"oh no! She moved out of that pretty light before I could get my camera."
Half joking I said, "hey, sweetie, do you want to get in that pretty light again for mommy?"
I fully expected her to ignore me but instead she let out a slightly exasperated sigh and said "Okay. I'll go back into the pretty light."
She is drawn to mud puddles like a moth to flame.
Like a horse to water.
Like a fly to poop.
Like me to chocolate.
She was drawn that day and I let her - even though she was wearing a new cute, light pink dress and I had a feeling it would end up splattered with brown within a matter of seconds.
Still, I love the idea of children being allowed to be children and of me being able to photograph it.
She started by stepping in the water in one part of the gravel parking lot, standing with the the murky brown liquid covering both her ruby red slippers with the sparkles - the slippers she had picked out six months ago on a shopping trip for basketball shoes for her brother.
She'd been drawn to those slippers too. She put them on and said "these mine," and left her old shoes in the floor and walked toward the exit.
When those slippers were covered in water on this day she smiled, or rather smirked, and started to step in each little pool of muddy water with a low chuckle of delight. Soon she was running through the puddles and asking me to do the same.
It was a familiar scene. She'd done the same two days earlier and we had run in the ankle deep water in another parking lot and laughed as we ran.
People smiled at us as they walked by on their way to the local clinic. I think they wanted to run in puddles too.
On this day I ran again with her because that's why God gives us children - to remind us how be free, that we are free in Him.
Free to splash in puddles.
Free to not care what anyone else thinks.
Free to remember who we really are.
Children remind us that sometimes we need to stop and feel the water squish into our shoes and between our toes and then we need to giggle and see how much mud we can splatter up out of the puddle and all over our clothes.
Children remind us to climb a tree because - why not?
Children remind us that pushing a cart across a parking lot as fast as you can and then jumping on the back of it and riding it to your car is - well - really fun.
Children remind us to be distracted by the way the sun hits the sunflowers in the fields and the butterfly fluttering among the cattails by the pond.
Children remind us how nice it is to hold someone's hand when you walk across the street.
Children remind us that sometimes we need to let go and simply be alive.
Her brother jumped across the puddle and landed on his feet.
She jumped across the puddle and landed on her rear in the middle of the puddle.
And she laughed and I had a good feeling she flopped in the water on purpose.
Who will show me to stop and laugh in the puddles when my children are older?
Who will remind me it's ok to not be serious all the time?
Who will hold my hand when I cross the street?
Who will whisper as I walk across a park "I love you, mama?" leaving me with that funny feeling you get in your chest right before you cry?
Why do we forget how to laugh, to splash, to play as we grow?
Why do we forget to live instead of just exist?
No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their righteousness is from Me,”
Says the Lord."
Isaiah 54:17 (NKJV)
I say it at least three times a week.
"My anxiety is high today."
"My anxiety has me stressed."
"My anxiety is holding me back."
"I hate my anxiety."
Well today I have decided that I no longer want to claim anxiety as "mine."
Claiming it means I own it and it owns me. Claiming it puts me in a self made prison.
Calling it mine means I expect it to be there. I expect to feel anxious. I expect to feel depressed. I expect to feel confused.
God did not give me anxiety.
Anxiety is not of God.
He did not hand it to me and ask me to be responsible for it. Then why should I call it "my anxiety."
Yes I will struggle with anxiety.
Yes, it will be there when I don't want it to be.
But it will no longer be mine.
It can be "the anxiety I face."
Or "the anxiety I fight."
But it will no longer be "my anxiety."
It will no longer rule me, control me, put me in chains.
You, anxiety, and the author of anxiety no longer will have a hold on me.
You, anxiety, have no authority over me or my life.
You fall under the authority of someone much greater, someone who died on a cross to take away my infirmities.
You fall under my authority given to me by King Jesus when He died on the cross and bore all sin, all sickness, all anxiety.
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Ephesians 6:12King James Version (KJV)
Through Christ I have authority over the rulers of the darkness of this world .
Anxiety, you are not mine.
Anxiety, you are not in control.
Anxiety, you will not consume me.
Anxiety, you belong with the one who resides in Hell and who will always reside in Hell.
You are not "my anxiety ".
You are his weapon of destruction but no weapon formed against me will prosper (Isaiah 54:17) and that includes the anxiety I no longer own.
My son was recovering from an illness on the couch and watching a cartoon on his laptop, my daughter was watching a cartoon on my phone and I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook when it all shut off out of the blue.
For ten seconds we sat there and looked at each other bewildered. What were we supposed to do now? With all our devices dark, except the phone which continued to work off data, we were completely lost.
Suddenly I felt excited. I felt a sense of freedom and dashed outside to my garden, over run with weeds thanks to weeks of neglect, and began yanking weeds out by the handful. I felt like a giddy child let loose in a candy store. The smell of dirt and grass andnature was setting my soul on fire.
In the midst of the euphoria I was also disgusted that it had taken the electricity going out to wake me up and break the chains of apathy and digital busyness that I had let hold me down.
Logged on to Facebook I seem to think I have to read one more post, see one more photo, laugh at one more pointless video and then before I know it it's the afternoon and I've accomplished nothing. I haven't finished the dishes, cut up and put the extra zucchini in the freezer, cleaned up my room, made the beds or weeded the garden.
And I certainly haven't nourished my soul or connected with God.
Instead I've only fueled anxiety that I often call "my anxiety" claiming the state as my own, as if it's an expected mindset for me to be in.
I've found that scrolling past story after story, some positive but many aimed at igniting our fear - fear of cancer, of death, of loss - is damaging my emotional health and in turn my physical health.
Many say "I just ignore those negative or fear based posts" but to me it seems the continuous exposure to these types of stories often permeates our thoughts and perpetuate our fears without us even realizing it. The negative affects of today's social media are subtle and unassuming.
I'm not saying social media doesn't have its good points or that it can't be used to help encourage, connect, and support. Along with the good, however, comes even more counteractive and isolating aspects.
We have never been more connected than we are today, Facebook founder mark Zuckerburg likes to tell us again and again. In some ways this is true but in reality we've never been more disconnected or separated.
Satan is never happier than when we are isolated, made to feel alone, and spending our days on Facebook, pretending we are actually connecting with people. When we are on our computer or staring at our phone we are not living in the present or focused on those around us. Our minds are on a digital and virtual plane, trapped in a world of fantasy, antagonistic words, pessimistic views and sometimes fake optimistic ones.
I thought about this all as I yanked the weeds out of the garden so I could plant spinach seeds, seeds of a plant to bring our family nourishment.
I found it pretty pathetic that it took the electricity going out to motivate me to weed out the bad and plant the good. Yet it often takes a power failure in our life to wake us up to the good we have been missing out on.
Philippians 4:8 says: "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."
Sometimes I need to pull the plug on the busyness of life so I can focus on the noble, the right, the pure, the lovely and the admirable.
If I don't cut off the power sometimes, or let God flip the switch for me, then the negativity, fear, pessimism and anxious thoughts will grow in my life like the weeds in my garden. The weeds are choking out my healthy plants, stopping them from growing. I'm nowhere near a master gardener and I know I have a lot to learn if I want a bountiful harvest in the future.
There are days I feel the weeds of life all around me, trying to steal my joy, my hope, my fervor for life. I put my hands up to push them back, but without the help of the one who is our Master Gardener, I'll never find victory.
I need Him to help me keep the weeds in check and to remind me they need to be pulled so I can breathe and grow.
Panic set in when money got tight this last year but after a lot of prayer I've been learning more about how to save money and reduce expenses. This learning is a long process that is coming in stages.
Currently my money saving focus is on groceries and household items.
Groceries is one of the biggest expenses for our family, and probably most families, so that's where I first started looking for ways to save. While groceries are expensive overall anymore, the highest costs are in the meat department. In the past I didn't pay much attention to the cost of meat per pound but when Ihad to fit my purchases within a certain budget I knew I would need to start focusing on it.
Of course the better quality meats cost more, which was frustrating to me until I started to watch a couple of cooking shows and learned that meats that are thought of as "lower quality" can be used to create a variety of delicious meals.
There are many sites and cook books available to help you use not only cheaper cuts of meat to make amazing meals, but also supporting ingredients and dishes.
Stretching these cuts of meat by cutting them up and freezing them for later can also reduce the grocery budget.
I try to cook mainly Paleo meals for my family since gluten, dairy and sugar cause different health issues for each of us. If a recipe isn't Paleo, I do my best to adapt it to fit our food lifestyle (I am not a fan of calling Paleo a diet, because I don't eat that way to lose weight, but simply to feel better).
Because the rest of my family is not full Paleo, not every meal I cook adheres to the Paleo guidelines. I do add wheat and dairy to some meals, but avoid it for myself.
If you're wondering what Paleo even means, Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo has a great explanation on her blog.
Michelle's blog is a new source for me for meal planning after she turned me on to cooking with an Instapot via her Facebook live videos. I purchased the Instapot this past week (no, I am not getting any kind of payment from them) and am excited to see how it not only saves on time, but money, in relation to preparing meals for our family.
You can find her instapot recipes HERE.
About a year ago I read some invaluable information on a blog about cutting food expenses. One of the suggestions was to buy meats with the bone still in and skin still on and cut the meat up yourself to avoid the butcher passing the cost of cutting up the meat on to you. It's the same for vegetables and fruits which are priced higher if you purchase them already cleaned and cut for you. While convenient, buying your meats, vegetables and fruit prepackaged can increase your grocery budget. It's also not always the healthiest option as sometimes extra sugar or preservatives are added to keep the products "more fresh" for a longer period of time.
Ree Drummond, otherwise known as The Pioneer Woman, recently opened my eyes to cost saving ways to use various cuts of beef, the highest priced meat on the market. In the past I cooked an entire roast in a crockpot and sometimes used the leftovers for vegetable beef stew. Based on Ree's ideas I've started buying a roast and then cutting it into either cubes for stew, slices for breakfast steak (haven't tried this yet) or strips for stir fry. For chicken I have been buying split chicken breasts with the bone and skin still on, deboning it and then either keeping the breast whole or slicing it into tenders or chunks. I can use the chunks for chicken spiedies (if you're not from the Northeastern part of the United States you can find a definition of those HERE), to add to salads, to make chicken nuggets or to add to a one-pan bake.
I plan to buy whole chickens in the future and cut them up into the cuts I want to use later. Tips on how to cut up and entire chicken or roast or debone chicken and fish, can be found on many sites online, including video tutorials like this one by Gordon Ramsey on YouTube (no swear words in this series, but beware of his salty language in other YouTube clips, of course.). Tips on how to cook a variety of recipes and food can also be found on YouTube.
A few YouTube video tips I've enjoyed include:
Adding vegetables or beans, rice or fruitcan help stretch your meat and budget even more. When it comes to vegetables and fruit savings, a great idea is either growing your own and freezing them for later or stocking up on your favorites when they are on sale and freezing them for later. Buying items you use a lot of when they are on sale is one way my parents, who are on a fixed income, save money. This tactic can be used for groceries, household items, clothing, and just about any other needed product (versus wanted ones.)
Another great idea by Ree to stretch the budget, and make sure you get your veggies, is to make one pan meals with ingredients all piled into a roasting pan. You can find her one pan recipes on her site here.
I will make a quick disclaimer about Ree's recipes - they are not Paleo in the least and often not super healthy. If you have watched her show or bought her cookbook you know she uses tons of flour, grains, dairy and sugar. Despite the fact I try not to use any, or at least less, of these ingredients I enjoy watching her Food Network show and reading her blog (which I followed before she became famous) . She offers some money and time saving tips, I enjoy her posts about her family, she seems very authentic in how she presents herself and I can often "hack"
her recipes to fit my family's eating style.
I've given you a few ideas I've been using to reduce our grocery budget, now it's your turn. I'd love to hear some of your tips in the comments or on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/lisahoweler and with your permission I'll use them in a future blog post about ways to save money.
You might remember my prediction that our first attempt at a garden may be a disaster.
That prediction has proven to be fairly accurate as shown by the weeds attempting to choke out the few plants that did survive the initial stages of planting a month and a half ago.
First, I missed the memo about planting everything in neat little rows. There definitely isn't anything neat about our garden and not really any rows at this point.
I didn't read packages right and failed to space the seeds far enough apart, as well. Then there was the week long rain that started the day after I planted. I'm convinced it washed away a good portion of my carrot seeds.
I am a total garden newbie so when I started yanking out weeds and didn't see carrot tops sprouting where I thought they should have been I ended up ripping out a few carrot seedlings. I thought they grew a lot faster than they actually do. Whoops.
One side of the garden never even got planted and the weeds know it and have taken residence there, creating what is going to be a town violation at some point if I don't get in there and yank out more of those pesky, pointless plants. It seems as soon as I weed one part I return the next day to find 1,000 more. Who knew weeds could grow so fast.
This week we harvested two little summer squash and you would have thought I'd won the lottery. Little Miss and I ran in the house and proudly displayed the little veggie to the boys, who were appropriately impressed but not as over the moon as we were.
There is currently something growing where I thought I planted cucumber. I thought it was zucchini but now it's rounding out like watermelon and I truly do not remember buying watermelon seeds at any point, let alone planting them. A quick message to my dad and he said it's a pumpkin growing, which is very upsetting to me because we now have four official pumpkin plants and two more trying to grow by my house. I had no idea simply dropping pumpkin seeds could lead to plants sprouting up all over the place.
I guess I'd better start searching the internet for pumpkin recipes now. And now to freeze pumpkins, carve pumpkins and convince others to take pumpkins away from us.
So at this point, I'm fairly certain we'll have at least some summer squash, no cucumber, maybe some butternut squash (need to Google and find out when that usually starts to make an appearance) and I've learned that I can plant spinach and kale later in the season so I'll be trying that too.
How about you? Do you garden? Does your garden thrive or barely survive?
You know what's really annoying?
Having to say what a blessing it is to watch our children grow up.
I see it all the time in the photography world. A mom-tog (not a bad term in my mind though it is to some) posts a photo of her oldest on instagram and writes a beautiful piece of prose about how much they miss when this growing child was young and innocent and liked to cuddle. Inevitably some other mom writes "but it's such a blessing to see them grow, isn't it?"
I have this suspicion that the other mom writes this because she herself knows the dark, ugly truth of parenting: yes, watching them grow is a blessing but yes, it also sucks raw, rotten eggs.
You know what?
I'm tired of us moms thinking we are horrible human beings if we admit there are days we can't stand that our children are growing older and aren't as sweet and cuddly as they once were.
We need to embrace our feelings even if it doesn't fit our Pinterest list of perfect motherisms (yes, I know it isn't a word, but you can pretend it is).
Does it mean we love our children less as they grow out of our arms and into independence? Of course not, but we need to stop feeling less than because sometimes we cry when we see how much they've changed over the years.
We all know what's behind our tears.
We don't want them to grow up and move on. Why? Because moms, deep down, feel very strongly that once their children grow up and move out they will no longer need them and worse yet? That we moms will no longer have worth, purpose, a reason to live.
Don't get me wrong - our lives don't completely revolve around our children's to the point they are our only identity but then again - maybe it does for some of us.
And when we have to think about what our lives will be when they grow up and move on?
It's gut wrenching.
It's time for introspection we don't want to face.
Yes, it's necessary to accept our children are growing, not live in the past.
But it's also hard and it's ok to say that.
It is not only ok but it is healthy to honor how we feel in the moment let those emotions roll around and over and through us so we can deal with them in the open and not deep down in the dark caverns of our suppressed sensibilities
Too often we let the opinions of others, those who tell us how we should feel, should act and react, rule us and guide us and drag us through life.
We're not bad mothers if we cry in the darkness of the night, aching for the younger days. We're not even bad mothers if we live there for a little while - but only for a little while.
It's not wrong to weep about the days gone by but if we do it for too long we'll miss out on the now.
We will miss out on who our children are now and who they are becoming.
There is no rule that says a mom, or a father, can't say they are dreading their children growing older while also enjoying watching them grow.
The alternative to not seeing them grow up? It's unthinkable and is a million times worse than watching them go from cuddly toddler to stand offish teen.
But, yes, mama, you are allowed to say "I miss my baby."
"I miss my little boy."
"I miss my little girl."
"This is hard. "
There are a lot of other moms and dads who are right where you are, even if they don't say it.
They have those hard moments.
You have those hard moments.
But, yes, they, you and I know it is a blessing and a gift to watch them grow, develop, and bloom even as we lament how fast it's all going.
I love how my 2-year olds' brain works.
Sunday at my parents, we were walking to the house from the pool and she saw the flowers along the wall and said "oh those flowers are sad."
They were purple flowers drooping down, closing up as the sun set.
I said "oh do they look sad? They're really just closing up for the night."
She looked at some green flowers that aren't blooming fully yet and said "those flowers are angry."
And she was right. They did look angry with their spiked petals and centers, dark green towering above the rock wall. With the shadows cast from the trees the petals almost looked like teeth ready to bite down on us.
It wasn't something I'd ever really thought about - flowers looking happy or sad or angry.
When you look through the eyes of a child you see so much more than you did before.
And children see, feel and understand much more than we realize.