the hot & the cold

it's been pretty warm out there this week & if you're kitchen is anything like mine, it turns into a broiler on days like today. with our kid's appetites being very healthy these days, i'm find it hard to keep up with the demand for healthy snack-y type foods. i usually need to bake a load of muffins or granola bars every other day. but it's just been too darn hot!

so here's two recipes that are cool-ish for the hot, HOT days.

chocolate no bake trail mix cookies {grain free, gluten free}
1/3 cup sucanat
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut oil
3 tbsp unsweetened cacao powder
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup almond butter
1 tsp pure vanilla
1 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
have a tray lined with wax paper ready. in a medium saucepan, brind the sucanat, honey, coconut oil, cacao powder, milk & salt to a rapid boil. boil for one minute. turn off the heat & add the almond butter, vanilla, shredded coconut, almonds, walnuts, sunflower & pumpkin seeds & stir well.
drop the mixture by the teaspoonful onto the wax paper. allow to cool for about 15 minutes, then transfer to the fridge to set completely, about another 15-20 minutes. these are best kept stored in the fridge & served cold.
original recipe here.

frozen yogurt trail mix bars
recipe image Frozen Yogurt Trail Mix Bars2 cups greek yogurt {i used 1 cup 2% plain, 1 cup vanilla}
1 1/2 cup chopped fruit {strawberries, blueberries, bananas, raspberries... take your pick}
1/2 cup chopped nuts {i used almonds}
3/4 cup granola
1/4 cup chocolate chips {optional}

mix all ingredients in a bowl. line a pan with foil. spread yogurt mixture into pan. cover with plastic wrap & place in freezer until frozen. remove from freezer, let thaw for 5 minutes, cut into bars. store in an airtight container in the freezer.

original recipe here.


joseph & his bullies

my childhood bully called me recently wanting to reconnect. just curious to see where i had ended up in life & what i was doing. like nothing had ever happened between us. she hadn't called to acknowledge all of the pain & trauma she had caused. she hadn't called to beg my forgiveness. in fact, i think she called not even being aware of the damage she had caused.

a flood of awful memories came back as i listened to the message on my machine. it took me back to places i thought i had long forgotten & left behind. it's amazing the amount of emotion that can be packed away for so long.

she called all day that day. seven times to be exact. and i didn't pick up any of the calls. i just let it ring as my anger & anxiety fumed & mounted.

i was reading to the kids that night. the story of joseph. about how his brothers shredded his cloak & threw him away, then sold him into a life of slavery. and then how they were forced to come crawling back to him once he was in a position of power. and i liked it. no, i LOVED it. i loved that those terrible bullies had to come crawling back to beg for forgiveness. and how joseph was in such a position of power he could have squashed them. but he didn't. he chose mercy. he chose forgiveness because he chose to see them as flawed people not just as his bullies. he chose to see them as brothers.

and so i started thinking on mercy. i started thinking about what would have motivated or caused her to do such things. and i thought about how hurting people hurt people. but i just kept saying over & over again "but i can't just forgive her without confronting her with what she did. i can't forgive her because then she got away with it." and steve, that wise husband of mine, said "but she hasn't gotten away with anything. look at her lonely little life. she hasn't gotten away with a thing." and i thought about where she was now in life. still the same hurting person. and i was sad. i wasn't at all glad she had ended up lonely & alone, even if it was the consequence of her own actions. revenge & vindication suddenly did not taste so sweet.

i knew i didn't have any obligation to call her back. i knew i really didn't have to if i didn't want to. but i felt compelled to show mercy to her. if there was some way i could help her out of the hurt she'd been swallowed up by, it'd make those tortuous years worth something. and so, after much debate, i called her back.

and it wasn't so great. i certainly didn't have that 'valiant victoriously above it all' feeling after. she hadn't changed one bit. she really had just called to stir up trouble. it was really hard to keep my 'forgive & extend mercy' resolve. hard not to explode into a wildfire rage. but sometimes when you're feeling vulnerable, when you're feeling hurt, the easiest thing to do is to spring to anger because it feels so active. feels as though you are achieving something, like teaching someone a lesson or protecting yourself when in actuality you're hurting yourself.

forgiveness isn't just a choice, it's a muscle.  a muscle that you have to chose to use each day, or each time you think of the person who wronged you. and the more you exercise that forgiving muscle, the easier it gets & stronger you are. the more the weight is lifted. but it's gradual. not immediate. i have always thought about forgiveness as being more of a singular event. where i chose to forgive & then it's over. but really, and maybe this is because i am a little more prone to grudges than most other people, it's a commitment. it's a journey.

i know how horrible it feels to have resentment & anger that you have no way of getting rid of. i know how crippling & debilitating a life dedicated to contempt & revenge is, a life dedicated to holding onto the past. it's the thing that kills the soul. it's a dangerous affliction, that is merciless towards it's victims. and so i have chosen to dedicate myself to making the long decision for forgiveness. for mercy. doesn't mean i won't have to battle my emotions from time to time. doesn't mean i won't one day need to confront this person or set appropriate boundaries. forgiveness doesn't make what someone has done alright. but it does set me free & make me muscle-y meek which is the best part about joseph's story. he showed restraint when he could have given his brothers what they rightfully deserved. he showed wisdom & sobriety while they were franticly sick with grief over what they had done. and he showed genuine care & concern for them, living freely & prospering from a full heart of forgiveness. and joseph's testimony became that which was meant to harm him was used by the hand of the Lord to prosper him & his land.

"then joseph said to his brothers, "come close to me." when they had done so, he said, "i am your brother joseph, the one you sold into egypt! and now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save the lives that God sent me ahead of you. for two years, now there has been a famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing or reaping. but God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance." {genesis 45: 4-7}

i know i'm not quite as far along the path of forgiveness as joseph yet but i know God wastes nothing & i see that now. i see how He's gently crafted & strategically used my past experiences to prosper me & make me who i am today.  He a good God, that crafty God of ours, who wastes nothing. not even bullies.


hope unhinged.

"my faith is stubborn & my hope is intractable. i'm hope unhinged." 
corey booker

hope, in our everyday use of the word, means a wish. it's a positive feeling of optimism toward the future. but biblical hope is a little bit different.

biblical hope is the joyful, anticipation of something good. the absolute certainty of future good. something sure & trustworthy. the best illustration of hope i've heard was bill johnson describing some old family video tapes of his wife's christmas morning when she was a kid. her & her siblings at the end of the hall, literally bouncing off the wall. so excited for what was about to come, one of them even wet their pants, waiting for the moment when mom or dad say 'merry christmas' and they are able to bound down the hall, around the corner & dive under the tree opening their christmas presents. that bouncing around at the end of the hall is hope. that is the joyful, anticipation of something good just around the corner.

paul prays for us when he writes that we would know the ecstatic, anticipation of something good that we were destine to. hope is so important, he warns us to always wear the helmet of our hope of salvation, never being sloppy, always protecting & washing our mind with the revelation of our Hope, our salvation.

true biblical hope can only really be found in a revelation of the resurrection. in the revelation that He has seated me at the right hand of the Father, in heavenly places {eph 2:6}. tragically, this often remains a concept instead of an experience. but when it becomes an experience it becomes a place from which you see. when we actually find ourselves seated beside our Father, above any & all situations we may find ourselves in on this earth, that is when we truly, biblically begin to hope. we begin to see. and we are hope intractable. hope unhinged.

"by having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so that you can know & understand the hope to which He has called you..." {eph 1:18, amp}

"and now i want each of you to extend the same intensity toward a full-bodied hope, and keep at it till the finish. don't drag your feet. be like those who stay the course with committed faith & then get everything promised to them." 
{heb 6:9-12, the message}

"we who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands & never let go. it's an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up His permanent post as high priest for us..." 
{heb 6:18-20, the message}


the dungeon of despair {letters to kai}

it had been a bad day. a bad roll of days. a bad week. i had just declared to the world the most magnificent thing. i declared that i had been healed. and i knew. i knew the week that would follow that statement would have its challenges. i knew to expect the word to be tested. i knew & yet still wasn't quite prepared & unraveled quicker than my resolve could hold. maybe it was how the testing came from such unexpected places. maybe it was the bulk effect of multiple things coming at one time. but whatever the reason, i was in the unraveled place. a dark, dungeon-y place. a place i had just declared i'd never be in again. and i was sad. 

it was a rainy day & we were watching veggie tales’ 'robin good & his not so merry men'. you were nested sweetly on my lap while the others flipped & flopped on & off the couch & surrounding pillows. 
i was stroking your hair while we watched & i choked back a few tears. this veggie tales was a little too close to home. everything from lenny & his lost birthday with his mom singing to him about where to put our hurts & disappointments to the fat motherly gourd who consoles robin good or the sheriff in the dungeon of despair, too sad to escape. feeling ridiculous how much i was relating to a movie based on the lives of vegetables, i reel in my emotions. this is silly i think to myself. and then, with your eyes still fixed on the tv, you say...
"i'm so sorry mummy"
"so sorry for what?" i ask.
"so sorry for my God."
"what do you mean God is sorry?"
"God says i’m so sorry for the dungeon of despair."
big tears began to well in my eyes as i clutch you a little closer. 
"that's nice kai. that's very nice." i squeak out. 
"yeah." you say, eyes still glued to the screen, like nothing profound just happened. like you didn't just give your first, life changing prophetic word. 
you wiggle free a few moments later & bound across the ottoman & leap into the big arm chair finding a new spot to perch. 
“i love you kai” i say.
“i know & you & God made me special & you love me very much” you pause a moment & then mumble under your breath as you get lost in the movie again, “and i love you too mummy”.

sometimes you just need someone to see you. you need to know that they know how much it hurts. and that is what God did that day. He saw me. i know that God doesn’t cause pain or hurt. He isn’t the author of despair. but knowing that He doesn’t cause suffering & knowing that He is there in the suffering with you are two different things. He saw me & i turned into His embrace. seeing someone is a powerful thing. truly seeing someone & choosing to be there beside them. just being there to know. being there to see. being there to impart comfort & courage & hope. He was there because you lent your tiny voice to His. and He spoke bedrock to my quicksand. He spoke security & strength to shaky knees. 
these may be choices you are someday faced with. when disappointment crosses your path, will you turn into His embrace or will you turn away in your hurt? will you listen to the still, small voice there beside you that says “I’m here & I love you & I hurt when you hurt.” i pray that you'll know His presence & turn to Him. the only One who truly knows what our hurts feel like & carries them for us if we let Him. the only real comfort a soul can feel. the love of a saving Saviour & the embrace of the extravagant Father
it was a completely ordinary moment transformed into holy by your tiny voice. don’t ever underestimate the power of your little voice. for even you my little kai, at the small age of three, have already had a profound effect on my life.


health & happiness

we're a healthier family & we're always on the look out for healthier ways to be healthier. i must say that it has been quite the journey from my single days when my diet consisted mainly of shreddies & white bread to now sprinkling chia seeds on greek goat yogurt. but i think sometimes i can cling to a sort of false sense of comfort, thinking i've arrived because i made a few positive changes a few years ago & stuck to it. i always want to be committed to continual growth in every area of my life, including my health. little changes all the time are always more sustainable than huge overhauls. and so every so often, i like to shake things up with a new recipe book or diet tweak. i am always culling the internet for new research & evidence behind differing theories. and there are a lot of differing theories out there. i've read that {raw} cow's milk is one of the most nutritious things you can put in your body & then read the complete opposite in a study that likened cow's milk affect on health to cigarettes. it can be a confusing world of information out there. so you really need to know your stuff. go with the greater body of evidence & most of all, go with the evidence proved by very your own home.

i came across these 'truths about food & diet' that helped me keep it simple yet focussed. it's always nice to know why we do what we do. i've clipped these to our family planner in the kitchen, just so i can keep the goal right in front of me while i'm preparing meals. this lovely lady, who gathered these nifty truths, has been such a source of encouragement & education to my family & my recipe book {her recipes seriously must take up over half of my recipe collector}. find the original post here.
1.  Eating a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods is key. Too much of anything can be a bad thing.  Our bodies need a balance of nutrients to grow, thrive, and be well.  You can’t even pinpoint exactly how much you need of each nutrient because it could be different for every individual.  The only way to get the ideal balance of nutrients is to eat a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods on a daily basis.  If you are eating too much of any one thing, even if that one thing is “healthy”, you could be hurting your body.
2.  What we eat has power to make us well or make us sick.  I wholeheartedly believe that nutrition does matter.  It goes beyond maintaining a healthy weight.  What we eat can truly affect our health, both short term and long term.  Overall, I actually think nutrition plays a stronger role than genes do in our health because I think nutrition can turn on or off certain genetic tendencies.
3.  The bulk of our diet should be made up of plant-based foods. The reason I think this is simple.  If you are going to get the wide spectrum of nutrients you need, you have to eat a lot of plant-based foods, specifically a lot of vegetables.  There are nutrients, important nutrients, you can get from animal foods.  I think eating them is fine, nutritionally speaking.  But if they make up the bulk (more than half) of your diet, you don’t have enough room in the rest of what you’re eating to get all the nutrients you need.
4.  No matter what diet you follow, make sure you’re eating whole, unprocessed foods. Whether you eat vegan or paleo or somewhere in between, most of what you’re eating should not be packaged, processed foods.  If I were to give one piece of advice to someone  looking to improve their health, it would be to cut out processed foods & refined sugars.
5.  Nutrition is highly individualized. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet.  One person may thrive on a vegan diet, while the next person’s health may suffer.  A certain individual may need more fat and less protein than the next.  This is why you need to be careful and never assume that what “works” for one person will “work” for you.    source: happyhealthymama.com