Why your marriage MUST come first

Today is mine and Kevin’s 14th wedding anniversary.  We would never claim to have a perfect marriage (um, there’s no such thing, so stop daydreaming), but if you asked us if we have a good marriage, we would emphatically say yes.  And then if you proceeded to ask us how we’ve built a good marriage throughout having five children, cross country moves, running a business, different leadership roles at a few different churches, hospital stays and sicknesses, etc etc…we would say it’s because we prioritize our marriage.  When I was just driving on the road today, a mini van passed by me that had rust on it so badly that it actually had eaten through the car and had holes in it!  I said out loud to myself, “wow! I’ve never seen that before”.  But that’s what happens to a car that is driven in the Midwest and isn’t taken care of properly throughout those harsh winter months.  Kevin is constantly taking care of our cars by running them through the car wash in the winter because he says “if you don’t get the salt off, the car will rust”.  Just like that car, if we don’t take care of our marriage, it’s going to begin to show holes.  It is going to begin to slowly dissolve away and not be the beautiful marriage it could be.

The most common time to get divorced is when the couple becomes empty nesters.

They held the marriage together for the sake of the children, and when the children are all out of the house, there is no audience anymore to be “playing house” for, so they raise the white flag of surrender and decide to go their separate ways.  The truth is though, they went their separate ways years before.  Maybe it was a quick shift like a tsunami that swept in and destroyed the trust they had for each other, or maybe it was a slow changing of the tide that over the years exposed just how far their hearts drifted from each other.

Either way, it is a sad thing to see.  No one sits by and smiles as they see their friends go through a divorce, even if the party involved claims it is all “civil”, and will “remain the best of friends”.

We know deep within our souls that what is brought together with sacred vows, and “I will love you forever’s” should never be separated.  Yet, we see it happen everyday.

So, how do we not become a statistic?  How do we keep our marriage together even after there is no more eyes watching us each day?  Even more than that, how do we stay in a place of love, adoration, and affection with one another?

Well, I have other posts brewing on this, but for today I want to give you…

10 reasons WHY  your marriage must absolutely, positively take FIRST place.

Ready?! Here we go…

  1. Your spouse came before the children.  Period.  It started the two of you, and at some point it will go back to the two of you.
  2. Your kids need to see a positive marriage modeled for them.  They are going to copy what they see.  How do you speak to your spouse?  They will speak to theirs in the same way.  How do you prioritize the marriage?  That is how your children will prioritize their marriage.  They are absorbing more than you think, so be a good -no, great role model of what a fun, loving marriage can look like.
  3. Kids get their security from seeing Mom and Dad happy together.  One question we ask our kids regularly is “do you think Mom and Dad love each other”?  They usually giggle and nod.  We ask, “how do you know we do?”, and they say, “because you guys always want to be together”, or “Dad is always grabbing your butt”(hee hee! It’s really true), or “you guys are always kissing each other”.  Don’t shy away from showing each other affection in front of your kids.  Now, don’t go overboard!  But, snuggles, pats, and kisses are totally appropriate and heathy for your kids to see!  It will give them security that they are in a strong family that will not crumble.
  4. You want to be happy, don’t you?!  I mean, c’mon, if you are going to be LIVING with someone, you have to put the effort into them.  And when you put effort into someone, you usually like them more.  Liking the person you live with equals you being a happier person!
  5. Your spouse deserves to be living happily too.  I know there are days when you want to sentence your spouse to a lifelong silent treatment from you, but really, they are a person too (the person you absolutely fell head over heals for at one point).  They deserve to be happy too!  If you aren’t prioritizing this relationship, it’s easy to forget that they are a person with feelings just like you are. Don’t be hard-hearted!  Give them a break and try to make their day a little brighter.
  6. The Bible says you are one flesh together.  Genesis 2:24 says “for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh”.  Matthew 19:5 says, “for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”.  Ephesians 5:31 says, “for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”.  And in Mark 10:8 it says, “and the two will become one flesh.  So they are no longer two, but one flesh”.  Phew!  That’s a lot of redundancy.  But that means it must really mean something to God.  It’s a spiritual law that we don’t see in a physical way, but somehow God sees us as one.  That means if Kevin is bummed about something, I feel bummed.  If he is stressed about something, typically I feel stressed too.  How he feels affects me, and how I feel affects him.  It’s supposed to be that way.  We are intertwined in a deep way that goes beyond our understanding.  So, this tells me that God wants us to be sensitive to each other’s needs because, in a way, we are also tending to our own needs.  What we do to them will eventually effect us if we are still in a place of having a tender heart.  Years of bitterness will harden this, of course, so don’t allow bitterness to come between the two of you.  It’s not worth it, as eventually you will drink the bitter poison of that bitterness yourself.
  7. The world needs more love.  Like the song, “what the world needs now is love, sweet love”, we need to see more loving, committed, thriving marriages! You can do this!!  Put your marriage first so that it can be built to last, and others can be inspired by yours.  The world needs to see love that is real and stands the test of time through sickness, financial struggles, child rearing, job changes, moves, and weight fluctuations.  How endearing it is to onlookers to see an elderly couple walking hand in hand while smiling at each other.  Gosh-it melts my heart every time!
  8. Starting another marriage is a lot of hard work as well.  Don’t be deceived into thinking that all your troubles will go away if your spouse goes away.  Far better to roll up your sleeves and work on the marriage you are in than work on starting a whole new one.
  9. If you don’t put your marriage first, you’ll lose sight of how great you’ve got it.  Being married is fun!  At least it can be if you put effort into it and make it first in your life.  Don’t wait until your spouse puts their best effort into you, you put on your big kid panties and take the first step.  Plan date nights.  Go bowling or golfing together, start taking walks around the block after dinner, pick up a cup of coffee for them and drop it by work unexpectedly, buy them a little gift just because, snuggle up to them while you watch TV in the evening.  Doing these little things will remind you that living with someone and sharing your unique relationship is actually a lot of fun!
  10. And last, put your marriage first because your marriage must stand strong if you are going to get through the child rearing years!  These are tough years!  Raising kids is no joke, and if you are not a team doing it together, those little sweeties will pull you apart under the pressure of all they demand.  Keeping your marriage first will help you tremendously to get through this season without feeling like you are driven over by a truck day after day.  You and your spouse need to be able to connect regularly to communicate about the kids schedules, how to handle the pressures you see your kids going through, and to come up with a game plan when little Johnny wakes up in the night.  Remember, you are a team!  Don’t let the littles pull you apart.  Stay connected so that you can tackle the week ahead of you, instead of feeling like the kids are tackling you.  Kevin and I set aside a couple of hours every Sunday to go through the week ahead, to make sure we are on the same page with our schedule.  We also will send e-mails or make phone calls during this time to schedule things like dentist appointments, signing the kids up for sports camp or swim lessons, and dinners with other families.  That way, we are a team in setting the family schedule and neither of us feel like the other one is running the calendar and all the decisions for the family.  There is also no room for miscommunication.  So, when Thursday evening rolls around and we all need to be somewhere, there is no “who signed us up for this anyway?!” because we did it together, and decided together.

 

Obviously I must state that if one spouse is verbally or physically abusive, you must get help beyond this post.  I am not writing to that.  I simply want to help the marriages that feels as if they have fallen out of “like” with each other because they are barely keeping their heads above the waters of life.  Sometimes, just sometimes, there is a simple solution to the woes of marriage.

Prioritize your marriage.  Make it first.  Wash that salt off with love, tenderness, and fun so you don’t rust out.

You really can do this!  You can take the first step.  Be the spouse that your children need.  And my prayer is that when you do that day after day, you will find yourself not just “in love” again, but “in like” too!

 

My Favorite Stress Buster

Sometimes life can feel HEAVY. There are days I feel like a balloon that with each stress throughout the day I inflate a little more.  Can you relate?  I hope you can’t, but if you can…

 What if I told you that I found something that will decompress that stress within thirty seconds?

And the great news is it’s free and so fun.

Let me introduce you to a little thing called dancing. Hurray for dancing!!

Such a simple thing, but I am telling you it has the power to deflate stress, soften a hard countenance, mend a rift, lighten the mood, and make you feel great. Children absolutely love it. They were born to wiggle and bop to music, and they love doing it with their parents.

My two-year old is a dancer at heart. Which is not surprising to me at all because before we got pregnant with her, I prayed that we would have a girl, that she would look like me, and have my personality. I wasn’t even thinking about dance when I asked God for her to be like me, but He’s always into the details. I grew up dancing off and on, and to this day, I absolutely love to dance. I tell God that I will be the one dancing before His throne in Heaven.  I’ll have boundless energy, and I just may never stop!

My man also likes to dance. He’s a mean swing dancer and can toss me around the kitchen floor like a rag doll. He’s also not afraid to jump around in silly ways to make the kids laugh. So if Dad is home, we are all dancing.

We break out in dance parties almost every day at our house. Usually when we are making meals in the kitchen or doing dishes. I always have music playing in the house, but when we are congregating in the kitchen, it’s natural for someone to say to the Echo, “hey Alexa, play…”. Even our two-year old knows how to boss Alexa around.

The tunes start playing, someone turns it up, and we all start shaking our tail feathers.

It’s an AMAZING stress buster! All the things that were pressing on my mind…gone. Any tensions between me and another child…gone. The to-do list…gone. I’m telling you, it’s like medicine to our souls.  Yeah, some of those stresses come back, but at least I got a much needed break from them!

The most magical part is even conflicts between children begin to float away, like we’ve hit the reset button.

“But I don’t like to dance”, you say (gasp!). Well, I would encourage you to break out of your mold a bit. Try something new. It doesn’t matter how you dance, just move to the beat a little. Your kids may raise an eyebrow at you when you first start, but as you get going, they will probably jump in…maybe not some of the teenagers, but that’s okay. At least they are seeing you have fun.

Which leads me to another point…never underestimate the importance of your kids seeing you having fun.

No matter what age they are, they need to see Mom having fun. Bonus would be if they get to see Mom and Dad jumping around laughing together. Those memories leave deep impressions in their minds.

All you have to do is Google stats on how dancing effects health and you will see a long line of benefits including reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, while boosting body image, self-esteem, and overall confidence. Wahoo!

My heart behind this post is to encourage you to lighten the mood in your home.  Make your house a fun place to grow up in.

Dancing is a really easy way to make this happen.  You’ll not only bust some stress, you’ll burn some calories, and get a really good laugh while doing it too (and don’t even get me started on the benefits of laughter)!

If you are all alone at the house or live alone, well, there is no reason not to dance your heart out.  Making dinner and doing dishes is so much more fun with a little hip swaying.

I hope I’ve nudged you enough to begin bringing dance into your daily life.  To get you started, here are some of our favorite songs to dance to…

The soundtrack to “The Greatest Showman”. We are listening to this everyday right now. So good!

“Bulletproof” by Citizenway.  The lead singer/songwriter, Ben Calhoun and his wife introduced Kevin and I. Our kids would not exist without Ben and Alison!

“Happy Dance” by Mercy Me. Alison, my friend who married Ben is the lead dancer in the video, so another shout out to the Calhouns!

“Love With Your Life” by Hollyn

“Feel It” by Toby Mac. The music video has fun dancing in it too. My 12-year-old son loves all of Toby Mac’s music. He’s great in concert too!

“Backseat Driver” by Toby Mac & Hollyn  This has been my two-year olds favorite dance song for a year now!

“I Feel So Alive” by Capital Kings.  Honestly, any music by Capital Kings. My 12-year-old son plays their music whenever he’s on dish duty. It helps him move a lot faster, and have fun while he’s working!

“Count Your Rainbows” by 1 Girl Nation.  My 10-year-old daughter likes this band. They are a great example of female artists.

“The Cha-Cha Slide” by DJ Casper.  I’m sure you’ve danced to this at weddings. All my kids like to follow along to this one. He takes you through different dance instructions that are easy to follow, like “left foot stomp, right foot stomp”.

“Can’t Stop The Feeling” by Justin Timberlake. Pull up the music video if you want some dance inspiration!

Here’s some oldie but goodies that will be sure to get you moving.  Toddlers seems to love oldies music:

“Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley & The Comets

“Great Balls Of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis

“All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley

“The Twist” by Chubby Checker

“Respect” by Aretha Franklin

“Chantilly Lace” by Big Bopper

“Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison

“Sherry” by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  Our two-year old tells Alexa to play this multiple times a day. Even though it has a slower beat, she loves to dance to it.

And what about disco, 80’s, or show tunes? There are so many songs to choose from! Whatever gets you moving!

If you don’t own an Amazon Echo, I would highly recommend it. That is all we use for music in the house anymore. I can just say, “Alexa, play me “Bulletproof” by Citizenway”, and it starts playing! I can play radio stations, as well as ask her lots of different questions like “give me the news briefing”, “what’s the weather like outside?” or Kevin can ask “how long is my traffic commute today?”

But for music, it’s our go-to. If you don’t have one, you can buy one here…

So, what are you waiting for? Bring on the stress buster! Your kids will love it, and I guarantee, after 30 seconds of moving to some beats, you will too.

The Syrup of Champions!

This time of year can be rough in the area of keeping our families healthy. Everywhere I turn, someone is down with the cold or flu. When you have a larger family like we do, it is of the utmost importance to keep everyone healthy because a cold can take one or two months to circulate through everyone. Yuck! So, whether you are looking to ward off the flu or colds this winter, I have the perfect defender that everyone should have in their refrigerator. Give it up for…elderberry syrup!

We love elderberry syrup here at our house. We started making it three winters ago, and since taking it, we are hardly ever sick. Yay!! (I will also say that the reason I believe we stay healthy is we don’t eat much sugar at all. Sugar decreases your immune system, so do your body a favor and stay off of it!)

Back to the elderberry syrup. Why is it so good for you, you ask? It has been shown to boost the immune system, decrease mucous, calm a cough, aid digestion, increases circulation, and is a great anti-inflammatory.

Some cultures throughout history have said that there are more benefits to the elderberry than can even be counted. There are recorded recipes for elderberry medicines that date back to ancient Egypt. But don’t take my word for it, let Hippocrates tell you. The ancient Greek known as “the father of medicine” called the elderberry his medicine chest for the wide variety of ailments it cured. It is packed with very high levels of vitamin C, as well as A and B; minerals like iron, phosphorus, potassium, and copper.

There are so many studies that show time and time again that the elderberry greatly reduces sickness and strengthens the body. Just google the benefits of elderberries and you will have a lot to read through!

Now, there is one problem with these little berries and that is that the seeds and twigs are poisonous. Do not eat them, and keep them out of reach of your children! They contain a cyanide producing glucoside in them. I technically don’t really know what that means, except that if you eat more than a few of the berries at a time, you could throw up. Trust me, I know.

The first time I made the syrup, the website I was using said you could save the berries and eat them since they had been cooked. So, like a good student, I did. The next morning I threw some into our morning smoothie. As my oldest three kids and I drank them down, they started saying that their stomachs were hurting them, and within ten minutes they had all scattered to three different bathrooms and were all throwing up at the same time! It was crazy! I also felt sick to my stomach for about an hour but it never actually came back up. Phew! I was nursing my fourth child at the time, and I ended up calling a friend to use some of her breast milk she had in the freezer so I could pump and dump for the day. I wanted to be extra careful just in case the berries could harm her. It was an adventurous day to say the least!

I scoured the internet for information on eating elderberries and found much conflicting information. So, the best I could find is that the seeds and stems are what is poisonous. So learn from my mistake and don’t eat them!!

On the other hand, the juice from boiling them has all the wonderful benefits of the elderberry without subjecting yourself to being poisoned.

The other ingredient in this syrup is raw, local honey. It is very important that it be raw. Raw honey has not been heated and pasteurized, so all the power packed vitamins, minerals, and enzymes are preserved. Honey is antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. Amazing. The honey actually helps to preserve the elderberry juice because of this. Every fall I go to the farmers market and buy a gallon of raw honey to last me through the winter months. If you have a health food store in your town, call and ask them if they sell raw, local honey. More than likely, they do. Why local? I’ve heard from bee keepers that it is best to eat honey that has been harvested from within a 100 mile radius to you, that way your body is getting pollen that is specific to your area and not foreign. If that is not very important to you, then just make sure it’s raw.

Another bonus about honey is it has been shown to be as effective at calming coughs as over the counter cough syrups. So if you’ve got that tickle in your throat that tells you a cough might be coming, this syrup will act as a dynamic duo in helping you heal.

The cinnamon stick, ginger, and cloves in this recipe add to kick your immune system into even higher gear, but they are optional. If you only have dried elderberries and raw honey, you can still go ahead and make this health tonic.

For those of you who have been buying elderberry syrup at the store, you already know that the stuff is expensive! Hence why I am teaching you here to make it yourself. This is cheaper, healthier, and I think it tastes better too.

So, without further ado, here is the elderberry syrup recipe that we make: (links are included to Amazon for easy ordering)

2 C dried elderberries Frontier Elder Berries Whole Organic – 1 lb or Elderberries Whole, European Elder Berries, 1 Pound Bulk, Frontier

4 C water

1 cinnamon stick Frontier Organic Cinnamon Sticks, 0.85 Ounce

3-4 whole cloves Whole Cloves 3.5 oz

1 slice of fresh ginger root roughly 1 inch thick

  1. Place the elderberries, cinnamon stick, cloves, and ginger in the water on your stove. Bring it all to a boil, then reduce to low, place the cover on, and simmer for 45 min.
  2. Remove from the heat and let it sit until it is completely cooled.
  3. Strain the berry mixture through a paint strainer or cheeseclothRegency Natural Ultra Fine 100% Cotton Cheesecloth 9 sq.ft  into another clean saucepan. Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze! Get as much of that goodness out as you can. (Shout out to paint strainers: I always use this in place of cheesecloth. You will have to go to a hardware store to get them. They are amazing, and you can wash them in the laundry and use over and over again. Once you use one you will never go back. You can thank me later!)
  4. Measure the amount of juice you have and add an equal amount of raw honey to the berry juice. Gently heat the mixture, but do not boil it! We want to keep all those health properties of honey intact. This will take just a minute or so until the honey is nice and melted and the two have combined.
  5. Pour the syrup into a glass container and store it in the fridge.

Swing Top Bottles Set of 4 Glass Kombucha Fruit Beverage Beer Liquor 32 Ounces Each Clear Flask Airtight Seal Stopper with Bonus Funnel Included
Voila! You just made your own batch of elderberry syrup! Wasn’t it easy?! This should last you a couple of months in the refrigerator.

Take 1 tsp- 1 Tbs a day, ½ tsp for toddlers. (Remember not to give it to your babies under one. They can’t have honey yet because it could cause botulism, a poisoning from bacteria. Although super rare, please play it safe.)

If you feel as if you are coming down with something, you can take it up to every hour. If you dedicate yourself to doing this, you will notice that your body will fight off the bug very quickly. It really does wonders if you start at the first sign of something and stay consistent.

We also pour it over pancakes, or mix it in with kefer or yogurt. You could also mix a little in with hot tea-yum! It is very tasty, so you probably won’t have to talk your kids into taking it. If my kids are fighting something, I will mix a splash of it in a glass of water and then add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. The elderberry syrup cuts the strong acidic taste from the vinegar. I call it “the special drink” because it packs a powerful punch against sickness, and I want my kids to think it’s something special so they will enjoy drinking it! So far, it’s working.

I decided to do a quick video walking you through how to make it.  I hope you will see how easy it is!

With any herbal remedy, it is good to take breaks to give your body and immune system a rest, so we only take this in the fall and winter months, and usually 4-5 days out of the week, unless we are fighting something.

I’m so excited for you and your family to begin adding elderberry syrup to your arsenal of attacks against colds and flu. Please share this with everyone that you spend time with regularly so that you all can stay in tip-top health throughout the flu season!

Wishing you and yours a very healthy new year!!

Catapult your day into a slimmer, happier you!

Happy New Year everyone!! Can you believe it’s 2018?! I can’t. Life is going by way quicker than I’d like it to, but, in the spirit of New Years, let’s talk New Years resolutions! Statistically speaking, most of you will make a resolution for a “healthier you” in some form or fashion. It may be that you are resolving to eat healthier, to lose some weight, or to start excercizing. Well, this post is created to help you!
I have one simple tip for you that will no doubt help you lose some weight, get more nutrition in your diet, and motivate you to eat healthier the rest of the day. Introducing…the breakfast smoothie. Replace it with whatever you eat for breakfast (you do eat breakfast, don’t you? Please don’t skip this meal!), and set the tone for a healthy day. I make this smoothie, or a version of it (depending on what I have stocked in the kitchen) every morning. After I have a baby, I usually eat eggs for breakfast to get my milk supply up, but after a couple months, back to the smoothie I go. (I also discovered that I am allergic to eggs, so I’ve created this in such a way that it will keep milk supply up if you are a nursing mama like I am). I truly see the weight begin to drop off when I make the switch to my morning smoothie, but I don’t in any way feel deprived because it is loaded with healthy fats and fiber. I also find that when I start my day this way, I feel lighter and have more energy because it’s easy on digestion (it also helps that it gets you moving in the direction of the porceline throne, if you know what I mean. Hello fiber!)… Ahem, anyway, another added benefit is I desire to eat healthier for the next meal as well, so I like that it has a domino effect on my food choices. All these wonderful effects on my day just because of one simple change!
My kids love it too! My two year old comes running into the kitchen every morning as I’m whizzing it up yelling, “mom, I want smoothie too”! What a great way to get loaded nutrition into little growing bodies. I hope you all try this out as you step into 2018. I decided last minute to make a video to show you how I make mine. It’s spontaneous and you may laugh at some parts, but, hey, this motherhood thing never looks perfect, so I’m not even going to try! If it helps you make this healthier change, then it’s all worth it.

My Morning Smoothie: (some links are provided)
1 C water
1 Tbs MCT oil NOW MCT 100% Oil, 32-Ounce
Large handful of fresh or frozen greens (if you are out of greens, add a couple Tbs of green powder)
½-1 C of frozen berries
1-2 Tbs flax seeds Bob’s Red Mill Whole Flaxseed, 24 Ounce
Protein Powder (I like bone broth protein powder, or vegetable based. If you can handle whey, you could use that)I use this one…Ancient Nutrition Bone Broth Protein Powder, Pure Flavor, 20 Servings Size
Collagen Powder (this will add some protein too, but I use it mainly to support my joints and skin) I use this one…Dr. Axe Multi-Collagen Protein Powder – High-Quality Blend of Grass-Fed Beef, Chicken, Wild Fish and Eggshell Collagen Peptides, Providing Type I, II, III, V and X – Formerly Dr. Collagen or this one is is good too and cheaper..Great Lakes Gelatin Collagen Hydrolysate Beef, Kosher, 16 oz.

1 tsp maca powder (this stuff is amazing for many things, but for me it is a great mood booster and supports my adrenals. Also known to boost libido…just sayin’) Navitas Organics Maca Gelatinized Powder, 4 Ounce
Roughly 1 C coconut or almond milk (the amount will be up to you depending on how thick you like it. If you are using frozen greens, you will need more liquid)
¼ avocado if you have it on hand
Optional ¼ C frozen okra (you will not taste this, but it will turn your smoothie into a creamy milk shake texture if that’s what you like, as well as adding lots of nutrition)

Throw it all in your blender and give it a good whiz. I use a Vitamix because that thing can puree anything. No chunks here! Vitamix 5200 Blender, Black
Throw it in a glass that makes you feel strong and powerful (wink!), and enjoy! I have been known to drink this out of a wine glass on those mornings where I wake up and stumble my way into the kitchen feeling like Cinderella. Somehow washing dishes while I sip on a healthy smoothie from a wine glass makes life feel a little more fun. I know, sounds crazy, but just try it, you may be surprised.

Cheers to a slimmer, happier you in 2018!

  • Update-I had a friend text me this morning that she couldn’t stand all the seeds in the smoothie.  As we talked about it, we think that maybe it had to do with the blackberries. She noticed that in the kind she bought the blackberries were huge (which would equate to huge seeds!).  I have had this happen before with some brands of berries, so if you find this is the case for you, you could pick out the blackberries before you throw it all together, or you could nix the mixed berries and just buy a bag of just frozen blueberries.  (This will be higher in sugars, but not as high as a banana!)  Hope this helps for any of you that don’t like the seeds!!