It’s my blogging tradition…to choose the best/most popular posts of the year and run them over the holidays while I break to spend time with my family. Except, I only blogged about 4 months of 2012, before I took a 6-month break. Not really the stuff a “Best of 2012” series is made of.
So, over the next few weeks, you’ll find a combination of “Best of” posts and guest posts from some of my favorite people.
This would be a “Best of” post.
Original run date: February 3, 2012
If you only know me from my blog, and not in real life, chances are pretty good you think I’m nothing but a hot mess. (Oh, who am I kidding? You probably think that if you know me in real life, too.)
In a virtual world where I have the power to create and present a flawless image of myself, I tend to do the opposite. I throw myself under the bus a lot—I expose my flaws and reveal my struggles for the sake of flawed and struggling women everywhere.
I, for one, can’t relate to women who project an image of perfection. I’ve lived long enough to avoid the allure of the Comparison Trap. I have no desire to perpetuate the myth of the Flawless Woman anywhere on my blog. Therefore, I have no problem with showing you the scary,imperfect parts of my being—which are many. I think vulnerability in me produces freedom in you.
So, at the risk of sounding boastful or prideful or appearing “perfect,” it is with great reservation that I make the following confession: There are three areas of life where I have achieved order and tend to maintain order—even when the rest of my world is falling apart.
1. Daily communion with God (prayer and Bible reading)
2. Healthy cooking and eating for my family of five
3. Regular exercise
Honestly, if I have those three areas under control, it is well, it is well with my soul. I can handle pretty much anything else that comes my way if I am healthy and strong—first spiritually, then physically.
(You realize, don’t you, that just as soon as I hit “publish” on this post, I am going to fail miserably at one of these areas? That’s the way it works, y’all. All the more reason I make this confession with great reservation.)
I think the main reason I have been able to maintain order spiritually and physically is because these areas are where I place my highest priority. It doesn’t make you wrong or bad if you don’t place your priorities here. You probably have prettier flowerbeds, cleaner and more beautifully decorated homes and more active social calendars than I do, all because you prioritize differently.
By prioritize, I mean, that we not only regard these things as most important, but we also give them the very best part of our day, usually before or instead of most other things. We devote a lot of time here. If we have a free moment, we tend to gravitate here. We may not even do it consciously—but with every little decision throughout every day, we prioritize.
I am intentional about my priorities. I plan how I will incorporate them into my day. As seasons and circumstances change (pregnancies, new babies, illnesses, job changes, relocations, school and activity schedules), I think, “When will I pray? When will I exercise? What will I eat/feed the family?”
Yes, I actually consciously think that. And I keep trying and tweaking, until I find a way to fit it all back in.
That’s the main reason transitions are such a challenge for me. It takes me a while to get my groove back. But once I do, I’m good.
Behind every priority is an underlying philosophy where the priority originated. We all have underlying philosophies, whether we realize it or not. I happen to have firm, underlying philosophies about most things, but primarily about my responsibilities as a Christian wife and mother.
These philosophies steer me toward my priorities when life gets full and I’m tempted to neglect them or forsake them. These philosophies help me sort through the hundreds of things pulling for my time and attention every single day. These philosophies help me see the big picture.
So, today, I wanted to share with you a bit about the philosophies behind Priority Number 2: Healthy Cooking and Eating for My Family of Five
In my home, I am the one responsible for all-things-food. I decide what my family will eat, every single day. I plan all the meals. I grocery shop. I organize the food once it is in our home. And then, I prepare and serve the food.
I love this part of my job.
I sincerely consider it an honor to nourish my family physically. I’m so thankful my husband entrusts this area to me, solely. So, the primary component of my cooking philosophy is that I see it as a privilege, as opposed to a duty or a drudgery.
When it comes to my kids and food, I try to proceed with the end in mind—I try to envision my children grown and gone. What do I want to pack into their bags before they leave our nest?
Of course, I want them to be healthy, first and foremost. But I also want my children to have a healthy relationship with food. I want them to view food, not only as necessary fuel for their bodies, but also as a gift from God. God could have chosen to nourish our bodies in any other boring or scientific way; but, instead, He chose to bless us with colorful, fragrant, and delicious food. What a gift!
And like any gift from God, people often abuse, misuse or misunderstand it. Satan can (and will!) destroy people using food. I know a lot people who struggle with food on some level. You probably do, too—those who see food as bondage, who eat too little or too much, who eat nothing but processed, packaged, sugar-laden junk, so that they wouldn’t know a fresh vegetable if it jumped up and bit them in the face (actually, if your vegetable is biting you, it’s probably not a vegetable, after all). I don’t want that for my kids. Not now. Not ever.
Therefore, I make it a high priority to train my children to make healthy choices for themselves. They need this information now, even as students. Because sometimes they stand in the school cafeteria line and need to make a choice. Sometimes they are eating at a friend’s home and need to make a choice. If I don’t educate them for these times, who will?
Someday, they will no longer come to me to ask what’s for dinner. They will do their own planning, shopping and cooking—probably for their own families. When that day comes, I want them to be fully equipped to make great choices.
What does that look like?
1. I talk a lot about what we are eating, what we are NOT eating, and why. That means, I flip over every package and read it out loud (many times with little eyes rolling behind my back as I read). I explain why it is acceptable or not acceptable for human consumption.
2. I cook at home most nights with fresh, natural ingredients, even though it would be way more convenient to run through a drive-thru or open up a can of something.
3. I often invite my kids into the kitchen to help me, even though it would be less stressful and much faster to do it myself.
4. I sometimes prepare food in the morning—especially for soup or a crock pot meal. But If I am cooking between the hours of 4 and 6 pm (when every kid on the planet is cranky), I make meal prep time as pleasant as possible. I usually turn on music and light a candle. I will sometimes pour myself a glass of wine or a cup of hot tea. (For me. I meant I make it pleasant for ME.)
If the kids are not helping, they are often sitting around the counter doing homework or coloring or just talking to me about their day. Sometimes they are playing in another room or outside. But if they are near me in the kitchen, it’s a very special time and I take full advantage of it.
With them nearby, I can teach them all kinds of things about food, and they don’t even realize it. As the aroma of dinner fills the house, I will stoke their anticipation with questions like, “Mmmmm…Do you smell that??? It’s basil, and it tastes soooo good in this sauce. Wow, look at how pretty this salad is with all the colors! What color is missing? What could we add? Do you know how to tell when this should come out of the oven? It will turn brown and the sides will bubble. Do you know why I added the egg to this? It helps hold it together…”
Since my kids will have to eat several times a day for the rest of their lives (!), I want to instill in them a love for cooking and an appreciation for the process. You just can’t teach that in a fast-food drive-thru.
5. We eat together, sitting at the table without the distraction of electronics, almost every night. I know the day will come when this just won’t be possible…so I make it a priority today.
6. With three kids (middle school, elementary school and preschool) and a husband who works a full-time-plus job, I could not accomplish any of this if I did not plan ahead. Therefore, meal planning is high-priority to me. This isn’t a complicated process. It takes me maybe 5-10 minutes to plan my meals for the entire week, and another 5 minutes to make my grocery list from this meal plan.
Basically, I cook at home about four nights a week, depending on what is happening in our lives.
One of those four home-cooked meals usually involves chicken,
one involves pasta (easy with fresh salad and bread!)
and one involves soup (unless it’s hot outside).
One night we do fish or maybe Mexican.
One night, we do pizza.
One night, we eat out.
One night, we eat left-overs.
I serve fresh fruits and veggies as sides, most nights. I make homemade bread once or twice a week (super easy with this recipe I recently discovered). Smoothies are this Momma’s best friend, especially on pizza night or when we are all headed back out the door for an activity.
7. I don’t fuss over breakfast and lunch, but instead keep my kitchen stocked with super-easy options like cereal, oatmeal, eggs, soups (homemade or canned) and turkey, cheese and bread for sandwiches—and of course, more fresh (and frozen!) fruit and veggies.
This isn’t all sunshine and roses. My children are just like yours—they would choose candy over carrots and French fries over fresh fruit, a! ny! day! of! the! week! Sometimes they complain. Sometimes they refuse to try something I’ve made. Sometimes I get tired of cooking and chuck my meal plan for the night and make boxed mac and cheese.
Not often, but it happens.
But, I know my hard work and diligence is paying off when my 12-year-old daughter chooses to stand by my side for hours, because she wants to learn how to prepare Thanksgiving dinner.
Or when my 5-year-old refuses a Tootsie Roll from her preschool teacher because she’d rather have one of Mom’s homemade treats later.(she’s learned she can have no more than one treat per day).
Or, when, just last night, my 10-year-old son walks into the kitchen, closes his eyes, breathes in deeply and says, “Mom…I love when you cook dinner. You cook such good food.”
And especially when we drive past Mc Donald’s and I hear a kid in the back seat declare, “That’s not food—it’s poison.”
Yep. Makes it aallllllll worth it.