Clarity

I’ve been trying to clarify my thoughts on what happened 2 weeks ago for awhile. I wanted to write a blog post about it, but then, in my head, I was like “Who am I to write about it?”

Who am I?

What happened?

MikeAmyRidderingFriday, January 15, 2016 a man I met while I was in Burkina Faso was killed in a terrorist attack. I had just arrived home when I received a text from a friend from work letting me know about a tweet for Westerners to stay out of Ouga, the capital city of Burkina Faso. I thought it was odd and texted him back saying I’d known there had been a strike a few weeks back…so maybe it was related to that?

Then I jumped online. My feed was blowing up with news of Burkina, the terrorist attack and the fact that know one could find Mike. There’d been a phone call to Amy, Mike’s wife, from a pastor who ended up with his phone, but then it went dead. Mike’s wife was at the orphanage they run together in Yako – 2 hours from Ouga.

The group I went to Burkina with texted and Facebooked each other while we awaited news. The more we read the news stories coming out, the more grim it seemed. Yet we held out hope. Mike is a man of God – doing AMAZING things for the children, widows and families of Burkina. There had to be a miracle.

But there wasn’t. In the midst of our prayers, our searching (okay – truly my fervent searching of Youtube amateur footage and tweeting random news folks ‘on the scene’)…through it all Mike was already in Heaven with Jesus. Saturday morning we saw Amy’s post and suddenly the heaviness of grief was upon us. It hits everyone in weird ways. I’m not a crier…but when it comes to daughters missing their fathers, or really any child without a parent – it hits home to me. I feel like I grieved when Princess Diana died…not because I knew her (I didn’t!) but because she had two kids who were growing up without a mom they loved dearly…and here we are again…not only are Mike’s 4 children growing up without him, but the dozens and dozens of children whom he impacted on a daily basis – the kids who called him Papa…now they were feeling the pain, I’d once felt.

It sucks.

Saturday sucked.

Then Sunday came. Things were not better. Tears were still shed. Yet, we had an immediate reminder that our hope is not found in the now, but in what is yet to come. Mike did amazing things with Amy at the Yako Orphanage…Amy is going to continue the amazing things they did together. That makes me overjoyed!

Prior to this attack I’d already been talking to Tim about going back. He really wanted me to go to Haiti first because he fell in love with the country and her people when he went with Revolution…but I feel the same way about Burkina. I imagine we’d both feel the same way with our roles reversed…and so I want Tim to come with me. The next trip hasn’t been announced yet, but I’m praying about my part.

Lincoln is still intent on going as well:) He wrote our Compassion child, “See you in 4 years!” That is when he will be 12 and we will do a Compassion family trip. I know I freak a lot of people out by talking about going back, especially in the midst of terror that is so fresh, but I can’t help it. It was part of our discussion as we awaited the news of our friend. We’d only just met him, but the impact was profound. We all agreed, trips are in our future. Not everyone will agree with it and that’s okay. God puts a call on our life that we have to answer and no one else can make that decision. Wisdom plays a part (our church bumped the last Burkina trip in October to Christmas due to issues within the country) and we will take all of it to heart.

YakoOrphanageAt the end of the day I want to look at my kids and let them know that there was nothing that would keep me from doing what God asks of me…just as my prayer for them is that they will always follow God’s will for their life. I have several friends who are doing a mission trip called “World Race”. They are traveling across the world and going to 11 countries in 11 months. I imagine their parents were a bit freaked out to find that their children were traveling to Asia, Africa and other countries…not for a few weeks, but for an entire year! It’s scary – but so is being outside of God’s will…and that’s a place I will never ever want to find myself.

I do not know what God has planned for Tim and I  – in Burkina Faso or in Haiti – but I know we will continue to seek God’s will for our lives and the lives of our boys…and we will go where He leads us.

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Meal Plan 1/24/16-1/30/16

I am a typical person – great intentions…and then life busts in!

Last week I made Chicken & Artichoke Soup which we ate on for a good portion of the week…but we also had fast food:( I am REALLY trying to pull us away from fast food and from cereal at dinner BUT again, life happens. Poor planning is half of it and motivation is the other half. I HATE buying food with the intention of cooking it and then letting it go to waste. So this week – working at it again:)

On the menu:

Chicken & Artichoke Soup*
4 cups of chicken broth
2 cans of artichoke hearts, quartered
1 cup chopped scallions
1 tsp dried thyme
Old Bay Seasoning
4 tbsp of butter
1/4 cp all-purpose flour
1 lb. of chicken breasts cut in bite sized pieces

Combine the broth, artichokes, scallions, thyme and Old Bay to taste in a large soup pot Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes. Make a roux in a separate small saucepan by melting the butter and whisking in the flour for 1-2 minutes. Add the roux to the soup gradually, whisking as you go. Add the chicken until cooked through.

Red Bean and Red Pepper Soup*
1 pound kidney beans
2 onions, chopped
3 celery stalks
2 bay leaves
1 jar of red bell peppers, chopped
1/4 cp. red wine
10 cps of chicken broth

Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for about 3 hours. Remove the bay leaves and then puree soup until smooth.

*These soups are adapted from my favorite soup cook book: Soup Night

Italian Orzo Spinach Soup

The is the delicious soup I made with items I had on hand:) I did not do the Spinach (because what I had on hand was bad!) and I added in green bell pepper (because I didn’t want them to go bad before I used them!) The end result was a soup that both my husband AND my kids loved! Try it! Adapt it! Enjoy it!

 

Shakeology Savings

What is Shakeology?

Shakeology is a meal replacement shake. Yeah, I was skeptical too, I’m not a shake person…but then I tried it…and then I felt the effects…and saw the effects on my family. I love that I can get dense nutrients in one drink – and that my kids can too. Lincoln HATES vegetables. So, while I still make him eat them, I don’t stress about whether or not he’s eating healthy enough. While I’m teaching him to eat correctly, whether he likes it or not, he’s still getting the nutrients (he just doesn’t always know it;)

Prime example: The Holidays! We spent time with my family and my nephews, one who was sick. When the nephews left, the rest of my family (mom, step-dad, sister, brother…EVERYONE!) got sick. We hung out with them too…and we NEVER got sick! I’m chalking it up to Shakeology – to building up my our immune systems (and no-I’m not replacing one of my kid’s meals with a shake, but I AM giving them a glass as “dessert” or to go with their breakfast).

Don’t just take my word for it – learn more:)

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Inside Shakeology

 

 

Shakeology can be expensive – but there are ways to SAVE:)

1. Order Shakeology on Home Direct (Auto Ship): Shipping Fees are reduced to $2. Home Direct can be changed/cancelled etc. easily via phone or web chat if you don’t need it every month (you can cancel as soon as it is delivered and keep the savings) otherwise, it will continue to be shipped to you each month.

2. Club Membership: $38.97/quarter and gives you 10% off. Club Membership will also give you access to personalized meal plans, tips from trainers such as P90X Tony Horton, and more. Once you sign up for the Club Membership, you will get Shakeology with a special discount of 10% immediately, and continue to get 10% off each month you remain as a Club Member.

3. Discount Coach – save 25% off, with monthly fee of $15.95…The Discount Coach ends up saving about $16/month even with the monthly fee. There is a one-time sign up fee of $40 which is waived if you get a challenge pack when you sign up as a coach.

Challenge Packs range: $140-160 and provides Shakeology + Workout Program.

 

Meal Plan 1/10/16-1/16/16

Meal Plans are great when you use them! What I’m finding is that we make 2-3 of them and then we munch on them the rest of the week OR pending who’s handling dinner, revert to cereal or picking up something when we’re going to be heading somewhere other than home…This week’s meal is going to focus on things I can make AHEAD thus limiting the cereal diversion. Picking up something typically entails the family is not headed home immediately and there’s only so much control I have over that;)

Today I’m fixing the spaghetti squash casserole and the stuffed peppers which Tim and I (and the kids) will eat for dinner tonight and then for lunch this week (Tim and I).

IMG_0874**edited** I made the spaghetti squash casserole omitting the jalapenos and adding in a gourmet blend of mushrooms because they were more available than the cremini mushrooms. The results: Glad I pulled out the jalapenos because there is a bit of heat in this recipe. If you are not into heat, reduce the paprika. The gourmet blend of mushrooms worked perfectly! We will definitely make this again!

 

 

I know I promised I would give the recipe for the Root Vegetable Soup. I adapted it from a recipe I found in this phenomenal book that EVERYONE should get:) The book is called Soup Night and shares recipes and stories of people building community around a night of soup – I have it on my list to do this in our neighborhood at some point because I LOVE the idea behind it. I’ve made several recipes from it and they have all been delicious thus far.

Winter Root Vegetable Soup – adapted from Soup Night
1 onion
1lb. carrots
1 large yam
1 large potato
1 rutabaga
2 turnips
2 parsnips
3-4 stalks of celery
1 tomato, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2lbs. Andouille Smoked Chicken Sausage
1.5 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp whole mixed pepercorns
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp allspice (or 6-8 whole allspice, tied in a cheese cloth)
3 tbsp dried parsley or 1/2cp fresh, chopped
1/2 cp fresh cilantro for garnish

Prepare all of the vegetables and add them to a large pot. Add enough water to cover all the vegetables. Add the remaining ingredients (garlic, sausage, salt, pepper, peppercorns, all-spice and parsley). Bring the soup to a boil and then simmer until the vegetables are tender. *You can use a slow cooker, cook on low for 8 hours)> Serve hot and sprinkle with cilantro.

Italian Chicken Bake
I found this recipe stalking pinterest for something easy to make. It was super simple and my children liked it (although – super typical – Lincoln was not a fan of the tomato – one day I’ll win him over;) but he did like the chicken with the pesto and the mozzarella. I have done this recipe with no tomatoes, with diced tomatoes…and try different types of tomatoes. It calls for Roma, but I use regular tomatoes more often than not. You can easily adjust it to your liking!

Ingredients
4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
4-6 Tablespoons Prepared Pesto
1-2 Roma Tomatoes
1 Cup Mozzarella Cheese, grated

Instructions
Trim the chicken and lay them in a glass baking dish in a single layer.
Spread 1-2 tablespoons of the pesto on top of each chicken breast.
Cut the roma tomatoes into slices approx 1/2″ thick and lay 2 slices on top of each chicken breast.
Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the chicken breasts.
Bake at 400F for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is done and the juices run clear.
Serve over a bed of rice or a plate of pasta.

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The Struggle is Real.

StruggleIsRealThis week was long and short. Long because I had several late nights at the office staying for sales meetings and then short because I took Monday off to stay at home with boys. It was emotional too – opportunities are in front of me and they are scary and the pressure is on.

 

 

Meal Plan: I was good with eating for the most part this week. I won’t lie. Coffee has been a BIG part of my day at the office. For one thing, it is FREEZING and I am typically ALWAYS cold…and for another thing, I love coffee…but I’m thinking it will probably be a good idea if I work on getting it out of my system on an everyday basis and into my system on a once in awhile basis…We’ll see how that goes. Beachbody has come out with a Cafe Latte Shakeology flavor so I’m going to test it out. The good thing is that I can get a coffee flavor with out the caffeine (or at least less caffeine that a normal cup of coffee). It comes out January 11th so I’ll let you know what I think about it!

I’ve found that unless I’m at home, the family doesn’t cook SO that may change how I do the meal plans in the future. I DID use a ton of leftover veggies in a root vegetable soup and I ate off of that a lot this week so I’ll include the recipe in this week’s meal plan list. It’s tasty and both of my boys like it – plus it’s FULL of veggies.

Eating is not a struggle for me. I love to eat. I love to drink wine. I love to do both together. The struggle for me is getting up in the morning and working out (thus the zillion late night workouts!). I am NOT a morning person. Tim is a morning person. I am the night owl. I’m finding that Kellen is a morning person and Lincoln is the night owl…This week I took the kids to school late twice. Not a great impression, and sad to say, not the first time…by a long shot. I totally pulled in next to a mom in her pajama pants…I was in mine with matching boots…that’s a bit of a joke. [And when I say pajama pants, I mean the Teddy Bear pajama pants that you see in my workout videos…not stylish…So I joked to the mom next to me that it was PJ day for the adults. I went with it. I’m sure there were others making judgements in their heads…but they were late too, right? ;)]

The lateness drives Tim nuts. It drives Kellen nuts. Lincoln is fine with going back to sleep;) I’ve got to work on the balance between staying up late and getting up early. That being said it is now after midnight…so I’m going to pop off to bed…and probably enjoy a cup of coffee in a few hours when Tim gets up to take the dogs training…I’ll start working on the coffee thing on Monday…or maybe when the Shakeology arrives;)

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Change

changeChange freaks people out. Change freaks me out. Even when I’m the one invoking the change, seeing it through can be painful, frustrating, or just uncomfortable.

Tomorrow I move out of my office at work and move into another office down the hall. I’ve been told the change was coming several times over the last few years, but it never panned out…so I didn’t really think it would happen. Moving down the hall seems trivial – and in the grand scheme it totally is…but yet it totally through me for a loop – that’s me, being honest.

I’m working at not being freaked out by change – one of my aunts LOVES change. I think that’s admirable. I want to be a go with the flow person…and in most cases I can be, but there are those moments where I want to just throw a tantrum…and just shout out “I don’t want change!!”

Two of the changes I’ve been looking forward to this year are implementing more health and fitness into the life of our family. Thus far we’ve been doing good sticking to our meal plan – there are a few times we’ve strayed – but what family doesn’t from time to time? As far as fitness – I’ve been 6 days in for P90 and I’m feeling stronger and looking forward to #flexfriday;) These changes are uncomfortable at times (I enjoy my time chilling on the couch and watching TV) BUT I’ve been choosing to get up and follow-thru…No one can make me change, I have to do the work:)  Here’s to 2016 – a year of change!

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Best Year Ever.

BestYearEver

Best Year Ever.

This is the title of the sermon from church this past Sunday. I have to say it was one of the best that I’ve heard – mostly because it’s exactly what I needed to hear. Our regular pastor was out of town (he’s in Burkina) and so we were able to have a guest pastor, Rob Wilton, speak. He was pretty funny…if you were a Saints fan…and perhaps not so funny for our home team fans…considering the Saints beat the Falcons the same day that he preached…and he is the Saints chaplain. No kidding. He is also the pastor of Vintage Church in New Orleans. I was thrilled that Lincoln could meet him after service…if only so that he can see career opportunities that allow sports and faith to collide (even if he doesn’t know that’s what he’s seeing). In case you missed it – Lincoln announced that he when he retires from football with the Atlanta Falcons he will return to Auburn to coach. Needless to say, I want him to experience his passion from all sides. So today was pretty cool.

But that wasn’t why this sermon was so good. It was the message which reminded me of the reasons I’m staying up late to type this blog…staying up late to workout…and yes, even working so hard to get my family on a healthy path. I have a a vision for my family. And I’m not going to see it through by letting each day glide by haphazardly. I have to take action…

In the midst of the “Who Dey” calls <yeah, yeah, rub some salt in those wounds>, Rob shared several steps to having the BEST YEAR EVER.

These are the notes I took…now you don’t have to keep reading…you could just listen to the sermon here:)

The backdrop for the story is 1 Kings 18:20-36 – the story of Elijah and the gods of Baal.

  1. Have supreme conviction: Shows our justification.
    1. If there’s any hope of experiencing our best year ever, we must have supreme conviction. Elijah had a mission. We need to stop waiting for things to happen and start taking action. Side note: There are some things that we should be willing to go to jail for – this is an interesting thought that I’m going to elaborate on later.
  2. Have complete confidence: Shows our sanctification.
    1. Elijah vs. 450 at Mt. Carmel. Elijah had confidence in God – regardless of the odds stacked against him. Elijah was so confident he mocked the others “Cry aloud, for he is a god”. Rob made the point that this was probably not the most “Christian” way to handle things…but it is a good reminder that Elijah was a man first – and God’s grace is sufficient in our weakness.
    2. God will give us divine appointments in 2016. We need to not be guilty of “friending” people to hell. We should speak the words of Jesus. Elijah rose up and called the people to him. He repaired the altar and then turned it into a situation that was impossible for man to deal with, but completely possible for God to deal with…look at our resolutions: do we need God for them? If not, they are not from God.
  3. Have ultimate confirmation: Speaks to our glorification.
    1. When all the people saw what God did, they fell on their faces and proclaimed that God was God. Our aim should always be for people to praise God…not us.

*Pray for some Mt Carmel moments – what if God shows us that to have our best year ever, we may need to suffer <Job?!>…Tim and I have actually talked about this. Some of the things we’ve discussed would cause others to look at us like we’re crazy. However, if we were to follow-thru, it was lead us to a ridiculous amount of dependence on God…and to me, that can’t be a bad thing. This world is not our home, this life is not our own. I loved that phrase.

The 10 Action Steps Rob provided are as follows (with my own thoughts mixed in):

  1. Hear from God. Then go with it. We can’t do it alone.
  2. Prepare for Action: God empowers us, but things don’t happen through osmosis. If God told me he wanted me to be a Master Sommelier I would have to study like crazy! He wouldn’t just put the knowledge in my head.
  3.  Eliminate Distractions: Relationships (unless you’re leading them to Jesus, what is the purpose of the relationships that have people dragging you down?), cut out addictions – made me laugh – it’s kind of like with Beachbody – top performers, leaders in the company give up things that distract them from their goal – tv, movies, nights out with friends…the focus on the purpose at hand…and so should we.
  4. Rally Support: This one hit me HARD. We aren’t called to do things alone. Christians who leave the community of fellowship get hit hard…I’ve seen it over and over again. You can do what God calls you to do, or even hear his voice clearly if you are surrounded by people that can not encourage you. It breaks my heart to see friends and family that have chosen to walk away from fellowship and then can’t understand why they are so miserable. When you hang out with people who aren’t supportive it’s so difficult to actually follow-through with what God wants you to do!
  5. Pray for Faith: God gives us faith to take the next step!
  6. Take a Leap: Take Action!
  7. Resist the Enemy: When we take leaps the enemy will go after us. Blessed are those who are persecuted. I find this most evident with engagements. Anyone else find the engagement period to be extremely difficult? I chalk it up as marriages are easier to break up before they are unified.
  8. Trust the Call: When doubts come, when depression comes, when division happens…
  9. Finish strong: We can be good at starting things…we need to be good at finishing them (hello P90!)…If God gives us an assignment, we should see it through!
  10. Give Glory to God. nuff said;)

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Meal Plan: 1/3/16-1/9/16

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So for this week’s meal plan I went to Clean Eating Magazine’s website. They have some pre-planned meal plans, but regardless of the magazine or website, I can never find one that has a full week of meals I actually want to eat. So instead, I pick and choose meals I want to eat and that I think my family will enjoy. This week’s plan will have some that I know Lincoln will balk at…but I think I can win him over!

A few things to note:

I attempted Aldi. I LOVED the amount of organic products I could get and the prices I could get them at…con – I definitely got there AFTER everyone had picked through the items so there was not a ton of fresh produce available. Lesson learned. It did free up cash to purchase higher-quality items at Publix later that evening (I toyed at going to another Aldi, but since we went to the evening service I didn’t have a lot of time…so I opted for Publix instead).

Saffron – it’s expensive…I’ll let you know if I could see a difference in taste profile – I bought the strands and then used a stone grinder to grind the strands.

Some of the spices were hard to find in my Publix and at Aldi…my advice – play with what you have available. If you can find the right ones (and the price is right), grab them – if not, use what you have and see how it works!

Happy Cooking!

Lunch
Mediterranean Chicken Pitas with Roasted Red Peppers
*Update* This was SO easy to make and tasty too! I packed them for our lunches this week and Tim taste tested it, giving it 2 thumbs up:) I did by some spring mix to add to the pita to try and give a little more filling, but that’s just me.

Dinner
Three-Cheese Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Mexican Chicken Stuffed Peppers

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So good! A bit on the spicy side so I opted out on the jalepenos, but I did add in some mild chili peppers. The boys liked it…but were wary of the green bell peppers. Kellen DID like helping to stuff the peppers though! Tim thought it was delicious so we are packing up the remainders as lunches for the week!

**I had a lot of stuffing leftover from this meal because I didn’t have giant (or overstuffed) peppers – I added some Cote du Rhone wine (red) and added some veggie spaghetti and voila – another meal!**
Chicken Puttanesca