Wednesday, December 28, 2011

You Are What You Eat

Now that Christmas has passed everyone is turning their attention to New Year's resolutions. Top on many lists will be the ever popular aspiration to get more fit. Admittedly, I will be included in that group. Now that the baby is old enough to go with me to the gym I am anxious to reclaim my body...or atleast try. :)

Eating healthy, the second half of the "get more fit" equation, will also be important to those aiming to lose weight. Obviously, if you take in more calories than you can burn off there will be how shall we say it excess. And, if Big Macs are chosen over fruits and veggies, the impact on your body is certain to be more negative than positive.

We know this to be true so we make very concerted efforts to consume wisely. After all, we want to live a long, healthy life.

But food isn't the only thing we consume. I dare you to find a home that isn't consuming media and lots of it today. Cell phones. iPads. Computers. Music. Television. Etc. We use it in abundance and sadly, would be lost without it. In fact, the average student today consumes 7.5 hours of media per day and if you take multitasking into account that number jumps to 10 hours and 45 minutes.

This affects our health too. What we put in to our mind WILL BE reflected in our character. If what we put into our minds equates to a steady diet of potato chips, Coca-Cola, and double cheeseburgers, we shouldn't be surprised if our thoughts words, and actions, that come out are pure nastiness.

Shouldn't we be as concerned about our integrity as we were our figure?

Start 2012 off right with an honest look at your complete health. Assess what you are mentally digesting and make any changes necessary to preserve your character, respect your (future) spouse, and draw you nearer to the heart of God.

And guess what?

Pam and I's new book is OUT EARLY to help you make that poosible!

Although written for teens/young adults, it is a message that rings true for all of us. Containing honest questions and powerful stories about the impact of television, movies, music, gaming, pornography, sexting, facebook, twitter, cyber-bullying, etc., in a fun facebook like format, we challenge all readers to think carefully through their choices AND inspire you to use your media for good. Because you can in a powerful way. Seriously, the stories shared blew. me. away.

Just like food is going to be part of your everyday existence, media (in some form) will be too. So, while you assess your cuisine intake why not inventory your mind consumption too? It's critical to experiencing health in true fullness.

This matters.

Orders made through Pam's office will ship immediately. Make sure your home (and most importantly the teen you love) isn't without it!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Our Christmas in Pictures

This weekend was filled with family time and memory making moments.

Grace and Hannah were excited to put on their new dresses

And carry candles in church.

Ava celebrated her very first Christmas

She was at such a fun age to dress up

even at night.

As usual, we made our birthday cake for Jesus. This year Grace wanted to make cupcakes shaped into a cross.

Singing to our Savior makes the joyous event feel so real. It is a great way for both the young and old sense the most important birthday in history.

Another first for us this Christmas literally brought tears. Part of it is captured right here.

After reading Jesus' birth story verse by verse through Advent, Grace (6) read the entire story from my Bible for the first time.

And what a beautiful story it is. Immanuel - God WITH us - is here. In our highest of highs and lowest of lows we do not walk alone. Christ is present. Always.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Oh Christmas Tree

Every year in my house there is a discussion about when the Christmas tree should go up. If I had it my way it would be proudly displayed early November, but my husband has always felt strongly that we wait until the Thanksgiving meal has been eaten.

For a long time I couldn't explain why I wanted it up so early. I'd say that I found the glow of the Christmas lights relaxing and that was it...until I was writing this year and really studying the tree.

I have an incredible grandma. My love for her cannot be confined by words and every year since I was born she has gotten me a Hallmark ornament to commemorate something in my life. From my birth, to my hobbies, to my marriage, to our first home and so on, there is an ornament signifying the event on my tree. Once we started having children, she passed the tradition on to them - each getting one yearly.

When I married Charlie, a box of his ornaments made way to our first apartment. Inside were memories of his baptism, handmade gifts he'd made in Sunday School, and, since then, a Hallmark ESPN ornament that plays the theme song i.e. the "soothing sounds" that we fall asleep to each night.

Now new homemade treasures are making way to our house. Grace and Hannah have both crafted ornaments that remind me of special time shared in the school gym painting pottery, surprises made at church, and sweet gifts made at school. Even the star on top brings me back to the Menards trip where Grace was thoroughly convinced she found the "most beautiful tree topper ever." How do you say no to that?

Here's why I love the tree

This one unique decoration shares the story of our lives.

All of the ornaments represent who Charlie and I were as individuals before we met, our life as a couple, and the gift of being parents. I cherish it.

In the words of the carol "Oh Christmas tree! Oh Christmas tree! How richly God has decked thee!"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Peanut Clusters

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is making goodies with my former college roommate. Yesterday was the big day and since I haven't shared a recipe in a while I thought I'd let you in on our peanut cluster recipe because they are insanely good, embarassingly easy, and it makes a ton. Perfect for your holiday gatherings.

We tried them last year for the first time and they've definitely solidified themselves a spot in the yearly rotation.

So let's get cooking! Got your aprons on? :)

Here is what you need:
2 lbs white almond bark
1 (12oz) bag semi sweet chocolate chips
1 (12oz) bag milk chocolate chips
2 lbs salted blanched peanuts

To make:
Melt the white almond bark and chocolate chips in the microwave. Stir in the salted peanuts and spoon the desired cluster sizes on to a waxed paper sheet. Let harden.

That's it. Yield = around 150 clusters.

I've got to say, this year we were especially efficient. Check out all this candy and we had some put away with more to go!

The only problem? We only have one treat with color that we "love." We've tried other recipes but haven't found one that is a keeper. that you know our dilemma will you share your favorite "pretty" homemade candy with me? Recipes and links in the comments WELCOME. Thank you!

Saturday, December 10, 2011


US Weekly just tweeted "Unless you've been living under a rock, you've glimpsed Lindsay Lohan's leaked playboy cover." Well, I'm happy to say that I've been living under a rock. I've not viewed the cover INTENTIONALLY but I did hear about it. You'd have to be disconnected from all things media not to get word of her recent little photo shoot.

I have to admit, when I first heard the news I was shocked. Quite frankly, I still picture her as a teenager and IMDb'd her to see if she was, in fact, legally old enough for this pornographic shoot. It turns out she has grown up since Mean Girls and, according to her age, she can. Then my heart turned to a place of utter sadness. This is a young girl born into a Catholic family drowing in the sinking sand of the worldly life. Whether it be family pain, a lack of good guidance, Hollywood pressure, or, sadly, a disconnect with God that has grown over time, Lohan has found her way into treatment on multiple occasions for alcohol and drugs, struggled with bulemia, and theft.

I'm wondering if Lindsay felt alone. At one time she seemed to have it all together and now people view her as the "good girl gone bad"...and because she gives them reason. But this photography stint seems to be a effort to make a grand entrance on a sadly (large) stage and say, "Look at me. I'm pretty. I have value."

She isn't alone there. We all want that, don't we?

But the source of our worth will directly impact our lived experience.

If Lindsay thinks this is going to attract people to her it is going to be for all the wrong reasons. When I checked some tweet responses post the intro response (none of which were appropriate for post), she has been reduced to the some of her parts. Not surprising since that is what pornography does. I suspect if this cover brings her back into the movie business it will not be for wholesome parts like The Parent Trap and any guys that place her pretty little arm around theirs will already have expectations for what follows dinner. She's let them see it all. Her bare skin is burned into their brains. All that's left is the physical.

Teen girls watching this please think. When you show guys on dates, sexts (which is illegal), or otherwise the lines of your body God meant for your spouse alone, the sexual imagery will increase the desire for touch. And moms reading this, TALK TALK TALK to your teens. If ever there was a time for discussion about being a Proverbs 31 type woman who adorns herself for her husband only this is it because one of their teen idols just very publically crossed the line from scantily clad, which all girl moms have had to discuss, to completely nude. New territory. And yet not so new in the sense that 20% of teens have sent or posted nude/semi-nude pictures or videos of themselves.

Boy moms, if you think you got a free pass on this one, guess again! Guess who was posting the reply tweets? Who wants to look at these pictures? It isn't girls getting ideas about what gives them worth. No. It is the males attracted to the female design. Unfortunately, the average teen spends one hour and forty minutes looking at pornography. But, it alters brain chemistry...setting unhealthy standards of comparison for a future spouse and horribly, horribly addicting. Boys, think. One day you will show your future spouse how you value her by whether or not you have focussed on what is right and pure (Phil 4:8) to gaurd your heart and mind.

We all want to be valued. We all want to have worth. But the good news is we do. And it isn't found in a pornographic cover shoot or relationship status or the size of your pants. It is in the baby whose birth we are all anticipating this advent season. Jesus came so that we might know the abundant life. Through His teaching we are drawn into relationship with One who knew us before we were conceived (Ephesians 1:11-12), provides for our every need (Matt 6:31-33), and encourages us (2 Thes 2:16-17) in every way because we are God's treasured people.

Our bodies are temples (1 Cor 6:19) designed with intention and care. If we believe this, it will directly impact our conduct. And, the desire to live a pure lifestyle because of Whose will result in attraction to another who wants to bring the fulfillment of His best. That is a win win.

My prayers are for Lindsay. Last I checked He doesn't want even one to perish (Matt 18:14) and I trust that if she truly discovers who He is and His heart for her she can be done with all the rest...just like everyone else who has fallen and come to see His incredible love.

Pam Stenzel and I's new book "Who's In Your Social Network" is available for preorder. It is dedicated to the influence of media, its impact, and encourages positive choices that will grow Godly character. (Including a chapter on pornography alone) I pray it will be a helpful resource for your personal life...and parents, for the discussions you must be having with your teens! The fun social networking writing style with teens' true stories, comments, and questions was a hit in book one and is certain to inspire again!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gifting Our Children

This poem needs little introduction. Tucked inside Grace's bag by her incredible teacher, I knew as I read it I needed to pay the encouragement forward. We can get busy this time of year in the name of saught after gifts, but what our little ones desire most is our hearts.

Gifts Money Can't Buy

What shall we give the children,

now that the holidays are almost here?

Toys, games and playthings

as we do every year?

Yes, for the magic of toyland

is part of the Yuletide lore,

To gladden the heart of childhood;

but I shall give something more.

I shall give them more patience,

a more sympathetic ear;

A little more time for laughter;

or tenderly dry a tear.

I shall take the time to teach them

the joy of doing some task;

I will try to find time to answer

more of the questions they ask.

Time to read books together

And take long walks in the sun;

Time for a bedtime story

after the day is done.

I shall give these to my children.

Weaving a closer tie;

Knitting our lives together

With gifts money can't buy.

Reprinted from the New York Parent-Teacher

Love your little ones well, friends!

Friday, December 2, 2011

How We're Adventing

Our family has always used Advent calendars. They've come in different forms: chocolates, an adorable wooden countdown, and Monday Grace brought home the staple ring tearaway from school.

While I have always loved Advent countdowns because they help control the overwhelming excitement kids feel as Christmas approaches, this year we saught to make Advent about more than how many days are left until Christmas. This year we wanted to dig into the true spirit of Christmas and live the story so that when Christmas arrives we can celebrate the completion of a journey we've been experiencing all month long.

To do this, my husband and I used a desire we heard expressed from the kids as our springboard. Apparently last year we had candy canes on the tree. Although we didn't remember this, both of the older girls did and they wished to have them back. What kid wouldn't?! So, I went to the store and picked up candy canes, which, by the way, now come in a million different flavors. They love Smarties so I selected those and went home for a date night of sorts with my hubby.

With the kids in bed, we gathered Christmas paper and the Bible. Writing one verse from the story of Jesus' birth (Luke 2:1-20) on each piece of paper, we attached the note with ribbon and a number to each candy cane. Obviously there are more than 20 days to Advent, so the first candy cane's note explained what we were doing and that Jesus came as a baby because He loved them so much. Once all twenty verses are done, we wrote a couple discussion questions and we will end on Christmas with a note that says "Merry Christmas. Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus."

Yesterday the girls woke up SUPER EXCITED. Grace turned the calendar page and immediately broke out in "Christmas is coming. Christmas is coming. I can't wait!" Hannah joined in the excitement... and then they noticed the tree. At first they were simply excited to see the return of candy canes, especially ones that had pink in them. :) But, when we explained that there would be something special on each note the joy escalated.

Last night at supper they got to find their first candy cane. Grace, who is six, read the note and asked to read each of the Scripture verses/notes for the rest of Advent. Melt my heart. This mama finds little voices reading the Word of the Lord EXTREMELY precious. We can't wait to feel the story all month long.

We will still use the adorable wooden countdown and Grace's paper paper tear away. Reminders all over all a good thing in a house with wee ones. But, getting into the true spirit of Christmas this Advent is going to be a blessed experience. I can already sense it.

Do you do anything unique for Advent? I'd love to hear about it!
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