Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Feasting while Fasting

My daughters, husband and I are doing something we haven't done before - fasting.  For 21-days, starting tomorrow, we are going to deny ourselves the things we really like the most (they all slightly rhyme)- cheese, meats, sweets, wheat, treats and a host of other little things.  (Yikes! Did I mention no chocolate or coffee?)  We are gingerly attempting the Daniel Fast, a 21-day, Biblical approach to the denial of "choice foods, meats and animal by-products" as suggested in the Holy Scripture in Daniel.

Why are we doing this?

For one, our church leaders suggested it.  As a church, we are all embarking on a fasting journey hoping to generate regeneration in our church family. Two, as a family we are asking for a spiritual, physical, emotional, physical and mental jump-start.  Three, I want to focus on a larger cooking variety, eating cleaner, back-to-basic foods, and tending to my family more than I have in the past. Finally, we are desiring the Lord more than we want cheese and chocolate - and other things that have become our normal ways of life.  My sixteen year old said "when I get hungry, I am going to write a prayer request on a notecard, and focus on that until the hunger pangs die down." While I have obstained from things in the past (caffeine, chocolate, Facebook), I haven't ever done a strict food-forbidden fast before.  This is a really a new experience. And my whole household is embarking with me. 

Why does it feel like we are standing on the edge of cliff?

In her book, "The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast,"  Kristen Feola writes about the many advantages of fasting and ways to really enhance your fasting experience.  She guides you through the oxymoron of fasting. Fasting empowers us while enabling us to be dependent on God.  Fasting is about food and fasting is not about food.  Fasting is about you and fasting is not about you.  Fasting is a battle and fasting is about getting the victory. And first and foremost – fasting is about Jesus and will be life-altering if we fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith (pages 19-22).

We feel as if we are getting our hearts ready, now we need to commit our heads as well. We started by cleaning out the fridge and the pantry.  We found a big box and labeled it “forbidden.”  We put all the things we truly love eating in that box.   Foods in the fridge that are now off limits we tucked in the corner and covered with red tissue paper signifying “stop!”

So let the Fast begin.

And now the sequel…

We completed the 21-day fast.  We survived. Really.  More than surviving, we were thriving! And now that it is done my husband and I can honestly say, “w e   w e r e   f e a s t i n g   w h i l e   f a s t i n g .”  My husband agreed that he never felt better.  My headaches were virtually non-existent. (Hard to say if it was the Daniel Fast and the absence of caffeine and chocolate or dairy OR MyPillow.Com pillow that I received for Christmas!)  We feel stronger, clearer, more intentional and above all – experienced the promised “fast forwarding” that fasting brings. The results were undeniable.  Events, conversations, appointments, ideas were plentiful and it seemed that everyday there was a deluge of heavenly blessings.

Healing happens at the table of the Lord!

We found Jesus in the Fast and learned He is the Lord of the Feast!

We spent quality time together cooking, baking, trying new recipes.  We encouraged one another and really cared how each other were faring along the way. It was an incredible family experience.

And now that it is over, what do we do next? Did we learn anything about ourselves or our three-times-a-day routine? Yes, we did. Here’s a few “take-aways” from the fast, which have now become apart of our health and wellness lifestyle:

1)   Vegetables are the main part of the meal. Repeat – vegetables are the main part of the meal. We have had zucchini and squash-spaghetti which are now a family favorite instead of pasta.  That says something coming from an Italian!
2)   Fruit and nuts and seeds are now a main stay for breakfast and snacks instead of cheese, cheese, and more cheese.
3)   The three ABCs of brain-health are avocado, beets (either juice or pickled), and coconut oil/products. We are putting these three things in many things!
4)   Drinking spring water first thing in the morning and throughout the day is essential.
5)   Deliberately cutting out all “added sugar” as much as humanly possible. This really is the silent killer and seems to be in everything! This takes work but there are granolas without sugar and peanut butters without sugar.  This does not suggest going “sugar-free” which is a chemical alternative.  This means going without.
6)   Popcorn and baked chips with salsa are the go-to snacks.
7)   We can eat a whole lot less than we thought and still be plenty full and satisfied.
8)   Smoothies with almond/coconut milk are really good and good for you.
9)   Date honey is the best replacement for a sweetener.
10)                 We absolutely need meat and eggs as protein sources.  Beans do not cut it.
11)                 Kale, brussel sprouts, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, green beans and green peppers are all must-haves on the shopping list.
12)                 Cheese and chocolate and coffee are good. They are feel good foods – and I really like them. Plus, I am in love with alliteration, so it works for me! 

And the list goes on as we discover and try new ideas.  I just made a smoothie today: coffee (fair-trade, Columbian), almond/coconut milk, hemp seeds, cinnamon, and one banana.  All I can say is “more please!” 

It’s just another way that once again, God’s ideas of clean eating and living, as described in the Bible and especially the Daniel Fast, allow His People to feast while fasting. There is peace, grace and healing at the Table of the Lord.

Enjoy this amazing Chris Tomlin song with video sounds and sights of the “Table of the Lord!”

Come and feast friends.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Myth of the Empty Nest

I’ve spent most of my mothering life dreading the moment that my children will leave my “nest.”  Woven into almost every lullaby, nighttime prayer, and sentiment was the message that I didn’t want my babies to grow up and leave me – ever.

I watched an American Robin couple and their four little eggs hatch and develop a few years ago. Mother Robin decided on a nook of our porch, just feet outside of my kitchen window.  Day by day as I washed and dried my dishes, I watched the Mother Robin, and Father Robin, since both are active in the building, feeding and protecting, build their nest together, strand-by-strand, twig-by-twig.  Bits of grass, twigs, paper and feathers, smeared with mud, and lined with a cushion of cotton wood tree fluff, constituted the little nest built with such care.  Then came the laying, the sitting, and the waiting.  14 days passed by before the hatching of those “Martha Stewart Robin Blue” eggs began.  Soon, four little bald, blind, and squeaking heads appeared, crying for something.  Mother Robin and Father Robin would both tend to the babies with tireless care.  It became their full-time job. Dashing to and fro from the porch to the woods finding invertebrates like insects, worms, and caterpillars to feed the baby birds that seem to never be satisfied.  Of course, the changing of the little “diapers” totally amused me.  The babies would lift up their bottoms and the little white pouch would be disposed quickly by the parents.  The nest would remain clear of all waste.

The babies grew.  Bigger and bigger. I couldn’t really believe they all fit in that little round nest.  Then the flying lessons began.  Not just a one and done.  Little by little Mother Robin would take them out on short flight missions.  It takes about fourteen days of the fledging flight patterns until they feel secure with their own wings. Soon Birdie One left and didn’t return.  And then it continued. Birdie Two and then Three.  Until only the smallest Baby Bird remained.  Reluctant to leave or spread its unsure wings, it sat.  Mother Robin coached.  She continued to feed and prod the bird. And one day, finally, the little birdie flew.  Well, actually it fell.  Off the porch.  Not good at spreading and using those tiny wings yet. But Mother Robin was there at the crash site and, I can only guess, gave some birdy-type kisses and the little bird gave it another try.  Soon the nest was empty and my little-over-one-month of enlightenment and education was over.

That cinched it for me.  I would fight the inevitable empty nest.  How horrible.  How lonely.
One by one the off-spring leave never to return.

But as my mothering life has unfolded and reality has been fused with expectation, I have discovered that although Robins experience an empty nest, Humans rarely do.

I am just saying that things aren’t as dismal as I first imagined.  Our human nests really never empty. Not completely. Not if we keep the “welcome home” sign posted. There always the coming and going and the coming again.  Always a reason to keep home improving, It doesn’t have to be “bye, bye birdie” as the phrase “empty nest” suggest.

I had all three of my little birdies home this summer.  I begged my husband for a new sofa set – wanting the “nest” to feel just right as our college daughter, Madeline, returned from her freshman year and Brock returned from his junior hockey season.   DIY projects included finishing off a bathroom for Meredith, creating an herb garden so I could have fresh basil for our mozzarella caprese, hanging a fan in Brock’s room so he could stay cool and comfortable, and finally adding slate tile to a floor covered in worn linoleum for when my husband’s muddy shoes return from his various construction projects.  I guess we all have that “nesting” instinct that never, ever goes away. Improving the nest is one of my greatest pleasures.

Brock just suggested that we consider “re-nesting”.  He would like a game room, a fire pit in the backyard, and a hang out place for his friends in the summer.  He obviously has big plans for our next nest.

Empty Nesting is a choice I guess  - you can look for new ways to welcome the birds back into your nest, realizing that families are forever. Mother Robins build one nest, lay one brood, and say “good-bye” at the end of about four weeks.  Not so with us.  We can continue the progression of the nest, preparing for changing seasons, the re-creating and the re-organizing of the nest to make it just right for the birdies and their buddies.  And eventually, one day, God-willing, those tiny grand-birdies.

I made dinner for Brock for the last time before he heads to college tomorrow.  He returned from working out at the YMCA at 10:00 pm.  Hungry again, just like those baby birds.  Thankfully I had avocado, chicken breast. Broccoli and blueberries on hand – all his favorites.  Greatest compliment?  The dinner plate makes his Snap Chat story and he says “Wow – thanks Mom.” 

I am so glad the nest is tight and full for one more night. And I will dream of more nest-filling adventures with flights home and flights away into the big, beautiful world.

P.S.  After discussing this blog idea with my high school friend, and now colleague, Sharon, she told me that a phrase she liked using was the "open nest." Aha!  I thought!  That is the new language for today's mother in tune to the changing seasons.  The open nest...yes!

Go to sleep my little one
Gone the day and set the sun
Go to sleep my little one
And sleep until the morning
And sleep until the morning

Come my sweet one, take your rest
Like a birdie in its nest
Come my sweet one, take your rest
And sleep until the morning
And sleep until the morning

One of my favorite Dorian German Lullabies from Musikgarten
I sang this with all three babies and love it still

My three children painted me this picture entitled "Bird Love"
If you look carefully, you shall see
Brock's handprint in the wing,
Madeline's handprints in the sun,
and Meredith's handprints in the butterfly.

(Photo Credit and Facts: American Robin Website)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Homeschooling Hand In Hand

Welcome to Hand In Hand and Homeschooling! 

It was always in my heart to be a teacher.  Ever since I could remember, I was lining up the chairs, putting my dolly and teddy bears in row, grabbing chalk and giving a lesson.  Yes, teaching was in my heart. When I became a mother, I made plans early to send my child to a “home school academy.”  This approach was a new paradigm, a new educational model in Minnesota.  Although it was met with some hesitancy and hostility, we forged ahead, infringing on old norms and forming a blend of two models into one.  A true parent-school partnership emerged. For me, the only “community education model” that was compatible with homeschooling was Montessori.  It was a must-have.  Montessori, with its multi-aged, individually paced, and interest-based learning, was the perfect compliment to homeschooling benefits. Below you will find an amazing list, written by Samantha, a homeschooled, teen blogger.  The same reasons she loves homeschooling are the same reasons we love Montessori.  It is a perfect blend – the best of both worlds.

1. I am excelling academically.
2. I learn at my own pace.
4. I have no pointless homework.
5. I have no pointless busy-work.
6. I learn beyond textbooks and study my passions and areas of interest. 
7. Textbooks are not my only, nor my primary, learning tool.
9. As a visual analytical learner, curriculum is customized to fit my needs.
11. I have more time to focus on the areas I need help with, and I can breeze through the “easy” stuff.
15. Students are primarily scored on English and Math, therefore History and Science are looked on as low priority. As a history nerd, I cringe at this thought.
17. We have a lower student-to-teacher ratio.
20. We have no Common Core or No Child Left Behind.
21. I love politics and current events and probably wouldn’t fare well with liberal political teachers.
22. I am not subject to political correctness, indoctrination and political propaganda about religion and history.
23. I am a critical thinker, and I am allowed to think beyond the box in my homeschool.
24. We don’t have to get vaccines!
29. We have no “fuzzy math” (Is 5 + 5 REALLY 10? Or is it 11?)
31. Socialization is not the primary reason a person goes to school.
32. I’m an entrepreneur – I don’t socialize, I network.
36. I get along with my sisters decently well.
40. I have extra time to pursue passions, like blogging and entrepreneurship! :)
41. I learn life skills, such as cooking, cleaning, and money management.
42. I have a flexible schedule.
44. We have better school lunches!
50. I love it.

So, if you feel called to homeschooled and teaching is in your heart – as it was in mine – you have come to the right place.  They say that the one who teaches, learns twice.  Welcome to the adventure where you can teach and learn as well!

Sara Groves – I Can't Wait Lyrics

When you reach the proper age
I will teach you to read and you can turn the pages
How to dress and tie your shoes
Your one plus ones, and your two times two's
And you'll teach me
Of hearts and dreams
And all the most important things
And all that i have lost along the way
And I can't wait

As you grow, I'll show you things
How to ride your bike and kick your legs out on the swings
To fold your hands and bow your head
How to say your prayers before you go to bed
And you'll teach me
Of hearts and dreams
And all the most important things
And all that I have lost along the way
And I can't wait

How do you sleep so peacefully?
How do you trust unflinchingly?
How do you love so faithfully?
How do you dance so joyfully?
Oh you'll teach me
Of hearts and dreams
And all the most important (essential) things
And all that i have lost along the way
And I can't
No I can't
Come teach me
Of love and dreams
And all the most essential thing
And all that I have lost along the way
Cause I can't wait   Click here to listen to this inspiration song by yes, my favorite artist, Sara Groves. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Not Yet Peaceful

2016 seems to be the most hectic year ever.  Imagine being a young person, under 18 years old.  Gone are the days when you could play outside in your neighborhood, riding bikes around and coming home by dinner time.  Gone are your many "focal point" activities of knitting, sewing, scrapbooking (with actual scissors), washing dishes by hand or hanging clothes on a clothes-line.  Free play is lost. Now you have play dates.  No more vacant lots for kick-the-can and pick-up-baseball. Now we have organized sport teams. No more crawling around the station wagon while in motion.  Now you are strapped into a car seat until you are eight and a seatbelt until you are eighty.  It is a good thing - because you live in the car now. You don't get up and change the dial on your larger-than-life TV instead everyone in the family has their own device.  No more waiting patiently until Thursday night when "The Walton Family" aired at 7:00 pm and everyone gathered around - now you can binge-watch whatever show you have the hankering for at any moment.  It is more than "good night John Boy" it is really good-bye.  And people are even confused about what bathroom to use...yep, it's pretty hectic.  

It is our job, one of our most important jobs, as educators and parents to keep the wildly spinning world very, very quiet and still for our developing children.  They actually crave peace but cannot find it without our help.  We must create patterns and processes of life that help children become peaceful.  So I ask...

I s   y o u r   h o m e   p e a c e f u l ?     I s   y o u r   c h i l d   p e a c e f u l ?

If you are looking for ways to reclaim peace for your children and restore peace in your home, here's a list that I have adapted from Donna Bryant Goertz’s book Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful - pages 122 & 123.

1. "Establish a slow-placed lifestyle" with attention to the "five fuel sources": sleep, water, food, movement, and love.  These five things nourish the limbic part of the brain that controls emotion.  When our base needs are satisfied, we are rational.

2. "Behold the child" - fully engaged eye contact, holding, hugging, treasuring the time spent one-on-one. Seriously, give your child your full attention.  Put down the phone. 

3.  "Read to the child, aloud," chapter books that are several years beyond the child’s reading level, for at least 20-30 minutes. Reading paints pictures in the mind and allows character development to transpire by the images invoked.

4.  "Recite poetry every day, a new poem every week." Repetition brings harmony (it is a design principle). 

5. "Sing every day, a new song every week." Music is healing to the soul.  It is by nature, music is worshipful and we humans need it. We were created for worship.

6. "Tell delightful stories of the child’s own life".  Share stories of your own history and the child’s heritage. Stories are the threads that keep us from unraveling.  It reminds us of our past and gives us a hope for the future.

7. "Foster an atmosphere of open curiosity and inquiry" which treasures learning and interest. Truly rediscover your child's innate passions - and then feed the passion.  If this passion includes anything virtual, redirect it towards reality.

8. "Let the child have responsibility in the home" in meal preparation, caring for animals, tending to gardens and plants and taking care of his/her own things. It may take longer and make a bigger mess but it helps children develop ownership.  

9. "Impose a two-hour weekly limit to all forms of screen time." Screen time reconfigures the brain.  This is imperative for a peaceful child to have limits on virtual activities.

10.  "Give freedom to the child from being dragged around on errands". Take them home instead.  Down time is very, very important. Time to tinker. Time to do nothing.

11.  "Give freedom to the child from cynicism and sarcasm." Sarcasm means "to cut with a knife".  Choose your words carefully.

12.  "Say “no” cheerfully and mean it".  Do not allow there to be “yellow zones” - only red and green.  Set boundaries and offer freedom within the boundaries. Neuro-science confirms that young minds need this.

13. "Wait until children are in bed for adult news, movies, music and social media". Protect your children from the information overload and over-exposure to mature content and violence.

14. "Establish a child-rearing culture that supports age-appropriate independent thought and decision-making" in as many areas as possible and as often as possible. Constructivism is the wonderful place to start practicing these principles.

The Holy Scripture says "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." Peace is more than just an unobtainable ideal.  Peace is a person - Jesus.  We can actually invite Him into our hearts and homes and ask Him to help us.  In a fallen world with so much brokenness, we need the Prince of Peace.  He offers peace that surpasses all understanding. May we all take one step away from the hectic today into a more peaceful tomorrow. For the sake of our children.

Enjoy listening to this peaceful and beautiful Scripture Lullaby.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Lesson Learned in my Tennis Shoes

“Hi Tennis Shoes! It has been a while.” I was inspired by my youngest child to take up running (or in my case, jogging) last summer.  A long time ago, in an era I could refer to as B.C. (before children), I was an active, sweat-loving, aerobic-craving athlete.  That characterization abandoned me when the word “placenta” entered my vocabulary.  Now after almost two decades, I felt ready to dust off my tennis shoes and once again return to some-version of my former self. There is definitely something to that euphoric feeling and a runner’s high every time you hit the pavement and your tennis shoes find their destiny.

You might call my running a “fascination”.  But my youngest, Meredith, age 16, has taken up running with a “passion.”  She just completed her first Half-Marathon last month.  Standing at the finish line, cheering her on, I thought…She has fought for this. She preserved. She finished the race. She received two medals – one for being a “finisher” and one for “2nd place” (20 years and younger category), along with her friend,  who came in 1st by a few seconds. 

There is a big difference between her and me. None of my casual, jogging-on-the-weekends stuff. Meredith, who began running last spring in track at her high school, hasn’t stopped running.  She trains 6 days out of 7 days meaning that her routines often involve time in the weight room, an abdominal workout, and running 4, 6, 8, or 10 miles per day – depending on her selected routine.  She loves Nike, and Lulu, and smoothies with kale.   She is “all in!”

Celebrating over lunch, after her big race, along with friends, family and fans, we discussed the reason why the Christian Life is often compared to a race.  Holy Scripture refers to the concept of a running, racing, prize-receiving over a dozen times. Why is this? What is the connection? What are the life lessons actually learned in your tennis shoes?

To best answer this I must refer to an awesome sermon preached by Executive Pastor Bart Scharer from Substance Church after he had finished the Iron Man Race. (You can enjoy the unabridged version by visiting https://vimeo.com/148660445or www.substancechurch.com). Here are the lessons that he learned in his tennis shoes. The points are his – the commentaries and takeaways are mine.  These are truths for running an earthly race as well as an eternal one.

Enjoy the race.  After months of training, the race itself actually goes by fast. So enjoy it.  Look around.  Smell the air.  Breathe in the atmosphere. Enjoy yourself! Philippians 2:16 Holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

Run your race.  This speaks to the individualism in the pacing and approach.  You must customize this race.  Choose your own gear. Set your timing. Stick with your game plan.  Don’t be thrown off by those around you doing something different.  Stick to your training plan. 2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;

Just keep moving.  The only way to get through this is just keeping your feet moving. Can’t run? Trying skipping. Or Walking.  Whatever you need to do – just keep moving. Galatians 5:7 You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?

Look for your family and fans.  At checkpoints, it is not uncommon to see signs and hear the cheers.  Look for them along the way.  They are your supporters.  They are your cheerleaders.  Look for them and rely on them for that boost of energy as things get hard! Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin, which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Be intentional about what you think about.  Your thought life is critical during the race.  This is often the difference between finishing strong and petering out.  Your thoughts.  Losing yourself in positive scenarios, good music, and uplifting self-talk is a difference maker. Galatians 2:2 It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel, which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain.

Practice daily disciplines.  You just don’t wake up and run an Iron Man or a marathon or even a 5K for that matter.  You have to do the little things right. Everyday matters as the little choices add up to the big ones. This is probably the hardest part of the race – the most simple, obscure, mundane work.  Away from the crowds, it is what you do with your private time that really counts.
I Timonthy 4:8  Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and the life to come.

Get a coach – trust your trainer.  Everyone needs an example, a role model, a mentor.  You need to find someone who can set up a plan and help you stick to it.  They hold your feet down during the sit-ups.  They get in your face and tell you “one more – you can do this!”  They are the ones who let you know “there’s more in you! Keep going!”  Hebrews 12:2 Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Look for the miraculous.  Miracles happen everyday.  There are moments when you don’t know how you even did what you did- but you know it was a “God-thing!”  He actually is alive, active and available.  He loves to be involved in miracles as the race is happening.  Look for them.  Only the seekers find them. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim;

Take one step today.  Everyone can start with one step – just move in the right direction.  If you sit on the couch, get up and take a walk around your house.  If you walk – try weights. If you jog – speed up. If you run – find a race in which to compete!  Challenge your self to take one positive step today toward your goal. Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Together, as friends, let’s put on our tennis shoes and do this exercise-thing together.  Seriously, we are going to have a HIH bike/run/walk in October 2016 – so stay tuned on our training schedule.  Let’s do this thing called life together and run “the race” set before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, and our feet moving towards heaven.

Fitting song for this blog - Click here to enjoy a new release from Sara Groves “On Your Mark” with the original dance choreography by my daughter, Madeline Thompson for her spring dance showcase.