Thursday, May 15, 2014

Breakfast Outside of the Box

Are you in a breakfast rut? Sick of the same-old or maybe even skipping breakfast all together these days?

Let's chat...

I'm gonna give you our breakfast rotation because we like to mix it up. And let me be honest, if we skip our breakfasts over here at the Martin household, it ain't pretty. Especially for this hangry Mama. (btw- did you know hangry is a legitimate term? Yep, hungry-angry. It's for real. Just ask my husband- very real...)

Soooooo... here are some of our fave breakfasts and some thoughts on why cereal isn't one of them. Check out Put Down That Box! It's worth a quick read.

Oatmeal Bar
Plain, organic, steel-cut oats. I usually cook them in advance and keep them in a glass container in the fridge and reheat in the microwave as needed. Then I mix in some unsweetened applesauce to cool it down and add some flavor.

The "bar" can be whatever toppings you want! We usually stick to raisins, almonds and a mix of cinnamon and brown sugar. The kids love to choose and put on their own toppings. Sometimes, on busy or lazy nights, we even do this for dinner! Shhhh... our little secret ;)

Banana Oat Bars and Smoothies
This is a great one for the mornings you might need a portable breakfast. Make these Oat Bars in advance, cut them up and freeze them. Take them out the night before or nuke 'em and BAM.

Banana Oat Bars
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. cinnamon1 tsp kosher 
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar (or just use extra honey)
1/4 cup raw honey
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 Tbsp. ground flax seed
1/4 cup warm water
2 ripe bananas, mashed (great part for kid helpers!)
(I eye-ball the honey and applesauce. Approximates are fine!)
*to make gluten-free just use your fave gluten-free flour and gluten-free oats

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir, or better yet, use a stand mixer.
Pour into a lightly greased 9x13 baking dish and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.
Let stand for 5-10 minutes to harden a little bit.

This is our kale and pineapple smoothie, what we call a crocodile smoothie :) Get the recipe: 

Peanut butter and Jelly Toast
My personal fave. Natural or Organic Peanut butter only please! There are SO many added oils and sugars in Jif and other similar types. 

I was buying organic for a while because peanut butter is something we consume just about daily. However, the price was just too high for our budget and we switched to plain old natural. Smucker's is by far my favorite, but Kroger's natural peanut butter is fantastic and the price is right!!! The first time I open a new jar it's a bit runny, but I dump off the oil on top, stir and after it sits in the fridge a while the consistency is just right. Delectable! 

We do only use organic jelly to avoid the high fructose corn syrup and because grapes and berries are often sprayed heavily with pesticides. 

Cook 'em any way you like or hard boil them to take with you! We usually have buttered toast and fruit with ours. Tip: My kids know they have to eat their eggs, or at least get a good start on them before I will even put the toast in the toaster. Otherwise, they'd just chow down on the carbs! Now they have grown to love their eggs. 

And like peanut butter, not all eggs are created equal. Stick with pastured eggs if you can. Buy them at at farmer's market or ask around to see if someone you know has chickens or knows someone who does. For more on eggs, see 100 Days of Real Food-Egg Labels: What to Look For 

Overnight No-Cook Refrigerator Oatmeal
Oatmeal again? Yep! I will admit, the kids don't really like this one. I think there is too much texture going on for their little senses. But the grown-ups like them and the raspberry and mango varieties are delicious! Get the instructions at The Yummy Life

Well, that takes you through about 5 days of breakfast. On Saturdays we'll usually do pancakes and chicken sausage. I've tried about a dozen whole wheat pancake recipes and found this one fit the bill: Sour Cream Whole Wheat Pancakes. I double the recipe and use plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. 

Sundays are usually fairly busy mornings since I work for a church, so sometimes we do give the kid's cereal and milk. Gasp! ;) It's quick, easy and of course they like it, but they are far hungrier on these days than when they have a good, solid breakfast. We just do plain, organic O's or Frosted Mini Wheats, organic milk and a banana.

Hope this helps to refresh your breakfast rotation! 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Seeking out a Healthy Lifestyle

Wholly Devoted.

That was the theme of this year's women's retreat for Brookside Church. 

Let's admit it. There are LOTS of things we can devote ourselves to. And how does one devote themselves to something wholly, with everything, and still be a balanced person? We walked through and chatted about a number of different topics that weekend. One of them being a Healthy Lifestyle. Just thought I'd pass along some thoughts I got to share. I focused on 3 Main Truths from God's word about Healthy Living.

1. The first is God wants us to take care of our bodies.

When we give our lives to Christ, when we decide to be a follower of him, we devote ourselves wholly. And that for sure includes our bodies.

In the Bible it talks about our bodies being sacred temples for God’s Holy Spirit. The verse goes like this:

You realize, don’t you, that you are the temple of God, and God himself is present in you? No one will get by with vandalizing God’s temple, you can be sure of that. God’s temple is sacred—and you, remember, are the temple. I Corinthians 3:16-17

The idea of my body being a sacred temple used to sound so confusing to me and so unhelpful, but as I began to get a bigger picture of the Bible, it began to sink in. See, in the Old Testament, before Jesus walked the Earth, the only access people had to God was through worshiping in the temple. That’s where God’s presence dwelled. So it was a big deal to go to the temple and it took lots of preparation and sacrifices (like, literally sacrificing animals) before one could go into even the outer parts of the temple. Nowadays however, since Jesus came, lived a sinless life and offered himself as a perfect sacrifice for our imperfect lives, we can have God’s Spirit live INSIDE of us. So it’s no longer God working from the outside in, but He can have access to our hearts. We are the temple. God lives in us, if we invite him to. And that is why we are considered sacred temples. That’s one you might need to let sink in and ponder more. In your notes I’ve given you a couple of scriptures you can check out.

I also think that healthy living begins with healthy thinking, which ties right into our verse for the weekend:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
Healthy thinking and caring for our minds opens up a WHOLE other box that we simply can’t get into that right now, but setting your mind on the things we just listed in that verse is a good starting place.
Wrapping up the first truth, I truly believe that more than anything else we’re hungry for God and we need to feed our souls with God’s Word. 
We are created with a deep need and desire for comfort that only Jesus can fill. But sometimes we look to other things, people, food, you-name-it to fill that void or bring us that comfort, instead of letting God fill us. There are 2 scriptures in the book of Matthew below if you want to dig deeper into that, but we need to feed on spiritual food just as much as we need our 3 meals a day.
You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. Matthew 5:6, MSG
People need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every word of God. Matthew 4:4b, NLT
2. The second main truth is kind of an obvious one: It takes discipline to be healthy.
Here’s a zinger for you. In 1 Corinthians Paul says:
Everything is permissible for me’ – but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but I will not be mastered by anything… Therefore, Honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:12, 20b
It’s so true isn’t it? There’s no rule or law that says we can’t go around eating Twinkies all day... but is that beneficial? Does indulging show self-control, or are we mastered by our cravings for sweets? I despise the idea of being mastered or controlled by anything, but that’s exactly what happens with chocolate covered pretzels. Or anything salty-sweet really. Food really can master us. Laziness can overcome us. Ug. “Is it beneficial?” is a great question that we can be asking ourselves. And let us not rely on our own power for this, but through the power and the fruit of the Holy Spirit. We can ask God to fill us with the fruit of self-control. His power. Not ours. See Galatians 5:22-23 for more on this. 
It's said that discipline is the road to the good life.
The road to life is a disciplined life; ignore correction and you’re lost for good. Proverbs 10:17, MGS
Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray. Proverbs 10:17, NIV
So basically discipline can pave the way to life. Okay, I think that’s worth taking note of.
Hard work pays off; chasing fantasies doesn’t.
Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense. Proverbs 12:11
You know what I thought of immediately? Pinterest. Maybe you can’t relate at all, but when it comes to social media, boy do I chase those fantasies. And I honestly don’t think that there is anything “wrong” with Pinterest or Facebook or whatever, but it’s when I spend my time chasing those things and choosing excessive amounts of screen time over time I could be using to exercise or plan out our meals for the week. We say that we just don’t have the time to workout or cook dinner. But I know for myself that I need to MAKE the time for those things and choose those actions over fantasy land.
Another biggie: We need to put good intentions into action.
All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23
We are all familiar with having good intentions that we didn’t follow through on. And I think there are times or maybe even seasons of life where we need to give ourselves a little bit of grace. Life happens. But the majority of the time, I think we need to push ourselves. Dave Ramsey is a well-known financial advisor who says that getting out of debt is, “20% knowledge, 80% action”. We can know and think about what we should do, but without action, follow-though and consistency, we will not reach our goals.
Moderation is key.
Don’t drink too much wine and get drunk; don’t eat too much food and get fat. Drunks and gluttons will end up on skid row, in a stupor and dressed in rags. Proverbs 23:20-21, MSG

I love this and think it relates to much more than food and wine. The things we are talking about today require BALANCE. How can we make time for exercise without neglecting our children? How do we focus on getting healthy without letting it consume our every thought?

To share a little bit of my personal journey about 8 years ago, I started investigating the hype about organic foods. I was intrigued, but also skeptical. I read books and articles online and started really paying attention to labels and lists of ingredients. I was amazed and a bit troubled. Why were there so many unnecessary and even harmful ingredients in the foods we were eating? Every time I walked into the grocery store I felt like the shelves around me were spinning a little bit. It seemed like the more I knew, the more overwhelmed I felt.

I began reading more, researching more and praying more. I made discoveries about beauty and household products, medical practices and the list grew beyond my wildest dreams with being pregnant for the first time. Each new finding came with was another crossroads, another decision, another reason to seek the Lord for discernment. I sensed Him making me aware that I could very easily get carried away with this healthy-living scene. That food or healthy-living could even become an idol in my life if I wasn’t careful. I asked him to help guide the decisions I made for my family and myself and to fill me with the trust and faith I’d need for the rest. Moderation. Balance. And faith.

And finally, my third main truth about healthy living.

3. Healthy living happens in community.

We need each other, especially to overcome our weaknesses.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12
Bottom line: We are designed to be in relationship with one another. We are stronger together.
If we confess our struggles to each other and pray together we’ll heal and grow.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:16, NIV
There is something powerful about confessing your faults and struggles to another person. It can feel so risky, even scary to really open yourself up and let someone see your weaknesses, but once it’s in the light, there is freedom. There is a group of moms who get together every other Wednesday morning to pray for our children. During that time we confess before the Lord and each other all of the trillions of ways we fall short. While it’s hard and humbling and sometimes even embarrassing, I feel supported and understood. It is so freeing to open up and know others are praying for me and often times going through the very same thing. I really want to encourage you to share with someone a way in which you are struggling with your health. Put yourself out there, ask for prayer and I promise you won’t regret it.
We need loving feedback from others in the body of Christ in order to grow.
Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:15-16
The truth hurts sometimes, doesn’t it? We know our flaws, we know the truth, but when someone else brings it up, it can sting. But when the truth is rooted in love, in our friendship and sisterhood can soften the blow. May we learn the fine art of giving and accepting loving feedback and sharing the truth with one another.

To wrap things up, I think we need a few warnings and encouragements. We need to remember that healthy living happens one day at a time

We all need patience. We may also need warning, encouragement, or tender care.
Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.           1 Thessalonians 5:14, NLT
Be patient with yourself and with others. This is a journey.
Monitor your progress by comparing yourself to your past and not to others.
Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else.  Galatians 6:4
Comparison is a deep, dark trap. Let us focus on ourselves an the story the God has written for our own lives, yet sincerely encourage and celebrate with others. More on comparison here. 
Sometimes we need to wait to sense God’s presence and help.
Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work. James 5:7, MSG
Maybe you’re not sure where to start. Pray about it! Ask God to show you. Ask yourself, what am I being mastered by? He WILL show you. And if there is already something on your mind or in your heart, don’t disregard that. It could very well be the Lord brining that to your attention. It’s not just a coincidence.

I know that not much of this is super practical information. And in light of that, I've started a Facebook Page where I'll post periodic updates with some tips and info on things I have found helpful in trying to live a healthy lifestyle and finding the balance of fitness, family and faith. You can check it out here

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Mess of Stress

Stress is a four letter word to me. I try my best to avoid it, prevent it, take a detour around it. When it actually does happen I try not to say it. As if not saying makes me not stressed. I think that's called denial. 

Here's the thing. The last couple of weeks I could see that things in my life were brewing up a perfect storm of stress. So I said it. Out loud a few times. In an email to some friends. I'M STRESSED. But I'm also having conflicting thoughts about embracing stress or banishing it completely. I'm confused on the issue. So here are some fairly random, surely messy thoughts on stress. Any clarity you might have on the issue is welcomed :)

-Admitting I'm stressed or feel stress coming on is helpful. (especially to my dear husband so he can at least mentally prepare for what is to come and maybe even have a chance to run and clothe himself in armor. Sad, but true) But for real, admitting and confiding in others and being supported in prayer is extremely helpful.

-After admitting I'm stressed there's a bit of freedom I feel like I can get carried away with. 
"Well, he/she knows I'm stressed so that totally excuses how I just acted or what came out of my mouth.
I don't want to use it as an excuse. I want to manage stress and work though it appropriately. (Readers- insert advice here ;) 

-I've been pondering if being stressed is, like, sinful. I know that sounds harsh. But I can't help thinking about my stress being rooted in anxiety and lack of trust. If I am faith-filled and really trusting God, would I be stressed out about a situation? Surely all of my deadlines and to-do's wouldn't just vanish, but would I be filled with much more joy and much less tension if I were fully trusting? Ann Voskamp says not to say "I am stressed" but instead, "I am grateful". That is HARD.

-Stress seems selfish. My family now suffers because of how stress can manifest itself in my words, actions, temperament... I walk around thinking, "I'm stressed, I'm stressed, I'm stressed", which basically translates to "Me, Me, Me". I become focused on my stress and how I can make it better and I'm less aware of those around me or what they might be going through themselves.

-Stress takes my already controlling tendencies and puts them on hyper-control. Yikes. While I think it's prudent to plan times to concentrate on things that need to be done, deadlines that need to be met, etc, do I hold those plans with an open hand? Or do I freak out and act like a BABY and get all worked up when my plans that were so carefully thought out fall though? Not that something like that has ever happened. Just a random example... :/ Oh to find the balance of being prudent and responsible yet fulling trusting. I had to remind myself today: God has my back. He is FOR me.

-If I'm stressing about something it is probably because I think I can or should be able to handle something that is ultimately not mine to handle. Let's not flatter yourself here, Sara. God does not need to you to it for Him. He's got this. He might let you, or even ask you to help or join in in some way. But you are not the Savior. Bam. Point taken.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I Am Afraid

As most people tend to be around the New Year, I was very contemplative this past December 31st. We were staying at my mom's house so I snuck away to the guest bedroom as the kids were fully occupied in the abundance of their grandparents' love.

I thought. I prayed. I wrote. I tried to write some goals. Some lists. Some things on paper that I should set out to do this year. But I was paralyzed. I realized I was afraid. So afraid. What if I wrote something down that I didn't end up accomplishing? Or worse, what if I wasn't good at what I was setting out to do?

Being a mostly stay-at-home-mom, so much of what I do is maintenance. The day-to-day mundane. I have many goals, but they are very small and very accomplish-able (if that's even a word). Laundry- easy. Dinner- of course. Lots of playing and reading with kiddos- a pleasure! Most of the time it's easy to feel accomplished in this minutia, so I just haven't thought big-picture in the past 4 years since I became a Mama. I think I'm just used to survival mode. If I accomplish 3 things thoughout my day without neglecting my children too much, that's a WIN! 

With that said, stepping out of the things I know I can do and accomplish just plain scares me. And it wasn't until that day that I finally admitted to myself: I. Am. Afraid. 

So what now? Well, I let some tears roll, you can be sure of that. And I kept thinking of a verse in 1 John:
    There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. John 4:18 NIV
The Message says it like this:
    There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love

Hmmm... So being a 'faidy cat doesn't sound very appealing. 

Am I letting God's love banish my fear? Or am I being crippled?

Am I made perfect in God's love? Or am I not fully formed?

The good news is, I get to choose. I can choose to become well-formed in Christ's love and drive out that fear. I can choose to embrace my imperfections and failures and the fact that I'm NOT God and be made perfect in HIM and NOT in myself. I can choose to get over myself and take a risk. Risk potentially NOT succeeding. And I can be refined the process. I can be made perfect in grace and mercy and love. I can take a leap and know that if  I fall I will be caught up in unconditional God-love. Not my own putting-the-pieces-of-myself-back-together-exhausting-love. 

So that just turned into kind of a sermon. Moving on now...

What I'm trying to say is that I'm facing fears this year. I face one at the end of this month.

I've always loved group exercise. It really doesn't matter what it is, as long as the music is good, but my soul-mate workout is Turbo Kick. I discovered it in college and have been doing the videos at home for years. Turbo Kick, Turbo Jam, Turbo Fire: I love it all and have always though it'd be fun to be an instructor. BUT, that takes time and money and I don't know for sure if I have what it takes. I could look like a fool walking into a training where so many others are already fitness instructors of some type, but you gotta start somewhere right? And I'm giving it a shot on March 30th. I can't decide if I'm more nervous or excited.

There are 2 other fears that I'll save for another day. But one involves going overseas and the other involves a possible expansion of our family. And that's all I'll say about that for now.

What fears are you facing this year?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Skeptic in Me

It started about 8 years ago. I wanted to understand all the hype about organic foods so I read a book called To Buy or Not to Buy Organic. It really helped me get an idea of what foods are worth purchasing organic. But it was such an individual thing. A lot of it depended on the foods I was consuming daily or weekly, which could be much different than someone else's diet.

Then during my first few years of teaching, I was so enthralled to actually get to do what I've been wanting and waiting to do all of these years. As the days turned to weeks and weeks into years however, my sky-is-the-limit view of education began to narrow. It wasn't that the majority of students I worked with had special needs. And it wasn't for lack of positivity and effort from myself and the teachers around me.

2009: here comes baby #1. I was opened up to a whole new world of do's and don'ts. I quickly learned that black print on a white page was much more clear than actually living out pregnancy, labor, childbirth and mothering.

At some point I turned into a skeptic. Do I really trust and conform to what "they" are telling me is best for my diet, my students, my babies?

Could one size really fit all?

And so began the education of myself. My quest for truth. I know it sounds dramatic, but I can't help but dig beneath the surface. I don't want to be rude or disrespectful to those who "run the show" because there are many authorities and professionals who are highly qualified and well-meaning. Don't get me wrong. I just want to find the best fit for me and my family.

People deserve to be informed. And while it is our right to be informed, it is also our responsibility. It's our responsibility to take the time to do it. To chose our sources wisely. The Internet is so easy and accessible, but there's also a lot of nonsense out there. There are wonderful books, but many written with bias. Dig deep. And keep digging.

Only problem is, digging is work. Hard work. And once you do the digging, you now have a huge pile to sort though and to maybe even (gasp) apply to your life.

You might be thinking two things: "Duh." or "That sounds completely overwhelming.". Kudos to you if you're already the investigating type. I could probably learn a few things from you! And if you're so not into this idea because it sounds overwhelming, you're absolutely right. It is. But to you I ask, what if you started with just one thing? Maybe that thing that's already been in the back of your head? I think you know what I'm talking about...

And take heart, I've always been a mediocre-at-best student. I don't have it figured out. Just taking steps. This stuff can take a lifetime. But I want to be a LIFE LONG learner. I want to ask questions because I'm truly interested and I truly care. I want to make informed, prayerful decisions for myself and my family about the food we eat, the way we educate and how we approach health and medicine and more.

And here's the kicker, I want to RESPECT others who research and choose differently.

There are FAR TOO MANY judgments made, and believe me, I'm preaching to myself. I think it is sad and heartbreaking that The Mommy Wars are a "thing". We've judged and accused each other so much in the realm of parenting, there's a name for it. And it's called war? What a tragedy.

I am sorry. I'm sorry that we can put each other under a microscope. That I'VE put others under a microscope. Our stories are all written differently. Beautifully differently. What works for my family does not mean it's the "right" choice, just the best choice for us. And what works for our family does not mean it works for you. Because certainly, one size does not fit all.

*I've refrained from sharing the details about my experiences with food, education, childbirth and mothering, but if you would like to chat or hear more, feel free contact me via email or on Facebook. :)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

DIY Kitchen Island

I spotted it just as the rain began. A sweet little farm house table on the side of the road waiting to be destroyed by the rain, or end up in a landfill. I couldn't pass it by.

I had been wanting a kitchen island for some time, and this seemed like it might fit the bill with a few altercations...

The first was the height. Definitely not tall enough to use as a work space in the kitchen. I know it needed to be at least counter-height, which is a standard 36 inches. With some suggestions from friends, I decided to add a shelf and legs to the bottom.

If found these 6" legs at The Home Depot. They came with a screw already in the bottom, but after
talking to one of their super-helpful employees, he suggested I use a double-headed screw to get through the half inch plywood I was using. He took out the screw for me with some tool (I think he called them chandlers?) and then put in the new, double-headed screws. Thank you Mr. Home Depot!
 For the plywood, I had the board cut slightly larger than the distance between the legs. Then I used a power drill with a bit to start a hole and I could then screw the legs in by hand.

 It definitely looked awkward at first. I brought it inside and the height was just right.
I trusted that once it was painted it wouldn't look so... unfinished.

 Now the REALLY fun part began. I had been dying to try Chalk Pain, by Annie Sloan. It's made specifically to use without having to prime or prep the surface of whatever you're working with. The only place that sells it around here is Pottsies in Levis Commons. The paint is pricey but totally worth it. I kind of want to paint all the furniture in my house with it now. It was so easy and turned out beautifully in just two coats. I also applied a protective wax coat, which gave it a bit of a matted finish and sealed it.

 I also used some white paint I had to do the trim. And I spray painted the knob on the drawer.

 When I first moved it inside in November, I hadn't yet acquired the crates and boxes
I desired for underneath.

Now, between some treasures in my father's attic and an amazing, dusty, old crate
some friends got me for my birthday, it's just what I had envisioned. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Lessons Learned

December was lovely. Well, minus most of our family getting sick at some point. Not so lovely.

I felt like my spirit and my schedule were truly able to slow down. My soul found pleasure, joy and satisfaction in the advent of Christmas. However, what I didn't see coming, were some of the consequences that come with slowing down. For better and for worse.

Consequence- (noun) a result or effect of an act or condition.

Some of the better consequences of a slow Christmas season were less stress and more enjoyment. I stopped. I played. I had lots of extra sweet moments with my kids and with our family as a whole because I was satisfied with just being. And some of the "just being" was just being at the foot of the manger. Sharing readings and songs and conversations about the newborn King with my children. Love and excitement grew thick in our home.

One of the not-so-hot consequences of this unhurried season: not getting stuff done. It's not like I didn't get anything done. But when it came down to it, there were things I needed to let go of. Letting go is always hard for me. It was the hardest lesson I learned after my first baby and even more so when #2 came along 15 months later. Just let it go. Let the piles pile and the floor be sticky and leave the lists unfinished. So hard. But two words kept popping into my head: Do Without. We will do without. We'll just have to do without. And we did. And Christmas still came. And it was lovely. And I need to do without much more often.

While I learned to let go of some things, I also had lessons in embracing others. Back in November I shared some thoughts about gifts. And while it is still the desire of my heart to keep things minimal, I have learned I cannot and should not control the gift-giving of others. Because of divorce on both sides of the family, we celebrate 4 separate Christmases. And it's great. I love that we actually get to continue celebrating right into January and even February some years. We are blessed with beyond generous families. And for some of us, gift-giving is how we show our love. So I'm thankful for not only the pool pass and the zoo pass and the Imagination Station membership and the day at Memphis Kiddie Park we'll have this summer- those gifts of experience I desire so much for my family. But I'm also thankful for the abundance, maybe even excessive gifts poured out in love to our children. Lavish love that I dare not ask others to refrain from giving.