Paleo Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

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photo (13)I’m not going to bore you with a lengthy explanation of why I decided to concoct this deliciousness. Here is the short and sweet of it:

1. I love everything fall

2. I miss the ability to consume and properly digest pumpkin beer, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, etc.

3. I had a sweet tooth and an unmistakable craving for pumpkin

But in all reality, who really needs a reason other than the simple desire to enjoy a guilt free dessert!

Oh by the way, I am horrible at giving exact measurements. I rarely use measuring spoons or cups, and I will not pretend to do so. If you don’t understand my recipe come over to my house and I will personally teach you my recipe using the same methods my mother used to teach me (thanks mom!).

Ingredients:

4 heaping soup spoons of pumpkin puree

1/2 container of vanilla almond milk yogurt

3 second pour of almond milk (or enough to make your smoothie drinkable)

3 circular pours of maple syrup (more or less for desired sweetness)

2-3 shakes pumpkin pie spice (I have my own secret recipe or you can use store brand)

handful of ice cubes

Throw all the ingredients into the blender with extra gusto and joy, because you are about to experience pumpkin bliss, and blend until smooth. Pour into your favorite glass and enjoy!

Next time I might try adding a shot of espresso or Kahlua, or both! Or maybe some spiced rum! But those options are not exactly Paleo friendly and this smoothie is delicious without it!

Infertility, Birth Control, and The Mirror of Erised

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When people find out Dean and I are having trouble getting pregnant I can almost guarantee that “let it go and it will happen”, “give it up to God”, and “just stop trying and I bet you’ll get pregnant” will make its way into conversation. But there is something about “letting go” that is hard to understand. I can’t begin to explain to you the heartbreak or the fear I have experienced over these past five years. It is something you can’t truly understand unless you experience it yourself, and if you haven’t experienced it, I pray you don’t have to. But letting go of ALL of these hurts, fears, and desires seems impossible. It’s funny, a lot of women who have struggled with infertility have told me “it’s when I was finally able to give it up to God that my miracle happened.” These woman say “it” as if it was one single item. They make it seem so easy.

Well, let me tell you what, I really thought I had given “it” up, let “it” go, and stopped trying to make “it” happen. I did all these things more times than I could count. If I had a baby for every time I gave “it” over to God, I would have more children than the Duggar family in a maze of mirrors.

But the reality of “it” is, “it” isn’t a once and done situation. Giving “it” over to God is a daily and sometimes hourly practice, and “it” manifests itself in so many areas of my life, that I am constantly finding other areas where I need to give “it” over. And, to be completely honest, I hate it when people say “give it up to God and it will happen.” Because then I focus on giving it up, so that I can have it. Which really isn’t giving it up at all, it is just me trying to manipulate God into giving me what I want (as if I could actually manipulate God). So how the hell do I genuinely release my desire for motherhood to God without a hidden agenda to gain what I desire, and in every hidden area of my life? How do I really let it go?

You see, I’ve lived my whole life thinking that someday I would be a mom. When I was six, my cousin and I would stand at the top of her driveway with our cabbage patch kids safely stowed in their strollers. We would pretend to be engrossed in conversation while our babies rolled away down the driveway. When the strollers hit the halfway mark between the driveway and the street we would abruptly stop our conversation, yell “MY BABY!!!” in unison, and chase the speeding strollers down the driveway. We would adjust our running speed as needed to ensure that we always grabbed the strollers right before they reached the street. We then promptly removed our dolls from their death wagons and soothed their fears with hugs and kisses.

But, it wasn’t just during play time that I would think about being a mom. When I was being punished I would often think, “I’m never going to do this to my kids!” When I saw fun activities or crafts I would tuck them away in the “for later” box of my brain so when I had kids we could do the activities together. At bedtime I used to tuck my baby doll safely in her sleeping basket so I didn’t crush her when I slept. You see, the thought of eventually being a mom was never a conscious decision for me, because there was never a question. I would be a mom someday.

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So in high school, when my GYN suggested I go on birth control to help with cramps, irregularity, cysts, etc. I refused. I didn’t want anything to get in the way of eventual motherhood. Birth control seemed too risky: messing with my hormones and my reproductive system. What if something went terribly wrong and I became infertile? (Apparently, I didn’t need anything but my own body to mess up my hormones and make me infertile – funny how that happens isn’t it?)

Then Dean and I got married and as a couple we decided we wanted to be open to what God had planned for us in the kid department. I thought “being open to God’s plan for children” meant we would have a large family right away. The absence of children did not even strike me as an option. So again, when urged by my GP and new GYN to go on birth control to help with my severe PMS, chronic nausea, etc. in addition to my already very present horrible periods, I declined.

When Dean and I started fertility treatments four years later, the testing concluded that I had PCOS. Our doctor told us the only things that seem to help regulate PCOS are pregnancy and birth control, which is just cruel. PCOS makes it very hard to get pregnant, hence why we were at the fertility clinic in the first place. So my only options to help regulate my female agony was to miraculously get pregnant or to cut out all chances of getting pregnant. Dean and I were at the fertility clinic because we wanted to get pregnant, so once again I had declined to go on birth control and instead tried two very tiresome rounds of timed cycle intercourse, clomid, trigger shots, and progesterone.

Now, one year later I am once again faced with a decision. It has now been recommended to me by three separate doctors in the span of four months to try birth control to help with my anxiety issues in addition to my “female agony” issues. Do I take the pill and possibly find relief from these wacked out hormones of mine but know for certain I won’t be pregnant? Or do I continue facing each month with fear, cramps, anxiety, painful cysts, etc. but with the added hope that maybe, just maybe it will be this month that I finally get my miracle? I struggled with this question for weeks. I racked my brain and followed each scenario down countless rabbit trails that led me nowhere. I made arguments for using birth control as a way to feel in control of my situation and thus not giving control up to God. I made arguments that not going on birth control was a way for me to hold onto my desire to be a mother even tighter and thus not giving it up to God. I could make every choice seem wrong. I could make every choice seem right. What was I supposed to do? The “it” (desire to be a mother) was linked into this problem in so many ways. How could I release it all to God? I had to make a decision, because not making a decision was actually making a decision to not go on birth control. Do you see how exhausting living in my brain is?! Then God spoke to me in a way that was clear, a way that I could easily understand his will…through Harry Freakin’ Potter.

(If this doesn’t tell you that my God is a personal God, I don’t know what will.)

If you’re not a fan of Harry Potter, bear with me, I promise it will all come together in the end if you watch this little clip. If you are a fan of the scraggly hair, bespectacled wizard, sit back and enjoy this little clip.

I was mowing the lawn yesterday and listening to the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone audiobook, as I often do when I have an unpleasant task to complete, and I had an epiphany. I had just listened to the portion of the book that corresponds to the movie clip I posted above: The Mirror of Erised. When Harry looked into the mirror he saw himself surrounded by his family. When Ron looked into the mirror he saw himself as head boy, quidditch captain, and holding the house cup. In the book, Dumbledore somewhat jokingly, reveals that he sees himself holding a pair of red wool socks. “It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest and most desperate desires of our heart.”

What would I see if I looked into the mirror of Erised? What is the deepest and most desperate desire of my heart? As you may imagine, my reflection would look similar to Harry’s, except instead of being surrounded by my parents, Dean and I would be surrounded by our children.

Then Dumbledore explained something to Harry, “This mirror gives us neither knowledge nor truth. Men have wasted away in front of it, even gone mad…It does not do to dwell on dreams Harry, and forget to live.” My imaginative game of “what would I see” revealed a profound truth about my journey as a Christian.  I thought I had given it all up to God, but God keeps showing me things that I am still holding on to. Things that keep me from holding onto Him. Things that keep me from living.

Oh, how I have wasted time imagining my life as a mother. Oh, how I have gone mad trying to control my body and make my dream come to fruition. Oh how I have suffered month after month with ruptured cysts, chronic nausea, mood swings, etc. because I wanted to be able to dream about my future family. I wanted to spend time hoping. I wanted to think of baby names. I have gained neither knowledge nor truth from my dreams of motherhood. It’s not bad for me to desire motherhood, just as it wasn’t bad for Harry to desire his family around him. But it became an issue when Harry started spending his nights in front of the mirror instead of getting some much needed sleep. The same goes for me, I have spent too much time making decisions based on what I wanted instead of what I needed. And right now my body needs rest.

In the past several months God has been calling me to rest. He has gone ahead of me and worked out the details. I am now a full time housewife. Don’t get me wrong, I do a lot of work, but it’s flexible and forgiving. I keep thinking of Psalm 23: 2 “He MAKES me lie down in green pastures.”

The key word here is “make”, not “suggest”, but “make”. God is taking away everything that is separating me from Him. He is removing everything from my life that is preventing me from resting in Him. If I submit, Psalm 23 goes on to say “He restores my soul.” He will restore my soul. Which brings me once again back to Harry Potter…(I know, how is this possible?)

Dumbledore moved the mirror of Erised so Harry could spend his nights sleeping and his days living, instead of daydreaming about when he could see his family in the mirror. With the introduction of birth control I will be allowing my body to rest from the symptoms of my hormonal imbalances, as well as allowing my mind to focus on what God has called me to right now, instead of daydreaming about my future family.

But the mirror makes an appearance again, and this time when Harry sets his gaze on the mirror he doesn’t see his family. In the presence of Voldemort (pure evil), Harry looks into the mirror and witnesses himself receiving the sorcerer’s stone (a stone that provides eternal life). As Harry’s reflection places the stone in his pocket, real life Harry feels the stone drop into his pocket. Harry is in possession of eternal life. It is then that Voldemort tempts Harry.

How fitting? Harry is forced to make a decision between his new desire to possess the stone and his old desire of having his parents. I find myself in the same place. What desire will I live into, doing whatever it takes to become a mom or doing whatever it takes to hold onto Jesus, my source of eternal life?

In my darkest times I turn to Jesus, when faced with depression or anxiety all I want is Jesus. But I want to look into the Mirror of Erised and see myself in Jesus’ embrace no matter what my circumstances are. I want to make my decisions based on Christ’s will for my life. And for now, that means going on birth control. It means accepting the rest that Christ is offering me. It means making a decision without fear of loss, because with Christ I have all I need. He restores my soul.

1 Peter 1:9 (MSG) “Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.”

Cooked Celery, Dinner Torture, and Spiritual Tantrums

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I sat there cringing and gagging back vomit. “I’m going to throw up! It’s making me throw up!” My mother didn’t respond. She sat across the table, silently watching, as she tortured me with chicken casserole. It was the cooked celery. Something about cooked celery triggered a gag reflex in me that I couldn’t get past. And the celery was chopped small and hidden in every mouthful. I couldn’t eat any more of the chicken casserole for fear of biting into a torturous tidbit of celery, which would surely result in the regurgitation of all the casserole I had already managed to gag down. I hated every moment of it going down, I would do everything in my power to prevent that cooked celery from haunting my taste buds by coming back up again, and that meant the refusal to accept her demands to “eat three more bites.” I cried, I reasoned, I raged, but she just sat there silently watching me and waiting for me to obey.

My brother, Tommy, sat next to me. He was in the same torturous situation, only worse – he had five bites left. I naively thought that Tommy’s presence would distract from mine. I thought that I could pretend to eat some casserole while she was watching him. So while her eyes drifted to Tommy’s place at the table, I scooped up imaginary casserole onto my fork and with a dramatic whimper to sell my lie, I shoved the fork into my mouth and began to fake chew. I’m not sure how she knew I was faking, maybe I puffed my cheeks out too much or I didn’t gag enough as the imaginary casserole went down, but she knew right away. My attempt had only managed to land me with an additional bite of casserole. If I lied again I would get two more bites, six total bites. My next move was the silent stare down. I would sit at the table and silently stare off into space until my mom broke down and removed my sentence. And after 30 minutes, my mom told me to go get ready for bed. I had won!

The next morning I ran downstairs to breakfast; I was starving. But when I reached my spot at the table, it wasn’t a bowl of Cheerios that welcomed me, but my four bites of casserole leftover from the night before. The unfairness of the situation consumed me and I crumpled to the floor in tears. I eventually did eat all four bites of casserole and I never let my food torture carry over into breakfast ever again. But I learned a lesson far more valuable than the importance of eating a healthy, balanced meal: Tantrums do not get you what you want.

It’s amazing that over twenty years later I am relearning this lesson. I am throwing a spiritual tantrum. My situation is different: It is not a matter of food, but it is still a matter of need vs. want. The authority figure is no longer my mom, but God.

I know my situation will satisfy my hunger, help me grow strong, and build the endurance necessary to successfully endure a similar situation later in life. But I just can’t get past the fact that my plate holds something on it that I don’t like. The chicken casserole wasn’t all bad, in fact, if my mom made it exactly the same but without the celery, I would have loved it. But the celery was there, chopped small to ensure that I couldn’t eat around it. I had to eat the gross as well as the good. That’s where I am now. I love that I can be a full-time housewife, I love my husband and all his support, I love my house, I love that I have time to work on my recovery, and I love that my schedule is flexible so I can meet with people one on one during the day. But this lifestyle is accompanied with some less than desireable traits as well. I’m not a mother yet, I am still crippled with anxiety, and I have lost all sense of my identity.

I would love to omit the parts of my life that I don’t like, but just as the celery is necessary for a balanced dish, these undesirable traits are necessary for a balanced life. It is during my anxiety attacks that I understand how much my husband loves me. It was my emotional breakdown and the need for a simplier lifestyle that gave me the courage to follow God’s call for me to be a housewife. It was the resignation from my job at church that gave me the flexible hours to meet with others one on one. But here is where I get stuck. Even though I know the benefits of accepting the life I was given, I can’t get past the fact that I don’t like it all. I can’t get past that yucky taste.

I do see progress though. Instead of trying to dodge my problem areas with denial, I am trying to learn acceptance. Unfortunately, my acceptance looks a lot like this girl trying to finish her green beans. 

I am trying, but I am letting God know how much I dislike it. But just like the mom in the video pouring out joyful encouragement, God is doing the same for me. My cries and anger don’t change His mind, but my willingness to try delights Him. I’m going to keep pushing on with the hopes that just as I learned to stomach cooked celery, I will learn to accept the things I cannot change and trust that God knows what will make me stronger.