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Posted on Apr 18, 2016 in Health | 3 comments

Be Awesome: Update

Be Awesome: Update

Be Awesome

This year my resolution is to Be Awesome.

My fabulous sister-in-law gave me a little “Be Awesome” plaque that now sits in my kitchen. I love it. Putting it in the kitchen gave me an added boost in March (2016), reminding me as I spent hour after hour in there, of my promise to myself. In March, I completed a 30-day health reset (following the program The Whole30 by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig). It’s a pretty extreme diet to help reduce inflammation, sugar cravings, and set your body back on track. It’s very intense, but I studied the program, followed it nearly 100% (never intentionally going off-plan), and feel awesome about it.

I spent about two weeks studying the book to make sure I understood the program, preparing my mind for the changes I was about to make, and planning how I would eat and not eat. During the program, I spent a lot of time chopping vegetables, lining baking sheets with parchment paper, making meal plans, and shopping for approved foods.

The result has been great! I didn’t realize that a change in my eating could help eliminate anxiety, but it did. Some of the health issues I had have been seriously diminished or are completely gone. I lost a few pounds, and I learned a great new way to cook and feed my family. I discovered that my kids actually like healthy food better than most processed foods, and I stopped spending some much money at the grocery store. (Full disclosure, we purchased beef [grass-fed and local] and pork [free from sugar, MSG, and other junk] from other sources.)

During the time I was doing this extreme diet, we had three sets of out-of-town guests. We had two birthday parties (Charlie and Rick), a wedding in which Eliana was the flower girl, Easter, and all of our regular responsibilities. During all of these events, I was able to stay on the plan – no grains, no sugar or sweeteners, no milk products, no legumes, and no alcohol. What you eat is simple, whole food: meat, vegetables, and a little fruit. It’s designed to help you renegotiate your relationship with food, set up healthy eating habits, and allow your body to heal by removing any foods that might stir up allergies or inflammation. I set up a text message group and sent out regular texts to those who were interested, letting them know how I was doing with the diet, and inviting their responses.

I was surprised to find that the text message group became a source of fun and ministry for me. The things I shared triggered others to share personal things with me, and I was able to pray with several group members and offer encouragement beyond healthy eating. It was a great way to get my mind off myself and to reach out to others. I reconnected with a few people I’d lost touch with, and enjoyed the challenges they presented to me too.

I felt so awesome, in fact, that I decided to stick to the plan moving forward. I won’t be quite so strict, but I will make it a priority to feed myself and my family whole, healthy meals that allow our bodies to function well, rather than constantly fight off problems. If I do go off the plan, I will ask myself if it’s worth it. If it is, I’ll eat as little as possible to feel satisfied.

I did get discouraged because I’d hoped for big weight loss numbers. It wasn’t all about weight for me, but I was hopeful that it would be a side effect. I did lose weight, but it was about half of what I’d hoped to achieve. I’ve been reminding myself of how awesome I feel on it, trying hard not to let that derail me again. The longer I eat in a healthy way, the more my body has a chance to heal from the poor choices I made, and the better I can feel overall. The better I feel, the more I can do positive things like exercise, and the easier it will be to lose weight. (My goal is not to be a particular weight, but just to be healthy and fit, which for me requires some weight loss.)

In order to help keep myself on track, I’ve jumped into another program that sends reminders to my phone every day, letting me know one new thing I can do each week to be as healthy as possible. For Mother’s Day, I plan to ask for a fitness tracker. I know if I keep moving in the right direction, I can truly learn to prioritize health for myself and my family. (And not turn into a crazy mommy, obsessed with being skinny. Lord, help me find the balance!)

Beyond the physical health changes I’ve made, I’ve also made some decisions to care more for myself emotionally. (It’s amazing to me how I never seem to do enough of this, no matter how much of a priority I make it, and how selfish I feel in spite of all the knowledge I have about how important it is to take care of yourself so you can take care of others.) I’ve made a point to stop knocking on doors that haven’t yet opened. Moving to a rural, farming community has been a big change for this city girl, in spite of my childhood in the area. I thought I could change some of the basic things about myself to fit in better here, but it turns out that trying to do so only makes me unhappy and doesn’t work anyway. I’m enjoying life on the farm, and I even had Rick expand my garden for this summer! I’m looking forward to growing fresh vegetables and fruit, spending time outdoors tending my garden, and feeding my family from the harvest.

I also need some semblance of my old life, though. In the last four months, I’ve made some changes that might seem silly at first glance, but are important to me. In order to get me back into the city on a semi-regular basis, I’ve changed some of the people I work with so I have a good reason to get into the city. I’m not just out shopping, but I’m seeing the eye doctor, getting my hair done, and so forth. It helps me feel like I can breathe.

Part of being awesome this year has also included taking a week-long family vacation, with our nanny, to a cabin in Gatlinburg, TN. She watched our children at night, so Rick and I slept without interruption for eight nights straight. We haven’t done that in about four years, so just being well-rested was a hugely awesome thing! During that week, I stayed off social media and just spent time with my family. I read a book. The whole week was good for me, so good that I really wanted to stay another week. I’m usually ready to get home from vacation, but this time was different. It probably had a little to do with sleeping all night! From that well-rested place, I embarked on this health reset and found the end of a deep sadness that had come on me toward the end of 2015.

How are YOU doing on your new year’s resolutions? Is there anything YOU feel awesome about and would like to share? I’d love to hear about it!

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Posted on Jan 13, 2016 in Odds and Ends | 1 comment

BE AWESOME

BE AWESOME

12240927_10207933194148508_8120287088457606718_oOur fourth anniversary (12/30) and New Year’s came and went this year with little fanfare from us at all. My beautiful Aunt Linda passed away on the day after Christmas, so we went to Iowa to be with extended family and remember her together. We had just gotten home from spending Christmas with my family in Virginia. Our kids were full of love (and new toys) from Grammy, Grandpa, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We quickly did some laundry, took down the live Christmas tree, got a travel DVD player so we the kids didn’t lose their minds during another road trip, and hit the road again.

After the visitation and funeral, spending time with more aunts, uncles, and cousins, we spent a few hours in the Amish community nearby. We found a quiet little restaurant that surprised us. It smelled delicious and looked like it had some personality, so we ventured inside with the kids. We were met at the door by a small, Italian woman who greeted us warmly and asked if we had reservations. Hmmm… Definitely NOT Amish. Despite our lack of reservations, she ushered us into a small room where the only other customer was an elderly widower who was settling his bill. There was a room adjacent to it where I heard a live classical guitarist playing and saw sharply dressed adults clinking wine glasses. The tables were set with heavy white linens and dark wood and scrumptious decor surrounded us. There was no kid’s menu.

Hot Chocolate CompressedI laughed nervously at how times have changed. Once I would’ve been seated in the other room with my lively and attractive friends, enjoying sparkling conversation and trying not to think about the bill. That night, I was grateful to be in the “other” dining room and desperately hoped my kids didn’t melt down during the meal. They were surprisingly well-behaved and we enjoyed a beautiful dinner together. Eliana talked us into getting her hot chocolate, and we splurged and shared a slice of chocolate cake for dessert. We decided our New Year’s celebration was that meal on January 2nd.

We got home on the 3rd, dragged our tired kids and heavy suitcases into the house, and breathed a big sigh of relief. Having been with the kids 24/7, even sleeping in the same bed for the last several days (one adult/one child per bed), I was ready for a break. They missed their grandparents, so the next morning they jitterbugged off to Grandma’s to play. I took a long, luxurious shower (we won’t talk about the shower in the only motel room we could find at the last minute over a holiday). I unpacked, did laundry, and finally took a few minutes to breathe. I opened the computer and began to write, thinking about the new year and what resolutions I needed to make.

Chase me, Charlie!

Chase me, Charlie!

2015 was a decent year for me. My kids became old enough to play together and learned how to do many things for themselves; I started thinking about life beyond pregnancy and diapers. I lost 20 pounds and kept it off (whew!). It wasn’t as much as I wanted to lose, but at least it was something! I was a good wife, leaning into love even when I was hurt or afraid, nurturing our relationship for the long haul instead of allowing momentary issues to derail us (most of the time).

I had my own garden and enjoyed learning what to do with all the great things that I grew. I became a more confident cook. I became a more competent mother. I got to do some really fun things, including visiting my friends in Tennessee, North and South Carolina, and Virginia. Amy Summer 2015I love concerts and was finally able to go to a few again. I was a great friend to a few people who needed great friends. I spent a lot of time and energy doing volunteer ministry in my local church and thinking/praying about returning to church work in a formal capacity. (And wondering if I’d lost my mind…) I even preached several times. I took Eliana to gymnastics and story time, went to a mom’s group, and participated in a weekly bible study.

It was a good year. There were some disappointments too, some rejection and frustration, but they did not overwhelm me. Rather, they cleared up some questions I’ve had these last few years and gave me the clarity I’ve needed. They caused our family to re-evaluate some of our relationships and open ourselves up to change.

So what’s the next step? What do I need to think about in 2016? I’m done with the tired old resolutions I’ve tried time and time again. I need something fresh and fun. The thought popped into my mind and developed quickly, bringing a big smile to my face.

I decided that my new year’s resolution is to BE AWESOME.

Yup. Be awesome.

I’ve been doing fine in so-so land, but it’s time for a change. I’ve had an aversion to awesome because it’s never awesome enough for SOMEONE. So why even try to be awesome when you’re ALWAYS letting someone down? Might as well relax a little and not get everyone’s expectations up too high.

But not this year.

The problem with keeping everyone’s expectations low is that I’m not meeting my own expectations. I’m disappointed in myself. At 40 years old, that’s a hard thing to admit to yourself. I’m tired of disappointing myself. There’ve been times in my life when I’ve been pretty awesome. I’ve worked hard to achieve my goals and accomplished a lot, but every time I’ve somehow fallen short. I didn’t get the job, or I the relationship I was reaching for didn’t work out, or the person I really wanted to impress didn’t notice.

But here’s the deal: I FELT AWESOME. I felt accomplished and beautiful or loveable and fun. I felt free and happy. But when the acknowledgement I expected from others didn’t come (or they had the audacity to let me know I hadn’t done enough), I stopped trying. I stopped being awesome and let someone else’s standard define my life. I rebelliously declared that if my accomplishments weren’t awesome enough, I’d prove just how good I’d been by giving up on awesomeness altogether and being my version of mediocre. Yes, I’m the queen of shooting myself in the foot to spite my face. I’m not proud of this acknowledgement at all.

For example, (before Rick) a guy who I’d been interested in said to me, “You’ve lost a lot of weight. Great job. Keep it up!” Seriously? Keep it up? He might as well have just said, “But you’re not thin enough for me yet.”  Hindsight-Kimberly wishes I would’ve said, “You noticed?! Why don’t you join me? Want to work out with me this week? Exchange food diaries for accountability? We can lose these last 20 pounds together!” But real time-Kimberly allowed this exchange (and a few others like it) to give me permission to give up in frustration because awesome is never awesome enough. Sigh…So this year my resolution is to figure out what makes ME feel awesome and do that. If it doesn’t make me feel awesome, I’m taking it off my list. Rather than writing about what’s off my list, I’m going to focus on what’s on my awesome list.

Experience has taught me that I feel awesome when I read my Bible and write about it regularly. I aim for 5 days a week and when I’m even partially successful, my entire outlook on life changes. I have self-discipline, gratitude, and patience. It puts a lens of Christ in front of my eye and keeps me from falling into self-pity, pride, and fear. It isn’t a formula for a perfect life, but it’s a good start to a better attitude and peace with God. Let’s be clear here: I’m not reading/writing for 2 hours a day. I’m a mom. Realistically, it’s a great thing if I can squeeze in 20 minutes, three times a week.

Experience has taught me that I feel awesome when I write. To me, writing is a lot like aggressive exercise. I’m able to get my feelings out in a healthy way. Often I have no idea how I feel about something, what’s weighing on my heart, until I start punching a heavy bag or put my fingers to a keyboard. The opposite effect for me is stuffing my feelings through bingeing on food, television, novels, excessive sleep, and gossip. Lovely qualities, really… Ugh. How I’m capable of making friends without these outlets in place astounds me.

I feel awesome when I give my best to my kids. It feels great when I  take time to chase my kids around the house, yelling “I’m going to get you!” and laughing as we all dissolve into a pile of tickles and kisses on the floor. I feel awesome when I play hide and go seek with my daughter, repeatedly trying to teach her not to hide in the same spot I just did the time before. Whether it’s taking a few minutes to put together puzzles, read books, cook together, or throw their increasingly heavier bodies up in the air a few times each day – a few minutes of concentrated focus on them makes all the difference.

I feel awesome when I have time to talk with a friend.  There’s something about sharing our frustrations or ideas, trying to solve each other’s problems, laughing at each other’s stories, and at times praying together that refreshes my soul. We can learn so much from listening to one another.

Experience has taught me that I feel awesome when I exercise. Even if little change is seen in my body, I feel awesome when I exercise. When I exercise aggressively – punching, kicking, throwing – getting my pent up aggression OUT of my body in a healthy way, I feel strong and powerful. Now, if I could only remember that when the time comes to actually exercise, that’d be even more awesome…

Experience has taught me that I feel awesome when I don’t fill up my brain and time with too much television. I can pick a few fun shows to watch when I want to relax a little, but I feel much better about myself when I’m reading good books, creating something wonderful, or talking to a friend. I’ve cut way back on the amount I watch, cut out many of the guilty pleasures I allowed myself with less-than-stellar content, but I still tend to veg out in front of the TV far too much for my own awesomeness meter.

Experience has taught me that I feel awesome when I’m mindful about food. When I take time to plan meals, write down what I eat, and consider how my health is affected by what I put into my body, everything seems better. When I care for my body through preventative health care, it makes a huge difference in my energy level, outlook on life, reaction to those around me, ability to sleep, and ability to move. When I get lazy and forget to do these basic things, I feel terrible. My body aches, I can’t sleep, I have heartburn, I snap at people and get my feelings hurt easily. AWESOME Kimberly is well-fed, well-cared for Kimberly. It isn’t about impressing anyone else, being thin enough or pretty enough or any other “enough.” It’s just about feeling good and being able to live the life I want to live.

I’m looking forward to discovering other things that make me feel awesome this year. I’m planning to do all I can to keep my focus on awesomeness and not let the opinions of others get me off track. I’m going to seek out people who are also trying to be awesome and encourage them.

Also high on my list of awesome activities is to get back to blogging. One thing I discovered about myself in 2015, is that preaching and teaching helps me feel alive. I feel like the amazing things God is teaching me personally are multiplied when I’m able to share those lessons with others through writing and speaking. Blogging is another avenue for that.

In closing, I should point out that it’s January 13th and I’m just now publishing my New Year’s resolution blog. My GOAL is to be awesome. My reality may not be all that awesome. But if I can move closer to awesome this year, it’ll be better than the year before. Now, I just need to figure out when I’m actually going to exercise this week, because so far this year it’s only happened twice…

I’d love to know what your resolutions are for this year. How are you going to be awesome?

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Posted on May 16, 2016 in Health | 0 comments

Awesome Whole 30 Recipes

Awesome Whole 30 Recipes

I finished my Whole 30 program at the end of March, but am continuing with the plan because I feel so good about it. I wrote last time that I was surprised by how good clean eating can be. This time I’m going to prove it! Give these “recipes” (I use that word loosely) a try and let me know what you think, if you modified them, and how they turned out.

You’re welcome.

Pork Roast

Pork RoastThis one is so easy, I can’t stand it. The flavor will make everyone think you’re some kind of a genius in the kitchen! I don’t know if I ever had pork roast before The Whole 30. A friend recommended it, or I would’ve never attempted to make it myself. The basic recipe is here and I modified it slightly to suit my pantry.

Basically, get out your crock pot, spray it down with cooking spray (I use Pam Organic Olive Oil), and lay 3 slices of no-sugar bacon (I got mine here and it’s delicious), or prosciutto if you can’t find sugar-free bacon, on the bottom. Put a 3-5 pound pork roast (I use the biggest one I can find because I want lots of leftovers) on top of the bacon. (Make sure your pork doesn’t have MSG in it. I got a natural one from Wal-Mart, but check the label!) Now, make 5 deep slits in the meat and put a peeled garlic clove in each one. (I crush mine a little with the flat side of my big knife so they melt into the meat a little easier.) Lastly, put a couple tablespoons of Pink Himalayan Sea Salt on top of it. Cook it on low for 12 hours (newer crock pots) or 16 hours (older crock pots). Do not baste it or mess with it at all. Trust me.

THIS IS IMPORTANT! When it’s done, remove it from the crock pot and put it in a large bowl or casserole dish. Using two forks, shred it. Do NOT shred it in the crock pot. The juice is way too salty and will ruin it. You really need to shred it (and mix it around pretty good) to distribute the roasted garlic and crispy skin evenly. Roasted garlic is mild and delicious, even if you end up eating a whole bulb of it at once, but it really enhances the flavor of the meat when it’s broken apart in the shredding process.

Just to make it extra-easy (because you do so much prep-work on this diet), I serve this with roasted red potatoes, canned green beans, and store-bought, sugar-free applesauce.  I also take the remaining juices and bacon from the bottom of the crock pot and put them in a container in the fridge. Whenever I need cooking fat, I pull that out and savor the added flavor. YUM. Just note that if you use it, you won’t need nearly as much (if any) salt because it’s already very salty.

Ingredients list: 3-5 pound pork roast, 3 slices sugar-free bacon, 5 cloves of garlic, 2 T Pink Himalayan sea salt (I didn’t grind mine, but if yours is ground, you should probably use less.)

Prep time: 5 minutes before, 5 minutes after

Cook time: 12-16 hours

 

Roasted Red Potatoes

The Whole 30 is extremely restrictive, but it does allow for all varieties of potatoes. According to my sister (an expert in all these things), if your main goal is weight loss, you’ll want to skip all but the sweet potatoes. But if you’re feeling deprived without bread or pasta and want to splurge a little, this recipe is delicious. I came up with it one day when, on a whim, I decided to invite friends over for lunch after church to share my precious pork roast. I’d planned on making 2 roasted sweet potatoes, but that wasn’t enough for all of us. I came up with this on the fly and it was so quick (compared to baking for an hour) and easy, I made it for guests several time. There were rave reviews every time.

Get one of those small bags of baby red potatoes at the grocery store, spray them with some veggie cleaning spray, wash them, cut them in half (or don’t, to save time), and place them in a glass bowl with a lid. Add a few tablespoons of water to the bowl, put the lid on tightly, and microwave them for 8-10 minutes. You want them soft, but not so mushy they fall apart. That’s not the end of the world, but they’re harder to work with if they get too soft.

Drain the water and put the potatoes on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Drizzle them with extra-virgin olive oil, garlic powder (or minced garlic, if you have the time), onion powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Broil for 5 minutes, stir, then broil another 5 minutes or so. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, but let them get a nice caramel crust on them. That’s it. You’re done! YUM.

Ingredients: small bag of baby red potatoes, water, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, extra-virgin olive oil

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: about 20 minutes

 

Pepper, Onion, Tomato Awesomeness

I’m not sure what to call this mixture. Sauce? Side dish? So, we’ll go with Awesomeness, because that’s exactly what it is. With The Whole 30, you need to eat veggies at every meal and sometimes that gets challenging. This recipe works really well if you can do your prep work in advance. It’s a sweet, flavorful mix that brightens up any plate. It’s so good, I use it on just about everything – eggs, meat, and even by itself. It’s not a fast recipe, so it’s best if you make it when you have plenty of time. Then refrigerate it and warm it up when you’re ready to use it. It’s totally worth the time.

First of all, get one of those 3-packs of multi-colored sweet peppers (red, yellow, orange). Wash, seed, and slice them. In a skillet, melt some of your pork roast fat or other cooking fat, and add the peppers. I like to put a tight lid on them to speed things up. The point of this step is to soften up the fresh peppers.

*I’ve discovered a way to skip this step though. If you pre-slice all the peppers and onions and freeze them, the peppers will be very soft when they thaw out. Then you can put the peppers and onions in the skillet at the same time. I tend to do several batches of peppers at once, which saves time and tears (onions) later.

While the peppers are cooking, slice a yellow sweet onion and peel and mince some garlic. Cut a couple handfuls of cherry tomatoes in half (or use regular tomatoes, whatever you have on hand). When the peppers have softened, add the onions and garlic, stirring to incorporate everything well. Put the lid back on and sit down to read a book. Check on them every few minutes, stirring to be sure they don’t burn. When the onions become translucent, add the tomatoes, stirring everything up again. Add some salt, pepper, and a little basil if you want. (I like to add crushed red pepper too, but I’m the only one in this house who likes things spicy. Do as you wish with yours.)

Cover it back up and go back to your book. When the onions start to caramelize, you’re done. The tomatoes should’ve wilted down and everything should look like it’s soft and wonderful. Stir it up one more time, then put it in a glass dish with a lid.

Add this mix to everything until it’s gone (sigh) and you need to make another batch. If you have company, don’t put it all out on the table or they WILL eat.it.all. They won’t even realize all the work that went into making that amazing dish. Keep some back or you’ll be staring wide-eyed and mournful while they eat every last bite.

Ingredients: cooking fat, 3 sweet peppers, 1 yellow onion, tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, and basil

Prep time: How fast can you wash, seed, peel, and slice peppers, onions, and garlic?

Cook time: about 15-20 minutes

 

Fritatta

FritattaIf you’re anything like me, you enjoy making breakfast but don’t always have time for a big production. This basic dish is an excellent solution. I started making it ahead, planning to eat the leftovers on busy mornings. I used to grab a bar or a couple hard boiled eggs on busy mornings, which always left me feeling a little cheated. With this dish, I have a breakfast I can look forward to, needing only a minute or so to reheat it. It tastes just as good the second day as it does the first, so enjoy!

First, figure out what kind of meat you want to use and prepare it in a cast iron skillet (or other oven-safe skillet) over medium heat with some cooking fat so it doesn’t stick. I’ve used ground beef, chicken sausage, bacon, and kielbasa. Use enough for 2 servings. Add in some of your Pepper, Onion, and Tomato Awesomeness and half a bag of raw spinach. Stir it all up. Cook it for a few minutes so it all gets warm and the spinach wilts.

While it’s cooking, turn your oven on Broil and whisk 6-8 eggs really well. The longer you whisk, the more air gets in there and gives you nice, fluffy eggs. You can add a little water to the mix too, if you want.

Go back to your meat and veggie mix. Make sure it’s all warm and evenly distributed. If you’re using a cast iron skillet, you may want to push everything to one side and spray it again with Pam, then do the same on the other side. If I don’t do that, my eggs really stick, but I don’t have a non-stick skillet that’s oven-safe over 350 degrees F. Fuss with your ingredients a bit here, making sure you don’t have a bunch of meat in one spot and a big hole somewhere else. Once everything is spread out nicely, pour the eggs over it. Now, let it sit for a few minutes until the sides begin to set. Not too long or it’ll burn on the bottom! 3-4 minutes is typically enough. If you want to be really fancy, you can add sliced tomatoes, diced avocados, or crumbled bacon to the top. It makes it look extra nice, but isn’t necessary.

Now, take the skillet and put it under the broiler. I like to put it on the top rack so it cooks quickly. 2 1/2 to 3 minutes later, your fritatta is golden on top and delicious!  Cut it in half, pour a cup of hot coffee, and find a comfortable spot to savor your delicious meal!

*Note, I like to do as much prep-work ahead of time as possible. During the kids’ naps, I’ll often brown the ground beef with some onion and garlic for a later recipe, or slice up the kielbasa, or cook the bacon til it’s almost done. The only thing I wouldn’t recommend doing ahead of time is whisking the eggs. That didn’t turn out so well for me. :-/

Ingredients: cooking fat; 6-8 eggs; Pepper, Onion, Tomato Awesomeness; Baby Spinach; Meat of your choice

 

Grill Day!

This isn’t a recipe, just a tip. It’s really helpful to do The Whole 30 during the summer when fresh fruits and vegetables are widely available and you can fire up the grill easily.

When you get the grill going, this is the time to do as much prep-work as you possibly can for the week to come. I like to cover every inch of my grill with something (twice)! I also like to use a charcoal grill for the taste, so I don’t want all that work setting up the grill to go to waste.

To prepare, put your meat on the counter for about an hour so it gets to room temperature. Pound the chicken so the thickness is even. Coat your steak and chicken well with sea salt and pepper. Spray the grill with Pam and get it as hot as you can (500-600 degrees, yay!). Gather your supplies: oven-mitts to protect your hands and wrists from the heat, plates, utensils, sauces, baskets, meat, veggies, and anything else you plan to grill.

Grill everything you can get your hands on and have a feast! Then, take all the leftover meat and store it in individual 4-5 ounce servings. Grilled chicken and steak can be sliced or diced. I use snack size zipper bags and freeze them. Use the leftovers in salads, your fritatta, or other recipes.

Note: Living in a rural, farming community, I don’t have easy access to awesome stores like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. I buy almost all my groceries at the local grocer. I’ve found my store to be very responsive to the smallest request, upping their supply of anything I happen to mention. Anything I can’t find there, I typically order from Amazon Prime because it comes so quickly. I did recently travel 90 minutes away so I can leisurely stroll around Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. I filled my car with all kinds goodies I can’t find locally.

Lastly, if you’re interested in doing The Whole 30 yourself, I’m starting a Facebook group to offer support and encouragement. We’re starting on Monday, June 13th. Let me know if you’d like to join. And if you’d to get daily updates, follow me on Instagram. My handle is kimberly.wyse. 🙂

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Posted on Jan 20, 2016 in Devotional, Love, Marriage, Spiritual Life, Wisdom | 4 comments

Marriage Mahem

Marriage Mahem

2016-01-20 21.15.13Marriage is hard.

I married a wonderful man. He’s sweet and kind. He helps out around the house. He changes diapers and gets up with fussy babies in the night so I can sleep. He is an excellent provider with a great sense of humor. There are times when I look at him and cannot believe how lucky I am. He would die of embarrassment if I told you all the things about him that I find attractive and exciting. I believe with all my heart that he is God’s gift to me and we are a great compliment to one another. We grew up with similar values and beliefs. We have a lot of fun together. I could go on and on about the magnitude of his magnificence.

And still I am writing that MARRIAGE IS HARD.

I love him with all my heart, but we are two very different people with very different ideas about things – trying to build a home together. We have to deal with one another every minute of every day. There is NEVER a break. There is NEVER a moment where what I do doesn’t mean something to him. There is no point in which I can say, “Well, these past four years have been fun, but I’m a little tired right now so I’m going on vacation. I’ll see you in three months.” This commitment I made is FOR LIFE.

“Well, of course it is,” you might think. Duh. What’s her problem? But if you’ve ever had issues with anxiety, I bet you hear the panic in my tone. The trapped, claustrophobic feeling. I bet you aren’t judging me for admitting these unspeakable truths.

I was warned that marriage is hard, many times by many people before I got married. I was told to enjoy the freedom of my singleness and be grateful that I can spend $100 without having to explain myself to anyone. These words were not lost on me. I heard them, I tried to absorb and understand them, but I simply couldn’t hear it because my aching need for all the benefits of marriage was screaming so loudly. How do you tell a starving woman that there will come a day when there’s so much food around her that she feels physically ill and wants to go on a fast? It’s ridiculous.

And of course I don’t really want to be without him. The idea of losing him, of grieving that loss and then starting the whole process over, exhausts me. I’ve adjusted to his help, his strength, his support, and not having him besides me would devestate me.

But the day in and day out of marriage can feel a little overwhelming at times. This person, this life, forever and ever, amen. This conflict we’re in, we HAVE to work it out. There’s no escape. There’s no other option. We simply have to work it out or one of us is going to spend the rest of our life angry with a side of disconnection.

Part of what I’ve been doing is looking at myself. How have I disappointed him? How have I created a situation where he is sad or hurt? How can I behave differently, adjust my expectations, compromise? Truthfully, it’s part of my decision to BE AWESOME. My mediocrity is hard on this precious man.

Part of what I’ve been doing is giving myself permission to have an opinion and insist on it. What??? As a Christian who wants to honor God, I may have gotten a little confused on the whole “submission” thing. It doesn’t help our relationship when I die a little inside every day because I’m so unhappy trying to fit into a mold not made for me. I can smile brightly and try with all my heart to fit for a while, but eventually the truth comes out. I’m giving myself permission to say what does and doesn’t work for me.

The most important thing I’ve been doing is PRAYING. Desperately praying for God to give us unity in our hearts. We are such different people that at times it feels like we’ll never be unified. We’ll both always find ourselves compromising, but not terribly happy about it. Why should we live like that? God has ordained this marriage and blessed us with children. It’s understandable that we should be in agreement, 100%, on some of the very important things in our lives.

I admit that the day that prayer came to my mind, the audacity of it nearly knocked me over. I felt like I asked God to turn apples and oranges into pears. It was ridiculous. But God is a miracle worker! He loves it when we bring our big, audacious prayers to Him. He loves it when we believe strongly enough in the power and might of GOD to trust that miracles can actually happen. And what a beautiful prayer! In hindsight it’s seems silly that I was afraid to pray it, but it was wild.

I’m not writing that I think married couples should agree on everything all the time. We are individuals for a reason and it’s good to have some diversity. But there are some big issues that it’s really helpful to agree on. For example, basic parenting practices, what church to attend, and how much time to spend with your extended family.

I’ve come to believe that unity is possible. It doesn’t mean one person gives up everything so they can pretend to agree with the other person. It’s possible for God to so radically change each one of our hearts that we truly, in the very core of our beings, want the same things. At the very heart of who each of us is, we can desire the same things.

A friend of mine married a man who seemed like a good fit for her in every way, only to discover such tremendous differences after marriage that she was despondent and afraid. Over the last 10+ years, I’ve seen that couple become unified. When I spend time with them, I hear the same ideas coming from him as I do from her. Their expectations have changed, their habits and plans have changed. They’ve truly become united in their hearts. It’s been a really neat thing to see. And they’ve told me it’s been really, really hard.

I’ve seen other good friends do the exact opposite. I’ve seen them marry with grand ideas that they’re perfect for one another and want very similar things in life, only to gradually move away from one another. I’ve seen couples with tremendous chemistry and nearly identical values turn on one another in fury and attack, tearing one another to shreds. I’ve seen the shock on their faces as they emotionally limp away, trying to figure out what just happened. I’ve witnessed the devastation of divorce much too close up, heard the wails of hurt and anger. I’ve seen the stunned children whose worlds have been ripped apart while their parents struggle just to survive. It has ripped my heart to shreds too. This horror is one that I never want to experience again. If you are considering divorce and want someone to coddle you and tell you it’s okay to leave, don’t call me. You don’t want to hear what I have to say.

Divorce is not an option. I believe when we take divorce completely off the table, remove even the remote possibility of it from our minds and vocabulary, we can truly learn how to love. (There are some extreme cases where I’d advise differently, but they are too horrible to even put into words. Use your imagination, if you must.) When we allow that slightly claustrophobic, anxiety-producing realization that there is NO ESCAPE, that we are in this thing for the rest of our lives, it forces us to find a way to make it work.

No matter how mad I ever get at Rick, no matter how hurt or betrayed, unless there is some kind of true, unrepentant evil involved, we are in this together. Forever. Because we have the rest of our lives to work it out, we don’t have to have all the answers today. We don’t actually have to come to an agreement before we go to sleep tonight. Sometimes a little sleep allows us to reset and puts things back into perspective. Because we cherish our children and want to give them the best possible lives, we will work it out. We will find a way to make it through.

Marriage is hard, but we can do it.

My friend with the unified marriage didn’t sail through the first ten years with ease. She did hard, aching work to build the marriage she knew she wanted. She allowed her husband to try and fail. She humbled herself over and over again, suffering things in silence that no one speaks of openly. She went back over and over again, opening herself up to hurt and frustration because she believed in her marriage. Maybe one day she’ll allow me to tell her story from my perspective. It’s a story of God’s faithfulness to a disciplined and determined woman who wouldn’t give up.

If you’ve been through a divorce, my heart hurts for you. I’m not standing in judgment. I repeat: Marriage is Hard. When I hear the word “divorce”, I hear heart break, betrayal, and devastation. Even in the worst of situations, God can heal, restore, and make whole again. I pray that God will heal your heart and restore back to you everything that’s been taken. You are precious and loved.

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Posted on Jan 19, 2017 in Parenting | 1 comment

Preschool Has Arrived

Preschool Has Arrived

This month my tiny daughter started preschool. Two days a week, for three hours a day, she goes to preschool with twelve other four year olds. It’s an odd time of year to start, but this school doesn’t accept students until they have actually turned four. Since her birthday is in December, we waited until after the holidays to get her started.

We chose this particular school for several reasons:

1) We’ve heard amazing things about it from our friends. It’s located on a working farm, provides children with unique learning opportunities, and continues the Christian education we are giving our children at home.

2) The woman who runs it and is the teacher was good friends with my mother-in-law when they were in school. She was a kindergarten teacher for 30 years before “retiring” to help children prepare for kindergarten.

3) It’s five minutes from our home, which is pretty amazing considering that very little is actually close to our rural farm.

We feel really good about the decision to send her there, and she’s excited about going to school. I thought I might cry the entire time I sent her there for the first time, but the very smart teacher requires a parent to join the student for the first day of school. So I was with her the entire time. My eyes leaked a little off and on over the morning, as I saw her jumping right in with the other kids, trying to figure things out and get into the rhythm they’ve already established.

To see her unsure of herself, that always gets me. She’s such a confident child, but when I see her doubt herself, I get emotional. I know she has to figure it out, but I just hurt a little until she does. I’m not sure if other mothers feel that way or not, or why this particular thing gets me. But it sure does.

We’re told she’s tall for her age, but she was the youngest one there that day and just blended right in with the other kids. Since I was always an awkward head taller than the kids in my class, I felt such relief to see how normal she looked when in the group of kids.

My heart was touched when I saw her identify a new friend. The other little girl was kind and showed Eliana how to do a few things, so Eliana made up her mind to be friends. She saved her a seat at snack time and made a point to sit together whenever possible. There’s a little boy there who is a beast of a kid, one of those guys you know is going to be a linebacker some day. I watched as he displayed the most gentle of tendencies, including my daughter in his discoveries and treating her like she’s always been there.

She was on cloud nine as we drove away, chattering on and on about how things went and what she’s supposed to do for the next class. It was hard for her to understand that she would see the same kids at the same place in just a few days, and that her new friendships wouldn’t stop as quickly as they started.

Bad weather caused class to be cancelled the next time. We never thought a thing about it though, and bundled her up for school without checking cancellations. Rick drove her because we were concerned about the roads. She was a little concerned about going by herself that day, so I encouraged Rick to be flexible. If she seemed upset when he dropped her off, he could always go in for a few minutes to help her get comfortable. It was a little disappointing when they arrived to find no one but the teacher around!

The next day for school, the weather cooperated and I got her ready for the day. Right before we were about to leave, she looked at me with a little bit of uncertainty and asked if I was going to stay with her for a little while. I gave her a big smile and said something like, “Sweetheart, you are so smart; so fun; so brave. You aren’t going to have any problem jumping right in there this morning and doing a great job.”

I was rewarded with a huge, confident smile and a hug. Then together we walked out to the car and got her buckled in. As I was buckling her, she gave me the most adoring look and said, “Mommy, I’m so glad you’re here with me.”

My brave face melted. All I could think of was how happy I am that SHE is here with me. My daughter. My precious one. HERE. No longer a dream, a hope, a fear that I might somehow miss out on the gift of motherhood. She is a reality far better than I ever dreamed. Tears welled up and she looked at me with concern, “Are you sad, Mommy?”

“No, sweet girl. I’m not sad. I’m just so happy that I’m here with you too. You are my most precious treasure.”

On the way to school, I went over the school’s morning routine with her again. I reminded her that I’d be waiting when school was over. When she saw her teacher, she lit up like a Christmas tree and happily went inside without me.

I had a few tears as I drove away. My tiny one is growing up and learning to do things without me. She’s learning from other people who have had different experiences than me and can teach her things to help her become a well-rounded person. She’s learning about Jesus from someone other than me (and her Sunday school teachers). She’s making friends.

This year it’s two days a week. Next year, it will be three days a week. When kindergarten starts,  it will be five days a week. It seems like a good progression to me. A gentle start to the letting go that parents have to do.

She’s still in Story Hour at the Library. She’s been moved up to a more advanced gymnastics class. Both of those adventures are an hour a week with a different teacher. Both of those teachers provide her with a different perspective and knowledge-base than mine.

I’ve thought about hugging her close, keeping her with me and our family only for as long as humanly possible. I’ve thought about the dangers of what those other teachers might try to imprint upon her young mind. It scares me a little to expose her to such a wide variety of other people (children and adults). I remember some of the crazy things I learned from kids I encountered in school. But I’ve decided that FEAR will not be the ruling factor in my parenting decisions.

To the best of our ability, Rick and I will pay attention to any place our children go. We’ll get to know teachers, babysitters, friends, and anyone else who might influence our children. We’ll hold our children up in prayer, constantly asking God to protect their hearts, minds, and bodies. We’ll do all we can as stewards of these precious lives to ensure their safety and innocence, and we’ll trust God’s protecting and guiding hand to reach where we cannot.

Trusting our most precious treasures to others is a huge leap of faith, but when we think of the ones we know who give their lives to educate and enhance the lives of children, we smile. There is so much potential out there. There are so many awesome people who can teach them things we will never be able to teach them ourselves. To us, this feels like a good thing.

Eliana came home from her second day of preschool with her eyes shining bright. She told me that the teachers are her newest best friends. She hugged her brother and excitedly told her Grandma about her day. I’m sure there will be days when she comes home with frustration or sadness, or a host of other emotions. We will tackle those times when they come. For now, I am so thankful she had a good day.

*Photo credit: Me. I totally coached her on this photo too. Point your feet this direction. Put your hand on your hip. Smile like this… Yup. I’m THAT mom.

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