Make your own taco seasoning

Even Hunter loves tacos!  ;) 

Over two years ago, our family  adapted to a low sodium lifestyle.  It’s crazy how much sodium is in everything, especially processed/convenience foods.  Rather than scour the grocery store for some obscure product (which often doesn’t exist anyway), I’ve found it easier to just make my own seasoning blends.  It also saves a lot of money, and the amount of time it takes to mix them up is minimal.  I make a large batch and store in a tightly sealed container, which saves a lot of time.  Not only are we spared the unnecessary sodium, but we also skip out on the added preservatives.  It’s a win-win situation!

Christmas 2015 I made up some fun gift baskets that included some of my homemade seasonings.  This one was by far the favorite, and I’ve had a few people request the recipe.  I’m finally getting around to posting it!

I must give credit where it is due…this recipe was adapted from a recipe I received from my good friend, Laura Holum.  Thanks, Laura!

TACO SEASONING MIX

Note:  I use this in tacos, burritos, fajitas, taco salads, etc.  This recipe makes a large batch, so if you don’t make a lot of Mexican food, you might want to cut it in half.

  • 1/2 cup chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (add more if you like more spice)
  • 2 teaspoons oregano (I prefer Mexican oregano)
  • 4 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/4 cup cumin
  • 2 Tablespoons black pepper
  • (optional) 1 Tablespoon sea salt

Whisk ingredients together in a medium size bowl.  Store in a tightly sealed container.  When preparing meat or beans, add 1 Tablespoon (or more if you like) per pound, plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch and 2/3 cup cold water.

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Easy and Nutritious Meals: One Week Meal Plan for the Health Beginner

Thinking Outside the Box

We are a mother and daughter who both grew up cooking and enjoying homemade, healthy meals. Lately we’ve noticed many meal subscription advertisements cropping up on television and online. These subscription services provide a box full of, admittedly, healthy and fresh pre-prepared ingredients along with a recipe to cook a healthy and delicious meal. No grocery shopping, vegetable chopping, nor measuring, and a perfect nutrition balance to boot… all for only $50 to $130 a box (each box provides one to three meals). Nothing against these companies, but our great-grandmothers would be rolling in their graves over this. Somehow people have lost touch with the art and duty of cooking. They would rather spend four times as much money to avoid the hassle than implement a few skills to nourish themselves and their families, and provide posterity with sustainable knowledge.

That is why we have compiled a list of our favorite go-to meals, with the recipes and a grocery list. These meals are nutritious, delicious, simple to make, and very affordable. We are hoping to inspire people to start cooking again, by making it incredibly easy on them. The benefits of cooking at home are countless: proper nutrition providing longer and better quality lives; financial gain opening up a world of opportunity; local shopping supporting the community; time spent cooking together strengthening familial bonds, and many more. We hope this guide helps you.

The Plan

Day 1

Lunch: Homemade pizza

Dinner: One pan chicken and veggies

Day 2

Lunch: Tacos

Dinner: Crockpot barbecue chicken and baked potato wedges

Day 3

Lunch: Turkey wraps and fresh veggies

Dinner: Whole wheat spaghetti (or spaghetti squash) with homemade sauce

Day 4

Lunch: Chicken Salad

Dinner: Smoked salmon and asparagus

Day  5

Lunch: Homemade mac n’ cheese

Dinner: Crockpot salsa chicken over brown rice

Day 6

Lunch: Crockpot pulled pork and sweet potato fries

Dinner: Salad bar

Day 7

Lunch: Tuna salad

Dinner: Chicken and veggie stir fry over brown rice

Breakfast

Oatmeal bake

Overnight oats

Smoothies

Egg bake

Healthy desserts

Pumpkin bars

Banana bread

Greek fro-yo

Dark chocolate

The Recipes

Day 1

Homemade pizza

Ingredients:

  • 12” whole wheat pizza crust
  • 8 oz. can tomato sauce (can substitute no-salt-added sauce for healthier option)
  • ½ t. garlic powder (or 1 garlic clove, crushed)
  • 1 t. Italian seasoning
  • Your choice of toppings (suggestions: grilled chicken, cheese, peppers, mushrooms, onions)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or sprinkle with goat cheese)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Mix tomato sauce, garlic, and italian seasoning together and spread on crust
  3. Add toppings and cheese
  4. Bake 10 minutes or until crust is golden brown

One pan chicken and vegetables

Recipe adapted from skinnytaste. Suggested other veggies: potatoes, brussel sprouts, green beans, parsnips.

http://www.skinnytaste.com/balsamic-chicken-with-roasted/

Ingredients:

  • 8 (4 oz each) boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
  • fresh black pepper, to taste
  • cooking spray
  • 10 medium asparagus, ends trimmed, cut in half
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 red onions, chopped in large chunks
  • 1/2 cup carrots, sliced in half long, cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 5 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tbsp dried oregano or thyme
  • 2 leaves fresh sage, chopped

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Season chicken with pepper. Spray 2 large baking sheets with oil.
  3. Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl using your hands to mix well then arrange everything onto the prepared baking sheets spread out in a single layer.
  4. The vegetables should not touch the chicken or it will steam instead of roast.
  5. Bake about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are roasted and tender.

Day 2

Tacos

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 envelope Mrs. Dash taco seasoning (or other low sodium/preservative free brand)
  • Whole wheat tortillas
  • Desired toppings, such as shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, chopped onion, avocado slices, salsa, sour cream

Instructions:

  1. Cook ground turkey in skillet over medium heat until brown
  2. Add seasoning to ground turkey
  3. Pile everything into a tortilla and enjoy

Crockpot barbecue chicken and baked potato wedges

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 c barbecue sauce (we recommend Annie’s Naturals)
  • 4 medium baked potatoes
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 2 t paprika
  • 2 t garlic powder
  • 2 t chili powder
  • 2 t onion powder

Instructions

  1. Coat raw chicken with barbecue sauce
  2. Place in crockpot and cook on low 6-8 hours or on high 3-4 hours
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  4. Cut potatoes into wedges
  5. Mix olive oil, paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, and onion powder together
  6. Coat potatoes with olive oil mixture
  7. Bake 15-20 minutes, flip potatoes over, and bake another 15-20 minutes

Day 3

Turkey wraps and fresh vegetables

Ingredients:

  • Deli fresh shaved turkey (we discourage the packaged kind, which comes with tons of preservatives and sodium)
  • Whole wheat tortillas
  • Cheese if desired: mozzarella and swiss contain the lowest sodium
  • Condiments: mustard and hummus are the healthiest choices
  • Vegetables for toppings as desired: lettuce, spinach, onion, peppers, etc.
  • Baby or whole carrots
  • Bell pepper strips
  • Raw broccoli
  • Raw cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Hummus or dill dip if desired

Instructions:

  1. Construct turkey wraps
  2. Add veggie sides to plate
  3. Enjoy!

Spaghetti

Ingredients:

  • 1 box whole wheat spaghetti or 1 medium spaghetti squash http://damndelicious.net/2016/04/26/how-to-cook-spaghetti-squash/print/
  • Diced tomatoes– 6 medium fresh or 28 oz. canned crushed tomatoes with no salt added
  • 6 oz. tomato paste if using canned tomatoes
  • 2 t Garlic powder or 2 cloves crushed fresh garlic
  • 1 T or more if desired Italian Seasoning
  • Meatballs (optional)
    • 1 ½ lbs. Hamburger
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 large diced onion
    • 1 T parmesan cheese
    • 1 c Panko
    • 1 t pepper
    • 2 t garlic powder
    • 1 T italian seasoning
  • Fresh grated parmesan

Instructions:

  1. Boil spaghetti as instructed on box, or bake spaghetti squash
  2. In a skillet, simmer tomatoes, garlic, and italian seasoning 15-20 minutes or until mixture reaches desired consistency
  3. If making meatballs, mix all meatball ingredients and roll into balls. Bake on greased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Add to sauce.
  4. Pour sauce over spaghetti. Sprinkle with parmesan as desired.

Day 4

Chicken salad

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 T cumin
  • ½ paprika
  • ½ c sliced almonds
  • ½ dried cranberries or sliced grapes

Instructions:

  1. To prepare chicken, bring a large pot of water to a boil then add all raw chicken
  2. Boil 15 to 20 minutes, until internal temperature of chicken reaches 170 degrees F
  3. Once chicken has cooled, dice or shred
  4. Mix together all ingredients
  5. Enjoy alone or as a sandwich on whole grain bread

Smoked salmon and garlic asparagus

Ingredients:

  • 4 salmon fillets
  • 4 T brown sugar
  • 1 t pepper
  • 3 T liquid smoke (we recommend Colgin brand to avoid additives)
  • 2 bunches asparagus, chopped
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic or 3 t garlic powder

Instructions:

  1. Place salmon, skin side down, on greased baking pan
  2. Sprinkle salmon with brown sugar and pepper
  3. Drizzle with liquid smoke
  4. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours
  5. Uncover and bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes or until flaky
  6. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-low heat
  7. Add asparagus and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes
  8. Add garlic or garlic powder and continue to cook until softened, 15 to 20 minutes

Day 5

Homemade mac and cheese

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces whole wheat elbow macaroni (about 1 ½ cups uncooked)
  • 3 T. butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups lowfat or skim milk
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven at 350°F.  Spray a 1 ½ quart casserole dish with cooking spray.  
  2. Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain.
  3. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  
  4. Stir in flour until smooth.  
  5. Add milk; cook and stir constantly until thickened.
  6. Add cheese; stir until melted.  
  7. Stir macaroni into cheese sauce.
  8. Pour into casserole dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  

Crockpot salsa chicken over brown rice

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 16 oz jar salsa (we recommend the Green Mountain Gringo brand for low sodium and no preservatives)
  • Brown rice

Instructions:

  1. Add raw chicken and entire jar of salsa into crockpot
  2. Cook on low 6-8 hours or on high 3-4 hours
  3. Cook brown rice as instructed on box/bag
  4. Serve salsa chicken over rice or make tacos or taco salad

Day 6

Pulled pork and sweet potato fries

Pulled pork recipe is adapted from The Splendid Table

www.splendidtable.org/recipes/ultimate-cheater-pulled-pork

Can be served as sandwiches or stand alone

Sweet potatoes recipe is adapted from POPSUGAR Fitness http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Healthy-Sweet-Potato-Fries-34184453

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ -3 pound boneless Boston butt pork roast or boneless country-style pork ribs
  • 2 T. paprika
  • 1 T. black pepper
  • 2 t. garlic powder
  • 2 t. dry mustard
  • ½ cup bottled smoke
  • Barbecue sauce of your choice
  • Whole wheat hamburger buns (optional)
  • 2 large garnet yams or sweet potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Instructions:

  1. Cut the pork butt into medium (2- to 3-inch) chunks (the ribs don’t need to be cut up).  
  2. Use cooking spray to coat slow cooker (or use a slow cooker liner for cleanup convenience).
  3. In a small bowl, combine paprika, pepper, garlic powder, and mustard.  Sprinkle this mixture over the meat and rub it in, coating the pieces evenly.  
  4. Pour the bottled smoke over the meat.  Cover and cook on high for 5 to 6 hours or on low for 10 to 12 hours, until the meat is pull-apart tender and reaches an internal temperature of 190 F.
  5. Using tongs and a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a rimmed platter or baking sheet. Let rest until cool enough to handle.
  6. Pull the meat into strands. It should shred very easily.
  7. Serve with barbecue sauce on the side.  
  8. Preheat oven to 425ºF.
  9. Toss cut sweet potatoes in olive oil, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and cayenne. Make sure every wedge is evenly coated.
  10. Roast cut-side down for 30 minutes, turning once.

Salad bar

Ingredients (suggested):

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Sliced almonds
  • Sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • Grated mozzarella or swiss cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Vinaigrette (balsamic, red wine, etc) dressing
  • Sliced bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Peas
  • Onions
  • Radishes
  • Grated carrots
  • Hard boiled egg
  • Grilled chicken
  • Sliced ham
  • Sliced turkey 

Instructions:

  1. You know what to do.

Day 7

Tuna salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans 12 oz. tuna in water
  • 1 c plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 c chopped celery
  • ½ c chopped red onion
  • Olive oil and hummus (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Drain tuna
  2. Combine first 4 ingredients
  3. If desired, add up to 1 T olive oil for texture and hummus to taste
  4. Enjoy alone, on whole grain or multi-seed crackers, or as a sandwich on whole grain bread

Chicken stir fry over brown rice

Adapted from allrecipes.com

If you can find Ying’s brand stir-fry sauce, it is an easy alternative  www.yingskitchen.com/Sauce_Stirfry.htm

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup broccoli florets, cut into pieces; 1 large green bell pepper, cut into squares; 1 zucchini, cut into rounds and quartered; 3 cloves garlic, minced. *Easy substitute: 2 bags frozen stir fry vegetables.
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 green onions, chopped

Instructions:

  1. Mix chicken and soy sauce in a bowl.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat; cook and stir broccoli, bell pepper, zucchini, and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add chicken broth, cover, and simmer until vegetables are tender, 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer vegetables and sauce to a large bowl and wipe skillet clean.
  5. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat; cook and stir chicken until meat is no longer pink in the center, about 5 minutes.
  6. Stir in vegetables; continue to cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes more. Sprinkle with green onions.
  7. Cook brown rice as instructed on box/bag
  8. Serve stir fry over rice

Breakfast

Oatmeal bake

Adapted from yummly.com http://www.yummly.co/#recipe/Apple-Pie-Baked-Oatmeal-1629383

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c old-fashioned oats
  • 3 T flax seeds
  • 2 T flour (whole wheat encouraged)
  • 1 t baking powder
  • cinnamon (to taste)
  • allspice (to taste)
  • Stevia or sugar (to taste)
  • 1/2 cups applesauce (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 apples (small)
  • 1 egg

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 F and grease 1 small baking pan
  2. Dice apples into small cubes
  3. Combine oats, flax seed, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, and stevia.
  4. Add egg, unsweetened applesauce, sautéed apples, and water until mixture is thick but wet enough to pour out of the bowl into the pan
  5. Bake for 20-30 minutes
  6. Let cool and serve

Overnight oats

Google this term and you will find literally hundreds of results; there’s bound to be something you like. Here is a link with 50 recipes. Personally recommended suggestions include the carrot cake and brownie batter, and here is a very simple vanilla recipe, #38 on the list. http://www.eatthis.com/overnight-oat-recipes-for-weight-loss

Ingredients:

  • ½ Cup Oats
  • 1 Tbs Flax
  • ½ Cup water
  • ⅔ Cup French Vanilla or Vanilla Yogurt
  • 1 Tbs Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbs Walnut Pieces

Instructions:

  1. In the bottom of a mason jar or a container add oats and flax, then pour water over the oats, and cover with vanilla yogurt. No need to stir. Refrigerate overnight (8-12 hours).
  2. In the morning top with Brown Sugar and Walnut pieces and enjoy!

Smoothies

This is another breakfast idea that can be Googled to produce tailored results. A good basis to a healthy breakfast smoothie is a liquid such as water or milk, a fiber such as fruit, spinach, flaxseed, or chia seed, and a protein such as protein powder or a nut butter. Add ice and blend. Smoothies have a lot of wiggle room so have fun playing around with what you like!

Egg bake

Many variations can be made on this item as well; more veggies, no meat, no potatoes, a different kind of cheese, etc. This is one example of a hearty yet healthy egg bake recipe. It could also be made in a muffin tin so that you have a grab and go breakfast every day! http://twohealthykitchens.com/2014/04/10/farmers-market-overnight-breakfast-egg-casserole/

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb sweet Italian turkey sausage
  • 1½ c diced sweet onion (from about half a large onion)
  • 8 oz fresh sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 c frozen shredded hash brown potatoes (sometimes labeled “country style”)
  • 2 c shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 c diced green pepper (from about 1 small-medium pepper)
  • 2-3 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced (to equal about 1 – 1¼ c)
  • ½ c chopped green onions (from about 6 onions)
  • 12 eggs
  • 1¾ c non-fat milk
  • 1½ t dried parsley
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 1 t dried basil
  • ¼ t black pepper

Instructions:

  1. In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, cook sausage, onions, mushrooms, and garlic until sausage is no longer pink and mushrooms have given off some of their liquid, about 10 minutes. Drain the liquid.
  2. In a 9×13 pan coated with cooking spray, layer potatoes (there is no need to thaw them), sausage mixture, 1 cup cheese, green peppers, tomatoes, and green onions.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, milk, parsley, salt, basil, and pepper. Whisk thoroughly to combine, then add remaining 1 cup of cheese and whisk again. Pour egg mixture evenly over other ingredients in baking pan.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  5. Bake casserole, uncovered, for about 60-70 minutes, or until egg in middle is just set and edges are lightly golden brown.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Healthy desserts

Pumpkin bars

Adapted from Bodybuilding.com http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/jamie-easons-livefit-recipes-pumpkin-protein-bars.html

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 4-oz. no sugar added applesauce
  • 2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 t ground ginger
  • 1/2 t ground clove
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 15-oz. can raw pumpkin
  • 2 oat flour (raw oats ground in a food processor or blender)
  • 2 scoops vanilla whey protein or 1/2 c flour
  • ½ c almond milk

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray.
  3. Combine first 11 ingredients and mix well.
  4. Add the oat flour, whey protein, and almond milk, and mix until incorporated. Spread batter into the Pyrex dish and bake for 30 min.

Greek frozen yogurt

Ingredients:

  • 4 c any frozen fruit
  • ½ c Greek yogurt
  • 2 T honey

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients and blend in a food processor or blender.
  2. Enjoy!

Dark chocolate

Fresh fruit

The Grocery List

This list includes everything you should need for all 14 of the lunch and dinner recipes.

Produce:

  1. 3 bunches asparagus
  2. 3 red bell peppers
  3. 2-8 tomatoes
  4. 2 large whole carrots
  5. 5 oz sliced mushrooms
  6. 1 head of lettuce
  7. 1 bag of spinach
  8. 1 avocado
  9. 1 bag of celery
  10. 1-2 heads of broccoli
  11. 1-2 heads of cauliflower
  12. 2 red onions
  13. 2 onions
  14. Garlic
  15. 4 medium baking potatoes
  16. 2 large sweet potatoes
  17. 1 medium spaghetti squash
  18. Other veggies as desired for pizza, turkey wraps, and salad

Refrigerated goods:

  1. Eggs
  2. Butter
  3. Skim milk
  4. 32 oz plain Greek yogurt
  5. Hummus

Meat:

  1. 8 chicken thighs
  2. 14 chicken breasts
  3. 1 lb ground turkey
  4. 1 ½ lb hamburger
  5. 4 salmon fillets
  6. 3 lb boneless pork
  7. Other meat for pizza and salad toppings

Cheese:

  1. Mozzarella and/or swiss, both sliced and grated
  2. Grated cheddar cheese
  3. Cottage cheese

Canned:

  1. 8 oz tomato sauce
  2. 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  3. 2 12 oz. tuna in water

Dry goods:

  1. 12” whole wheat pizza crust
  2. 1 box whole wheat spaghetti
  3. 1 box whole wheat elbow macaroni
  4. 1 bag/box brown rice
  5. 1-2 bags whole wheat tortillas
  6. 1 bag whole wheat hamburger buns
  7. Cooking spray
  8. 1 bottle bbq sauce
  9. 1 bottle liquid smoke
  10. 1 bottle balsamic vinegar
  11. 1 bottle olive oil
  12. 1 bottle low sodium soy sauce
  13. Mustard
  14. 1 16 oz jar salsa
  15. 8 oz low sodium chicken broth
  16. 1 can Panko
  17. 1 bag dried cranberries
  18. 1 bag sliced almonds

Seasonings:

  1. Italian seasoning
  2. Pepper
  3. Rosemary
  4. Thyme
  5. Oregano
  6. Sage
  7. Paprika
  8. Onion powder
  9. Cumin
  10. Chili powder
  11. 1 envelope Mrs. Dash taco seasoning
  12. Cayenne
  13. Dry mustard
  14. Flour
  15. Brown sugar

 

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What if the sun didn’t come up tomorrow?

This is post #2 in series which grew out of this original post: http://lisa-grant.com/2016/11/exchanging-gripe-gratitude/  

sun

I promise, I’m not trying to be dramatic.  But seriously, how much do we take the sun for granted?  We just assume the sun will show up every morning to set the day into motion. Unless, of course, our favorite team suffers a devastating loss!

For the most part, the sun gets a bad rap.  It either doesn’t shine often enough, or it provides too much or too little heat.  Sometimes, we even gripe that it’s too bright.

Without the sun…

  • We would be living in complete darkness
  • The earth would be mega cold
  • Plants could not grow
  • No beautiful sunrises or sunsets
  • The earth, and all the other planets in our solar system, would likely go flying off into space

To translate this to everyday life:

  • Your energy bill would surpass your income
  • Hot flashes would be a luxury
  • You would never again hear, “Would you like fries with that?”
  • Instagram would be out of business
  • Buckle up, we’re in for a bumpy ride!

Therefore, take a moment today to thank God for the sun, and praise Him for all its benefits.  Just another step toward exchanging our gripes for gratitude!

 

 

 

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Things we take for granted – being protected

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This will be the first in a series which grew out of this original post:  http://lisa-grant.com/2016/11/exchanging-gripe-gratitude/

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:18

 

The thought of demons and angels among us, especially since we can’t see them, can be overwhelming and easy to dismiss.  For the most part, we either ignore it or choose not to think about it.

However, spiritual warfare exists.  It’s a world we cannot see, yet we cannot ignore its importance.  Things that occur in the spiritual realm have eternal significance.

We tend to dwell on bad things that happen in our lives, and that’s natural.  However, if you really want your mind blown, consider how many devastating and traumatic things you may have been prevented from experiencing!  We’ll never know for sure, this side of heaven, but I bet the number is staggering!

To get your mind headed in this direction, just think about close calls you’ve experienced in your car.  Or the bad storms that occurred just a mile or so away.  Or the criminal act committed in your neighborhood.  Since these are incidents we can actually “see”, we can only imagine how many incidents we never even knew about.

Beyond that, consider how many tempting thoughts have been stopped before they started.  Asking God to “lead me not into temptation” sets faith into motion in ways we cannot begin to comprehend.

I challenge you to spend a few minutes today contemplating God’s protection over your life.  More importantly, express your gratitude for all the unseen things and their eternal value.

Thank you, Lord, for protection from the unseen things!  

 

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Exchanging gripe for gratitude

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Our pastor has recently been preaching through the book of Exodus. I thought I was going to hate it, and I was right. I do hate it, but not for the reason I anticipated. My expectation was one of boredom. I mean, I’ve read the story of the Israelites a million times, and I’ve watched the movie, “The Ten Commandments” at least once a year my entire life.

Boredom has not been the problem. I hate it because it’s revealing something ugly in me. You see, whenever I read Exodus, I want to scream at the Israelites, “What is the matter with you people???  Don’t you realize all the amazing things God has done for you?” What a bunch of whiny, complaining babies! But through this study, God has been shining a light on my own horrific behavior, which is eerily similar to the same people I’ve been yelling at all these years.

OUCH.

My complaints for today alone have hit double digits (at least).  I’ve griped about lack of sleep, the dog’s shenanigans, traffic, having too much to do, my hair, and politics.  And that’s just a brief overview – most likely, I’m only scratching the surface.

Focus on what’s good

When we bellyache, we are actually grumbling against God’s leadership in our lives.  He tells us to do everything without complaining (Philippians 2:14), because that will make us stand out in the world.  The key to accomplishing that is to fix our thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, and to think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). Hmmmm, exchanging something “complaint worthy” with gratitude for something praiseworthy…it just might be my ticket out of Grumble City.

Be thankful for the small things

My goal is to gain new lenses on my eyes, to help see God’s provision in my life.  I think the best way to do that is to highlight my appreciation for things I mostly take for granted.  I’ve started making a list, and I’d love to hear your ideas too.

Please join me on this adventure, as we attempt to shut down the negativity and focus on the good together!

 

 

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Lessons from the garden

IMG_1671-2I’m a newbie gardener; this is only my second year of trying to grow delicious, organic vegetables, which I will then sneak into various dishes I prepare for my family. :)

 

I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. I’m learning as I go, mostly by making mistakes, some more costly than others.

 

I put great effort and time into trying to do everything right. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not.

 

Yesterday, I checked on my bean plants. Something has been chewing on them lately, and I was feeling discouraged because I wasn’t getting much production. I thought about just giving up on them for this year, but for some reason, I didn’t. I put in the work – watering, weeding, and removing insects that don’t belong.

 

This morning, as I do every morning, I went to the garden to see what needed to be done. As I approached, I saw dozens of blooms on the bean plants that weren’t there yesterday. And, as if by some miracle, I had the biggest single day harvest of beans I’ve ever had!

 

Suddenly, the future looked bright. I see great harvests to come, and once again, I’m feeling motivated to keep investing myself in this venture.

 

There’s a life lesson here: when you want to give up on…(insert whatever is relevant, job, school, people, life)…keep tending the garden. There are things going on underneath the surface that you can’t see. You can’t predict the harvest. Keep sowing the seeds, putting in the work, and believing.

 

Then sit back and see what happens. You might be surprised.

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Why my Christmas tree is still up

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The Christmas tree is still up at my house. I can find a million reasons not to take it down each year. This year, my justification is this: I put it up later than usual, so it should stay up longer. :)

On this bitterly cold January night, I’m the only one still awake. Snow is falling, and I’m watching it through moonlit windows as I work through my bedtime checklist…locking doors, filling the humidifier, turning the thermostat down (but not too much…did I mention it’s bitterly cold outside?).

As I walk past the tree, I stop, pausing to delicately touch some precious ornaments. There’s one to commemorate our beloved beagle Molly, who passed away last year. There’s a stocking for my baby Alyssa, who flew to heaven in 1989. There are treasured memories of all the kids when they were little.

I think, this is the past. These are days gone by, days that will never be again. Tears roll down my cheeks, and then I decide, no…this is the future too. All of these ornaments represent people and events that are building blocks. They built the future, and the future is still unraveling. Who even knows how all of this will play out?

God only knows. Not only does He know, but He has made sure there is purpose in every person, creature, and event represented on my tree.

Is it any wonder my tree is still up? I brush away the tears and smile. Good night

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When Our “Babies” Leave the Nest

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Trials…we are all destined for them, and that includes our kids.

“So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.” 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5

I can relate to Paul in this passage, as he is physically separated from his “spiritual children” in Thessalonica. He brought them up in the faith, nourishing their life in Christ through teaching and example. He worked hard to establish them as mature Christians who could weather the inevitable storms of this life.  Now those trials had arrived, and he was worried that his loved ones were being lured away by the (false) promise of an easier life, full of much more fun.

Anyone who has raised a child and sent them off into the world understands Paul’s fears in this situation.  You spend 18 years pouring yourself into your child, and though you know you’ve made mistakes at times, you hope the spiritual foundation has been laid that will support your kid through the difficult moments of life.  It’s easy to question yourself.  Did I do enough?  Did my son really own his faith, or was he just going through the motions?  Is my daughter strong enough to stand up to the temptations she will face?

Paul was so worried about his babies, he sent someone to check up on them!  That was a pretty bold move, but I guess there was no Facebook or Instagram to stalk back in those days.  :)

Later in chapter 3, Paul says he is praying earnestly, night and day, that he will get to see them again soon, with the express purpose of filling in any gaps in their faith.  (Somehow I’m picturing the Thessalonians as rolling their eyes and responding with, “Relax, we got this, Paul!”)

Paul knew, just as we do, how hard it is to follow Jesus in this world.

So, today I’m praying for college freshmen, soldiers in boot camp, missionaries, apprentices, gap year students, and anyone who has flown the coop and is on their own for the first time.  If you are one of them, go easy on your parents when they worry about you.  Remember, they have a lot invested in you, and I’m not talking about money.  You are their hope, their joy, their crown.  I pray your heart is strengthened so you will be found blameless and holy.

And I’m praying for their parents, who are probably feeling a lot like Paul right now.  My prayer is that you will soon receive a good report about your children’s faith and love.  May they be found standing firm in the Lord, and may all your hard work in parenting be rewarded!

 

 

 

 

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Jesus on Parenting Teens: What Are YOU Hungry For, Mom and Dad?

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“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6

I have always worked really hard to cultivate a hunger and thirst for righteousness in my kids. I want them to run hard after God so they don’t miss out on all He has for them.

So, I served my kids a healthy diet of Christian teaching, activities to help them grow their faith, and plenty of time at church. And, of course, I was always quick to point out when they were lacking in righteousness.

But…Jesus does not say, “Make sure your kids are righteous.” He says, “Make sure YOU have a healthy appetite for righteousness.” It’s about cultivating our desire to grow in holiness above our desire to grow our kids in holiness.

I’m not advocating ignoring a child’s sin or not using discipline, but we would do well to clean up our own messes first.  It’s a bit like losing pressure while on an airplane; you need to get your own mask on first before attempting to get one on your child.  Or, to use another analogy, it’s like that whole plank in the eye thing Jesus talked about (see Matthew 7).

In studying the Beatitudes, I’m realizing how one seems to naturally follow the others.  If I want to be hungry for something, I have to be depleted of it first.  That means I first have to recognize that I am lacking in righteousness (“Blessed are the poor in spirit”), be upset about not having it (“Blessed are those who mourn”), and be humble enough to realize my need for it (“Blessed are the meek”).

In other words, I have to acknowledge how much I lack righteousness, be upset about that, and confess my need for it.  In reality, I am usually more focused on all the things I’m doing right. (“Did you hear what so-and-so did? I would never do anything so terrible and sinful!”)  Yeah, right. Like my pastor says, we are ALL goofy. We’re all broken, sinful, and in need of a Savior.

I might recognize my areas of weakness, but it’s the rare occasion when I really hone in on those things.  I can find all sorts of ways to justify NOT growing in righteousness.  I mean, Jesus died to cover ALL my sins, right?  I’m saved by grace anyway…so it’s no big deal if I don’t clean up this area of sin, right?  Right? ?????

Then I read on in Matthew 5, and Jesus says this:  “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

BAM. That’s a blow to the head, am I right?

I know what you’re thinking. “But my kid! You don’t know my kid and all the terrible things she is doing! If I don’t fix her, it’s hopeless! Her future is at stake, and I, I, I, I…” I know. It’s hard not to focus on your teens’ shortcomings and try to point them in a more “righteous” direction.

Here’s the thing, mom and dad. You’ve fed your child well. In just a few years, she will be out on her own, feeding herself. Though she may gorge on some junk food for awhile, eventually she is going to start craving some good, home cooking.

If you’ve ever been through the experience of teaching a teenager to drive, you know how hard it is at times to resist grabbing the steering wheel.  It is about this same time in life we have to start letting go of the wheel of their spiritual lives as well.  They are going to make mistakes.  They are going to overcorrect or accelerate too quickly sometimes.  They will be at the mercy of other drivers on the road.  But they’ve also been watching you drive for many years, and they’ve learned from you.  When in doubt, they will draw on those memories to guide them.

Those memories will include the nutrition you provided for their souls, and witnessing a mom or dad who had a hunger and thirst for righteousness.

 

 

 

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Don’t Freak Out!

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“I told her, whatever you do, don’t freak out.”  – my husband, recalling advice he gave to a friend going through a troubling time with her pre-teen son.

That, my friends, is brilliant advice for those of us in the trenches of parenting.  Especially for us moms – we tend to be the big freaker-outers.  :)

And why wouldn’t we be?  We spent nine agonizing months nurturing those children inside our bodies, and after they came out, it was our job to supply this completely dependent human being with everything they needed to survive.

But after a few years, there’s this new trajectory.  They start to become more and more independent, and let’s face it, we hate that.  So we keep trying to grab back the control.  When they make a mistake, we want to clean up the mess.  When they rebel, we want to “fix” them.

Here’s the cold, hard truth: when we freak out, our kids will take their behavior underground.  Instead of working towards change, they will just try harder to hide it from you.

I offer a kinder, gentler, dare I say it, godlier way to handle those parenting moments that send us into a frightful panic:

  1. Instead of punishing, allow natural consequences to discipline.
  2. Gently and calmly show them the right way (including providing any necessary tools), and give them the opportunity to do the right thing.
  3. Give them confidence to do the right thing by telling them you believe they will (even if you don’t).
  4. LET IT GO.  Refuse to give in to the temptation to remind them of past mistakes.
  5. Be there to pick up the pieces if they blow it again.  Rinse and repeat steps 1-5.  :)

And through it all, DON’T FREAK OUT!

 

 

 

 

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