5 Ways to Simplify Healthy Living

brooke-lark-391764Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Five ways to simplify healthy living for your family.

1.  I used to spend hours on Pinterest, cookbooks, and blogs searching for creative, affordable, healthy and exotic recipes for our weekly menu. I started the week inspired, but by Thursday it was macaroni and cheese out of the box! As the babies multiplied, the perfect menu became impossible to sustain. I made an attempt at nutrition with kid-friendly veggies, but our diet revolved mainly around carbs and starch. When one of our teens was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, we radically changed our lifestyle. Eliminating most grains and sugar has helped us gain control. Now, we spend the bulk of our money on quality meats, fruits and veggies, and non-grain flours. We sweeten with honey 🍯. Our weekly menu is no longer a Pinterest board; but I have learned how to prepare in advance and rotate meats, healthy carbs, and spices in a way that simplifies meal planning, shopping, and preparation. We eat chicken, ground beef, and for a treat, lamb from a local farm. Natural doesn’t have to try so hard. 

2. Fitness is not a personal choice. With six children, I simply cannot bring each one to individual sports and activities. When considering an activity, the first question I ask is: “Will this work for the family?” If more than one person can participate, it works 👍 For instance, we found a gymnastics club where kids of all ages can be coached at multiple times and days of the week. Then I joined the gym where my three older children can workout with me for free. We have said “no” to school sports and found this has simplified our lives greatly. Our goal is strength, fitness, and developing an appreciation for sport while not centering life around it. My favorite life-giving activity is taking a family walk together!

3. Water. We don’t buy juice, soda, I don’t make kombucha (I have enough ‘children’ as it is! lol) or green tea. No one misses it. We drink water, Rooibos tea, and coffee. In the summer I treat the kids to Heart & Hydration, which is 3x as hydrating as water.

4. Supplementation and Essential Oils can be a vast and complex system of its own. I have a SHORT list of what our family uses. The kids take one supplement, and I have six essential oils I use in a variety of ways: Lavender, Tea Tree, Lemon, Peppermint, Frankincense, and TruDefense.

5. Forget Balance and Find Rhythm. I find that creating rhythm in each day, week, month, and season is natural and sustainable. Maybe I’ve been successful here and there in balancing it all- but truly, I find that one pruning one branch at a time heals, connects, and nourishes more than mowing over everything with a lawnmower. One area of life often needs more attention than the other. In the spring we want to exercise, be outside, and enjoy strawberries. In the fall, we settle in with root vegetables and books.

I hope this is helpful! Leave a comment with your own tips of simplifying healthy living.

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Eden Joy

As we prayed and considered Eden’s name, this is the verse God brought us to. We feel she is a restorer, and have prayed for a great capacity for joy in her life! She is already bringing this into our family. It is a novelty to be closer to the other end of the age spectrum now, with older children to help out and enjoy a new baby in our midst.

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Photo Credit: Gert Roets, Upper Mustang, Nepal

These photos capture a glimpse of the first serene moments when the kids woke up to a new baby in the family. My heartfelt thanks to Anne Evans Marais who used her skill and gift to bless us.

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How Do You Find Joy in the Waiting?

My due date came and went. Christmas Eve came and went. Christmas Day is passing by in the Southern Hemisphere. I dreamt last night of the birth of our baby. I am ready.

We are waiting for fulfilment of of God’s promises in our lives. We are living in his fulness, but still not satisfied. He’s promised us so much more. We are still in a season of living in tents, much like Abraham and his family did. Seeing the land from a distance, pursuing it, practicing abiding in his presence, being content walking with the Holy One, trusting him, dealing with our humanity when discouragement or doubt comes.

He’s tested our calling. He’s reminded me how his purpose is to transform us from the inside out. I recall the miraculous sale of our house in Missouri, just two weeks before we moved to Washington State and then on to South Africa. It was past the due date.

I am finding joy in the waiting. We have a house, but something is stopping its release to us. Its past its due date. We have an exciting possibility for a new ministry on the horizon, but can’t apprehend the reality of it yet. We are prepared to cross the Jordan River in our lives. We have consecrated ourselves to the Lord as a family.

Just as this baby’s due date has come and gone without fulfilment, the time will certainly come. God does not bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery. This new life will come, we will see the material manifestation of God’s provision for a home, and we will walk in the complete fulness of his release in our calling, giftings, and destiny. As Gert shared in our newsletter, God will confirm his word and his promises and our response is “let it be as your word says.”

How do you find joy in waiting? It can be a difficult, heart-wrenching time when we are vulnerable to take things into our own hands much like Abraham did with Hagar. What is the secret? For me it is to take one day at a time. God gives us enough sustenance to sustain us daily. Not enough for tomorrow, but enough for today.

Last night we had a precious Christmas Eve service with our family, at home. My oldest daughters planned it. With memories of last year’s 95 degree candlelight service crammed in a stuffy, crowded church with no air-conditioning still sharp in our minds, our sweat dripping just like the wax on the candles we held, the cool, peaceful family atmosphere at home was all the better. I often wonder how deep my children’s understanding of Christ is, as they live immersed in church, missions, ministry, and Christianity. Bedtime prayers and blessings at the table sometimes sound rehearsed and automatic. Last night I heard the most poignant, heartfelt prayer from my oldest daughter as she thanked God for sending his Son to us. A desire of mine to see my family playing music together showed its first fruit as Gert, Chloe, and Hope led the Christmas Carols with their instruments and voices.

We laughed yesterday as what was supposed to be a free outing to view a Lego display would cost us R800 ($80). We agreed to skip it and walked through a market with free food samples instead, enjoying the beautiful city of Cape Town we are blessed to live in.

After 18 months of living here we finally saw Cape Town from the vantage point of Table Mountain. Our dear friends Susie and Hans unexpectedly blessed us with this gift. In missions, the hardest thing is sometimes to say no to our kids. No, we can’t do this, or no we can’t do that because our budget doesn’t allow it. Even harder when we live in place like Cape Town, with endless sights and activities. Its a lot easier to have a low profile when you live in the sticks.

There is no chance to work an extra shift for overtime pay and no leftover at the end of the month, ever. But then the blessing of the Lord flows in, unexpectedly. And we can say, “Look how God has blessed our family! Wasn’t it worth the wait? Isn’t he good to us, to allow us to experience this incredible gift?”

I found joy in our church’s Sunday morning Christmas service. After laughing at the total blackout in the sanctuary and realising it wasn’t another power outage, I was so grateful to sit anonymously in the dark and avoid all the “Are You Still Pregnant” comments: You’re still here? (yes, where am I supposed to go?). You haven’t popped yet? (I’m not a balloon). You’re huge! (This stopped being a complement when I was 7).  The service was full of scripture and song and little else. Just what Christmas should be, in my book.

So these are ways I have found joy in the waiting. I am even grateful we could provide a normal Christmas morning for the kids, complete with homemade cinnamon rolls, instead of tending to a newborn.

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African Penguins on Boulder Beach

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Christmas Eve Service, Roets Style

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Large Puff Adder found in our friend’s garden, a few minutes before we arrived. These snakes cause hundreds of deaths and loss of limbs in Africa each year…fascinating to view in its cage!

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Gabrielle and Gert with this year’s Christmas theme: LEGOES!!

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Christmas Morning comes so very early, doesn’t it?

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SO BLESSED with this gift for our new baby! An Ergo!!!

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On top of Table Mountain

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So hard to get a picture of this busy girl! She loves her new baby doll.

Homeschooling Awards Ceremony

We finished our 2014 school year on Wednesday! Woohoo! Feels so good to take a break. We love homeschooling year round and I enjoy ending the school year in December. It’s a natural break and transition. The kids worked so hard this year that we decided to have a little Awards ceremony and honor their achievements. The older girls also entered a writing contest in the States and Chloe received an honorable mention out of hundreds of entries.

Next year it’s Classical Conversations all the way as we start the first community in South Africa. A few months ago when my American friend Jennifer and I introduced the concept of classical education we had three moms mildly interested. At our meeting a week ago, the final count is 17 families with 37 children enrolled! My Essentials class has grown from 3 students to 11. I feel overwhelmed at tutoring this class with a newborn and possibly a move in our near future but I do feel God has called me to do it. I keep reminding myself that I want my kids to have the benefit of this homeschooling community, including this rigorous English Grammar and Writing course, and that is why I’m doing it.

So for now, it’s time to enjoy the change of pace as South Africa shuts down for the holidays. I am ready for our Christmas baby to come and we have said goodbye to some precious members of our OM team as they return home to pursue God in a new way. I’m enjoying our proper Christmas tree after last year’s bizarre branch creation. We have our Christmas shopping done and I am improving at letting go of dearly-held traditions that just aren’t necessary when you are having a baby. I am reflecting on Mary’s journey as she prepared to give birth to Christ, and my attitude has changed from not desiring a Christmas baby at all to understanding the beauty of it.

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My Favorite Potato Soup: Creamy Potato and Corn Chowder

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Celebrating 13 years!

I love reading food blogs. So many good ones out there. I am not going to try to be a food blogger- don’t worry- but I figured out a recipe I think is worthy of sharing.

1. I am a big fan of simple, delicious, economical recipes that feed a crowd (namely my family; but sometimes an additional dozen or so people!)

2. I have learned through trial and error that it’s usually best to trust your instincts…which is also how I happen to remember directions (drives my husband nuts). I’ve had a few trials (and errors) with overly complex Potato Soup recipes…hauling out immersion blenders, extra pots/bowls/fancy ingredients that are basically just unnecessary.

So the story is, on Saturday as my hubby and I were getting ready to celebrate our 13th anniversary with a night out in the Strand, I stopped being pretentious with my soup. I was running behind schedule, still wearing sweats and madly peeling potatoes just brought home from the grocery store. I threw this soup together, just following my instincts. I nearly burned it–our stove top has two settings: barely on and burning hot–but we caught it just in time. The seven babysitters (so grateful for our short-term missions team! You all are the best) and five children gave it a thumbs up.

I’m calling it Creamy Potato and Corn Chowder. It was soooo good. Comforting, flavorful, and much better than the other overly-complicated recipes I’ve tried. If you live in Alaska and have access to fresh, wild-caught salmon or halibut, I think it would be amazing in this! The kids and babysitters were happy and my husband appreciated the low-budget meal since we were going to splurge a bit that night.

This recipe, with a couple loaves of fresh homemade bread is a crowd pleaser!

Creamy Potato and Corn Chowder

10-12 medium potatoes, peeled
2 small onions, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3T butter
Water to cover potatoes
4-6 sliced bacon, cooked and diced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Generous amount of salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 can creamed corn
3 cups whole milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:
Cook onions in butter until translucent. Add garlic, cook 3 minutes more. Add diced potatoes, cover with water. Bring to boil, cook until potatoes are tender. Mash potatoes with potato masher, leaving some bigger chunks. Add cooked and diced bacon. Add milk, parsley, creamed corn, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes are done. Add shredded cheese, stirring until melted, taking care not to burn on bottom. Garnish with additional parsley and bacon if desired.

*to save a step and a dish fry onion and garlic with bacon in bacon grease, omitting butter, using your soup dish. Yummmm…more bacon-ey goodness.

We’re Not Naked: How to be Content with Less

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wall destroyed by flooding

Three weeks ago, the Western Cape in South Africa experienced unprecedented flooding in which our only vehicle was damaged. We consider ourselves fortunate as many homes were entirely flooded to the point of needing extensive reconstruction, or a total loss.

Now, one of our family values is flexibility so we just sort of rolled with this inconvenience. Gert started riding his bike to the grocery store, we began to walk to church, and he found lifts into the city to the Operation Mobilization office. Not a big deal, cause you know, we’re flexible.

We are on week number three with no car, and I’m afraid my sense of humor about the situation is on the downturn. And yet, the Lord is speaking to me on a new level about being content with less.

1. Identify with the Poor. We have been able to identify with the poor in a new way. Suddenly the kids and I relate to the majority of people in the world who do not own a car. Overcrowded taxis, busses, and hours of walking are part of daily life for most in Africa. “Wow,” my kids realize. “We are actually very rich!”

2. And God says: If you have food and clothing, be content with that.

A verse I was not in the mood to hear at church last Sunday. Rather I thought it should say ‘food, clothing, and a car.’ Or, ‘food, clothing, and all the other stuff we think we need.’

God’s word slices and dices right to the core!

I remember a time, living in the woods in Alaska, with no running water and an outhouse and a wood stove. No car. Showers were few and far between. Yet that time of simplicity was part of me not being conformed to the pattern of this world. I learned to do without, and some of my best memories are of drinking hot tea and tending the crackling fire and listening for moose calls, all out in the glorious companionship of nature…and my roommate ;-).

No, we’re not naked. We have food–lots and lots of food. A Thanksgiving bounty full with one piece of pumpkin pie left that I have hidden in the fridge.

3. It’s All Part of the Plan. It simplifies life to know this, doesn’t it? God has our lives mapped out for us…we can liken it to a treasure hunt. He has surprises and provisions and cliffs and traps to avoid. Places to rest and custom-made tools for us. Works prepared waaaaaay in advance for us to do. I can be content with food and clothing and whatever else he chooses to bless me with.

4. Enjoy the Seasonal Blessing. Have you ever noticed how we never seem to have it all at once? There are some seasons we are blessed with family. There are times of plenty, of abundance. Times of a spacious home or a nice car. Times of health and peace. But rarely…maybe never…do all those blessings coincide with each other. We can learn to enjoy, savor and rest in the way God chooses to bless us in each season. Knowing we don’t need to ‘have it all’ to be content, we can trust the perfect wisdom of God as he changes the seasons of blessing in our lives!

I’ll let you know what happens with our vehicle. We are praying it can be fixed. In the meantime I am rejoicing even though the garage…our cattle stall….is still empty.

Coffee in Africa

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I have a little secret. Coffee in Africa is where its at. Today Benita and I walked two blocks to the newest coffee shop in town, located in the foyer of a non-denominational church. I’ve learning a thing or two from the these South African ladies. Going out for coffee shouldn’t mean running through the Starbucks drive-through and demolishing a Frappuccino while shopping. I’m actually not even sure why we went out for coffee this morning…I think it was someone’s birthday and another sweet lady is moving away this week. I frequently miss the key parts of the conversation! In South Africa, going out for coffee involves a great group of women, getting dressed up as we do here, a layered latte artistically presented, and best of all, cake! Luckily I skipped breakfast today so I didn’t feel too bad about an apple tart at 10am. Babies are welcome as well as conversation ranging from supernatural healings to stories of traveling in Thailand to all the other stuff I missed because it is in Afrikaans.

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I got carried away with my Apple Tart and forgot to take a picture. But it looked something like this…

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With coffee and cake this good, this church deserves a visit on Sunday, don’t you think?