Monday, January 26, 2009

ATTENTION! Migrating my Blog

In an effort to streamline things a bit, I have migrated my blog over to my actual website, to make life easier. It is still a work in progress in that I am changing some layouts around on the rest of the site, but you can see all of the archives, and read all of my blog posts there from here on out, so enjoy!

Joyful Momma Home Page

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Salad a Day...or more...

One of the things I am doing to lose weight is to eat a nice big salad for lunch every day, and we have long had a salad as an appetizer before dinner each night too.

Here's what I do: I buy seven (7!) Romaine Hearts three packs from the grocery store every time I go (unless weather is nice, and there is lettuce in my garden...even better!). I can eat a half a romaine heart for lunch, as it fills my bowl! I also purchase a bag of individually frozen boneless/skinless chicken breasts or chicken tenders (NOT breaded!). I buy whichever is on sale, but SAM's club seems to have the best deals on this.

Most of the time, my daily salad is a half a romaine heart, one small, grilled chicken breast (grilled on a cast iron griddle--grill side--in the oven), 2T of shredded cheese, 1 shredded carrot, and whatever other veggies I have on hand, including fresh herbs, onions, and so forth. I top this not with salad dressing (I can't seem to find one I both like and that is low in sodium, fat, sugar, etc.), but with a Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil (in this case, roasted red pepper flavored, which I found on clearance at the grocers), and a few dashes of balsamic vinegar. I also lightly salt and pepper my salad.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

How Motherhood Can Change Us

I was pondering recently the many ways in which becoming a mother has changed me for the better. In fact, it is my belief that parenthood will change anyone for the better if they are willing to learn, grow, and let the experience change them. Sadly there are some (many?) selfish people out in the world who stay just as selfish as parents, but it doesn't have to be so.

It's a little surreal to think of what all the Lord has done, usually in spite of my own foolishness, in some key areas:

My Walk with the Lord

Nothing has kept me on my knees and driven me into the Word quite like the intense responsibility to disciple five young souls for Him. I started out as a mom without much experience or know-how, and at the time, we were not in a church that taught on these issues. Instead, I had to cry out to the Lord quite a bit, and spend time searching the Scriptures. Proverbs, once considered irrelevant and boring to me, was now teeming with counsel that spoke to my heart. Nothing got me studying the Bible quite like my need to know how to raise my children for God, especially early on.

My Marriage

Marriage teachers all say that the 2nd most important relationship we all should have, apart from the Lord, is with our spouse. I didn't get that 411 growing up somehow. However, as I sought the Lord in how to be a better mom, He helped me to also be a better wife. Marriage and motherhood both will teach us volumes about selfless living, unless we completely turn off the volume on our spiritual ears. Learning how to put others ahead of myself through the day to day life with my children, I was also able to put my husband's needs ahead of my own. During hard times, the children were like a glue that helped us to stay together, and overcome those hurdles that would have destroyed our precious marriage.

My Homemaking Skills

I was such a slob in college, that I had a room all to myself, because no one wanted to room with me by my last year, and so I willingly paid $100 to have a room to myself.

You have to picture it like a commercial:
"Private dorm room, $100 per semester;
not having to deal with a roommate's nagging about the mess on your side of the room, Priceless".

Having a baby on the floor putting things in her mouth motivated me in ways nagging never could to be more thorough. Somehow, as the children came and grew, multitasking became more and more easy for me. I was able to clean house, watch children, cook dinner, and keep a house orderly most days. It still won't pass inspection by my mom, I'm sure, but if we are comparing it to what it looked like when we first got married, it's a miracle.

My Tongue

I grew up in a somewhat critical/sarcastic/snarky environment. A sharp, rude and snarky put down was always readily sitting atop the tip of my tongue, waiting to be released. If someone's feelings were hurt, I would let loose on the family motto, "It's not my fault if you can't take a joke!" Hanging out and working in the theatre and art department at college, I also tended to have most of my sentences flavored with words not fit to print. Naughty speech is something of an addiction or a bad habit, so ingrained in you, that it is hard to just stop. When you're used to talking like that, it's more natural than not talking like that.

The Lord started sanctifying my tongue when I got saved, but it wasn't until my daughter repeated something that had slipped off of mommy's tongue but once, that I became even more cautious of what came out of my mouth.

Philippians 4:8 became my model not just for thoughts, but for speech. If I didn't want my child repeating things that were not pure, true, holy, honest, of good report, etc., then I needed to be extra diligent not to use them in front of her. The family legacy of crude and rude language, and of gossip, had to stop with me, and not passed to the next generation.

My Character

A wise man once said that Integrity is who you are when you think no one is watching. Once, with a two year old in the shopping cart with me, someone gave me back my $20 in addition to the other change. As money was tight, there was a moment that I almost pocketed it, but then I looked into some sweet blue eyes, and wondered what she'd learn. It's in little areas like this, where our character shines through, and we see who we really are. I could teach my daughter Bible verse after Bible verse but I would undo it all by modeling a lack of integrity and character before her. There'd have been an additional cost too: the cashier later got saved after coming to church after I gave her a tract a week earlier.

Children are like little mirrors into who we are. We sometimes don't see or notice our own character flaws, perhaps living in denial over it, or deceiving ourselves into thinking were a lot better than we really are. There's just something about seeing my bad habits looking back at me in the form of my child that convicts me like few things can.

Furthering my Education

Motherhood is also a great opportunity to further your own education, not through college classes or extension courses, but learning alongside of your children as they go through their own education. This isn't limited to homeschooling families Maybe through helping your child with algebra homework this time, you may even start to get it!

Looking at the World with Fresh Eyes

There's something to be said about looking at the world and experiencing things through the eyes of a child. My children have said some of the most outrageous and unintentionally funny things over the years, and some of the most profound, deep and insightful things as well as we walk this journey together.

Some people were critical of the fact that my husband and I were expecting a child so soon after we first got married. We didn't exactly start off with good odds: we both came from unsaved and dysfunctional families, we both were fairly new Christians saved out of rebellious lifestyles, we didn't have good jobs or good resources, and we were both pretty green in nearly every area of life. We had that blissful ignorance that afflicts most new Christians, and most 23 year olds, and so we had a double whammy being 20-something baby believers. Of course, we had no idea what a change God would bring into our lives through having a baby.

There's been some times when others have suggested that if we had waited a little while longer about having children, then it would have saved us a lot of grief and problems, mostly problems relating to money, and relating to us both being wholly unprepared for both parenthood and marriage. There's been times when we've even mused about that ourselves...And then, we snap out of it, realizing all of the ways the Lord has used parenthood and marriage to sanctify us further for His glory.

When we embrace motherhood, and yield to what the Lord is trying to do in our lives, the possibilities are limitless.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

When You Fall Off Your Diet

Losing weight, as I said last week, is a long term prospect when you are more than 20 or so pounds overweight, and you also need to rethink some common dieting paradigms when you are trying to take off (And keep off) a serious chunk of weight. Last week's weight loss post seemed to resonate with quite a few people...they were even tweeting about it on twitter, and I had more than one person email me to tell me that they are climbing their stairs more. That brought up a related topic from a question from a reader of last week's post:

Do you ever fall off your diet? What do you do about it? How do you restart when you've failed?

That's a good question, and really it is related to what I was saying last week. This whole idea of being on a diet, in terms of being really restrictive with what we are eating, and behaving in such a way as we are trying to take this off as fast as is possible (and if you are more than 40 over, it is not possible in a healthy way). I think that "dieting" mentality sets us up for failure, because what do you do when you fail on your diet? Do you...
  • Repent quickly and eat an apple? (probably not)
  • Take extra diet pills? (please don't. it's a bad idea for many reasons)
  • Go to McDonalds and scarf down a suped up hamburger with enough calories in it to feed a family of 4 for 3 days?
  • Buy a box of Twinkies and eat them all in the parking lot?
  • Eat a batch of cookie dough?
  • Inhale a bag of chips without coming up for air until only crumbs are left
  • Stop off at 7-11 for a 44 ounce slurpee (which has a day's worth of calories, by the way)<---this would also be me, if we had a 7-11 nearby
  • Make up one of those Lipton Noodles and Sauce side dishes and eat the whole thing?(<--this would be me)

The point is, most of us wouldn't run straight to healthy food. We would feel bad about our failure and then think, "Well, I already blew it", and so we run to whatever it was we were feeling deprived of. This is actually worse for you than not dieting in the first place.

A better solution is to not think in terms of dieting at all, or being in an overly restrictive diet, as I pointed out to you last week. By having a healthier lifestyle, one that is manageable, with smaller, healthier choices may not make you go from 300 pounds down to 110 before summer like the fad diets promise, but it will last longer and be more do-able.

Oh no, you ate a piece of chocolate! Oh well, but it doesn't mean you have to eat the whole package! Enjoy that one piece of chocolate. Nothing tastes good when you binge on it, right? You didn't exercise today! Don't try to do double tomorrow (if you could do twice what you do right now, you'd be doing it already). Just press forward....slow and steady wins the race.

The Bible says it this way: "For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again..."(Proverbs 24:16) The key to dieting success (and success in any other area of life) is not in not failing, but in getting back up again when we fall.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Is Country Life the Magic Forumla for Family Success?

This is almost a part two of another post regarding teaching your children to work, which you may also be interested in reading.

I think one of those more popular fallacies around many homeschooling circles is the idea that the best way to teach your children to work hard is to move out to the country and own a farm. I've known several friends who think that the cure for lazy kids is to live on the land. I was re-reading a few of my favorite books on family life recently, and I realized that most of them imply (indirectly) that country life is a sort of necessity for family success. I would never want to give that impression here, though I love the country life.

My standard answer to any of my city dwelling friends, when they tell me of their intentions to make a country move, or who are pining away at a daydream of country living, is to gently remind them of a simple truth:

If your children aren't willingly working beside you now, they surely aren't going to be up at the crack of dawn feeding the chickens and pigs.(I recommend that you tape that one to the well worn cover of your copy of "The Encyclopedia of Country Living"!)

Each family has it's own dynamic, and has to go with what works for them in areas that are not directly addressed in the Bible. Though the Bible seems mostly addressed to an agrarian society, the Bible addresses city-dwelling in a positive light as well when it says,

"And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth....[my note: then comes a list of blessings...]...Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field.
(Deuteronomy 28:1, 3)

You can be just as blessed in the city as in the country. The key is serving the Lord, not where you are living.

Obviously, I live in the country, just outside of a moderate sized town, on a wee bit less than an acre of land, with a big garden. I used to have chickens until my house was rezoned. I like the quiet of country life. I like the lack of traffic, and I generally like my surroundings. There are many things I love about living here, and there are some I don't like (especially with the gas prices!), just as there are many things I like about living in the city, and many I don't like. There are things that save you money in the country (hint: raising animals is not necessarily a money saver--they have to eat, you know) and things that save you money living in the city.

I would ask any of you longing for that house in the country to not wait for that to teach your children about work and to enjoy nature. Ask yourself this: What is your reality? Whatever that reality is, do it with the kids. Whatever your daily tasks include, in your mind (or on paper), break jobs and activities down into bite sized baby steps, think about how to include your children in your everyday life.

The magic formula is NOT, I repeat NOT about living in the country, having a farm, or participating in 18th/19th century chores. Whether you live in the country or the city, do whatever it is you do every day WITH your kids. Living in the country, I can tell you there are just as many (if not more) lazy kids with too much time on their hands up here in the country as down in the suburbs (mailbox baseball, cow-tipping, and paint-balling barns are popular past times in the country). The key isn't just what kind of chores you are doing, but rather working with your kids, and doing your work with a cheerful heart, and training our children in CHEERFUL diligence from a young age.

This working with your children can mean things like this:
  • Cooking Breakfast (or other meals) with your children
  • Picking up together
  • Sorting socks while telling Round Robin stories
  • Hanging laundry on nice days and praising God together for dryers on not so nice days.
  • Shoveling snow for your driveway and your neighbor's driveways
  • Sewing together. When you have a button to sew on a shirt, make it a learning event. Everyone practice.
  • You can even get high tech with this thought. I like the 21st century. I am a contradiction sometimes, I know...I like gardening, I like sewing, and I like technical why not pass that on to my kids, too?
  • My oldest daughter took most of the photographs on this blog, including the Magnolia at the top. Teach them to use a digital camera--there's no film to waste
  • I may be using the film making skills of two of my kids soon which they enjoy doing
  • When you are fixing something around the house, have a child help you. Someday they too may have drippy pipes or toilets that keep running.

You get the picture. With the Lord, your family can be blessed in the city, or blessed in the country.

Monday, January 19, 2009


I was thinking about today, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and thinking about what it means to us in the 21st century. Tomorrow, history is going to happen as the first African-American president gets inaugurated to office, and people are making a big deal of it.

I am not sure if Dr. King would be pleased with the attention the President-elect's skin color is getting. The whole point of Dr. King's speech was not celebrating people of color because of their skin color, but celebrating the accomplishments of all, regardless of the color of their skin, based on the content of their character, to use his words. I think he may be disappointed that society is still so focused in on skin color over character.

As you watch, and listen to Dr. King's speech today, with your children (posted below in it's entirety) think on, and discuss what he was saying. Are we closer to or further from that dream of Dr. King's today?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

7 Ways to Celebrate Life Everyday

Maybe you realized it, or maybe you didn't, but today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, and Wednesday will be the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. I was thinking about this a few years ago, when the thought hit me as to one way in which it did affect me growing up.

When I started school, they had built some extra, newer elementary schools in our district to handle all of the children we had. The school was built the year I was born in the last 1960s. By the time I was entering 5th grade, my elementary school had to be shut down due to lack of students. The entering Kindergarten class simply wasn't born in the same numbers as previous years in 1973, or 1974, or most years after that. It could be from other circumstances beyond Roe v. Wade, of course, or added to Roe v. Wade, but the fact is that by 1980, our elementary school closed it's doors due to a sharp decline in enrollment.

I also know that, if I were conceived a few years later than I was, I'd probably not be writing this. I'd have been a prime candidtate for an abortion--I wasn't planned, and my birth mother wasn't married. Maybe she would have chosen life, or maybe not.

As with diet and exercise, sometimes I think we try to think only in terms of the big stuff when it comes to combating the sometimes negative attitudes we see in others about the sanctity of human life, and the laws that legalize the devaluing of life. We think big, like changing laws. However, we are most pro-life when we are pro-life in the little, day to day things...Likewise, we can say we are pro life but act very differently in the everyday (maybe without realizing it), sending conflicting messages to a watching world looking for answers to life's questions.

I was pondering the different ways in which I can show, in my everyday life, that each life I come across has value. I will admit that some of these are convicting to my heart (especially that first one!). However, we really show who we are, not in what we do on special occasions, or on Sunday in church, but in how we live out the nitty gritty of life.

I am sure there are more, but these are the top seven pro life things I want to do, every day, this year, to live out my belief that every life has value, and everyone is made in the image of their Creator God, from conception until the time they set foot into eternity.

Top Seven Everyday Pro Life Things you can do to celebrate life everyday:

1. Treat EVERYONE with respect and dignity as people made in the image of God, from the grandma who is driving 30 MPH in a 55 MPH zone while you're running late for an appointment, to the baby or toddler making a fuss at the store.

2. Teach a child something new, something which celebrates the joy of being alive in little ways, whether it is how to bake a yummy loaf of bread, to how to blow dandelion fuzzies everywhere, or make angels in the snow. Stop and smell the proverbial roses every day with a child.

3. Pray for the single mothers you know, who have a tough job ahead of them, many not by their choice, and many who were courageous enough to choose life in a difficult situation.

4. Ask the Lord to show you one thing you can do to be a blessing to someone who is weary of life and needs encouragement, and act on it. You don't have to do something huge or grande to make someone around you smile. A card, a phone call, a plate of cookies, or a basket of apples off your tree...or anything else the Lord shows you to do.

5. Thank God for the life He has brought into your family, your children, your spouse, your extended family, and YOU.

6. Make sure to tell each of your children how much you love them, each and every day, preferably with a hug that lasts until they let go.

7. Tell those you meet of the hope that is in you: Jesus, the One who is the Resurrection and the Life. Ask God to give you opportunities to share of the eternal life you have through our Lord, and spread the word, whether in conversation, emails, a blog, or sharing a tract if you're feeling shy. Sow good seed wherever you go.