Sunday, April 29, 2012

Faithless Me and a Faithful Father {again}

Seven and a half months.

That's how long it's been since my husband last kissed me goodbye and headed off to work. I've written about it before; but with the job credentials he has, we never could have imagined that when Steven's contract was cut short last September we would go more than a couple weeks without a job. But with some large cuts the government made, here we are at the end of April. No job.

Now on the grand scheme of things, this is a small trial. There are quite a few people I'm close to who are going through much more significant difficulties than this. I'm just taking this post to write honestly about what has been going on in my own life.

During the first six months, I was constantly being blown away with what God was teaching me about living for eternity and the spiritual growth that He was working in my life. More than once when someone said, "I'm sorry", I could honestly answer, "Don't be!"

Then the seventh month hit. And I hit a serious low point. I told God, "I'm done; I don't want to do this any more." I felt depressed. Depressed that even though I watched my husband work harder to find a job than I could ever ask, we were still jobless. Depressed that two jobs had been offered and had both fallen through. Depressed that I could no longer see what God was doing. Depressed that I no longer felt intensely close to Him in the midst of this trial. And I struggled with guilt that I could be so faithless. So faithless after my heavenly Father had cared for me so tenderly. Many days, I would start to try to fight for joy and then simply quit. It went on like this for about four weeks.

But... "If we are faithless, He remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself." (2 Tim. 2:13)

One morning as I read Valley of Vision, God used part of the prayer to touch and convict my heavy heart. It read:
"Forgive me for serving thee in sinful ways-...
by a faith that rest upon my hold on Christ, not on Him alone."

In that devotion time, the Lord started to help me see that I had begun to place my faith on what I had learned and experienced during this trial, and not on God alone. The Bible calls me over and over to have faith in my sovereign, redeeming Creator; but it never burdens my soul with asking me to have faith in my own faith.

This is where I was tripping up over and over again. I began to understand that I was craving to be able to see how God was at work, and not trusting that He was at work whether or not I could see it. He has been using the story of Joseph in the Old Testament to minister to my soul. He has helped me realize that the same God that used slavery in Egypt to further His redemptive plans, can use a difficult season to further His glory even if I never fully understand how.

I'm not doing this perfectly even now, mind you. But with my focus pulled away from the burden of my faithlessness and redirected to the Rock on which I stand, with my eyes pulled off the fleeting problems of this moment and back onto a cross that secures an eternity with God, I can honestly say that my Father has pulled me out of a dark place and back into His marvelous light.


Friday, April 27, 2012

My Future Engineers

One of my boys' favorite activities is taking apart any electrical device that is headed for the dumpster. Armed with screwdrivers, they love to discover gears and figure out how they think it might have worked. So when our little vacuum bit the dust, I think I was the only one mourning.





Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Going Around In Circles

The title of the post was originally going to be just simply "Carousel"... but it's been one of those days. The kind where I feel like I'm riding a carousel. No, not riding a carousel. Jogging on a carousel. With my arms full.

If the previous paragraph makes no sense to you, you're probably not a mom.

Enough of my idiot ramblings. Enjoy some sugar sweet pictures of my babies. I've got to go clean some bomb-aftermath rooms.





Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Latest Craving {chia seeds}

Chia seeds where have you been my whole life?!


I've only know about these little bad boys for a couple months now and it's not an exaggeration to say that I eat them in some form almost every single day.

First, let's start with why you should care about this poppy seed-sized superfood. Chia seeds are like an ant, tiny, but able to carry their weight. The seeds have a boat load of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. They contain six times more calcium than milk and have more omega-3's than salmon or even flax seeds. Because they expand into a small gel form, they also help your body clean itself since the toxins in your body literally stick to them as they go through your body.

Here are some ways I've used chia seeds:

  • I add them while baking, since they help make baked goods moist
  • on yogurt
  • in salad for a crunch
  • in a smoothie
  • to make pudding
  • as a hot cereal

Those last two are the most popular ways in my house. Steven's favorite is as a sweet pudding while mine is as a salt and peppered hot cereal. So I'll list both of these recipes below:

Chia Pudding with Peach Sherbet (all sugar-free!)
the chia pudding recipe came from my friend Jill

1 can coconut milk
1/2-3/4 cup of chia seeds
1 tsp. vanilla
honey to taste

Heat the coconut milk, and when warm add the chia seeds (more or less until desired consistency is reached), and note that they will thicken as the pudding sits. Add vanilla and honey to taste. Cool in fridge.

Fully freeze 2 cups of ripe peaches. Berries could be used as well. (I picked mine last summer and froze them.) Blend in food processor with 1 Tbsp of honey until a sherbet consistency is achieve. Serve over chia pudding.


My personal favorite is to simply mix 1/4 cup of water and 1/4 cup of milk and heat. Then I stir in about 2-3 Tbsp of chia seeds and top with a little bit of butter, salt, and pepper. It sort of reminds me of grits, only far healthier. You'll find this on my personal breakfast menu about three days a week. Beside the fact that I genuinely think they're delish, I also love the energy they give me. But be warned, they fill you up fast.

I've found these at Costco but Vitacost also sells them for a very reasonable price.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Teenagers In My Life

To keep life interesting, I decided back in September to add a weekly dose of 13 teenagers. And while I didn't know what to expect, it's actually been fun. Interesting, but definitely fun.


Meet my high school photography class. One minute I think they're keeping me young and the next I think they're aging me. They're creative, wonderful kids.  And as an added bonus, my baby sister is one of them.




On Wednesday, we took a field trip into D.C. 

A bunch of teenagers laying in the middle of a street to get the perfect shot. Priceless.




Friday, April 20, 2012

Grandpa & Grandma's House

Playing with cousins.

Grandpa and Grandma's undivided attention.

Treats, treats, and more treats.

Trip to the zoo complete with train and carousel rides.

A moon bounce in the back yard!

Can you see why my kids count down to these visits like they're headed to Disney World?








Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My Latest Craving {quinoa}

Quinoa isn't exactly a "new" food around my house, but we eat it like it's going out of style. Quinoa is considered a superfood because it's not only high in fiber; but it is also a complete protein and contains more protein than any other grain. And for those of us over here with some dietary restrictions, the even better news is that it's naturally gluten-free.


I cook it up with half water, half chicken broth to give it a fuller flavor. Then I may:

  • mix it with asparagus, goat cheese, and ham
  • mix it with black beans, avacado, tomatoes, cilantro and top with salsa and plain yogurt
  • make coconut curry Thai with the quinoa as the base
  • put spaghetti sauce on it
  • make it a substitute for rice
...just to name a few. I told you we eat it like no tomorrow, and it doesn't hurt that every single person in the house likes it.

But my latest favorite way to make it is this:

Mediterranean Pepper Quinoa Salad
This recipe was from Smitten Kitchen. I simply added the quinoa and a couple of notes.

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup cold water
1 tabl
espoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar (I use 1/8 tsp. Stevia)
1/2 a red onion, cut into a 1/2-inch dice (use less if your onion is huge)
3 bell peppers, your choice of colors (I used one red, orange and yellow)
1 kirby cucumber,
1/4-pound firm feta cheese
1/4 to 1/2 cup pitted kalmata olives
1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
4 cups cooked quinoa
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Swish together the red wine vinegar, water, kosher salt and sugar in a small bowl until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Add the red onion and set it aside.
Meanwhile, time to practice your knife skills. Core and seed your bell peppers and chop them into 1/2-inch pieces. Chop the cucumber and feta into similarly-sized chunks. Put your peppers, cucumber, feta and olives in a large bowl.
By now, your onions will have lightly pickled, both sweetening and softening their blow. Drain them and add them to the other vegetables in the large bowl, but reserve the vinegar mixture. Add cooked quinoa. Pour a quarter cup of the vinegar mixture over the salad, then drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss evenly and serve at once, or let the flavors muddle together in the fridge for a few hours. 
The freshness of this salad makes it a perfect summer meal. 


And Costco comes through again as the cheapest place to buy this.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Easter Eggs

The annual Sieb egg hunt in the woods that were owned by my kid's great, great grandmother.

The same one daddy hunted in as a boy.

The same one grandpa hunted in as a boy.

I'm hearing Tevye singing Tradition in my head right now.



Elijah was all business...

This was the first year that Ava actually got the point...


Five years old equals just does...


We tried to take a cousins photos, and Ava saw it as the perfect moment to continue collecting eggs...


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Piper, Keller, & Bradley on Racism

I HIGHLY encourage you to watch two excellent videos that you can find here:

Race & The Christian

I know the videos aren't short (but, hey, we're all happy to sit down for a mindless movie, right?), but I promise you that they are so very worth your time and super thought-provoking. This discussion must be had and must continue. If you can only watch one, please check out the first video; and be sure to watch it all the way through since Anthony Bradley's talk was my favorite.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My Latest Craving {raw cacao nibs}

For my first installment of the My Latest Craving series (which you can read about HERE), I'm featuring one of my latest favorite superfoods: raw cacao nibs.


You probably already know that the cacao bean is where chocolate comes from. But did you know that cacao is a great source of potassium and magnesium and also has other vitamins? Better yet, it has the highest amount of antioxidants of any food tested so far, better than wine, blueberries, or even green tea.

So here's the problem, you lose most of these qualities when you heat this raw superfood to make chocolate. So, this is why I've been loving me some unheated, as God made them, cacao nibs.


Steven and I like to eat them plain, but they are a little too bitter for most of my kids. So, I've been incorporating them into our diets in other ways. I often use a coffee-grinder to make a powder, but I know you can just buy them powdered as well. I'll sprinkle it on peanut butter and honey sandwiches or, for one of our favorites, blend it with ripe bananas. My kids thinks it's a dessert and only I know there's not a drop of sugar in it.

But the most popular way I've used it so far is to make cacao truffles. Here's how:

Cacao Truffles

  • 2/3 c. raw cacao ground into a powder (like I said, I use a coffee bean grinder)
  • 7 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1/2 c. local, raw honey
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and put the bowl in the freezer for about 20 minutes or until starting to thicken. Pull mixture out and roll into truffle sized balls. Put on a plate and fully freeze. Keep in the freezer until ready to eat.

I pull one (*cough* or three *cough*) of these bad boys out to kick my chocolate cravings. No sugar and packed with nutrients. Can I get a guilt-free "amen"!?!


I have found the cheapest place to buy them to be Amazon. If you want more info, on how fabulous raw cacao is you can find it HERE

Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter Links

We're headed off on our annual Easter trip, but I thought I'd leave you with a couple of great links. Hopefully they will help to prepare your heart for celebrating the fact that God would crush His own Son so the punishment for our Sins would be paid and so we could enjoy Him forever. 

This first was especially convicting for me. So happy reading and happy Easter!

The Easter Conundrum
"It’s Easter. Between ages 0-32, I celebrated Easter the fun way: with bunnies, baskets, and expensive clothes. What better way to say “Jesus reigns” than dressing my preschooler in a $45 dress to show her off in the church lobby? (You’re welcome, Jesus. Be blessed.) Now, let’s be clear, if you had asked me what my Easter priorities were as I stood all fancy in the lobby, I’d become grave and mention the resurrection. For crying out loud, I’m a Christian. But truthfully, between the outfit shopping, the Easter baskets, the egg ______ (dying, stuffing, hiding, hunting), the pictures, the lunch menu, and the gift buying, Jesus was flat last. I started thinking about him as the band started at church, and I thought about him for a whole hour...."

Better You Than Me
"Because I am barefoot 99% of the time, and because we aren't the neatest house on the block, the incident of stepping on sharp, pointy objects is an all too common occurrence. I wish I could blame it on the kids, but I've never had the neatest house on the block. My floor has always been a bit of a landmine. The soles of my feet are riddled with the scars of my domestic ineptitude...."

Barabbas and Me
"Year after year, as Christians walk through the Passion week with Jesus, our hearts are knit to him. He is our greatest hero, at the climax of his greatest feat. As we relive the story with him, we pull for him, and against his enemies. We feel varying levels of disdain for Judas who betrays him, Peter who denies him, the chief priests who despise him, Herod who mocks him, the people who call for his crucifixion, Pilate who appeases the mob and washes his hands, and Barabbas who is guilty but gets to go free. But wait. Barabbas — the guilty who goes free?...."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Not Italian...Polish!

My sister and I used to say that for someone to marry into our family, there were certain tests they had to pass. Of course we wanted someone who truly loved the Lord and had proven character, but even still there were three challenges they must be able to withstand. First they had to get past Dad, second they had to be able to handle our family as a unit and all the craziness that went with that, but then there was one final test. And if they could pass such an intense challenge, with some version of grace, they were a keeper.

That last challenge was meeting my mom's side of the family. All together. If they could do that without running down the street shrieking, marriage with this human being was imminent.

Don't take this the wrong way. I love my mom's family. But my mother is one of eight children, six of whom are girls. Then there are 28 grandkids (I'm number five), plus 20 great-grandkids and counting. And we are loud. I mean all-talking-over-each-other-at-once loud. It's the kind of noise that makes the sons-in-law sneak in earplugs. Take what you're conjuring up and your head and multiply it by ten. Then there's the food sprinkled with a bit of drama and some aunt trying to plant a wet kiss on your face if you're lucky, lips if you're not. And then on top of that, they love to dance. Last week, at my parent's home I watched my mother, three aunts and uncle break it down. In the kitchen.

I asked my aunts why we act like a big Italian family. To which I got the emphatic response of: "We're Polish!"

I didn't realize Poland was such a boisterous nation.

So, like I said before, last week my grandma, two of my mom's sisters, and two cousins came for a visit. At the end of the week my uncle and his wife came down as well. It was a blast. A really loud blast.


While the aunts danced in the kitchen, the kids opted for Just Dance Wii...



Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Go Karts

Boys and daddy having fun:


And then there was Ava screaming.

Someone asked, "Awww, is she scared?"

"No, she's mad we won't let her drive one."