who clearly communicates.

Work at being a patient, loving mother who teaches by example.

Be a hard worker in whatever areas God directs me. (Currently cooking, writing and reflexology – among others.)

He took time to create specific roles for you to beautifully fulfill too! He knows where we will find the most joy and meaning even better than we do ourselves. He lovingly opens and closes doors. That’s not to say we can’t choose to walk away from the open door or break down the closed one.

When I prayed for God to give me clear signs as to where my family should be, He did just that. My husband was voted in as fire chief for our town’s volunteer fire department. During this time, he was also going through some struggles with his health. Friends and family lovingly came through to help support and care for us during a difficult season. And then as a bonus, our area experienced some amazing weather! This allowed me to play outside with my daughter and remind myself of the beautiful scenery here, too.

God’s will is for us to live our lives in a holy manner; to offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). This means holding onto our positions and possessions loosely, but holding onto the truths of God with clenched fists. We know that the road to eternal life is narrow. If the goal of our life is to fulfill selfish desires, I highly doubt we’re on that narrow road.

To be holy means set apart for God and pure. That, my friends, is God’s will for us! When we discover who we are in Christ, we can live out our calling no matter what life situation we’re put in.

I’ll leave you with this beautiful quote to let your mind dwell on.

“Let it be done to me according to Your word. Mary had no master plan… Only her Master’s plan.”

Source

Veggie Pizza Pockets

Need a fiber boost?? In the United States, adults average about 15 grams of dietary fiber a day. Our daily fiber intake should be 25 to 30 grams. So, we consume close to half the recommended amount. A high fiber diet is critical for a healthy digestive system. With a correctly functioning digestive system, we lower our risk for many diseases and possibly cancer. Source

The whole wheat flour I used in this recipe has 6 grams of fiber in just 1/4 cup. The tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and garlic also add fiber content. I absolutely LOVE delicious meals that are healthy as well! This recipe can be used for a main dish, or set aside as a yummy snack.

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Ingredients (* See Notes)

For Crust:
1 cup warm water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
* 1 tbsp vital wheat gluten
2 1/4 tsp yeast

* You may not know what vital wheat gluten is. If not, you’re going to thank me after reading this excerpt from Arrowhead Mills website!

“Your home baked recipes will rise above the rest with Arrowhead Mills Vital Wheat Gluten. Gluten is the natural protein portion of the grain and is separated from whole wheat with pure water. It is responsible for the stretchiness of dough and for the shapes that baked goods hold. That is why it is the secret ingredient of professional bakers who use it for producing doughs, breads, rolls, and pastries.
Benefits: Adds Protein; Increases Volume; Wheat Gluten provides: Higher Rising baked goods / Improved Shape / Enhanced Flavor / Additional protein / Extended Freshness; Dairy Free; A Sodium Free Food; A Cholesterol Free Food; A Fat Free Food; Vegetarian. Vital Wheat Gluten is all natural.” Source

For Sauce:
5 medium tomatoes, frozen
OR 8 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tsp honey, raw
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste

For Filling:
8 oz mushrooms, diced
6 oz black olives, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
8 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced

Olive oil to brush on top.

Instructions

Put all the ingredients for the crust into a bread machine. I listed them in the order that my machine calls for, but look at your machine’s specific instructions for the order to add the ingredients. Place on dough cycle and let it do the work for you!

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Once there’s about 45 minutes left on the dough, begin heating the tomatoes in a pan over medium heat. I used frozen ones from my garden, so the peels came right off with some hot water. Once the tomatoes are thawed, mix them with a hand mixer. I have a small, non-electric one that worked really well for this… Mainly because I didn’t feel like digging out and plugging in my big electric mixer for such a small amount.

PicsArt_1421203069384

Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and let simmer, stirring occasionally. This should take 30-45 minutes to get to the right thickness. If you’re using a can of sauce, simply mix all of the ingredients for the sauce together and simmer for about 20 minutes. Set aside.

PicsArt_1421203187774

Preheat the oven to 450°. While the
sauce simmers, slice and dice the fillings.

PicsArt_1421203781982

Remove the dough and cut into 4 equal chunks. On a floured surface, roll them out into 6-8″ circles.

PicsArt_1421203992720PicsArt_1421204238529

Spread on the sauce and put in the cheese slices and veggies. (You will have sauce and veggies left that don’t fit.) Fold circles in half and press the edges closed with a fork.

Place on a baking sheet. Brush the tops with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and Italian seasoning. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Saute the leftover veggies in butter over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Once the pockets are done baking, spread some of the leftover sauce on top and scoop on some of the sauteed veggies. Mmm mmmm!

PicsArt_1421204298853

Fish Tacos with Slaw

“Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then He gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all.”
Mark 6:41

This year I want to start eating more fish. It’s delicious AND healthy! Check out this list of some of the ways our bodies benefit from regular fish consumption:

• Improved heart health
• Reduced Alzheimer’s risk
• Reduced stroke risk
• Nourished skin and hair
• Lowered risk for depression (For more info on this, check out my post Winning The Depression Battle 🙂 )
• Enhanced brain development
• Prevention from certain cancers
• Prevention from eye disease
Source 1
Source 2

Yay for fish! However, it can be kind of expensive. I’m blessed with a husband who fishes a lot in the summer months. Therefore, we don’t have to purchase fish as often.

But here in Minnesota, summer is unfortunately not a very big portion of the year. Ice fishing is obviously an option for the winter time, but my hubby is a born and raised California boy. Neither one of us jump up with excitement at an opportunity to ice fish. So, this first seafood recipe I’m posting is made with fish we had stocked up in our freezer. Yummy!!

Ingredients (* See notes)

6 cups coleslaw (cabbage and carrot)
3/4 cup mayo
1/2 of a lime, juiced
1 tbsp agave
2 tbsp white vinegar
Salt, pepper and cumin to taste

* 3 good sized fish filets, cut into about whatever size chunks you want.
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup flour, divided
2 eggs
Salt, lemon pepper, cayenne pepper and garlic powder to taste
About 1/3 cup lard

Top with fresh tomatoes, red onion and hot sauce.

* Use whatever type of fish you prefer. Soak it in milk and salt for about an hour before cooking. This takes away any fishy flavor.

Instructions

Whisk together all the ingredients for the slaw together except for the cabbage. Pour over the cabbage mixture and stir well. Set aside.

IMG_20141201_232025

Put 1/2 cup of flour in one bowl. Put the eggs in another bowl and whisk well. Mix together the other 1/2 cup flour, panko and seasonings in a third bowl.

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Begin heating the lard in a large fry pan over medium-low heat. Coat the fish fillets in the flour, then eggs and lastly the panko mixture.

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Fry the fish in the lard until golden brown, flipping once.

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Place on a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess grease.

Put the fish in tortillas and scoop on the slaw. Top with fresh tomatoes, sliced red onion, shredded cheddar cheese and hot sauce.

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Enjoy! 🙂

A Heart Like His

She saw Him walking through the large crowd of pursuers. “If I just touch His clothes, I will be healed,” she thought to herself. Mustering courage from a desperateness deep within, she navigated her way through the crowd. Sneaking up behind Him, she gently touched the edge of Jesus’ cloak.

Immediate relief from pain overcame her body. Her bleeding stopped for the first time in twelve years. A rush of memories flooded her head; endless doctor visits and countless attempts to make her suffering come to an end. Finally, she knew it was all over. This miracle worker had given her a peace no one else had been able to. And He had no idea.

Suddenly, Jesus turned around and scanned the crowd. “Who touched my clothes?”, asked Jesus. Fear overtook her and she began to tremble with it. Throwing herself at her Savior’s feet, she told Him the entire truth of her story. Little did she know she has no reason to be afraid. Jesus gently assured her, ” Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering. ” (Matthew 9:20-22 and Mark 5:24-34)

A man I knew spent his life in a state hospital. Born in the early 1900s, he was placed in an institution due to blindness. I met him as a young girl and saw an old man with a heart of gold. Even though his life seemed like it should have been sad and full of disappointment, he didn’t see it that way. He fully appreciated everyone and everything. He may have been physically blind, but it seemed to me that God had given him the ability to view the world in a much more genuine way than most.

These are two beautiful and true stories. The quality that draws us into them is purity of heart. It’s what we need. The condition of our hearts effects everything we say and do. Understanding and living out this truth is more important than anything we will ever accomplish or possess.

From what we can read recorded in the Gospels of the sick woman, it seems she lived her days coping with ongoing bleeding accompanied by pain. She most likely wasn’t making a good income or accomplishing a million tasks everyday. And guess what? Her house probably wasn’t spotless. But none of that mattered one ounce to Jesus. He saw a pure, beautiful heart. He saw a woman filled with faith in Him alone. That’s what pleases our Father.

Being healed, the woman could now choose from endless paths for the remainder of her life. I don’t know the rest of her story, but what path do you think would have brought more joy to Jesus’ heart? She could have spent her days striving towards endless expectations she created for herself. Or she could have realized her life was no longer her own and began taking every decision in her life to God.

Jesus said to her, “your faith has healed you”. When our hearts are pure, we can direct our faith towards God alone. All people, positions and materials in this world will fail us. Faith in Jesus places a constant and solid foundation in our lives that can be found nowhere else.

By the world’s standards, the old man I knew accomplished nothing of great worth. He didn’t receive much of an education, was never married, had no children and never owned a vehicle or home. But I know without a doubt, in Jesus’ eyes, he was magnificent. He saw beauty in everything around him and possessed a pure joy one can only have when they know Jesus. He truly allowed the world to move him; he laughed until his face was red at the smallest jokes and cried when he held a baby.

It’s such a shame when we allow the world and past experiences to harden our hearts or deplete them of joy. It makes me think of a line from a Jimi Hendrix song, “…a broom is drearily sweeping, up the broken prices of yesterday’s life…”. Isn’t that true? Focusing on our troubles makes us dreary, dull, lifeless and depressing. Psalm 100:2 says, ” Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence with singing!”. We’re only able to do this out of a joy not dependent upon our circumstances, but from hope in a glorious future with our Father.

There are many paths we can choose to take throughout the course of our lives. But God has shown me that what I accomplish along my journey is not what’s most important: achieving great success in a career, my musical ability or even my knowledge of the Bible. My life will bring the most joy to Him when I seek to have a heart like His. Full of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Soup

Butter makes everything taste better! But for some reason it’s been labeled as a “bad” food. In reality, butter is rich in Vitamins K, E and K2. Vitamin K2 is not found in many foods. It aids in calcium metabolism, which is very important for our bodies. Butter is also full of saturated fats. Studies now show no link between saturated fats and heart disease. It’s much healthier than the alternative, margarine. That replacement for butter is filled with highly processed trans fats. These ARE linked to an increased risk for heart disease.

Lastly, butter is not correlated with obesity. This is a vicious myth. In fact, consumption of high-fat dairy products is associated with a lowered obesity rate. Obviously everything must be consumed in moderation, but high-fat dairy products are a better option than their low-fat or no fat relatives.
Source

So, now that we’re ready to confidently use butter, let’s cook up a delicious, comfort food! This soup is very easy. And by using precooked chicken, it’s extremely quick to whip up as well. I LOVE buying the whole, roasted chicken from Sam’s Club – only $4.98! Ideally, I would buy all my chicken from someone local so I know it’s organic. But sometimes a good price wins the battle. You can also buy the mushrooms already sliced, which makes this meal even quicker. They’re no more expensive, but you have to make sure they’re fresh!

This recipe is a delicious alternative to cracking open a can of soup on those I-need-to-cook-something-quick days 🙂

Ingredients

16 oz mushrooms, sliced
2-3 cup chicken, cooked and shredded
2 tbsp garlic, minced
6 tbsp butter
2/3 cup flour (whatever type you prefer)
4 cup chicken stock or broth
1 1/2 cup milk
Parmesan or asiago cheese for serving

Instructions

Melt butter in a pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently.

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Add the flour. Coat the mushrooms and cook for about 1 minute while stirring.

Add the liquids and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.

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Add the remaining ingredients. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until it reaches your desired consistency. Stir occasionally.

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Dish into bowls and top with shredded parmesan or asiago cheese. Enjoy!

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Garlic Bacon Burgers

Oh, how I long for summer….and most of all my walks outside. I can close my eyes and imagine it; my daughter in front of me in her stroller, feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin, hearing lawn mowers from multiple directions and seeing kids out riding bikes. And then the glorious smell of a neighbor grilling makes me want to rush home and cook, too!!
Sorry I put you through that time of longing. This is also an exciting time of year! New beginnings, goals and clean slates. But I don’t think any of us up north are going to be grilling out anytime soon.  Maybe biting into one of these juicy burgers can at least bring the taste of summer back into our lives!

Ingredients

2 lbs burger, beef or venison
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 small eggs
4 tbsp brown mustard
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tsp dried dill
Salt and pepper to taste

Makes a dozen patties.
Use 12 strips of bacon if you want one for each patty. If your planning on freezing some of the patties, just use the amount of bacon that you will need for your meal.

Instructions

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together all of the ingredients (except the bacon). I use my hands for this and it works great :). You have to get them icky to shape the patties anyways, so you might as well have some fun with it!

Form the mixture into balls and shape them into patties. Set aside for now.

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Heat a large pan over medium-low heat. Fry the bacon until done to your desired preference. Place on paper towels in a covered container and set aside.

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Mmmm sizzle, sizzle…

Place the patties into the bacon grease and fry over medium-low heat until done to your desired preference. Try your best to flip them just one time. If you want cheese burgers, place the cheese on top of the patties until melted.

Put the patties onto buns along with whatever fixings your heart desires! I used my Whole Wheat Hamburger Bun recipe and put on tomato slices, red onion and mayo. Yum!!! It may not be the smell of a neighbor grilling outside in the summer, but it’s equally as enjoyable to eat 🙂

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Churches Aren’t Perfect

“Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”
– D.T. Niles

Some may walk into a church and feel judged. Another could feel ignored. One person might think too many hymns were sung during the service. Another that there was too much contemporary music. For some the whole experience was too eccentric. For others it was too rigid.

Because everyone has different preferences, no church service will be perfect. And because it’s made up of flawed people in need of a flawless Savior, no church body will be perfect either.

So, why attend one of these blemished gatherings? Our history shows us how our culture is consistently prone to destruction and perversion. But here’s where the breathtaking aspect of true Christian faith comes in.

Our Savior, Jesus, died on the cross for every believer. While He never once faltered away from perfection and purity, He willingly takes the blame for every revolting act you and I commit while living outside of His will.

There is no sin too depraved for Him to forgive. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”. God will always forgive those who come to Him with repentant hearts. Paul, one of the most influential pillars of the Christian faith, killed followers of Jesus before he converted. Once saved, he said in Romans 7:18-19, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” Even though Paul had reached countless lost people in Jesus’ name, he recognized the importance of daily repentance.

This is not an easy task. But it’s also the most important task we can choose to make in our days. That’s why it is so extremely important to have other believers in our lives; to consistently encourage us in this direction. Like I stated in the beginning, no church is perfect. However, I do fully agree with all the core values of the church where I’m a member:

• Lost people matter to God. He wants them found. (Luke 19:10)
• Prayer is the primary work of the people of God. (Philippians 4:6-7)
• Everything we have belongs to God. We are only stewards. (I Chronicles 29:14)
• Knowing and obeying God’s Word is fundamental to all true success. (Joshua 1:8)
• Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully devoted disciple. (Matthew 28:19)
• Without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we can accomplish nothing. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)
• Achieving God’s purposes involves taking faith-filled risks. This always involves change. (Hebrews 11:6)

Source

With that being said, all believers should realize that what truly matters is being a part of the body of Christ. Not playing a role in organized religion. That means focusing on lost people. Not a list of tasks. It means taking time to be enamored with God. Not consumed by meaningless distractions.

In my life, church helps keep my focus in the right direction. It’s a place where fellow believers can direct, encourage and pour truth into my life. Truth that could have easily been replaced by entangling lies if given the chance to implant themselves in my heart. I need that accountability in my life.

So, which imperfect church is the right one to attend on Sunday morning? I suggest the one and only church that Christ intends to save – His body. I truly enjoy the church I attend. But I know my regular action of walking into that building or any routine I do there is not what saves my soul. It’s the fact that I have given my life to Jesus and regularly ask His Holy Spirit to direct my actions. It’s amazing how quickly the world can grasp our thoughts and lives. I often need direction from other believers with more discernment, which thankfully my husband is quite good at giving :). I find this verse to be a superb goal in life – Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

So, we’ve come to the conclusion you will not find a perfect church on the current earth we live on. However, becoming a part of the body of Christ is the most important choice you will ever make. For 2 Peter 3:10, 13-14 says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare…. But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells…. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him.”

This common goal unites us with all other brothers and sisters in Christ. While churches aren’t perfect, it is within a body of believers where you will find the purest and most intimate relationships.

Whole Wheat Buns (Bread Machine)

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I seriously LOVE the smell of baking bread coming from my kitchen! Is it even possible to be in a bad mood with that aroma filling your home? Stores do sell some buns that are delicious and inexpensive. But taking warm, baked delights out of your oven is much more enjoyable…and you know every single ingredient in them, too!

I prefer using whole wheat flour in most of my bread items for its added nutritional value over white flour. It’s processed a lot less than white flour and has a higher fiber count as well as more vitamin content. However, baking this way does come at a price in my home. My husband prefers white flour. Soooo, I do bend on occasion and use only that. If you’re like him, you could try substituting in this recipe. As a general rule of thumb, 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour is equal to 1 cup of all-purpose flour. I’ve also heard to cut the fat in a recipe by 20% when substituting with whole wheat.

Most recipes I find make small buns that serve more as dinner rolls. This recipe makes bigger ones….buns that actually fit normal sized hamburger patties or sloppy joe mix. I’m quite pleased with this recipe 🙂

Ingredients

1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tbsp honey
1 egg, room temperature
4 1/2 cups flour ( I used 3 cups whole wheat and 1 1/2 cups all-purpose)
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt

Makes 8-10 buns.

Instructions

Pour milk, water, butter and honey into a bowl or pan. Microwave or heat on stove top until it’s all melted and warm. Add the egg.

Pour the mixture into your bread machine. Add the flour. Make a well in the flour and put the yeast and salt into it.

Set your bread machine to the dough cycle. When it’s finished, divide the dough in two. Roll out each half into a snake of dough about 2″ thick.

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Cut each snake into 4-5 equal chunks. Shape the chunks into balls, with one of the cut edges on top. This gives it a nice look.

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Place the buns on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Flatten down a bit and let rise for 30 minutes. Bake at 400° for 10-12 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!!

Venison Sauerkraut

Are there any other wives of hunting men out there who get dog tired of searching for new venison recipes? My ruggedly, handsome husband as kept our freezer stocked with venison, for the most part, since we got married five years ago. Thus, it is our main source of meat and we both love it.
This recipe is my own version of one from Americas Favorite Wildgame Recipes. As you can see in the picture below, it rests right next to Cooking for Dummies. I don’t know if I should feel ashamed or proud of the fact that I have never opened that cookbook…If you aren’t an individual who has venison readily available or is afraid they might eat Bambi and not know it, you can substitute with beef in this recipe and get an equally as delicious dish! I would probably change the name though 🙂

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Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 ½ lb venison stew meat or substitute, trimmed and cut into 1” chunks
1 16 oz can sauerkraut
2 cups water
1 tbsp beef bullion, or 2 cubes
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tbsp organic honey
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp ground ginger
Buttered noodles to serve over. I used my Homemade Egg Noodle recipe. Yum!!

Instructions

Heat oven to 350 F. In a 6-quart Dutch oven or stockpot, heat your oil over medium-high heat. Add venison cubes. Sear and stir frequently until browned, about 3-5 minutes.

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Add remaining ingredients. Mix well and cover.

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Place in the oven and bake 1-1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. Serve over buttered noodles and garnish with parsley, if desired.  Enjoy!!

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Winning the Depression Battle

Everyone has experienced an emotion that goes along with depression. Helplessness and vulnerability could consume an abused child. Emptiness and defeat might take over a confused teen. An abused woman may feel completely trapped and afraid, or a man who lost his job, inadequate and overwhelmed. At some point we are all overcome with brokenness, discontentment or hopelessness.

All these words are probably making you slump in your chair. Depression is sinking sand that slowly pulls you down deeper and deeper, often leaving it most difficult to get out of alone. This may seem like a strange post for me to write as I don’t suffer from chronic depression, but I am very close with a couple of people who do. And the following statistics tell me you are probably close to someone who does as well.

The use of antidepressants in America increased 400% between the years 1988-1994 and 2005-2008. About 1 in 10 Americans takes an antidepressant, making it the third most common prescription medication. Source. How do we stop these increasing numbers? Perhaps the key is to begin arming ourselves for the battle before we even see it on the horizon. I received a book as a teen called Armed and Dangerous by Ken Abraham. It addresses the idea of preparing ourselves with answers straight from the Bible regarding struggles. At the end of this post, I will give a few Bible verses that will prepare us to be armed against depression.

But for now, I want to think about why depression is rising at such an extreme rate. I am not a medical professional. These are simply ideas and thoughts I have arrived at through research and prayer. Here are a number of factors that, in my opinion, are contributing to this epidemic:

1. Overwhelmed with life.

Our culture has high standards. College students spend their days cramming theirs heads with knowledge, evenings working to pay for the knowledge, nights studying to remember it all, then sleep for a glimpse and repeat. New parents wake in the wee hours of the morning to a baby crying. One parent spends their days feeding, changing, cooking and cleaning. Only to look back on their days feeling they actually “accomplished” nothing. The other parent spends their days working hard just to pay the bills necessary to get by in life. Parents later along, with older children, are pressured to spend every free hour they have carting kids around from one activity to another. Wow, my heart rate is rising just writing this!

2. Focus on the negative.

This is obvious, but incredibly easy to let happen in our days. You lost your job, had a spouse leave or a friend die. Life can be hard and overwhelmingly sad. These heartbreaking events can send us on a fast, downward spiral. Suddenly, nothing is satisfying, everyone fails you and nothing seems “worth it” anymore.

3. Lack of motivation.

People who struggle with depression don’t have much confidence. If we don’t have confidence in our abilities, why try to better them? Thinking we possess no great abilities in life will cause us to eventually stop trying at anything and then believe the lie. We don’t have to be movie stars, brain surgeons or pro athletes to be talented. Considering ourselves worthless makes us like a piece of chewing gum stuck under a table. Used, hidden from sight and stuck in one place forever.

4. Repetition.

If a continued action makes you feel depressed, take it out of your life! Whether it’s a group of people you associate with or media that fills your head, be done with it. It won’t necessarily be easy, but it is that simple.

5. Clinical Depression.

The University Health Services of Berkeley states the following on their website:

” Clinical depression is a serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act….It can affect your body, mood, thoughts and behavior. “ Source

As the above quote says, clinical depression is a serious and real condition. Some individuals develop certain imbalances within their bodies that legitimately require medical correction. This is most often achieved through the use of antidepressant medications. But if a person wishes to avoid a prescription drug, there are some natural alternatives. Everyone needs to find what works best for their individual case of depression.

These factors among many others can draft us into war with depression. So, how do we prepare ourselves for battle? Get ready for another list…

1. Simplify.

Prioritize your life through prayer and eliminate the unnecessary. Example: Downsize your house or car so you don’t have to be away from your family working as much. Or, bring your child down to one extra curricular activity so your lives aren’t as hectic.

2. Focus on the positive.

Maybe you think you just lost everything good in your life. But there are still wonderful things our there waiting to be discovered. You have to be willing to look with the right perspective.

3. Find a passion.

We need to feel we are “good” at something. You could discover you love cooking, sewing, running, canoeing or gardening. Or, you could find meaning volunteering at a church or any one of the many great non-profit organizations out there. Who knows? You could find great enjoyment in making mouse puppets….it doesn’t have to be world-changing. Find something you love doing and give it your all.

4. Change it up!

If your group of friends, TV shows you watch or activities you do are bringing you down, try shaking up your routine. Seek out a positive friend or family member to talk with. But make sure it’s someone who will speak the truth. Not a person who will blindly agree with everything you say or spur on gossip. If watching lust-filled shows are filling your head with lustful thoughts, watch cleaner programs. Try putting positive people and pure media in your life.

5. Food for depression.

The foods we consume greatly affect our health. Regular consumption of nutritious food not only improves our physical health, but also our mental stability. Reader’s Digests’ book, Foods that Harm, Foods that Heal, gives some insight on how foods can affect depression. The amino acid tryptophan can help induce sleep and aid with treatment of certain types of depression. This is found in highest levels in turkey and other poultry, almonds, pumpkin seeds, bananas, tofu, cottage cheese and watercress. We also need to consume the right foods in order for our bodies to convert tryptophan into the “happy hormone” serotonin. Meals accompanied by carbohydrates allow us to fully benefit from tryptophan. Beans are a good option for this as they are rich in complex carbohydrates and protein but not a lot of fat. Another important habit to implement in your diet is limiting your intake of sugar. It can encourage your body to undergo a temporary “high”, only to be quickly followed by a “low” when your body metabolizes sugar. You could also try bringing up your intake of vitamins B6 and B12. Vitamin B6 is more effective for women and can be found in bananas, potatoes, whole grains, poultry and fish. Vitamin B12 can be found in all animal foods. Consume peas, nuts, seeds, asparagus, green leafy vegetables and oranges to bring up your folate levels. My last food fact I find particularly interesting: According to Dw.Weil’s website, the rates of depression are significantly lower in countries with high fish intake. This is probably due to the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. The above mentioned website has good information on depression and fish consumption. Source

Now, here’s the true key to rescue from depression. When we are God’s children, we have a purpose to fulfill. Being the light of Jesus to a lost world. Here are some scripture verses to help us during depressed times:

Isaiah 61:1,3 – “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me…He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…to provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

Psalm 42:11 – “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God.”

Isaiah 40:29 – “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”

John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.”

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. With 1 in 10 Americans taking an antidepressant, we all need to be sharing ways to be encouraging others out of this pit.

A Beautiful Will And Perfect Way

Wholesome Home

Patience, daughter, patience. I will show you in My perfect time. Worry is not of Me. Anger is not of Me. Lust is not of Me. Do not let the world overcome you.“…be holy, because I am holy.”   (Lev 11:44)

Many times it seems life would be immensely easier if God would allow us to know His full plan for our lives. In prayer, God’s children ask questions such as, “Is this the person I should marry? Am I ready to start a family? Should I take this job? Should we sell our home and move? “. These important inquiries would be nice to have an answer of “yes” or “no” formed from clouds in the sky. But I’ve never had that happen….

Knowing and obeying God’s will requires wisdom, discernment, patience, faith and courage. It’s not to be taken lightly.

This time of year, without fail…

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Life Against The Grain

The picture you see for this post inspired and motivated me to get writing again. My husband brought me a beautiful, heart shaped piece of wood for my artwork. We both instinctively imagined the well-known Bible verse used for weddings, “and the two shall become one,” on the heart. (Mark 10:8). Then, I got to thinking…general society doesn’t seem to need a reminder to fall in love, but rather to keep the love they’ve found. Matthew 19:6, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.

As most of you know, my husband and I recently started a new business called Against The Grain. The obvious reason this name came to mind is because we create wood products. We were also attracted to the name because it describes our approach to life. 1 Peter 2:11 tells us, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul“. A true Christian makes decisions based on Biblical truth, not the cultural norm. Followers of Jesus need courage to live against the grain. (See also Hebrews 11:13-16)

Throughout life, we need to pause often and ask ourselves questions: Am I living with the purpose to make me happy? Are my goals to make my dreams come true, make my bank account build or obsess over the amount of followers on my social media pages? I am by no means a life or marriage expert. I am, however, a woman who has the ability to observe the world around me. Anyone can see that the Holy One, Everlasting God and Savior of the world has been replaced in current culture. Instead, the god of Self is spreading like wildfire and bringing along the misconception that our social standing, appearance, possessions and happiness are the true signs of success. I believe this lie is the culprit of many destroyed marriages.

I’m not going to give you a whole novel on how to create a successful marriage. As I stated earlier – I am no expert. But I do know that the Bible states quite clearly the intent of marriage and what it’s meant to look like. God’s instructions are clear, but not always easy to follow. I put together a short, simple list of ways I’ve found my marriage of almost six years strengthened.

1. Pray for your spouse. This is the most important decision you can make in your marriage. God is the best equipped counselor you’ll ever find – and He’s always available! Praying is an amazing way to change your heart towards a situation. It can give you patience you formerly lacked and restore love. I recently discovered a prayer I love for when Joe and I aren’t seeing eye to eye, “Dear Jesus, please put peace and unity between my husband and I. If he is off track in this situation, make it undoubtedly clear to him. I pray he hears You clearly and listens. If I’m off track in this situation, make it clear to me and change my heart. If this is the path You’ve planned for us, change my fear and bitterness to excitement and joy so I can confidently support my husband!“. You can also pray scripture over your spouse. A fitting verse for me to pray over Joe on a regular basis is Deuteronomy 33:11, “Bless all his skills, LORD, and be pleased with the work of his hands.

2. Listen more than you speak. I know, mathematically it’s impossible for both spouses to always do this, but it’s almost more of a mindset. We learn in James 1:19, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.“. This eliminates interrupting, constant nagging and yelling matches. It brings better communication and more understanding. Even if you leave a conversation still upset, at least you now can now bring your concerns to God instead of feeling guilty over speaking harsh words you didn’t truly mean. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). There’s a reason the Bible instructs us this way. When we listen closely and think before we speak, we’re going to be less angry individuals.

3. Practice the Fruit of the Spirit. These are found in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.“. That pretty much says it all – a person who consistently possesses those attributes is desirable beyond words! All spouses should strive to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled towards their other half. No one can do this perfectly, but striving to will revolutionize any and every marriage.

Making the decision to commit in your marriage is the best thing you can do for children. We are all setting an example for the generations after us. They need to be shown how to fight for love, even when you don’t feel like you’re in it at the moment. When we follow God’s plan for our marriages, the rewards will be great!