Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Food: Final thoughts

We did it!

7 foods for 30 days with minimal seasoning.  Done, done, and done.  (Well, after lunch, that is.  We're breaking our food fast with dinner tonight.  Salmon, asparagus, wild rice, and frozen yogurt with toppings for dessert.)

I just reviewed my goals for the month and here is where I measure up.
  1. Waste not.  Use up all perishable items in the fridge that will expire during this month.  Eat garden produce so it doesn't go to waste.  Check out our empty fridge!  I dug up the rest of our red potatoes, onions and garlic.  We finished off the tomatoes and added green onions to things I otherwise never would have, like salad dressing and chicken soup.  We ate green beans until they were too stringy to enjoy anymore.   I experimented with rosemary and basil. 
  2. Throw away stuff we're never going to eat.  I cleaned out the freezer and threw things out that were already bad and taking up space.  I also took a bag of pantry items I wasn't going to use and put them on the sharing shelves at church.  Throw away unlabeled cans.  There are three cans left, and I'm going to open them and cook with them instead of throwing them out.
  3. Donate. Share food with the hungry.  Other than the small donation we made to church, I have unsuccessfully shared food with anyone in need.  Maybe I'll buy Safeway gift cards with the money we didn't use on eating out, and hand them out.  Where we came in under budget this month, makes up for where we've gone over budget in the past.
  4. Research. Educate myself about the food I eat and where it comes from.  We attended a two hour class, researched online, and watched food documentaries on Netflix.  In response, I purchased organic greens and free-range, vegetarian-fed chicken and eggs, which is something I hope to continue.
I have a coffee date with my husband planned for tomorrow morning, and a salmon dinner on the agenda for this evening to celebrate.

Next up: 7 clothes for 30 days.  Lord, help me to choose wisely!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Food: Chocolate

I have learned so much about food the past 27 days.

I've watched some really well done documentaries on GMOs, Juicing, how our food is processed, etc.  I even attended a two hour class on Ayurveda, a form of traditional medicine out of India that focuses on when and what we eat.

Each of these experiences have been alarming to some extent.  I'm starting to change what I eat based on where it comes from and how it was produced.  Even chocolate.

Granted, I'm not even eating chocolate this month.  Can you imagine if I made room for it in my 7 foods, though?  I would've eaten it.  A lot of it.

Anyway, I just watched a 5-part series called "Chocolate: The Bitter Truth."  This is especially relevant considering Halloween is just days away and chocolate sales are soaring.  The top chocolate suppliers in the world (Nestle, Cadbury, Hershey's, to name a few) are guilty of using forced child labor to harvest cocoa beans and we, as chocolate connoisseurs, are guilty of supporting it.

The short story is this:

The African countries, Ivory Coast and Ghana, are the top two producers in the world of cocoa beans, respectively.  The climate is ideal and the labor is cheap.  Cocoa plantations use child labor to harvest their beans.  This means kids as young as 8 years old work in the fields from 6am - 4pm.  They are climbing trees barefooted and using 2 foot-long machetes to cut open the pods.  Many children have been trafficked from poor villages and do not have the opportunity to attend school.  Meanwhile, chocolate companies are netting 80 billion dollars.

Start here, with this article published in January 2012 by CNN: The Freedom Project.
UNICEF estimates that nearly a half-million children work on farms across Ivory Coast, which produces nearly 40% of the world’s supply of cocoa. The agency says hundreds of thousands of children, many of them trafficked across borders, are engaged in the worst forms of child labor.

Read this blog post about why most church's "Fall Festivals" are scary, even without the scary costumes.
Can you imagine the impact on the chocolate industry if every American church and church goer said "No" to chocolate made by child slaves this Halloween?  In our community, there is a growing list of organizations, businesses, and churches hosting Halloween events or Fall Festivals.  At each of these events candy will be handed out to guests.  Eighty percent of the events planned in our community are organized by local churches.  When it comes to Halloween, I think it's fair to say the church is one of the largest consumers of chocolate and will hand out more chocolate on Halloween than businesses or other organizations in America. 

Then, you've got to watch this documentary; it's split up into five short segments:

Lastly, go eat some chocolate.  The GOOD stuff. :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Food: GMOs

One of the goals for this month of 7 foods is to educate myself on what I'm putting inside my body.

In January, I attended a workshop called "Justice & Junk Food" at the Justice Conference.  Since then, I've started scouring ingredient labels and have become rather jaded towards the food industry.  I am also much more aware of what I choose to put inside my body.  I learned about the "Dirty Dozen" (which fruits and vegetables to buy organic because they contain the most pesticides), "chemical soup" (beware of any pre-packaged, shrink-wrapped, processed foods that contain more than 5 ingredients, and if they do, make sure you can pronounce all the ingredients), and genetically-modified foods known as GMOs.

Yesterday I watched a fantastic documentary on YouTube called "Genetic Roullete: The Gamble of our Lives."

GMOs are genetically modified organisms that have been created for animal and human consumption using molecular biology techniques.  Plants have been modified so they will resist herbicides and produce more desirable attributes, such as drought-resistance and tolerance toward pests, disease, and cold weather.

There is a growing concern, however, that GMOs may be inducing many serious health concerns including food allergies, cancer, infertility, heart disease, etc.  It should also be noted that countries like Japan, Brazil and parts of Europe have already established rigid regulations on the distribution and labeling of GMO foods and the United States Food and Drug Administration is not following suit.  Currently, there are no regulations in the US mandating that genetically modified foods be labeled. (I can check the ingredients list and often find "genetically modified corn starch" listed - crackers, tortillas, you name it!  There is no indication anywhere on the package, although some companies are choosing labeling there items as non-GMO.)

Genetically modified crops have been used in food (from cereal to fish to fruit to corn) in the United States since 1996.  Ironically, this is also when the aforementioned health complications rose drastically.

There is plenty of confusion regarding GMOs.  Some people are for it, others are against it.  While research may still be inconclusive, I feel uncomfortable putting things in my body that are not in their original form.  Am I going to stop eating ice cream and drinking sweet coffee?  Well, no.  But in the tension I'm currently facing, I will advocate for better food labeling and strive to avoid genetically engineered products where I can.  I can do my part by reading labels and making good choices most of the time.

Please watch this documentary.  It's an hour and 20 minutes long and worth every minute.  Patients have been cured of food allergies and other ailments and diseases by eating a prescribed non-gmo diet.  Even pets can tell the difference in taste between gmo & non-gmo foods.

Perhaps eating clean really does make a difference.

Additional Resources:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Food: The Halfway Point

It is finally October 16th, which means I'm on the homestretch of my "7" food experiment.

While parts of this month have been difficult, eating 7 foods (plus fresh garden produce) is actually quite easy.  The dishes I've prepared have been tasty and fresh, fresh, fresh. (See below for some of our favorites.)  It's what I can't have that is the most challenging.  Really challenging.  I've had friends who have given up sugar/chocolate/sweets for lent but I never have.  I don't eat much candy and I don't bake much, anyway.  However, I am discovering how much I do enjoy it now that I can't have it.  (Props to those who have gone 40 days without.  I'm struggling with 30, and will not be repeating this challenge any time soon.)

Don't even get me started on ice cream and sweet coffee sensations.  Oh, I miss ice cream.  And my weekly coffee treats.  Last week, we had an out of town friend unexpectedly stop by to visit.  He suggested going out for dinner or ice cream.  Before I could even entertain the thought of justifying eating a "treat with a long-lost friend," I invited him over to our house instead.   I knew we already had 2/3 of a gallon of Dryer's S'more ice cream on hand that was on the verge of getting freezer burn.  I was "saving" it in the event of an insatiable craving knowing it would be wasteful to let it expire.  I scooped it into 3 bowls and almost drooled.  I savored every bite.  And if you know me at all, you know that I'm a horrible ice cream share-er, so Mike, consider yourself pretty special.  (I managed to leave one scoop at the bottom of the tub to save for later.)

We "fudged" the rules a bit this week to accomodate guests.  My employer invited me to her birthday party over a month ago, with the promise of excellent food (catered) and wine.  She also arranged for an alternative babysitter for Maggie so I could have the evening free to attend.  Paul gave me the green light to enjoy myself and I'm so glad he did; it was a delicious spread. I tried to play it cool when I got home, but Paul begged me to tell him what I ate.  My response: Four crab cakes, steak and watercress roll-ups, bread with honey butter, fruit with marshmallow dip.  Hey, he asked! (and now my stomach is growling.)

We also attended our monthly "Sticky Faith Family Night" at church Sunday evening.  Immediately following the event, Paul was teaching a high school bible study, leaving no time to prepare a meal.  So, we decided to eat whatever they had, and it was pizza.  Mildly warm, processed pizza.  It didn't taste awful, but it certainly didn't taste fresh.  Both of us were surprised at our response to the pizza.  I thought I'd be giddy, but dare I say I was... disappointed?  There was also a bowl of fruit and we helped ourselves to an apple, something I ordinarily wouldn't have chosen.

The last "fudging" took place last night.  We've made fast friends with a new couple in church who immediately started volunteering at youth group.  We wanted to have them over for dinner and 1) didn't want to feed them boring chicken without sauce and no dessert, and 2) wait 3 more weeks to have them over when our food rules lifted.  So, I made one of our favorite dishes: spaghetti pie.  I did my best to  use what I could with what I already had on hand (italian sausage in the freezer, the rest of the mozzarella cheese, and I even snuck some zucchini in from the garden).  It was ah-mazing.  And satisfying.  And I don't think I've been that full after a meal since this month started 15 days ago.  Oh, and I couldn't have them over for dinner without dessert, so I made apple pie.  Don't worry - it's gone already.

Yes, I suppose we could've found ways to enjoy our friends over a meal without compromising our 7 foods.  However, it's been a goal of mine for a while to have people over more often, and this was the perfect opportunity to play hostess.  No regrets here.

On another note, we are eating more fruits and vegetables this month than ever before.  And we like them!  Paul even voluntarily ate a bowl of salad while he was waiting for me to bring home lunch the other day.  I couldn't believe my eyes!  I'm typically a "salad with crunchy stuff" eater, which means I add sunflower seeds, craisins, candied walnuts, feta cheese, etc. whenever I can.  I'm actually enjoying my simple salad with chopped apples and homemade croutons + dressing.

I visited a produce stand in town (Peyton's Produce) and learned it's a family's only source of income.  I happily purchased a 25 pound box of apples and tried pluots for the first time (a cross between an apricot and a plum. Yum.)  Not to mention, she has the yummiest, largest honeycrisp apples I have ever seen, and they were cheaper (and bigger) than the ones at the grocery store.  I made tons of applesauce and omitted the sugar in a special batch for the rest of this month.  I even liked the taste of it.  A lot!

All of this to say, we are managing with our 7 foods and we certainly aren't wasting away.  14 days remaining, but who's counting?

Here are some of our favorite meals so far:

Breaded chicken (egg wash, finely chopped fresh bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and chopped green onion, sautéed in olive oil)

Chicken sandwich: toasted bread, grilled chicken breast, onion, tomato

Toasted whole wheat french bread (olive oil and salt under the broiler) with avocado and tomato on top

Homemade chicken soup using only fresh ingredients - herbs and veggies from the garden.

Mixed greens salad with grilled chicken, chopped apple, cherry tomatoes, hard boiled egg, homemade salad dressing (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, handful of fresh basil and green onions, lemon juice, salt and pepper) and homemade croutons

"Toad in a hole" - bread with a hole in the middle for a fried egg

Applesauce - as variety of apples (gala, honeycrisp, braeburn, fuji, grannysmith), cinnamon and a splash of lemon juice.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Food: Day 8

I've had chicken to eat for the last 8 lunches and 8 dinners.  That's 16 times in the past week.
Chicken tacos (twice).
Chicken salad (with homemade lemon-basil vinaigrette).
Chicken soup (too many times to count).
Grilled chicken sandwich.

The chicken is bland without a slice of homegrown tomato.
Bread is dry without butter, but toasted with olive oil and salt - it's not so bad.  It also makes good croutons.

Not too mention I've had eggs every morning for breakfast so far.  I'm not tired of it, yet...but I have never in my life purchased eggs so frequently.

It feels like I'm hungry more often.  This strikes me as strange, because I'm not a huge snacker and don't overly indulge on junk food on a daily basis.  I don't think I have a high-sugar diet, but I wonder, if by not eating it, my body is responding differently?  Whatever it is, I don't necessarily like it.  I WANT A COOKIE and I can't have one.

In the past 24 hours, I have already turned down cookies (twice), homemade brownies and a lemon-poppyseed scone.  Not to mention I worked in our church cafe and resisted making myself an espresso drink.

I'm hoping the spiritual part of this will kick in soon.  I've made the first 8 days about me and what I'm missing, and I know that's not the point.

May you, Lord, make me conscious of what I feast on - literally and figuratively speaking.
May I be open to hearing your voice during this experiment

Our Journey: Some Days are Hard

Some days, "trying to get pregnant" is hard...

Like when Paul read on Facebook the other day that one of our youth group 'kids' got his 18-year old girlfriend pregnant, and they weren't even trying to have a kid.... but he's "excited to be a dad."  Really?!  You're pregnant, and it's not even in the context that God intended!  My cheeks were instantly wet and I choked out the words "so this is when it starts getting hard" and Paul held me.

Another hard day was my last doctor's appointment.  I had an meeting with an infertility nurse in Vancouver.  Paul and I drove nearly an hour for a rather unprofessional, impersonal, unorganized appointment.  (She didn't have my paperwork in front of her, was using someone else's office, couldn't figure out how to take my blood pressure because her machine was unplugged, didn't turn the lights on in the office, and was texting her daughter during our appointment.  Thanks, lady.  I drove all the way here for you to ask me questions I've already told my doctor.  Thanks, Burgerville, for the redemptive milkshakes on our way home.)  More tests, more appointments.

I've been warned of the difficult parts of trying to conceive.  I've been advised to "not let bitterness show its ugly head" and that there can be tension when someone else announces her pregnancy.  I experienced this first hand at Bible Study when a friend announced she was expecting her third child.  (I swear, something is in the water there!)

I wanted to celebrate and cry at the same time.  I pasted on a grin, let out an "awwwe" and let my other friends do the cheering.

And then I came home to a kitchen full of dirty dishes and stood at the sink until Paul came home.  Eyes burning, hands scrubbing, words faltering, I choked out: "God, I know You are good.  God, I know Your timing is perfect.  Help me to trust You.  Help me with my unbelief."  Then I worried that I made my new mama-friend feel bad for sharing her good news.

So I texted Paul:

Me: "Just got home from Bible study.  Guess who is having another baby?  Of course I'm happy for her, but was hit with a wave of sadness, too..."

Paul: "Do you need your Paulie?"

Me: "Always do!"
Me: "It's ok... going to think/pray/process for a bit while doing the dishes.

Paul: "On my way."

Five minutes later, Paul came home to my sorry state and wrapped me in his arms.  Then he cupped my face with his hands and told me he loved me.  Then, in his wisdom, he gently asked me if I should text my friend and make sure she knew I was happy for her.

So I did.

Me: "Wanted to let you know that I'm really happy for you!  I hope you don't feel like you have to stifle your excitement around me - felt like I needed to tell you that."

Her: "Thank you El! I really appreciate you, and your openness about your journey.  I'm really sorry if I made you feel weird... wasn't my intention.  You are a kind and thoughtful friend, thanks for sharing in our joy."

Me: "You didn't at all.  Just wanted you to know. :)"

Thank you, God, for understanding friends and my best-friend-husband.  I am surrounded by people who will support me and love me through my struggles, and for that I am grateful.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Food: The First Week

Day 2:

This is going to be harder than I thought.  I'm afraid that by limiting myself to eating certain things, I might not eat at all because it's much less convenient.  Interesting that the true meaning of fasting is really abstaining from food.  Hmm.  I also spend a significant amount of time at Sarah's (my workplace) during meal hours, and it takes a lot of self control to not raid her fridge/pantry.  I did help myself to organic applesauce because it didn't have any added sugar, but you better believe I dumped some cinnamon on it.  Yum.

I'm stretching my rules a bit.  I made myself a smoothie using up vanilla yogurt (on the verge of expiring), some frozen fruit (peaches, blackberries, strawberries) and throwing in some spinach.  It tasted delicious, and now I'm having a conscious check because my original "rules" involved using up only that which would perish before the month was over.  We all know frozen fruit could last in the freezer for a long time.  Oops.

And the justification began:
1) What else was I going to do with the yogurt? (As though it's despicable to eat it without any mix-ins.)
2) I was just using up some spinach before it goes bad. (It's awful without dressing.)
3) I was donating blood in a matter of hours and needed to eat something hearty. Hence, the smoothie and a couple scrambled eggs.  After donating, I had a box of raisins and two crackers.  I did, however, say no to the cookies and juice!

For dinner, I was invited out to celebrate my friend Beth's birthday.  (There is no way I was turning this down due to my craving for close-proximity girl friends.)  We went out for Mexican food and I had a chicken salad.  Taco shell, lettuce, tomato, chicken, cheese.  No dressing.  Tortilla chips and a bit of salsa.  I followed the rules.

Day 3:

I adhered to the rules today.  Eggs for breakfast, straight up no-sugar-added applesauce with cinnamon, and homemade chicken soup. (chicken broth, water, carrots (from the fridge), green beans (from the garden), zucchini (from the fridge), onion (from the fridge), potatoes (from the garden), corn (from the fridge), gnocci (from the cupboard - it expired but wasn't opened), rosemary (from the garden) and some pasta I've had forever.  Ok, the pasta was not necessary. I can't seem to get it right!

Day 4:

I realized I could still make my favorite scramble: eggs, potatoes, onion, rosemary, jalapeno (garden).  Yay!

Day 5:

Paul is home from Pasadena and is joining in on the "fun."  We really wanted to catch up over a coffee date at Red Leaf, but resisted.  And grumbled a bit.  So we resorted to sitting on our own couch, and warmed our hands and puckered our lips with a mug of hot water + lemon juice + cinnamon.  Jealous? We drank it and laughed at the simplicity of it all.  Simplicity - isn't that one of the goals of this whole experiment?

Me: *reviewing with Paul what we decided was ok to eat
Paul: "So, if I'm at Andy's for Monday night football, and he provides a bucket of KFC, is that ok to eat?"
Me: "Was it made with olive oil, salt and pepper?"
Paul: "Umm..." *searching for an excuse* "No..."
Me: "Sorry, babe."

Breakfast continues to be easy, but definitely takes a little more time than pouring cereal in a bowl or eating string cheese on the go.

When I told Paul I was going to make applesauce, he sweetly inquired: "don't you usually add sugar to that?"  I frowned: "Yes, but sugar isn't on the list..." So, I threw some apples (including the skin for extra fiber), water, lemon juice and cinnamon into the pot.  Boiled it until the apples were soft, and smooshed it.  Nothing fancy about it.  Paul took the first bite and I asked him "So, how is it?"  His facetious reply: "the best applesauce I've ever tasted."  I love this man for his sense of humor.  (I was disappointed by the blandness and crunchy skins.  I'm peeling the apples next time.)

Day 6: 

Craving all things pumpkin: pumpkin lattes, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies, even pumpkin-related goodies I've never tried.  I want them and I can't have them.

Leftover scramble for breakfast, and chicken soup for lunch.

Grocery shopping was a piece of cake because I could only purchase 7 things.  We loaded up on fruit and avocados, organic, free-range chicken, grass-fed chicken eggs, two kinds of wheat bread (with careful consideration of the ingredients - more on this later), and mixed greens (the spinach alone wasn't cutting it so we got a mixture).  (Our only non-7-sanctioned item was ultra soft kleenex for my ultra red nose.  Stupid cold!)

Dinner was delicious!  We discovered some OLD corn tortillas in a cupboard - no visible expiration date and no visible signs of ick.  Ordinarily, I would have tossed them in the garbage, but since we're focusing on limited ingredients for the next 24 days, I wasn't about to throw away a valuable commodity that might still be good.  So we made our own tortilla chips (olive oil and salt), salsa (tomatoes, onions, green onions, jalapenos and salt), guacamole (lemon juice, avocados, salt and pepper) and presto: simple chicken tacos.  There is hope for this month, after all!

Day 7:

We followed the rules this morning until the memorial service at church.  Janis Wood was an incredible pillar of faith within our church.  She died, a suffering servant, and is now singing "Holy, Holy, Holy" to the Lamb of God.  No more suffering, no more pain.  Janis, we miss you, but wouldn't wish you back to this earth for a second.  You are a new woman, and we celebrate your faithful legacy.

Lunch was provided afterward and there was a ton of homemade Filipino food.  We're talking delicious Filipino food.  Plates of it.  Paul was initially going to limit himself to a bread roll.  I was secretly hoping he would just start digging in.  We bounced in and out of line, elbowing each other while questioning each other: "what should we do?" We considered this a rare treat, and an opportunity to visit with our church family, so we ate what was provided.  As we sat down at our table, Paul looked at me and said "it's for Janis."  I giggled.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Our Journey: Research

Moment of truth: I took birth control for 10 years.
A teeny tiny pill that regulated my cycles since I was an anemic 17 year old spending her last summer at home before moving away for college.  Ten years!

The Pill was prescribed with such ease by my doctor that nobody had second thoughts, and it seemed to work.  I tried periodically over the years to stop taking it to see if my body had regulated itself, but it never did.  I was advised to keep taking it.  So, I did.

Now that I've stopped taking it, I'm rather leery about trying a new medication.  Much like a bandaid, I suspect birth control offered a quick and easy solution to the visible issue on the surface.  However, I'm not sure it did anything to assist with my underlying issues. 

I don't want just another bandaid.  

Enter "Google" and the wonderful world of blogging.

Paul and I are gathering research, taking notes, and making appointments with professionals before we make any decisions regarding treatment.  And, most importantly, we are praying for wisdom and discernment as we navigate unfamiliar territory.  There have been a few nights where we'll both be laying in bed, laptops in front of us, reading various articles and websites.  I'll send him links through google chat and vice versa.  I am thankful for a man who will "humor me" by acknowledging the importance of doing our homework, and who is by my side, reminding me of God's gentle promptings and the ways He's promised us children.  

His timing is perfect.
His ways are perfect.

Here are some articles by women who have given PCOS a more natural approach:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Our Journey: The Diagnosis

*originally written June 2012 - waited until now to post*

It's June, and we're 7 months into our "let's get pregnant" idea, and 0 months pregnant.  I went in to the Women's Clinic for a routine exam, shared some of my concerns based on my experience that "something isn't right" with my body, and was promptly scheduled for an ultrasound the following day.

That appointment, paired with some lab results affirmed the diagnoses I'd already given myself, so I wasn't the least bit surprised when my doctor left me a voicemail, explaining: "women who have your symptoms generally have PCOS."

PCOS: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

My hormones are completely out of whack, I'm constantly plucking black hair from my chin (hello, moment of humility), I'm not ovulating, and I have multiple cysts on my ovaries.  Not to mention, PCOS may lead to diabetes and heart disease in the future.  For now, it probably means infertility, or at least could take a very long time to get pregnant.

There are two different drugs I could take that could increase fertility.
Wanting to be well informed of associated side effects, risks and benefits of the medications, I turned to what any curious person would.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Our Journey: We're Ready!

It was the last weekend of September 2011, about two months after camp.  The school year was underway and the Fall youth group retreats were rapidly approaching.

We were generously given a weekend-stay at a house in Sunriver.  There, we celebrated our 2 year anniversary and the end of a very draining summer.

We rode bikes till our tushies were sore, enjoyed the hot tub, made fondue, explored Bend's art and musical festival, and put together a puzzle.

That's when Paul gave me a very special card.  In it,  he told me he was ready to start a family.
I wept upon reading his words and will always treasure that card, marking the "next step"for the Bricknell's.  We embraced, and I probably said "really?" a few times before I really believed him.

That night, we prayed for our child.  Together.  Out loud.  Sitting in a hot tub.
We prayed for health.
We prayed for a smooth, uneventful delivery.
We prayed he or she would place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ at a young age.
We prayed that we would be ready and willing to accept and love our child, no matter how he or she came to us (through adoption or birth or whatever).
We prayed for the future of our family.

We looked at the stars in the dark of the night, enjoying the stillness, beauty, peace and thrill of that moment together.

And that's when we realized God had spoken to us yet again, at the same time, but individually.

The band "The Neverclaim" played at our city-wide See You At The Pole event on September 21 at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Longview.  We met several of our youth group students there and enjoyed a great night of music and prayers for our city and our schools.

When the lead singer of Neverclaim introduced himself, both of our hearts jumped at the sound of his name.  A gentle, unmistakeable stirring.  This time, Paul told me first about his experience and I was the one who responded: "me too."

It was definitely something new and special and mysterious.
Perhaps the name "Jeremiah" holds special significance for our someday-child's life?

Jeremiah: Yahweh exalts; God will raise up; God will set free

I like it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Food: Day 1

I woke up this morning ready to begin the food challenge and also a little unsure of how this was all going to go down.

I love breakfast, but since I have to be at work at 7:15, I usually don't eat right away.  Today, while making Maggie's lunch, I ate a couple apple slices (convinced apples would be one of my seven foods) with a small spread of peanut butter (debating whether or not to make this one of my 7.)  My stomach started growling after I dropped her off at kindergarten, so when I made a quick trip home, I ate a nectarine. (there are 3 of them at perfect ripeness on the counter)

I confidently said "no" to coffee this morning, even though I was making espresso drinks for some ladies at church for a couple hours.  In the midst of steaming milk and pulling shots, I found myself salivating over a pumpkin spice latte.  Yes, I could have had one for free, but coffee, as much as I enjoy it, was not going to use up one of my 7 foods.  Plus, I like my coffee with delicious flavors pumped full of sugar.  Which is precisely why it's time to do without.

For lunch, I had the remaining, very small portion of leftover pesto tortellini.  It was so small I almost don't even want to call it lunch.  It did the trick for the time being.  Besides, I hadn't really decided what was going to be ok/not ok, and I definitely did not want to waste it.

For dinner: grilled chicken breast with olive oil, salt and pepper, topped with a slice of mozzarella cheese (already had) and sliced tomatoes (from the garden).  I had a bowl of spinach (already had) with oil and vinegar, salt and pepper for the dressing.  It was too vinegary and not enjoyable at all.  I also had a side of whole grain bread (no butter) with sliced avocado.  In addition, I ate corn on the cob which was given to me at Bible study last week.  I was pleased at how simple this meal was to prepare, but the salad needs some pizazz to keep me eating it.  I typically load my salad up with some crunch - craisens, nuts, seeds, etc. so scaling back with the greens may be difficult to stomach.

I brought cookies over to Bible study tonight, and although their aroma tantalized me, I resisted.  The ones that came home with me went straight into the freezer where I won't have to look at them or smell them for another 29 days.

Now that I have one day under my belt, I made a list of goals and limitations for this month:
  1. Waste not.  This means I'm giving myself permission to use up the perishable items I currently have in my fridge and pantry that will not be edible at the end of this 30 days. (Milk, mozzarella cheese, leftovers.)  This also means I'm going to take advantage of the produce in my garden this month.
  2. Throw away stuff we're never going to eat.  Go through the cupboards, fridge and freezer.  Get rid of things that are taking up valuable storage space (like that ready-made lasagna I'm pretty sure was in the freezer before I married Paul three years ago).  Donate boxed/canned items.  Throw away unlabeled cans (one of our high school house sitters thought it would be funny to remove all the labels from our canned food.  I'll admit: it was funny.  But, I can't handle the mystery of anonymous canned foods.)
  3. Donate.  I drive past hungry people holding cardboard signs almost every day.  I want to make an effort to share food with them.  I'd also like to explore our local food program called "FISH" and "The Community House".  Since I didn't grow up around here, I don't know what options are available for the hungry.
  4. Research. I am becoming increasingly more aware of scary chemicals and toxins in the food we eat.  I'm devoting this month to watching documentaries and reading articles regarding food and how it's prepared.  Over the past 8 months, I've started reading ingredient labels and do my best to avoid genetically-modified (GMO) foods and "chemical soup" (ingredients I can't pronounce).  I am having some health complications and want to reap the benefits of a no-sugar, all real-food diet.
After much deliberation, I finally settled on these 7 foods:
  1. Chicken
  2. Whole wheat/grain bread
  3. Seasonal fruit (mainly apples)
  4. Potatoes
  5. Spinach (dare I say I'm already regretting this choice?)
  6. Eggs 
  7. Avocado
These seven foods are very similar to what author Jen Hatmaker ate during her food challenge month.  They are whole foods (not processed, true to their original form) and a good balance of nutrients and fats.

I also made an addendum based on goal number one above:
  1. Use up perishable items like bread, tortillas, veggies, milk, cheese, etc.  But when they're gone, they're gone.
  2. Take advantage of our garden produce and be creative in implementing them to my meals: basil, green beans, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, potatoes and green onions.
  3. I'm going to try to limit my seasonings to salt, pepper, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and cinnamon.
One down, 29 to go.

The 7 Challenge

When I happened upon the book "7: an experimental mutiny against excess" by Jen Hatmaker, I bought it.  Immediately.

I started reading it as soon as UPS delivered it to my doorstep.  Caught up in the moment, I talked Paul's ear off when he came home from work.  I must have done a horrible job paraphrasing the book to him because he clearly wasn't sharing my enthusiasm.  I think I threw him for a loop when I mentioned eating the same 7 foods for one month and wearing the same 7 clothes for one month, and so on.

< Insert blank stare. >

A few hours later, we were on the road to the coast for our Anniversary weekend.  Paul was driving, which meant I had a captive audience.  (Sneaky, I know."  I read a few pages out loud to wet his appetite, and then stopped abruptly to gauge his response.

Paul: "Are you going to keep reading?"
Me: "Do you want me to?"
Paul: "Yeah.  I think I like it."

Three chapters later, we mutually agreed to try the principles in the book and seek God through simplified living.

The overview:

American life can be excessive, to say the least. That’s what Jen Hatmaker had to admit after taking in hurricane victims who commented on the extravagance of her family’s upper middle class home. She once considered herself unmotivated by the lure of prosperity, but upon being called “rich” by an undeniably poor child, evidence to the contrary mounted, and a social experiment turned spiritual was born. 
7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence. 
Food. Clothes. Spending. Media. Possessions. Waste. Stress. 
They would spend thirty days on each topic, boiling it down to the number seven. Only eat seven foods, wear seven articles of clothing, and spend money in seven places. Eliminate use of seven media types, give away seven things each day for one month, adopt seven green habits, and observe “seven sacred pauses.” So, what’s the payoff from living a deeply reduced life? It’s the discovery of a greatly increased God—a call toward Christ-like simplicity and generosity that transcends social experiment to become a radically better existence

In my experience, fasting is uncomfortable, difficult and inconvenient.  According to Bill Bright, fasting means "exchanging the needs of the physical body for those of the spirit."  And Jen Hatmaker, author of 7, says fasting is "an intentional reduction, a deliberate abstinence to summon God's movement in my life.  A fast creates margin for God to move."

I want that.  All of it.

And so, I'm embracing the next 7 months with conviction, excitement, and anxiety.  I'm SO ready to be spiritually challenged and to hear from the Lord in new ways.

Month 1: Food. Choose 7 "real" foods to eat every day for one month.
Month 2: Clothes. Wear the same 7 articles of clothing for one month.
Month 3: Possessions. Give away 7 possessions each day, every day for a month.
Month 4: Media.  Eliminate 7 types of media for one month.
Month 5: Waste. Adopt 7 green habits.
Month 6: Spending.  Limit spending to 7 places for the month.
Month 7: Stress.  Observe 7 sacred pauses each day for the month.

Our Journey: The Beginning

I can't think of a different way to start this entry, so I'll cut to the chase.

Today is October 1, 2012.
On this day exactly one year ago, Paul and I decided we were ready to be parents.

A year has passed... and we are still without child.

A couple months ago, I started writing about what this process of waiting has been like for us.  I waited until now to go public for a couple of reasons.

  1. Going public means we're sharing our journey to anyone and everyone... which I think we're ready for.
  2. If more people know, more people can pray.
  3. If and when God does give us children of our own, we want the people surrounding us to share in our joy and help give glory to God, the giver of all good gifts. 

So, here we go...

*deep breath*


I can remember the summer when baby announcements outnumbered wedding announcements on my refrigerator.

My friends started having babies and I began planning baby showers.  Consequently, our fridge was looking really cute.  What's not to love about newborns wrapped in fuzzy blankets wearing knit hats and headbands adorned with oversized flowers?

That was the summer (2011) I started wondering when Paul and I would be ready to start a family.  I can remember teasing him about it at first, and then growing more accustomed to the idea.  Gradually, our giggles morphed into hmms and haws and dreams.

It certainly was a gradual process, though.

You see, I love Paul a LOT.  And the idea of sharing him with another didn't initially sit well with me.  How could I love someone as much as I love him?  The one I choose every day to share life with?  The man who doesn't complain, is not easily angered, the man I feel the most "me" with?  The man who makes me melt with spontaneous trips to Dairy Queen and Fro Yo to meet my ice cream cravings?

As I verbalized my musings aloud, I realized I sounded pretty selfish.  I think about our Julys and how challenging it is when he spends more time with fireworks and camp supplies than with me.  And the Fall Retreats in October when even though we're both at the same place at the same time, I miss our "us" time.  I questioned if there was really room in my heart for another.  To be Paul and Elizabeth plus one.

So, we both started praying.  A little here and a little there.  Asking God to quicken our hearts at the right time.

Summer hit with full force with not one, but two fireworks tents.  I, again, struggled with sharing Paul with his job and his ministry.  But we made it, and I had a powerful experience at camp, rediscovering my passions and gifts.  I wrote about feeling a distinct sense of purpose, having confidence in my position as Paul's ministry partner and camp counselor.

I also had a powerful experience during worship one night where God spoke directly to my heart.  During an extended worship time in the latter part of the week, I felt God stir in my heart the way Paul and I had asked.  I don't remember hearing exact words, but in that moment, I felt God begin to prepare me for motherhood.  Planting and confirming my desire to be a mom. 

A mom to a child of my own.  Instant joy and peace.

On our drive home from camp, physically exhausted from a draining, yet rewarding week, with the windows down and rocking our farmer's tans, Paul and I debriefed our highlights from the week.  I shared how I felt God move in my heart.

And you know what he said?

"Me too."

God spoke to Paul the very same night about being a dad, that he spoke to me about being a mom.

We laughed in disbelief, marveling at the Lord's handiwork and timing.

Preparing our hearts to love our someday-child.

We didn't start "trying" right away, but we definitely started praying more seriously.

From that moment at camp, it's as though God gave me a brand new lens to view Paul through.  I started to watch him a little more closely as he held our friend's babies, imagining him as the father of our children.  We both became more eager to hold babies.  I started seeing babies everywhere I went.  This June, we became Uncle Paul and Aunt Elizabeth for the first time and I pictured him holding children of our own.

And I melted.