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Our Biggest Calling

Dear Mom, is it, that somedays your job seems insignificant? Somedays do you question your journey? Do you wonder if any of it matters?  Let me tell you mama; it matters.  It all matters. You are significant and what you are doing; THIS IS SIGNIFICANT.

“The enemy wants to convince you to leave your assignment because it is insignificant.”  I recently heard such a statement and I took pause.  You see I had begun to believe the lie that the mundane tasks of motherhood weren’t as important as I had once believed.  I started to feel envious of those that were adventuring overseas, adopting another child, fostering and diving in to full-time ministry.

What I forgot was that I had been given an assignment to make disciples, just like my friends that were jetting off to foreign lands, gaining university degrees to serve the least of these, and opening their homes to orphans and widows. And then I heard someone say, “Plan to do something so big for God that without Him you would fail.”  I was feeling defeated, but I had lost my focus.

Being a mom; this is a big gig and this was what I had always wanted.  What I didn’t know, was how big this was going to be. I had prayed for blessing, for a miracle and now here I was in the pouring rain of “blessing,” but instead of dancing in the rain, I was running from it.  The enemy had tried to convince me that I was just a mom; that what I was doing wasn’t really making a difference. My patience was thin.  Most jobs around our house came with dread and frustration.

So my friends, if you are like me, feeling like maybe your call to motherhood is less than significant.  Let me tell you, that is a lie! We aren’t only parenting we are discipling, and we have been called, “for such a time as this.”  It is time for us to stop running from the rain and start dancing in it, so we can launch these little world changers off into the great unknown.  Heidi St. John says this, in her new Becoming MomStrong; “We need to surrender ourselves to what God wants us to do.  We need to be willing to do what He says is best, not what our flesh wants or what the world says we should do… My greatest accomplishment as a mom may not be something I do-but someone I raise.”

In her book, Becoming MomStrong: How to Fight with All That’s in You for Your Family and Your Faith Heidi St. John says, “The journey we are on is designed to help us trust God in ways we don’t expect and can’t foresee.”  There are times on this journey where we will feel less than.  The pull is real. It’s not until we are in the moments of complete surrender deep in the trenches of motherhood, that we can see that “God’s purpose is good.” Perhaps our biggest calling is motherhood, and without the Lord I know I would fail at it most everyday.

Created to Crave

As I have been preparing for and thinking about giving up sugar, I have been completely focused on the health benefits.  I saw sugar as a problem in our house and wanted to eliminate some of the negative effects sugar has had on our moods, our energy levels and our weight.  In the past, when I have gone without sugar I have found myself craving what I “can’t” have.  I keep thinking, if only I could have a piece of cake or just a little cookie I’d be satisfied.  If you are like me, when you start craving, you start hunting to satisfy that craving.  I’ll dig for chocolate chips in the back of the pantry, a slice of toast with jam on it, or a scoop of icing from the half used container in the fridge…(you get the picture).  The end result is often guilt and a realization that food has won again.  And quite honestly, I am never really satisfied with what I have eaten, when I am eating to fix a craving.

If I’m celebrating, I celebrate with food. If I’m frustrated or upset, I comfort with food.  I crave food.  I’ve started to wonder, this week, what would happen if rather than craving food, I craved Jesus.  What would life look like if I ran to Jesus with my greatest joys and my biggest struggles, rather than to the bag of chocolate chips in the pantry?

I’ve been frustrated because I think that deep within our souls we were created to crave.  The unfortunate part is that I have spent so much of my time craving what is not healthy, growing bad habits and creating a rut that is tricky to get out of.  What if God put a desire in us to crave, but to crave Him, rather than food?  1Peter2:2-3 “Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.” I’ve realized that I need to crave holy habits; to run to His Word, to conversation and quiet mediation with the Lord.

So, I’ve decide that it’s not wrong to have cravings.  Cravings are healthy and built into us for a reason.  It is what we are satisfying our cravings with that can be destructive.  So this month when I find myself ravenous and in desperate need of something sweet, I’m going to thank the Lord that I was created to crave and then I will run to Him.  I will dig into the word and spend time in solitude asking to be filled with more of him.  I was reminded this week that God cannot work in my life unless I am willing to put the work into making that happen.  So a sugar fast, is a reminder to me, that I need to put some work into a making a relationship with my Saviour happen.

Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good (sweet). Oh the joys of those who take refuge in him!”

 

(Some of you have asked how I am liking my Inspire Bible.  I am loving it, although I feel like I need to get a bit braver with how I embellish the pages.  It has helped the Word to come alive as I study.)  I have included my amazon associate link to the NLT version of the Inspire Bible, if you have been on the hunt for a journaling bible.  

Some Adventures and Excursions

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We kept things fairly low key, as our main goal was to enjoy our family and stick to a bit of a routine for the littlest one while we spent seven weeks in South Africa last fall.  That being said, we managed to make trips to the mall a bit of an adventure, and trips to the local coffee shop were a glorious treat.  Today, I’ll sum up,  our outings with photos.

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We spent a day at the Moses Mabhida Stadium. The weather was gorgeous, the food was delish, and the sights were spectacular.

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The day we went was the day of the I Heart Market. There were so many vendors set up with fresh food, drinks and baking.  We found beautiful jewellery and lovely momentos to bring home with us.

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Wouldn’t these be lovely blooms to have as a centre piece on your kitchen table?

 

 

 

 

We rode a trolley car to the top of the stadium. The view from the top was spectacular. The pictures of the stadium itself were captured on video so no photos to share today.

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The view of the city

IMG_2087ocean view    

IMG_2081                            The ride to the top…IMG_2079

We were able to walk around to the back of the stadium where there was a little play structure, bike rental place and a cafe. IMG_3747 We were told we “must” try the South African dish, Bunny Chow, and so we did… It is a hollowed out loaf of bread with a type of curry stew in the centre of the bread.

From the back of the stadium we were able to take a foot path across the street and on the promenade in front of the ocean.  We enjoyed the salty breeze, and the monkeys playing in the trees.  There were rickshaws, skateboarders, families biking and so many people! IMG_2097

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Another popular attraction for families visiting the Durban area is the uShaka Marine World.  IMG_2996 IMG_3013 IMG_6847 2It was a fun way to spend a day.  There was a dolphin show, sea lion show and and an interpretive session about South African Penguins.  We also enjoyed walking through the aquariums checking out all the different water creatures.

Next up was Tala Game Reserve.  It is a smaller reserve, that we toured with Tezz.  She was able to take us in her vehicle and some families tour Tala all on their own.  There is a lot of game in the reserve, but you won’t spot the BIG 5 in this park.

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It was time to hit the beach.  We moved to a new area called Umhlangha.  It is a great suburb that definitely caters to tourists.  We did a lot of walking for the three weeks we were there.  Most everything was a short walk away and if not we were able to easily fetch a cab.

IMG_3217We loved the ocean, and to the ocean we would go, everyday.  We’d usually have a cappuccino or a flat white in hand with the little mister in the baby carrier and the three girls leading the charge.

IMG_3218Some days were a bit cool and a sweater was necessary to be outside, but other days were perfect for the beach.

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We discovered our most favourite coffee shop, and made sure to become regular customers.  Vovo Telo, you are missed.  Simply the best lunches, croissants and flat white coffee!  (A wee tear may have trickled down my face as I try to express my love for this little coffee shop)

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IMG_3380 IMG_3379 IMG_3378While Dan and I enjoyed our coffee the kids would be invited up to the counter to bake their own creations.

We called on Tezz once again to set up a two day trek up to a bigger animal reserve and we had a blast!  The first day we went to the cutest little town called St. Lucia. IMG_3312 IMG_3309 IMG_3296As we entered the town there were hippo crossing signs because the hippos roam through the town when they leave the estuary at night to graze on land.  We took a guided boat tour to see hippos and crocodiles.

We were overnight guests in Mtubatuba at Wendy’s Country Lodge.   The owner of the lodge, Gavin, would be our guide the next morning on our Safari through Hluhluwe Game Reserve. We saw impala, zebra, giraffes, elephants, lions(from quite a distance)warthogs, water buffalo, and rhinos!IMG_3366

It was a spectacular day.  The day was chilly but we were in good company. IMG_3367 (1)Our guides were so awesome, thanks to Tezz and Gavin!   We would definitely recommend that you book a Hluhluwe Game  Reserve tour with Gavin.

 

 

 

 

One last outing was to Shakaland.   IMG_3692 (1)We toured a Zulu village, saw how the Zulu people traditionally lived and watched some amazing Zulu dancing.

 

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On our way home from Shakaland, we made a quick stop off at Dhlinza Forest. It was amazing and I’m so glad Tezz suggested it.

Dan had one, and only one thing he wanted to experience while we were there, and that was to go shark cage diving.  Dan and and our eldest daughter got a little adrenaline rush the day before we headed home.

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(here they are pushing the rubber duck out over the waves to get out to  the ocean)

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SHARKS!shark 2

(Aliwal Shoal Scuba)

I love travel planning and I am so thankful for that, as there were times getting ready to travel that I found the process overwhelming. I would suggest that you book your flights and hotels and worry about the rest of your travel once you reach your destination.

8f12e32ebccb5d6c63327ea758b54554There will always be an ache in our heart for the place that kept a piece of it. We can’t wait to go back and visit the special people and places we fell in love with one year ago.
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The Reality of Feeding a Family

I must confess, I love to eat out, and also spend lots of time in the kitchen cooking fancy elegant meals.  My reality is though, eating out as a family of 6 is anything but cheap and preparing extravagant meals on a regular basis is out of my budget, both financial and time wise.

I have resigned myself to the fact that ordering pizza on a weekly basis is not good for our wallet or our waistline and spending hours in the kitchen every week is not a priority right now, so I have had to set up some new guidelines for meal planning in our home to keep meals simple, economical and tasty.  Our kids are not picky eaters, and there are no options…they eat what is served, so I strive to prepare meals that are both healthy, hearty and enjoyable.

First off, let’s talk breakfast.  We don’t do morning  snacks in our house because if we eat a morning snack, they don’t eat lunch.  I try to serve the kids a hearty breakfast.  Usually oatmeal, or eggs.  We try and mix up our eggs, sometimes poached, scrambled or breakfast sandwiches but lately we have been enjoying green eggs.  I got the recipe from 100 Days of Real Food and my kids go nuts for them.  You can search the recipe online.  They are so yum!

Because we homeschool, I find dealing with preparing lunch at lunch time is chaotic and stressful.  I either prep something in the morning for the slow cooker, for us to eat at lunch or haul out leftovers for us to warm up.  As warmer weather approaches, (I say this as the snow flurries swirl in the air outside) I tend to have lots of veggies, fruit and washed greens prepped and ready in the fridge, so that we can quickly pack up a picnic lunch and get outdoors or whip up a salad or wrap in minutes.

I go on a five day cycle.  The weekends are pretty low key and I leave those off the schedule as it seems we often make weekend plans with friends and the meal plan goes out the window anyhow.

Mondays:  We like to  cook a roast of beef, pork or chicken for dinner.  That way we have left over meat through the week, to make soups, casseroles, sandwiches or wraps.

Tuesdays: We usually have breakfast for dinner.  Breakfast for dinner is a favourite around here.  Some things we like are frittatas, quiches, waffles, or omelettes.

Wednesdays:  I have no idea where this came from, or why it has stuck, but Wednesday is usually our soup, stew or chili night.  If I have time I’ll throw a batch of biscuits together, or a loaf of bread into the bread maker.  That always earns me extra points at meal time!

Thursdays:  This is a busy night at our house.  We don’t eat supper together this night of the week and Dan is at home with three of the four kids during supper hour, so I try and have everything ready to be served when he gets home with the kids.  We often pull out left overs, or I sometimes will have concocted up a casserole using leftovers from the week of meals.  For example if we have left over chili, I’ll throw some macaroni in with it and toss it in the oven with some cheese on top.  Left over chicken will become chicken pot pie, or left over mashed potatoes turns into shepherd’s pie.

Fridays:  I like to do something a bit more fun for the kids.  We like to make homemade pizza, burgers, homemade chicken fingers and french fries or taco salad to name a few.

I always keep the same staples and fruits and veggies on hand so we can create our meals with this basic guide in mind.  I have tried in the past pulling recipe books out and building a huge grocery list of fruits and veggies that I wouldn’t typically stock.  I end up running out of time in my day to prepare meals that require these ingredients and a wasting a lot of food that spoils in the fridge.

Here are some strategies I have learned through the years that have helped keep meal time and prep time sane:

Do as much meal prep as you can in the morning, when children are happy and excited to help out and you aren’t feeling defeated by the day!  Now that some of mine are older, they can help with washing and chopping veggies, browning meat or opening containers and measuring seasoning.  I find that they are much happier to eat the meal too, when they know that they have helped with the prep work.  Smaller kids can “wash dishes.”  I have found myself filling up the sink with water and bath bubbles for the littles so they can be part of the action in the kitchen while we work away.   On the other hand, you will often find me in the kitchen working away as quiet as a mouse, hoping to get all my kitchen work done before the first child makes their appearance for the day!  (Meal prep doesn’t always have to be a family affair, does it?)

When you prepare a meal…double the recipe.  I find that most meals freeze well.  If you are in the mess of meal prep, why not make a big batch so that you can have one ready for a day when you just don’t have the time for kitchen stuff.   I freeze things like, chili, soup, shepherds pie, chicken pot pie, meatballs, hamburger patties, egg cupcakes, pizza muffins and homemade chicken fingers.

Clean up as you go.  How frustrating is it when you prepare a meal for supper and after dinner you have all the dishes you used to make the dish still needing to be washed? The clean up task can seem very daunting when this happens…(I’ve so been there) I try to quickly wash up all my prep dishes as I go, and keep my counters cleared off, so that we have a quick and easy clean up after dinner that the kids can help with.  Even our two year old can help clear the table.  He can carry his cup to the counter, throw the napkins in the garbage and get the broom out of the closet.

Pull meat out of the freezer the night before you plan to cook with it.  Supper prep can become the most dreaded hour of the day, when you are frantically defrosting meat at 5:30pm trying to fend of “hangry”  thats right, I said HANGRY, children  (That’s hungry and angry combined…Let’s be real, it happens to the best of us.)  We buy beef, chicken and pork from local producers, so our freezer always has meat in it at least.  We like knowing where our meat is coming from and how the animal has been raised.  It is so nice to be able to skip the meat department, or butcher shop when I am grocery shopping.

IMG_5144 (1)(This is a new favourite dish of mine.   I marinate some chops and throw them on a baking stone.  Then I throw an assortment of  lightly seasoned mixed veggies onto the pan with the meat and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes.)  Now if I have played my cards right, the only thing I’ll have to wash after supper, is the dishes we ate off of and this pan!  My kids should all be happy campers, because I prepped this in the morning and just had to stick it in the oven at 5:30.  It’s a beautiful thing!  

 

I Have a Plan

As my vision for A Bend In the Sycamore comes together, I’d like to let you in on the plan.

On Mondays I hope to bring  topics on parenting/family/and homeschool.  It will include simple ideas and things we have tried around our house to make life run a bit more smoothly.IMG_0937

Wednesdays will focus on topics that are related to orphan care, adoption and the adoptive family.  I hope to link up with other adoptive families to add more real life stories of adoption love as time goes on.  If you are an adoptive parent and would like to share part of your story over here, let me know. Maybe you have some advice to share on the topic of adoption?  This may be your spot to do just that.

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On Friday I will dive into my spiritual growth.  I will reference authors and speakers I enjoy hearing from and where I am being challenged spiritually.  I have recently ordered the book Restless and hope to tackle what to do after your heart says you are ready to do anything.

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I’m excited to meet you here.  I have added a subscribe button on the left hand side of my page,  so if you are interested in joining me at A Bend In the Sycamore, be sure to subscribe to my mailing list.

As an Amazon Affiliate, I have added a green link to some of my favourite items.  In case you are interested in getting yourself a copy of the books being mentioned, handy gadgets I enjoy and items I order that help make life less hectic.