Thinking Out Loud

Simplify in 2012

A simple life has a different meaning and a different value for every person. For me, it means eliminating all but the essential, eschewing chaos for peace, and spending your time doing what’s important to you.

It means getting rid of many of the things you do so you can spend time with people you love and do the things you love. It means getting rid of the clutter so you are left with only that which gives you value.

Want some practical tips?

Read Simple Living Manifesto: 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life and think about how you can simplify your life in 2012.

Have any of you already decided to make some changes? What ways are you simplifying your life?


You’re not the only one.

Car wreck 11.11.11

Sometimes life throws you a curveball.

Lots of my friends went out Black Friday shopping. Some for the thrill of shopping and having an adventure with friends and family. Others because they wanted to save big money on a certain item.

I stayed home. I don’t have my gift list made yet and no matter how big the sale is, I don’t have any extra money set aside for purchases right now.

You’re not the only one.

Today is Cyber Monday and again lots of people are shopping and saving money on the perfect gift for people they love. Shopping online is much more my style and my inbox is full of great offers, but as I skimmed them, I started to feel frustrated because I can’t start shopping yet. So I started just deleting all of them. I’m not going to beat myself up about not having money set aside for Christmas right now. Don’t beat yourself up either. Delete those emails.

You’re not alone.

Christmas is a wonderful time to reflect on the greatest gift we were even given through the birth of Jesus Christ, but sometimes it’s hard to keep the focus on that when stores, commercials, and emails keep reminding us of how many shopping days are left until Christmas and how wonderful their sales are.

Christmas isn’t an easy time of year for everyone.

Sometimes the materialism of this world can make you feel poor, really poor.

You’re not the only one.

Sometimes the idealized Christmas family gatherings can make people wonder why things are so hard in their own family. They grieve for what they don’t have and struggle with what to do with what they do have. They know they can never please some people. They’re tired of being hurt.

You’re not the only one.

Some people battle depression, pain, and fatigue, or other illnesses that people can’t see or understand. The stress of the holidays can make those things worse. People may call you selfish for trying to protect yourself from making things worse.

You’re not the only one.

Personally, I think back to how Mary & Joseph couldn’t even find a room at the inn. They were turned away when Mary was surely uncomfortable and nervous about delivering a baby. They knew He was going to be the Messiah, but others thought they were crazy. They did the best they could and our sweet Jesus came into the world very humbly.

Feeling humbled by your circumstances?

You’re not the only one.

I like what Paul had to say in Phillipians 4. A lot of us have probably memorized various verses from that chapter: the one about how he’s learned how to be content whether he was in want or had plenty, or about how he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him. I like those too.

But here’s a little more to the story, with those verses in context.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Phillipians 4:12-14

Notice how Paul says, “Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.” The same Paul who said that he could do all things through Christ who gave him strength and the same Paul who said he could be content in any situation, was thankful for others who shared in his troubles and encouraged him. We all need people to share in our troubles and encourage us.

You’re not the only one.

People in the Bible didn’t mince words. They didn’t fake being okay when they weren’t. They didn’t try to act like being spiritual somehow protected them from life’s troubles. And they didn’t keep things all bottled up inside because they were worried how their struggles would reflect poorly on their walk with Christ. They knew that Christ walked a difficult road and that difficulties come along when you are truly walking with Him. No one is exempt from troubles in this life, not even during the holidays.

I know it can be hard to find people who love you unconditionally and will encourage you instead of judging you or trying to “fix” you

You’re not the only one.

I just want to encourage you to keep trying. Sometimes the people you want to be there for you the most simply aren’t capable of being what you need. It stinks, I know, but we live in a fallen world.

You’re not the only one.

Just keep looking for God’s grace amidst it all. He created you and loves you exactly the imperfect way that you are. He is truly the One who will never leave you nor forsake you. You don’t have to earn his approval or love. His grace is a free gift – one that none of us deserve (not even the holier-than-thou ones), but you simply have to embrace it.

I know it’s hard to understand. A lot of God’s ways don’t make sense in our world. But I know what that grace means to me, and I hope you do too.

Need help finding peace in the midst of the Christmas chaos?

You’re not the only one.

I’d love to hear how you take care of yourself throughout the holidays. Do you just give yourself permission NOT to send Christmas cards? Do you focus on charities? Do you let everyone know ahead of time that you’ll be staying home for the holidays? Do you have some type of Christmas tradition that you deliberately put on the calendar so that it happens? What do you do? I’d really like to know.

Send me an email or share in the comments box.

Not So Sweet Anymore

I’ve known for a long time that too much sugar wasn’t good for you. My parents didn’t forbid it in our home or anything. We just weren’t big dessert people. Dessert was for special occasions, but there was usually plenty of fresh fruit around. My parents were smart like that.

Graduation with Mom & Dad

Graduation night, 1988

Here I am at my high school graduation with them. I probably weighed in at a whopping 110 lbs. I thought I was just naturally skinny, that I was simply “blessed” with the kind of metabolism that would let me eat whatever I wanted without gaining weight.

“Hello, 1988? This is 2011 calling, you’re going to want to enjoy wearing small sized clothes and having lots of energy and thinking you can tackle the world, it won’t last forever.”

For whatever reason, as I had each boy, I would gain a lot of weight and never be able to lose all of it. I was puzzled because staying healthy had never been an issue for me. And then things just kept getting worse in the past year. I just kept gaining and gaining. I felt really out of control.

This summer I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which helped explain why it was so difficult for me to lose weight. I was actually insulin-resistant so it made my body store my glucose as fat, rather than using it for other functions. Aha! That’s why I didn’t have any energy and just kept getting fluffier.

But what’s a girl to do?

Desperate times call for desperate measures!

I had thought of cutting out sugar before. I had read the books and information online. I knew that I was a carbohydrate addict. But I wasn’t sure if I could really stay away from sugar. I remembered that a friend had told me years ago that she stopped drinking sodas because they only made her crave them more, so that’s where I started – cutting out the sodas. When I got tired of just drinking water, I would make lemonade sweetened with a little bit of honey. And while not every no sugar/low sugar diet plan would agree with this, I pretty much ate a lot of fruit. Mainly apples. That was my way of having a naturally sweet treat without getting into processed sugar.

After a while, my taste buds began to adjust and I didn’t find myself craving sweets as much. I also started trying to read labels on everything and trying to keep my carb count for the day under 36g. It’s not easy, and sometimes I fail, but I just keep my eye on how much BETTER I’m doing with my eating, rather than beating myself up for giving in on occasion.

If you’re trying to cut out sugar, here’s a great article by the Healthy Home Ecomonist called  Slay the Sugar Monster in Four Doable Steps. 

I will say that I also started taking a cinnamon supplement to try and help my body metabolize sugar better, I’m taking a lot of coconut oil to try and help fight off cravings, and I try to focus on eating lots of protein throughout the day. I really do believe that if you can have healthy options that you ENJOY available as you’re weaning yourself off of refined sugars, it helps.

I’ve been happy to see the numbers on the scale going down slowly, but surely. I’m hoping that as I eat more healthy, the Carter men will get on board. So far they still enjoy teasing me about what I’m eating, but maybe after a while I’ll win them over. I know it took the fear of becoming diabetic to make me willing to make the change. And don’t worry that I’m going to cast a judgmental glance at you if you’re enjoying a yummy brownie, a gorgeous slice of cheesecake, or quick candy bar. I know how good they taste and how hard it is to steer clear of them, especially if it’s a comfort food for you. Trying to stay away from sugar makes me more understanding of how people have such a hard time giving up smoking. Even when you know something isn’t healthy, it’s hard to give it up when you like the way it makes you feel. I just thought I’d share how I’ve made some gradual steps in the less sugar direction in case anyone is just overwhelmed with the idea of totally giving up sweets.

I’m not sure how I’m going to make it through Thanksgiving without eating a slice of pumpkin pie. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I’m going to give in on that one, but I’ll try not to let the Sugar Monster get me back into my old habits.

How about you? Have been making any dietary changes? What are your favorite sweet treats that don’t involve refined sugar?

Seasons Change

Years ago, when we hadn’t lived on the farm very long, we’d go for walks down to the creek quite often. Just to see how high or low the water was, skip some stones, and check out the changing scenery.

My boys - 2006

Walking to the Creek – 2006

On one of those walks, I snapped a picture of the boys walking in front of us. I have always loved that picture. Or maybe it’s more correct to say “that moment”.  I’ve had the idea over the years to try and recreate that picture again with the boys as they are getting older.

Jon was probably 5 in this picture and I loved how his big brothers kept him in the middle so one of them could keep him away from the creek, and the other could help get him out of the road in case a car was coming. It wasn’t intentional. We didn’t tell them to do it, it was just natural to them.

So yesterday the weather was pretty and we decided to try and take a few pictures. As the boys are getting older, it’s harder to find times when we’re all home together. The funny thing is that even though I had a memory of the 2006 photo in my head, once we got down to the creek, I couldn’t remember the details of how they were standing, what spot in the road we were at, etc…

My boys

Walking to the Creek 2011

We didn’t get the details right, but yet this picture speaks to me as much as the other. The boys are all 5 years older now and are walking confidently. Really instead of seeing boys, now I’m seeing “young men”. No need to protect that youngest brother, instead he’s actually in front with all of his energy now. But yet they’re all still close by if one needs help. There is so much strength in these sons of ours.

Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate. Psalms 127: 3-5

Looking back, we took the 2006 picture just as it was starting to get dark. And, as my oldest son tried to tell me yesterday, they were actually walking towards home. In the 2011 picture, it’s mid-afternoon on a beautiful sunny fall afternoon with the leaves signaling the change of seasons, and the boys are walking away from the house this time.

I didn’t remember all of those splotches on the 2006 picture or all of the details of it, but as I compare the two pictures, I’m reminded that seasons change and that those changes have a beauty of their own.


I saw this graphic making the rounds on Facebook and thought I’d share it with you all.