Simplifying Grocery Shopping & the Benefits of Monthly Menu Planning

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Loading the kids into the car is a significant endeavor – making sure we have a clean diaper, putting on socks, shoes, coats, and finally loading them in and strapping them into car seats. The whole process may take up to 30 minutes of my day. Pack a quick snack, an extra diaper, and we are off. Arriving at our destination, it takes anywhere from 5-10 minutes to remove children from the car to the grocery cart. Halfway through the store, child #2 begins to melt down. The snack holds them over temporarily (and yes, I feed them at home before we left!). By the end of the store excursion, child #1 has to use the bathroom. Ten minutes later we are back to the store aisles. And we are only at stop number one of the intended three. Does this sound familiar? After going through this experience numerous times prior, I decided it was time to make a better strategy for grocery shopping. I have been practicing these methods for over a year now, and can highly recommend it!

1. Limit your trips.

Why not make it easier on your stress levels by limiting our trips to the store? Consider starting with a weekly trip and see if you can gradually stretch it.

2. Limit your stops.

Why do we find it necessary to visit three different grocery stores to get all our groceries? Many times it may be due to various prices differences at each location, coupons, or sales. When you really think about it, is the extra time involved and the added stress of loading and unloading really worth it? When I stepped back to compare: driving, extra gas, and the added tiredness that entailed were not necessary. Find a store that you can make all your purchases, adapt your menu so that you can get all the ingredients at one location and stick with it. It will be well worth it – your whole family will be more joyful as a result.

3. Order online.

It is becoming so much easier now to actually order your groceries online. How sweet is that? Check out Safeway, New Seasons (local natural grocery in the Portland metro area), Organics to You, and other online delivery systems. Ask around in your area. Many will allow you to order online and you can pick up in store to save on delivery fees, but also save you all the time and effort of touring the store. For a busy mommy, that sounds like a wonderful alternative.

4. Make a menu plan. Make a monthly plan for real simplicity.

I have been a huge advocate of monthly menu planning and my mission was only re-affirmed after a recent season of carelessness in this area which had to lead to sky-rocketing grocery bills and frequent trips to the store. Menu planning in general is definitely not my favorite activity. I would much rather just be in the kitchen preparing the food rather than planning what to make. But taking the time to plan your menu not only ultimately saves you significant time, but it will also help save you money. Why not take a simple step to simplify it for yourself?

Where to Start?

1. Start with a simple plan.

If you are new to menu planning, please start by beginning with just a weekly menu plan, and once you are comfortable with that to adjust to two weeks. Start your weekly plan by making a list of 7 dinners, 7 breakfasts and 7 lunches. Lunches can be mainly leftovers from the previous dinner if you make a bit extra. Breakfasts can be the same each week as we do it (see examples below). After you can make that work, build a monthly menu plan and work with the seasons. You will learn how much your family needs to make it through two weeks. You will also learn to stretch your food purchases in amazing and creative ways.

2. Figure out dinner themes to work from.

I have found it extremely helpful to start out my menu planning by making daily dinner themes. That way I had something to work around. I make a vegetable and rice stir fry or main dish salad every Monday, adding variation with different vegis and sauces. Tuesdays is always soup night, served with a biscuit or muffin. Increasing soups in your diet is an excellent way of increasing nutrition but also keeping the budget down. Fridays is pizza theme each week for family night. Making a large batch and serving it for different lunches or freezing a portion for another meal is also making the most of your time in the kitchen. Here are a few ideas:

Dinner Themes:

Monday – Stir Fry/Main Dish Salad
Tuesday – Soup
Wednesday – Fish/Lentils
Thursday – Mexican/Chicken/Casserole
Friday – Special Dinner – Pizza
Saturday -BBQ
Sunday – leftovers or eat out

Other themes could include: crockpot, Italian, etc. I have heard other creative ideas such as Meat Monday, Taco Tuesday, etc. Have fun and be creative! Anything to make meal planning enjoyable for your household.

Keep your breakfast and lunch plan simple by rotating the same schedule each week. Here is ours:

Breakfasts:

Monday – kefir smoothie, bread (muffin, bagel, or toast)
Tuesday – Oatmeal w/raisins & apples
Wednesday – kefir smoothie, bread (muffin, bagel, or toast)
Thursday – Oatmeal w/raisins & apples
Friday – Eggs or French Toast
Saturday – Pancakes
Sunday – Granola (a quick breakfast before church)

Lunches:

Lunches are a bit more flexible, as often times we will have leftovers on hand to eat from a previous meal, but if not, I keep the ingredients on hand for these ideas:

Monday – Ham & Cheese sandwiches, fruit/vegi
Tuesday – Egg Salad Sandwiches, juiced vegi & fruit
Wednesday – Salmon Melts or Tomato Soup & grilled cheese/ham sandwiches, fruit, salad
Thursday- Quesadillas, burritos, or baked potato bar (chili, cheese, lettuce, misc toppings)
Friday – Peanut Butter & Jelly or regular sandwiches
Saturday – Leftovers (Saturday is generally leftover day or clean out the fridge day)

3. Make a list of 4 ideas for each of those themes.

Now simply collect ideas for 4 weeks of recipes around those themes. Chicken Ceasar Salad, Taco Salad, Cobb Salad are some of our Monday choices. Jot them down on your monthly calendar.

4. Compile a master shopping list for the items needed to make those meals.

Go through each recipe and make a master shopping list of all the ingredients required. Now each month you have the same list of groceries, and you can keep a memorized list on your computer, phone, or notebook. You can see my master grocery list here. We use the Shopper app for its usefulness in organizing our shopping to the tee – aisle by aisle and keeping track of the costs in one.

5. Limit your shopping to one major stocking day, and one small refiller day in a months time!

A easy plan is to shop at the beginning of the month for all your staples, toilet paper, body products, meats, and dairy and produce for two weeks. I have found produce and dairy can last for two weeks successfully. Then make one extra stop halfway through the month to restock on produce and dairy. Or if you have a local farmer’s market, or farm stand, that would be a even better alternative.

6. Build a new monthly plan with each season.

You will appreciate the variety if you build a new monthly menu plan for each season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. In this manner you can incorporate the more comfort foods for winter, and the light refreshing foods for summer. You can stick with a Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter plan as well, as I have done in the past. Now you only have to plan a menu 2-4 times a year! How nice is that? Care to join me? For inspiration, check out my Winter monthly menu plan and Spring/Summer plan from previous years.

I have experienced it first hand that doing a monthly menu plan can definitely save you money. I have saved at least $100 per month pursuing this method – which is certainly useful when you are striving to eat naturally on a budget.

Those are just some of my practical ideas for simplifying the grocery shopping adventures!

What tips do you have to share?

Other Menu Planning Ideas & Resources:

Weekly Menu Planning – by Crystal Paine
Healthy & Frugal Menu Planning Help Part 1
& Part 2- by Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home
Printable Monthly Menu Form

Printable Weekly Menu Form

Menu Planning: Saving Time in the Kitchen
Menu Planning Made Easy

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Hide Them In Your Heart and Watch Them Change Your Life

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This post is written by contributing writer, Kat. Check out Kat’s new free e-book Mission Statements for Moms.

One of my goals for this year is to become a more patient mother. No matter where I fall on the patience spectrum, I simply want to be more patient than I currently am. One tool that has been ridiculously helpful for me on this journey is the ever popular and exciting….wait for it….

Scripture Memorization!

Don’t click away just yet. I know it’s daunting, sounds far too much like ‘work’ and kind of makes your eyes roll up, but it’s so incredible how much truth is wrapped up in every little section of scripture. It’s like an onion. As I read, I learn one layer, as I memorize, I understand an even deeper layer and as I walk it out in my daily life, I uncover still more layers.

Some people memorize mountains of scripture every year. I’m not one of them. I’m more on the one verse a month track. But even at my turtles pave, it has proven to be water for my weary mommy soul. Here are a few things that have helped me.

3 Tips for Verse Memorization

1. Keep it simple.
Pick one verse and stick with it for awhile. Let it really sink in. Don’t just remember the word order, but live it out and absorb the truth into your every day actions.

My method has simply been to write down the verse each morning during my quiet time. I write the same verse every day for as long as it takes to feel like it’s grafted into my heart. It might be a week or it might be a month.

2. Put it where you’ll see it often.
That might be on an index card by your sink, in the car or in your Bible. Or you might laminate it and put it in your shower or on your mirror.

Just be sure to review it throughout the day.

3. Graft it into your life.
When situations arise in your home that the verse addresses, don’t be afraid to share that with your children. Tell them what you’re learning and how God is using that verse to change you. Not only will it keep you accountable, but it will also inspire them to memorize verses.

Lessons I’ve Learned about Patience

Here are two verses I’ve been working on lately and a few things they’ve been teaching me as I pour over them:

“…take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life God desires.” James 1:19-20

Our children deserve our listening ear. Even when they’ve been talking all. day. long. Even when it takes them eight minutes to explain why they haven’t brushed their teeth yet. Even when they’ve told 18,329,047 nonsensical knock knock jokes in the last 45 minutes.

Listening is more than just waiting for our turn to speak.

Our children deserve our patience. Even when we don’t feel that we have any left. We do.

Responding in anger may affect their actions for the moment, but responding in love will affect their hearts for a lifetime.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29

I don’t know about you, but I let unwholesome words come out of my mouth far too often. They’re not curse words or insults, but they are words spoken more out of frustration than love. The words that proceed from my mouth can be building blocks or daggers. It’s better for me to close my mouth and not speak than let words, unfiltered by love, escape.

We have a phrase we use around our house, “Leave it better than you found it.”
Normally, it is just used as a reminder to clean up after ourselves, but I also pray that it is true of our interactions with others. May each person we encounter, whether it’s our children, our spouse, a friend or a stranger, leave our presence better than we found them.

More encouraged. More loved. More hopeful.

Memorizing these two verses has deeply impacted how I choose to respond to those I encounter everyday. And to think, there are 31,100 other verses in the Bible yet to change me.

I guess I have some work to do.

Do you memorize scripture regularly? What are some tips you can share?

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Homemade Dill Pickles

I labored over making 27 quarts of dill pickles this week and it was lots of fun! It took about four hours to complete amidst lunch preparations, nap times, discipline sessions, and the like. Always an adventure trying to store food for the winter while managing as a mother, and that is why I limit my canning to pickles, tomatoes, and jams (although I’ll probably do applesauce too this year, if my energy survives). I made this same recipe last year and they turned out perfectly delicious and crunchy! I thought 15 quarts would surely last us the whole year, but we wolfed them all down by over two months ago. I roughly tripled the recipe below to make 27 quarts from 25 pounds of cucumbers. Here is my video tutorial of the process. Hope you enjoy my amateur efforts! ;)

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWZdtPPmlCk

You can find the original recipe that I adapted from Allrecipes.com:

  • 8 pounds 3 to 4 inch long pickling cucumbers
  • 4 cups white vinegar or half and half with apple cider vinegar (for the added nutritional benefits)
  • 12 cups water
  • 2/3 cup pickling salt
  • 16 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 8 sprigs fresh dill weed
  • 8 heads fresh dill weed
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp pickling spice, per quart, optional (but adds delicious flavor!)

Directions

  1. Wash cucumbers, and place in the sink or bathtub with cold water and lots of ice cubes. Soak in ice water for at least 2 hours but no more than 8 hours. Refresh ice as required.
  2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, combine the vinegar, water, and pickling salt. Bring the brine to a rapid boil.
  3. Sterilize 8 (1 quart) canning jars by running through the dishwasher. Sterilize lids by boiling in a small pan of water until ready to use.
  4. In each jar, place 1 clove of garlic, one head of dill, then enough cucumbers to fill the jar (about 1 pound). Cut off 1/16-1/8 inch off the end of each cucumber to ensure crunchy pickles. Then add 1 more garlic clove, 1 sprig of dill, and pickling spice.
  5. Fill jars with hot brine to the rim of the jar. Seal jars, making sure you have cleaned the jar’s rims of any residue.
  6. Process sealed jars by inverting and placing in a large shallow of water for 5-10 minutes. The water should cover the rim of the jar. Remove jars while inverted to a towel on your counter and cool completely before turning over.
  7. Store pickles for roughly 6-8 weeks before opening in order for the cucumbers to pickle sufficiently. Refrigerate after opening. Pickles will keep for up to 2 years if stored in a cool dry place.

Tips to Achieve Crunchy Pickles

1.Use fresh ingredients – fresh dill (no more than 1-2 days old) and fresh firm pickles, free of soft spots. You also want the most warty pickles you can find.
2. Soak in a ice cold water bath (2-8 hrs).
3. Cut off 1/16-1/8 inch of the blossoming end of the pickle before putting in canning jar.
4. Invert in small pan of boiling water to cover the rim of the jar to process for 5-10 minutes.

I followed these three steps that were shared in the comments section of the original recipe, and it definitely assured I had crunchy pickles and none went to waste!

What about Lacto-Fermented Pickles?

I would love to make some lacto-fermented pickles, for the increased nutritional benefits, but unfortunately you have to have plenty of refrigerator or cold cellar space for storage, which I lack in our small condo. Learn how to make them here:

Nourishing Days: Fermenting Vegetables
YouTube video on Fermenting pickles
Wild Fermentation: Making Sour Pickles

Kitchen Stewardship: Finally…Crunchy Pickles! (her fun attempts at pickles!)

I’d like to make a small single batch in this method soon!

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5 Natural Medicine Cabinet Essentials

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Fall is definitely arriving here in the Northwest as we welcome rain and chilly weather turning our thoughts towards starting to prepare for the winter and the cold/flu season. Last year I shared about stocking your natural medicine cabinet and found a wealth of information and ideas passed around from our readers. As I look back on this previous year, I realize I collected many items that were truly not necessary. My goal this year was to simplify my medicine cabinet and stick to the items that were most effective when dealing with the everyday cold and flu bugs last winter. Here are my top 5 items that I believe should be in every Mama’s cabinet:

1. Elderberry Syrup

I cannot praise this concoction enough! It is easy and frugal to make your own supply, and it is incredibly healing to the body. As I shared previously, “Elderberry is anti-viral, contains high levels of flavonoids and antioxidants, has cell-protecting components, soothes sore throats, and supports the immune system and respiratory system.” We have found it extremely effective for all colds, running noses, sour throats, flu, fevers and various aches and pains. It covers all your bases and is perfectly safe for adults and children.

Learn how to make your own elderberry syrup and keep it stocked in your fridge all winter long. Take one teaspoon daily to help boost your immune system and prevent illness or 1-4 teaspoons daily during sickness. Check out this helpful video from Mountain Rose Herbs on preparing your own. Mountain Rose Herbs sells dried elderberries for an excellent price.

If you’d rather buy your Elderberry syrup, we have used the Quantum Elderberry brand as well and it is excellent alternative. You will go through it with one cold bug, so that is why I started to make my own because it was significantly cheaper.

2. Papaya Enzymes

We used papaya enzymes regularly when I was growing up and they have always been the most effective natural solution for stomach aches and indigestion – for adults and children. Papaya Enzymes are a chewable digestive aid that is 100% natural – made from papaya fruit. Pepermint and chlorophyll are added to refresh and sweeten breath, so it is also a great breath refreshener! I usually use two for myself and one tablet for children.

3. Epsom Salts

Sooth sour muscles, aches, pain, and relieve stress with epsom salts. They are effective in cleansing open wounds, remove warts, and heal the vaginal area after birth. Sprinkle a handful throughout the bath tub and soak as desired. Add a few drops lavender essential oil for enhanced healing and relaxation.

4. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is very effective for burns, cuts, skin irritations such as relieving mosquito bits or poison ivy, and general cleansing of skin. You can grow a plant indoors to have on hand for these needs – simply break off a leave and rub the juices on the infected area.

5. Arnica

We love Arnica for all those bumps and bruises, which seem to happen daily at our home. I apply a dab of Arnica and the healing process is enhanced. Helps prevent bruising beautifully. We use Hyland’s Arnica Spray.

These are the top 5 natural healing tools at our home – items I have used consistently over the past few years. There are many other wonderful natural healing on the market, but I have found these to be the top picks for everyday use as a wife and mother. Keep the cabinet simple so your essentials are easy to find when the need arises. My next pursuit is to invest in a aromatherapy diffuser, in order to start using more essential oils in our home for healing and maintaining health and wholeness. I love the idea of fresh healing scents flowing through our home! Any recommendations out there for a diffuser?

What are your essentials?

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August at Our Home

It was a lovely month at the Edmonds home. Aaron and I helped serve at Compassion Vancouver, an effort in our community to offer free medical, dental, and social services to the needy. I was coordinating the hospitality team and it was wild and crazy day serving several hundred people, but the event went extremely well, although I had never experienced such extreme exhaustion till after this event. I received a massage from one of the volunteers and slept from 8:30pm-6:30 am! Maybe that is what I need, a daily massage anyone?

Aaron received some extra time off work and we enjoyed it immensely by taking a quick trip to Manzanita, OR, biking around town, and just resting. Our family picture above was taken from the top of a mountain just north of Manzanita overlooking the Oregon Coast, the highest peak between San Francisco and Canada. We hiked 1.5 miles zig zag straight up this mountain with two kids on our backs. We died but were determined to make it to the top. It was worth it!

Titus started walking this month. Once he finally decided to take the plunge, he was rocking and rolling. It has been delightful seeing him explore on his two feet, even if he waited till 17 months to do it.

Karis is loving learning her ABC’s, thanks to the inspiration of Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve and our other preschool resources. I added a craft book, Little Hands Paper Plate Crafts in order to add more letter related crafts to our learning (this month is “B” so we made a paper plate painted bird). We make one craft each week and bake one treat related to the letter (blueberry muffins this week). I am not really the crafty type, but wanted some additional ideas for simple projects to make and these are simple, easy, and only require some basic craft supplies.

I honestly did not complete any reading this month, beyond getting started on one book. I immersed myself in the Bible for all my reading times to help sustain me through sleepless nights. It has been beautiful to see all that God is working in and through me. During a bought of depression, the Lord again reminded me of the importance of cultivating thankfulness. Upon waking each day, I strive to write out at least five things I am thankful for that day. Just practicing this habit is so effective in establishing a joyful heart.

The Lord also reminded me of the importance of good routines. I had stopped my menu planning and was randomly going to the store here and there, planning meals on a daily basis, resulting in a sky-rocketing food budget. I had stopped my weekly planning retreat and the results were quite disastrous. I am so thankful for the Lord’s gentle guiding me back on track. By the end of the month, I have re-established these routines, returned to my monthly menu planning for September, re-opened my planning notebook, and my heart and life has been so much more peaceful. These tools are invaluable. Thank you Lord for getting me back on track!

Today is my birthday…the big 25! We celebrated last weekend by taking a fun breakfast and shopping outing with my sisters (did I mention I love Buffalo Exchange for used quality clothing), followed by a special date walking around Portland with my hubby. We are off this weekend to celebrate the union of Aaron’s oldest brother, Nathan, to my soon to be sister-in-law, Kathy. We are thrilled! I will be sure to share some pictures of this lovely event later.

Have a blessed weekend!

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Safe & Frugal Shower Curtain Options

Have you ever sensed that stench from a new shower curtain liner that invades your bathroom? This smell is PVC plastic (#3 plastic) that out gases toxic odors that you really want to avoid if all possible. Studies have shown that these vinyl curtains contain high concentrations of chemicals that are linked to liver damage as well as damage to the central nervous, respiratory and reproductive systems, some of which can remain around for up to a month after installing.

I used plastic vinyl shower curtain liners for several years and just knew inwardly that those smells were probably not good for our family, especially because it regularly caused headaches. This last year, I made the effort to find an alternative when the time came to replace it. I wanted something that would not contain this toxin, but also wouldn’t be wasteful. Plastic shower curtains liners get quite disgusting in a short time and then disposed of and replaced.

There are several alternatives on the market. Choose fabric! Hemp, bamboo, organic cotton, or recycled materials are all available. They are excellent options but rather expensive (ranging in price from $85-195 dollars).

The best option I have found is the simple 100% polyester fabric shower curtain liners. They are available online or at your local Bed, Bath, and Beyond for $10 in an array of solid colors. The polyester repels the water and dries quickly. They last forever and can hide any water stains very nicely, especially if you get a chocolate colored one (like us!). When it comes time, you can throw it in the wash on a gentle cold cycle and then hang to dry back in its home. Mine just received its first washing after 9 months of use and it looks practically brand new again. These liners can actually be used completely on their own in replacement of any shower curtain. They function perfectly well in keeping all the droplets in the shower.

There are also other PVC free plastic curtains made from EVA vinyl, which is a non-chlorinated, odor free, environmentally friendly vinyl, on the market. They are safer but just as disposable and thus a fabric choice would be more sustainable due to its washability.

I think $10 is a worthwhile frugal investment to keeping those toxic smells out of your home, what say you?

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Homemade Calendula Salve

CalendulaNearing the end of summer, my herb garden is ready for harvest!

This post is written by contributing writer, Michele.

A homemade Calendula Salve is a staple in my homemade remedies box. It is the perfect treatment for chapped hands and faces (such as from winter winds, gardening, or babies’ teething drool), soothing little ones’ scraped knees, or mild burns.

I purchase organic herb seeds inexpensively from Mountain Rose Herbs, along with saving seeds from previous harvests (the most frugal option!) to plant in my garden. If you don’t have access to the fresh flowers, you can also find bulk dried calendula flowers from Mountain Rose Herbs or your local natural food/herb store. If you are harvesting your own flowers, pick the petals later in the morning, after the dew dries, but before the noon heat sets in.

To prepare my Calendula Salve, I have used Hemp Oil, which has a very high percentage of Essential Fatty Acids, and can be especially nourishing for skin conditions, such as eczema or dry skin, while being non-greasy and easily absorbed into skin. However, Olive Oil (which typically has a longer shelf-life) could be substituted instead.

When preparing the salve, make sure not to overheat it! Both the oil and the petals must be kept over low heat to prevent “cooking” them.

This is also a wonderful project for incorporating into learning a home with little ones! They love to harvest the petals, and sprinkle/stir them into the pot, before you turn on the heat. (I prepared my most recent batch along with my own daughter, as well as my visiting youngest sister.)

Salve

Calendula Salve

  • 2 Cups Calendula Petals (not the entire flower “heads”)
  • 1 Cup Hemp or Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Beeswax Pastilles/Pellets
  • 10 Drops Lavender Essential Oil
  1. Pour calendula petals into a stainless steel pot, and add oil. Turn on low heat, and stir to combine. Watch for tiny bubbles in the oil to gauge the temperature- it should not get any warmer than the “tiny bubbles stage!” Continue stirring occasionally over the next 2 hours, keeping the oil gently warm.
  2. Meanwhile, begin gently melting the beeswax in the top of a double boiler (don’t let this get too hot; you’ll want it to be a similar temperature as the oil, when you combine the two).
  3. After 2 hours, strain the petals from the oil. (You can use a fine-meshed strainer, tea filters, or cheesecloth.) Squeeze/press out as much of the oil as you can into a bowl. Then slowly pour the oil into the melted beeswax in the double boiler, stirring to combine. Then stir in the drops of lavender essential oil. (The oil acts as a “preservative,” as well as being a healing and calming ingredient.)
  4. Pour the warm oil into small jars/containers, and allow to cool. Avoid using clear glass, if possible. Choose containers (such as white plastic cosmetic containers or amber/cobalt-colored glass jars) that will help protect the salve from sunlight. (I repurpose containers from purchased shea or cocoa butters.) Store in a cool place.
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Contentment in All Circumstances

Pure exhaustion. That would describe me right now. Having found little sleep last night leaves me feeling pretty drained. Fear has been attacking me lately at the thought of trying to sleep. I was up folding laundry, reading, and simply crying out to the Lord. Can I possibly joyfully serve my family today when I have no brain? Where can I find the strength necessary to just focus on today, rather than worrying about tomorrow?

What does it mean to be content during these challenges seasons?

I love the way Nancy Twigg states it, “Contentment is being able to come to terms with where you are and what’s going on in your life, even if it’s not what you would have chosen for yourself. True contentment is not having everything you want, but learning to appreciate everything you have.” (From Clutter to Clarity)

Being content means being at peace with your circumstances. It means laying down your desires, and finding joy in all that the Lord has given. It is easy to let the mind wonder to unhealthy thoughts of comparison, asking the what-if’s and if-only’s, but being content clarifies life by keeping us focused on reality.

Contentment is possible when I focus on cultivating a thankful heart. When I fill my mind with a verbal reminder of all the sweet gifts he has poured out on my life – my husband, children, home, church family, etc – contentment is a companion of thankfulness. It requires taking control of my thoughts. It is not easy. When you are weary and tired, the mind does not function so easily and can wander back to thoughts of self-pity. There is no fruit in these thoughts. It is a daily battle for me right now. Self-pity is a work of the enemy to destroy our productivity and service to the Kingdom.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3)

Let’s take control of our thoughts, dear sisters. Let us stand with Paul in declaring, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13). Let us put our hope in God who never changes, rather than the fluctuating circumstances around us. Even if nothing else may be going right, I can be confident that God is with me. Let’s discover together that God is enough through every season of life! I am speaking out loud to my soul today, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? Why are you in disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him. The help of my countenance and my God.” (Psalms 43:5)

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True Woman 2010

My sisters, mother, and I will be heading to Fort Worth, Texas on October 14-16 for True Woman 2010! We would love for any of you lovely ladies to join us as we are challenged in understanding our position and value in Christ. I am eager to hear the truth shared from Nancy Leigh Demoss, Mary Kassian, Kay Arthur and others about how we can live out our lives, homes, and ministries for the glory of God.

I wanted to use this opportunity to extend an invitation to you. Join our group and save $20 per ticket. If you are attending the conference, you can join our group! Simply use our group code: TGCC at checkout. Learn more through the promotional video here:

True Woman is also coming to Indianapolis, Indiana on September 23-25! I’d love to hear from you if you are able to attend, join our group, and meet up!

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Healthy Lemon Bars

I am a huge fan of lemon bars! In fact, I think it just might be my favorite sweet. I love the combination of sweetness and tartness that they provide for my palate. I have been on the search for a means of making my own lemon bars in a more natural fashion. I found my friend Kimi’s lemon curb bars recipe, and fell in love! Not only were they incredibly simple, but they were delicious, gluten free and healthy all in one! I am all about simplifying, so I adapted her methods a bit to make it quick and easy as follows. I skipped the addition of lemon zest, because I did not have it and also found that the mixture was definitely lemony enough without them, and thus it saved a further step.

Filling:

3 whole eggs
1/4 cup honey (I found the smaller amount was perfectly sweetened enough – raw honey is your best option)
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup coconut oil (I cut back on the coconut oil from the original recipe since it was too strong of a coconut flavor to me. 1/4 cup was perfect! Choice virgin cold pressed unrefined coconut oil for best nutritional value.)

Crust:

1 cup of raw almonds (soaked and dehydrated, if possible)
1 cup of raw pecans (I have used practically any combination of nuts here!)
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup of melted virgin coconut oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon sea salt

Filling Directions:

1. Blend the eggs, honey, and lemon juice together in a small sauce pan until thoroughly combined.
2. Turn the heat on to medium high and add coconut oil, mixing regularly until the oil has melted.
3. Continue stirring until the mixture thickens and bubbles.
4. Remove from pan and place in a bowl in the refrigerator to cool and thicken further.

Crust Directions:

1. Place nuts in a food processor or blender and pulse until finely chopped, but not pureed. You may have little chunks of nuts, and that is fine.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse again until well combined.
3. Spread over the bottom of a greased 8 x 8 inch pan.
4. Bake for 15-18 minutes in a 400 degree oven, until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
5. Cool completely before layering the filling over the top. Return to the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Scrumptious! I am going to make another batch now!

Check out Kimi’s original recipe here!

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