Friday, June 13, 2014

Love, Life, Grief and Gratefulness

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This happens to me often. I have learned some important lessons through significant experiences over the years.

I have learned that this moment, right now....will be gone and will be only a memory...very quickly and that even the "bad" moments are meant to be felt, experienced, prayed through...and good and bad, the moments are gifts to thank God for. This has taught me to look at my loved ones through the lens of unconditional love, even when they are not so loveable because God has and does look at me through that lens when I least deserve it. I have learned to take time to really study my loved ones when they aren't aware and celebrate the beauty that makes up who they are, even when they don't know I'm celebrating them. I have learned that part of celebrating them is thanking God for them and praying for each one of them individually. I have learned that they may not be here to celebrate after this moment because I have also learned that I have no power or control over anything in this life...and no control over death itself.

I have learned that the good moments are what give me the courage and grace to accept the difficulties in life and the strength to press on into the future. The hardships of life build character, serve to add depth to the soul, teach us compassion for others and strip us of selfishness and shallow, petty views on life. The hardships bring maturity as we learn that there actually is a purpose in life other than just to have fun and serve ourselves. The painful experiences have taught me that I am powerless over life itself and have served the purpose of pointing me to God. They have taught me that God put me here for a purpose. He has planned my life with a particular mission that is full of meaning and it's not all about what I want, or fulfilling my desires, but using the gifts He has given me with a grateful attitude, for His glory and finding true meaning and fulfillment in knowing Him, serving Him and letting Him love and serve others through me.

I have to admit that when Kya passed away, it felt like a darkness closed in around me....a bright light went out and even though we only got to know her for a short time, that time was so very precious and all we learned from her and her family was magnified with her passing. It is bittersweet. We know that God had a purpose for her life that was planned before the foundation of the earth and we know that she didn't go to be with him, even one minute before she was meant to, but the reality of how very little control we have over life and death hits my heart hard every time. And causes me to draw even closer to God and to be sure to embrace those I love and to enjoy each moment with them because those moments are precious gifts.

This week-end we celebrated our grandson, Jackson's, third birthday. It was so precious. When his mom told him he was going to turn three because his birthday was coming, he announced that he was going to have his "buhday potty at Nama's house."  So, on Sunday afternoon we lit up the BBQ, cooked up some hot dogs and hamburgers and built a fire in our newly constructed fire pit. We celebrated sweet, hilarious, funny, precious little Jackson's birthday. Auntie Natalie made him chocolate chip pumpkin loaves for his "buhday cake" and place three candles prominently on top. We sang happy birthday to him and he huffed and puffed and blew out each candle, one by one with a huge grin on his face. The kids ran and played, jumped on the trampoline and the rest of us sipped tea and sat around the fire, enjoying the beautiful, warm weather and simply being together.


Our daughter, Christine, turned fourteen the end of May. Her Daddy was in Australia on a business trip and missed her birthday, so we had her friend, Rebekah over for dinner and a sleep over. Christine was an adorable, curly blonde haired little girl and has grown into a beautiful, loving, sweet teen who loves children and embraces her role as an aunt with gratefulness. She has a heart for missions and is my right arm when it comes to all things computer. She is creative, fun and a precious gift to all who have the blessing of knowing her. She adored Kya and yet, she has grown through the pain and I'm sure will continue to process all she learned through sweet Kya's life.

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We girls took off and went to our favorite hiking/jogging/horseback riding trail and I did a fun little photo shoot with them. The weather was beautiful and the three of them had a great time together. Photography is a allows me to celebrate those I love and document the precious moments spent with them. Taking the girls out on the trail, listening to them talk, laugh and have fun together was one of those moments in life that I will always cherish. When we arrived in the lower parking lot, we saw a rider-less horse running through the tall grass toward us. Small children were playing right in the path of the oncoming horse, so we were able to alert the parents and grandparents of those children, catch the heavily sweating, fully saddled up horse and help calm it down. I called emergency services because we assumed there was an injured rider somewhere out there on the trail and the medics soon arrived on the scene. These trails cover miles and miles....and we had no idea where the rider could be out there, but once the medics arrived and got information from us, we took off down the trail and soon ran into another rider who informed us that the owner of the horse had indeed somehow fallen off. He said the rider had no remembrance of what happened, appeared to probably have a concussion and was coming down the trail right behind the rider we spoke with. The medics managed to find him and take care of him and his horse is okay. SO....we started out our morning with some excitement and another reminder of just how quickly life can the blink of an eye.

The rest of the morning we simply enjoyed the beautiful, sunny weather and I was in my element as I shot the girls and then shot them again. :)

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Finding joy in each moment is key to a grateful heart and giving yourself the freedom to enjoy simple pleasures in the midst of difficult times aids in avoiding depression. One of the simple pleasures in life is good food and yet there is a balance between comforting yourself with food and enjoying it in a healthy way. Eating to live, rather than living to eat is my motto and enjoying what I eat in order to live is the fun part. I am passionate about researching nutrition and finding creative ways to eat healthy foods that we really enjoy. I love to try new recipes and take some old ones and convert them to gluten free, healthier recipes. It's a challenge to me, to see if I can tweak them and make them taste even better than their less healthy counterparts.

I tried a couple of new recipes this week. Yesterday's lunch was one I converted to gluten free and I changed some of the original ingredients to make it healthier and lighter.

Can you say yum?  Gluten free....allergen free and oh so good!

The Italian Wonder pot

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4 cups chicken broth

2 TBSP coconut oil

one (28) ounce can organic diced tomatoes

one whole large onion, diced

4 cloves fresh, minced garlic

12 ounces gluten free (brown rice) fettuccine

1/2 TBSP dried basil

1/2 TBSP dried oregano

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

freshly cracked pepper to taste

2 oz. feta cheese

8 oz. fresh or frozen spinach. I used fresh and added it in after everything else was boiling and the pasta was mostly cooked through.

1. Add four cups chicken broth to a large soup pot. Break the fettuccine in half to make stirring easier later, and then add it to the pot. Also add the canned tomatoes (un-drained), coconut oil, frozen spinach (if you choose frozen), onion, garlic, basil, oregano, red pepper, and some freshly cracked black pepper.

2. Make sure the ingredients are submerged under the liquid, place a lid on top of the pot, and then turn the heat on to high. Allow the pot to come up to a full, rolling boil over high heat and then remove the lid and turn the heat down to medium.

3. Allow the pot to continue to boil over medium heat, without a lid, for 10-15 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed. If you are using fresh spinach, add it in now. Stir the pot every few minutes as it cooks to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom, but avoid over stirring which can cause the pasta to become sticky and mushy. The pot must be boiling the entire time.

4. After the pasta is cooked, crumble the feta cheese over top and serve.

A Whole New Twist On Hash

After my husband returned from Australia, the two of us went out to brunch at our favorite local restaurant. I had the most delicious butternut squash hash that day and I wanted to duplicate it at home, so I snapped a picture of it.

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I did duplicate it, but not exactly. I decided to leave the butternut squash out since I didn't have any. I know....the title of the dish is Butternut Squash Hash. I'm a nerd. BUT it turned out even better the way I did it at home and I was pleasantly surprised.

I kinda found it necessary to give it a new name. :)

Bacon and Veggie Hash


Fully cooked nitrate free, all natural (organic) bacon

2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil

pre-cooked gold potatoes, cubed.

The amount of veggies will depend on how many people you want to feed, so I will not add measurements in. Be creative and have fun!

Yellow or white onion (chopped), red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, diced small, 4 or 5 cloves minced garlic, mushrooms, mixed greens.

Cheddar cheese. I used organic cheddar cheese that isn't colored orange. I chose a sharp cheese and replaced the feta with it.

Himalayan salt, no-salt seasoning (I use organic), and fresh cracked black pepper.


Heat oil in large frying pan

Add onion and cook until translucent.

Add potatoes and brown well.

Add all other veggies, except for the mixed greens and cook through, stirring periodically.

Once all the veggies are cooked and nicely browned, add the mixed greens in.

Season with freshly ground Himalayan salt (pink salt), organic no-salt seasoning and freshly cracked pepper.

Add bacon and organic grated cheddar cheese. Stir well.

Serve hot with a side of fruit and enjoy!

My family LOVED both of these meals and they were very easy to prepare. Both are gluten free, soy free, egg free and organic.

Celebrating Life

Celebrate life. Celebrate this moment and don't take one person or joy in life for granted.

I said in the beginning that the good and the bad moments are gifts from God, but the honest truth is that the bad moments don't feel like gifts when we are in the midst of them. They are painful. They leave us feeling bereft, and they can cause us to spiral down into depression if we don't choose to cling fast to God. I would be lying to you if I said that I haven't ever gotten angry with God during the difficult moments in life, because I have. I have yelled, screamed, beaten my fists against the ground and asked him "why?" The key to peace, though, was found in doing just that....letting it all out with Him and looking to Him for comfort. One thing I have learned through difficult trials and loss, is that hindsight is 20/20 vision. Sometimes we can't see the beauty that comes through the ashes of loss until we have walked through the fire and suffered. In my own life, God has made all things beautiful that seemed so ugly and harsh when I was in the thick of them. He has taught me to be thankful for all the gifts He gives to me each day and has used those trials to overcome the entitlement mentality I didn't even realize I had. He has slowly but surely been chipping away at my self absorption and He is teaching me to look for needs in the lives of others.  He has used those trials to build and hone my character, change my thinking and create a more mature mindset. He has deepened my faith in Him and in His faithfulness and shown me just how much I need Him and that He loves me right where I'm at, all the time, no matter what. He has brought me through each trial....and made things more beautiful through the ugliness, pain and suffering.

This song has been an encouragement through the storms in life and I am here to tell you, that if you are struggling through a painful time, don't be afraid to be honest about how tough it is, but also look for the little things in life that you still have in tact around you. Hug your loved ones that still live....look for precious moments and breath a prayer of gratefulness for those little gifts. Open your eyes to the sunrises and sunsets, because looking for beauty in life while embracing the pain and suffering of the trial you walk through helps a lot. It balances everything out.




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