NatureAmy

caring for creation while caring for family

Tag: faith (page 1 of 2)

My THM Pregnancy: 39 week update… Oops… 2 days post-partum!

Baby is here and it’s a…

GIRL!

Little Bethany Carolyn joined our family at 8 am on Wednesday, nine days before her due date.  She was 8 lbs even, 21 inches long, and has captured everyone’s hearts already.

Sleep my little one...

Sleep my little one…

I will be sharing her full birth story soon, but for a bit of a preview…

She arrived only 3 short hours after my first contraction and 1 minute before the midwives arrived!  She was born at home, as planned, with no complications, and a very, VERY quick labor.  My husband got to deliver her and is so proud of that fact!

I could not have asked for a better delivery.  It was fast and intense, but she arrived quickly and we were able to immediately relax as a family and just soak up the time together.

Big sister Addamay is already smitten. In typical 2-year-old fashion, she has claimed the baby as hers and does not want to share...

Big sister Addamay is already smitten. In typical 2-year-old fashion, she has claimed the baby as hers and does not want to share…

I’m supposed to be resting and in bed for the first week after delivery.  My midwives insist that it really is the best start for your body after birth to allow adequate time for healing.  And I’m trying to rest and stay off my feet as much as possible, but I’m terrible at taking it easy…  My husband and mom keep sending me back to bed!  At least they are here to take care of me…

Thank you all so much for your prayers and support and for following along this entire pregnancy, from my miscarriage a year ago, to healing from that experience, and finally throughout my pregnancy and birth.  God has been so good to us and has shown Himself faithful time and again.

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My One Year Blogiversary: What I’ve learned from my first year…

Today is the 1 year anniversary of starting my NatureAmy blog and what a year it has been!

I started writing to have an outlet that was just mine.  For the first time since becoming a mom almost 8 years before, I was switching from working part-time to being a full-time stay at home mom.  And although I was happy about that, I wanted an outlet that was just mine.

amy_addamay2016As much as I love motherhood, it can become all consuming – so much so that I find myself needing an outlet that is all my own.  When I taught college classes part time, that was a great outlet. However, after 3 kids and full time homeschooling two of them, working outside the home, even for only 10 hours a week, was too much.  So I became a full-time SAHM and started a lifestyle/mommy blog.

And I’ve loved it!  It’s been a hard year for me emotionally, but being able to write about it has been very healing.  I’ve also found that writing is so much like teaching.  I’m a teacher and encourager at heart and I’ll never get away from that.

I’ve evolved from writing two or three posts per week, to taking two months off from writing in the summer, and eventually settling in at posting about once per week.

family2016I wish I could write more consistently – I love reading bloggers who post several days every week – but I realized that that is not realistic in my current season.  I’m homeschooling 1st and 3rd grade, keeping up with a very independent toddler, and about to add a 4th baby to the mix.  My husband works 80 hour weeks during the school year and we try to keep everything running smoothly at our house (emphasis on TRY – it is far from smooth most weeks!).


So… just for fun, let’s look at some of my stats and most popular posts this year.  I have been blown away by the visitation and love that this site has received the last 12 months!

Total site visitation: just under 50,000 – I can hardly fathom that number!  I know for many more popular blogs that is a monthly or weekly stat, but I am humbled that my blog has been visited so many times!

  1. My most popular post is my Weeks Worth of Trim Healthy Mama Camping Meal Ideas Camping with THM: A week's worth of on-plan menu ideas - perfect for a family camping trip - NatureAmy.com
  2.  But coming in just slightly under it is my Healthy Blueberry Scones Fuel Pull recipe – Downton Abbey inspired.  All my scone recipes are popular (and yummy) but this one tops them all.Downton-night-1
  3. My third most popular post is my personal Trim Healthy Mama Testimony.beforeand-after-thm

Enough stats – personally, my favorite three posts (even though they don’t rank so high in post views) are the following.

  1. My very first blog story (after my introduction post) – Glitter in the Snow.  I love this touching story about how our kids are the light and hope in this dark world.Does the darkness of the world seem to be too much? Here is some hope - some glitter - in the dark. - Natureamy.com
  2. My testimony about not having a testimony – When you feel like you don’t have a testimony…  The Facebook shares of this one really humbled me.When it seems that everyone else has an amazing story to tell of how God saved them from disaster, but you've been a Christian forever... But you DO have a beautiful testimony of God's faithfulness. -- NatureAmy.com
  3. And finally, our family tips on hiking with little kids – or how to NOT carry them the entire way…Tips for hiking with little kids, without carrying them the entire way. Written by long-distance backpacker parents who love to hike! NatureAmy.com

Some things I’ve learned that have pleasantly surprised me:

There is a wonderful and supportive world of bloggers out there that I never knew existed!  I’ve made friendships all over the United States, and even some beyond, with women who also blog.  I’ve never been one to have digital relationships before – everyone I was friends with on Facebook I actually knew in person – but I’ve found a kinship with these women and it has really blessed me!

Instagram is a very surprising place.  I never had an Instagram account before I opened my @amylovesnature page.  I’ve found it to be a great tool in the blogging world and have formed most my friendships with other bloggers through it.  It is also a much more pleasant social media outlet during political season!

E-courses can be a valuable connection tool.  I purchased an e-course from Natalie of At Home With Natalie about blogging.  It has been a very valuable tool.  However, the thing I found most useful is the connections it has brought to other like minded bloggers.  I use her Blogging E-course for Moms.  And she often has discounts!


So, overall, I’ve learned a lot this year.  But I’ve also learned to find my groove, be completely and unapologetically myself, and not focus on page views and site stats.  I’ve made a little bit of money (enough to pay for a replacement part to fix my nice camera), gotten overwhelmed by statistics and numbers (my post on why I don’t want a successful blog speaks about that one) , and eventually stepped back from it all to find a place that works for me.  Rethinking what it means to be successful in the blogging world when you want to encourage simpler living and consuming less.

Maybe someday I’ll be a “successful” blogger with really great site stats and viral posts who makes enough money to support my family… but for now, I’m happy where I’m at.  God has blessed me so much in this journey so far and I’m happy to be along for the ride!

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Why Choose Homeschool? Thoughts from a Homeschooled Homeschooling Mom

I sat down to write one post on homeschooling, but soon realized I have a mini-series in the making.  So… this is the first of many posts to come on how we do homeschooling at our house.

There are so many different options for school and no one-sized fits all approach!  Public schools, charter schools, private schools, and homeschools are the most common options for us to choose between in the United States.  The best fit for our family in this season is homeschool.  But like parenting, and so many other things in life, we homeschoolers all have to find the groove that fits our family.  I feel like that is a moving target, especially as my kids grow older and we add more babies to the mix, but that’s part of the fun of life.

I was actually a homeschooled kid for most of my school years.  This was a weird thing in the ’80s and ’90s. When I started public school in high school, no one knew what I meant by “homeschool”.  My peers thought it was  some type of remedial or correctional program – I am serious, they actually thought that!  I think they learned otherwise as I soon rose to the top of the class and graduated salutatorian.

Why Choose Homeschool? Thoughts on homeschooling from a homeschooled homeschooling mom. Why its the best choice for our family - NatureAmy.com

Some hands-on learning at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

I  love how homeschool helped mold me into the person  that I am today.  Homeschooling allowed me to learn at my own speed (which was actually very slow at first – I didn’t read until I was eight!) and pursue things that interested me – which was pretty much everything.

Homeschool instilled in me a universal love of learning that I still have today.  I learned to love every subject, mostly due to my parents’ love of learning and reading.  My mom and dad read out loud to us for years – years longer than was necessary.  I cherish these memories of family reading time, huddled together on the old family room couch, on a family road trip, or around a crackling campfire.  These books opened up so many opportunities for us.  I only hope that our own homeschool can do the same for our family.

When my husband and I had kids, he knew right away that we were going to homeschool them.  In fact, he told everyone that.  (He was never homeschooled himself, but he saw the benefit of it.) I wasn’t so sure, only because I knew how challenging it is to be a homeschool parent and that the majority of their education would fall on me.  However, as our oldest grew older, I started to look into our options.

Why Choose Homeschool? Thoughts on homeschooling from a homeschooled homeschooling mom. Why its the best choice for our family - NatureAmy.com

A field trip to the local zoo – the kids love any chance to see animals up close!

Our local schools are good schools and the teachers and administration are very good people, so I was not concerned there.  However, as I saw my young and very impressionable son interacting with other kids at the park, I noticed some things I did not like.  He learned to copy other children’s behavior, especially bigger “cool” kids, just from an hour or two at the park.  And that behavior was more “Lord of the Flies” than it was good Sunday School kid.  I didn’t like it.

My husband and I knew that we wanted to be the biggest influences of our children, not some cool kid on the playground.  We wanted to know what was going on with them everyday and to be able to pour life and love and grace into them throughout the school day.

I knew from my oldest’s personality and learning style that going to public school would be tough on him and we decided when he was only three and a half that homeschool would be the best thing for him.  We have not regretted it at all.

Why Choose Homeschool? Thoughts on homeschooling from a homeschooled homeschooling mom. Why its the best choice for our family - NatureAmy.com

Making a recycling truck out of recycled boxes during a unit on recycling.

Homeschooling gives us the ability to allow our kids time to be kids.  At most schools today, kids are not allowed the time to just play that they need for their cognitive development.  Many, if not most, schools have all-day kindergarten.  Homeschooling has let my kids be kids.  Kindergarten work takes 1-2 hours of our day and the rest of the day can be spent exploring nature, running around, building with Legos, and just letting their imaginations go!

I love that my little boys are not made to feel bad or be punished for being wiggly kids.  My kids don’t come home from school with a “frowny face” for not being able to sit still or wrestling with another kid.  I can give them the time they need to wiggle and move and wrestle.  For most little boys, and many little girls, this is normal and not something to be punished or medicated.

Why Choose Homeschool? Thoughts on homeschooling from a homeschooled homeschooling mom. Why its the best choice for our family - NatureAmy.com

Our first day of homeschool EVER! The boys had some fun with math and trains practicing numbers, addition, and subtraction.

Now that I have a third grader, we spend more than 2 hours a day doing school, but it is still much shorter than the time his peers spend in public school.  He is starting to be able to work independently, for a short time, and I love to see how his brain is developing.  His attention to detail with science and history just astound me.  I am so honored to be able to spend this time with him and see him grow into the man he will become.

Another reason homeschooling fits our family is because it allows my kids to have a very special and tight bond.  Although my kids all have friends their ages, they are also very best friends with each other.  And although they do fight on occasion, as all kids do, for the most part, they get along very well.

It was the same for me and my siblings growing up.  If we weren’t friends with each other, who were we going to play with during the day?  Sure, we had other friends, but not “at school” with us.  I think the sibling bond is one that should be cherished and nurtured.  Siblings just tolerating each other, fighting constantly, and making each other miserable is just not acceptable.  We work hard to maintain that bond between them.  It is worth preserving.

Why Choose Homeschool? Thoughts on homeschooling from a homeschooled homeschooling mom. Why its the best choice for our family - NatureAmy.com

Becoming Jr Rangers at Lassen Volcanic National Park

The final reason we have chosen to homeschool is because we can integrate our faith into our daily studies.  We open each day with a prayer, allow the kids to take turns praying, and practice Bible verses.  And although we don’t use Christian curriculum (more on that in my curriculum post coming soon), I make sure to integrate our faith whenever I can – which is often!  The opportunities abound to share the importance of God with our kids and I try to be intentional to take these opportunities when they come up.

So, were you homeschooled or is it something that you have chosen for your children?

I’d love to hear about what works best for your family.

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A big announcement…

I alluded to some exciting changes coming our way a couple weeks ago, but now, I will let the cat out of the bag.  I’m pregnant!  Our rainbow baby is expected to join us sometime in late February or early March next year.

Pregnancy after miscarriage - allowing time to heal both body and soul. How God turned my mourning into dancing - NatureAmy.com

Our fun pregnancy announcement

If you have been following me for a while, you know that I experienced a miscarriage last February.  I wrote a post about the experience and another about taking time to heal from it – and one thing that I have learned in this all is that miscarriage and loss needs to be talked about more.

It is such a painful thing for a woman (and really a couple or family) to go through, it really should not be done alone.  Yet, so many people feel that they cannot talk about it.   And although I posted about it here, I am guilty of not talking about it much in person.  It is painful to bring up, but it is also reassuring to know that we are not alone in our pain.  There are many, many women who understand.  The more I mentioned the experience to friends, the more friends I learned had been through it themselves.  It was a kind of sisterhood, of sorts…

Time to heal

After my miscarriage, the doctor told me to wait a couple months before trying for another baby.  I smiled and nodded, but I did not really understand his reasoning.  He wanted to make sure I was completely healed, but mostly he was concerned that I had time to heal emotionally.  He said that depression after miscarriage could lead to postpartum depression after a new birth if there was not proper time to mourn the loss.  Only after living in a fog of depression for several months and finally feeling it lift completely this summer did I realize the wisdom of his suggestion.

My body was also not the same after my miscarriage.  My hormones were off for several months and my cycles were strange.  I gained weight and was not able to lose it no matter how hard I tried (which I believe was due to my hormone imbalance).  Finally, in June, the fog started to lift and I finally felt more like myself.  My cycles, which I chart, also normalized again and we conceived our rainbow baby.

Mourning into dancing

When I calculated the baby’s due date, I was pleased to discover that it was just days away from the day that our last little one was taken home into the arms of Jesus.  It was like God was taking a day that was heartbreaking and replacing it with a time of joy.  I really do see it as a gift from our Heavenly Father and I am so thankful.  Our God is so good, my friends – so good!

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30:11-12 ESV

Again, thank you for your faithful prayers and support during this time of healing for our family.  It really does mean so much to me.

Oh! And, I can’t wait to give you all an update on my first trimester with a Trim Healthy Mama pregnancy.  I really have noticed some really amazing differences I am excited to share with you!

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Healing from Miscarriage: Allowing myself time to heal, rest, and recover

At the end of February this year, I had my first miscarriage (you can read more about it here).  It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through and something I hoped I never would have to experience.

But, although it was physically, mentally, and spiritually hard, it brought me to a place where I could feel my Jesus’ presence.  I knew He was right there with me (as He always is).  I made the very conscious choice to praise Him through this storm.  My anthem was the Bethel Worship playlist of “Good Good Father” on YouTube (linked here) and I played it over and over in my grief.

But even though I could feel the presence of God and I knew He held me safe, it did not change the fact that I was still in the midst of the storm…

I am naturally very self reliant, self-motivated, controlled, self-sufficient – you get the picture – but my grief left me feeling raw, broken, and like I had little control.  My emotions, usually buried and in check, easily sprang to the surface and I found myself retreating into the safety of my home.

It was almost as if I was in a fog.  I went through my normal routine.  We home schooled, went to our extracurricular classes, went to church, and shopped for groceries, but I stopped doing anything that I did not have to do.  I didn’t even realize it until several months later that I was operating in a fog for about three or four months.

I didn’t realize, until it started to lift, that I was experiencing depression.  Looking back at the spring months, I realized how much I had retreated.  I realized how little I had done with friends in that time.  I generally am quite social and fill our calendar with play dates, Bible studies, and activities because I enjoy them, but for several months I retreated from most everything.

And honestly, when I realized what I had done, I was not disappointed.  I knew I needed that time “off” to rest and recover and heal.  Instinctively, I did what I needed for that period of healing in my life.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”           Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

Many people have told me that when they experienced miscarriage, the path to healing for them involved giving and investing in others.  They spent more time focusing on others, more time away from home.  And I can see why that would be important, especially if you don’t have children at home, but with three little kids at home and homeschooling, I think I was already giving enough of myself.  The path to healing for me involved allowing myself to rest, to pull back, and to heal in the quiet and safety of my home.

I spent more time in the Word, more time in prayer and reflection, more time writing.  I also found great comfort in Becky Thompson’s book Hope Unfolding: Grace-Filled Truth for the Momma’s Heart.  Becky writes about her miscarriage and healing in the book and how she used praise as a weapon against grief.  It is just one chapter in the book, but it played a big part in my healing.  If you don’t follow Becky at Scissortail Silk on Facebook, you really should – I guarantee you will be blessed.

I finally feel as if the fog has completely lifted.  It’s been over five months since my miscarriage and it took about four and a half to finally feel completely like myself again.  It has been a process.  And for a “do-it-yourself” kind of girl like me, it has also been a humbling experience.  I would never choose to go through the pain of miscarriage again, but I know I am a stronger woman because of it and I can relate to those who have, or will, also go through one. And for that, I am thankful.

If you are going through something like this, or have in the past, I would love to hear from you and pray with you.  Leave a comment below, or send me a private message on Facebook.

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Celebrating One Year of Freedom from Sugar Addiction

June 10th has never been a significant date in my life.  I love June – it’s my birthday and anniversary month, it’s the start of summer and swimming, but June 10th was always just another day, until 2015.  Last year, June 10th, I made a promise to myself and before God to no longer be controlled by my sugar addiction and it was life changing.  A few days later, I wrote this to my small private Bible study Facebook group while we were going through Beth Moore’s “Believing God” series.

Confession time – I’ve been meaning to post this for a few days, but also dreading doing it, because writing it down makes it real!
So while reading day 4 a couple days ago, I was very convicted by Beth’s personal story of living in a cycle of defeat. At first I thought, “thank goodness I don’t have that in my past” when God brought to mind a very real struggle of mine that I do not want to give up. So, being very honest here, my struggle is my sugar addiction. I have gone on and off cycles of being sugar free for weeks or months at a time for the last 3 years, but I always try to convince myself that I can have “just a little bit”, that I don’t have to give it up completely, etc. But if I have learned anything over these cycles of defeat, it is that I can’t just have a little bit. Whenever I cave for a little bit, it becomes a binge session that lasts for days, if not weeks. I need freedom from this, and have felt that urging to let it go completely for some time now, (pretending I can’t hear you, God) but the thought of what others will think has held me back. Having to explain why I can’t eat something (without a real reason like an allergy) at an event or party invites unwanted attention and ridicule for my choices. But like an alcoholic, I need to rid myself of all large sources of sugar in my life for good and it scares me.
Thankfully, I have been mostly sugar free for the last year on the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle that I do and I have a lot of great stevia sweetened dessert recipes, so I know I won’t suffer. However, the idea of having to push away the special dessert at a dinner party freaks me out, but I know that it will send me in a tailspin – it always does!
So, I have asked God to help me in the journey, to give me freedom from this addiction and I’ve started re-reading Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst, because there are some great verses to add to my memorization list. I want to crave God more than I crave sugar, and as it says in Day 5, “I’m thrilled to know we can binge on God without guilt!” (p. 27 of Believing God Workbook) I am believing that God will help me through this journey out of this addiction and I can experience his freedom from sugar.
Thank you, my friends, for praying for me in this and for being here.
Love you all,
Amy

I was so scared to write that post because writing it down and showing it to my friends meant that I was accountable and if I failed miserably like I always had before, they would know.  Keeping it hidden was so tempting – I was scared to tell anyone that I had given up sugar, but I knew I had to.  And it was not as bad as I thought it would be.  Saying “no” to a piece of cake has not been a problem in the past year.  I have not been ridiculed for my decision.  It was much worse in my head than it actually has been in reality.

Celebrating my birthday this last week - the first time I haven't had a large sugar-filled cake to binge on in a long time! My homemade THM sugar-free cupcakes were perfect!

Celebrating my birthday this last week – the first time I haven’t had a large sugar-filled cake to binge on! My homemade THM sugar-free cupcakes were perfect!

I’ve written about finding freedom from sugar-addiction before (you can read my tips here), but honestly, it was not something I ever thought was possible.  I love sugar, but I have always believed in the mantra “All things in moderation” – in fact, I still do, but not when it comes to addiction, even food addiction.  After years of giving up sugar for periods of time, I would allow myself “just a little” for a special occasion or treat, and I would not be able to stop.  At home, dessert was not safe from me.  I would slowly nibble away at the leftover cake or pie until it was gone.  I had felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit gently encouraging me to give up sugar for good, to treat it like a true addiction and cut it out, but I did not want to hear it.  Finally, I could not ignore it any more. I was sick and tired of living in a cycle of defeat – I wanted freedom!

I often listen to the Dave Ramsey Show on the radio as I am making dinner – we are in Step 2 of his financial baby steps currently and it helps keep me accountable – and he said something the other day that I had to stop and write down.  “You have to have an ‘I’ve had it’ moment to break an addiction,” Dave Ramsey said.  I knew that to be true in my case.  I wanted to give up sugar for years, but not enough. I had to be sick and tired of being controlled by my sugar cravings – so much so that I was willing to make a huge sacrifice to make it happen.  I was not at that place until June 10th, 2015.

But [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.               2 Corinthians 12:9

This verse has been posted on my refrigerator door throughout this entire journey and it will stay there as I make it past the one year mark and continue to live in freedom from this addiction.  Because throughout the last year, I have learned to rely more heavily on my Savior.  I have learned that God has not cursed me with this weakness, but He has given me an opportunity to grow in my faith daily.  I have had to lean heavily into Him during this journey, especially during the trying times of holiday parties and grief over my miscarriage and my grandfather dying.  And I have learned that God is faithful.  He asked me to give up sugar,  He equipped me to do it, and He did not (and will not) leave my side throughout this journey.

So, what about you?  Is there something you are struggling with that you know God is asking you to give up? Have you reached your “I’ve had it” moment?

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Under Grace: Ella’s Trim Healthy Mama Testimony

Diets are made up of laws, a lot of laws. I have been through plenty of diets (Atkins, South Beach, Slow carb, No carb, Medifast, Blood type, Paleo, the walk everywhere because you don’t have a car diet) and have lost weight, for a while. And reading the books, they are clear about this one thing. The laws of the diet have to be your new way of life. Forever. Period. So I would fail eventually. I could never make these extreme diets a way of life. I love carbs, and fats, way too much. And my body needed them. I couldn’t do the diets while pregnant or nursing because there was not enough to sustain myself through those. So I would gain again.

Under Grace: A story of grace, a story of freedom - Ella's Trim Healthy Mama Testimony - NatureAmy.com

Ella as a senior in high school

I have never been skinny. When puberty hit I got big. I don’t remember a time in my teenage years that I was less than a size 14. In college I gained my freshman 15 and then my sophomore 10 and then a junior 10 then a senior 5. My year of teacher training and my first year of teaching I was too busy to eat so the weight melted back off of me, but that didn’t last and I never made it below a 14 even then. I was resolved to be a size large.

My weight continued to yo-yo throughout the years as I tried one diet after another. I only had the will power to stay strictly with a plan for about a month. But the laws were too much for me. I would allow myself some leeway, some grace amongst the laws, and that always would sabotage my efforts. Eventually the cheating would overtake the good of the diet and I would just give up.

But then my sister Amy introduced me to a new plan. (You can read Amy’s THM testimony here.) She had success with losing weight with a new diet that sounded interesting. And, being a sucker for a new diet to try, I borrowed her book and started to read Trim Healthy Mama.

I was astounded to learn that I could enjoy my carbs and my fats in the same day and not gain weight! I didn’t have to cut out a food group for a long period of time. I didn’t have to count calories or go hungry. I didn’t have to eliminate desserts or exercise like crazy. I just had to be wise about how I enjoyed all these things. This was a plan I could see implementing for the rest of my life.

Under Grace: A story of grace, a story of freedom - Ella's Trim Healthy Mama Testimony - NatureAmy.com

Ella with her husband last Christmas

There are plenty of posts out in cyber space that explain the concepts of this way of eating better then I ever could (or better yet, read the book), so I will let you look those up yourself  if you are interested, but the part of this plan I want to talk about is the Grace.

For we are not under law, but under grace.

The writers of the book are Christians and believe their faith should permeate every area of their lives. They used their study of scripture to realize that the food rules we were living under were not placed there by God. They lay out clearly the food freedom that God intended us to have. The food Grace, He designed our bodies to live under. And it is a food freedom flowing with milk and honey, with bread and wine, with the fat and the lean.

Under Grace: A story of grace, a story of freedom - Ella's Trim Healthy Mama Testimony - NatureAmy.com

At goal size – all dressed up and ready for the ball!

The best part is that your body does a reset every three hours. If I do go off plan, have a cheat or a treat, I am only three hours from going back on. I don’t have to derail an entire day or week or month of hard determination for one moment of bliss. There is grace.

I am under grace, so I can choose to have a meal out every week with my family and eat whatever looks good to me on the menu and still lose weight.

I am under grace, so I can enjoy a holiday weekend away and not worry if there will be food that I can eat available.

I am under grace, so I can enjoy s’mores on a camping trip.

I am under grace, so I can eat a helping of the first cake that my son made completely on his own.

I am under grace, so I can enjoy popcorn at the movies and a corn dog at the fair and still lose weight.

I am under grace, so I can stick with this plan for life, even after reaching my goal weight.

Do you feel the grace tonight? Do you rest in the knowledge that God created you and your body perfectly and to function with grace? Can you have grace towards yourself?

I am excited to report, that under this plan, I am now at a lower weight then I have been at in my entire adult life. I am now wearing a size 10! And I am firmly a medium. These are huge things for this big girl. And you know what? I am not quitting this plan because I have reached my goal weight. I am just adding more crossovers and enjoying the food freedom and allowing my body to find its “happy weight.” I may go down more, I may not. I am not going to stress over it, because I am under grace. And that is exactly where my Father wants me to be.

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Running the Race

I want to introduce you to my dear friend, Christine.  Christine is a mom of four very energetic young boys and she has a heart of a Warrior Princess.  She is currently writing a book, a curriculum actually, on this topic.  She is a wonderful friend, mother, and teacher.  She is also a talented writer and speaker.  I’m honored to share her work with you!                    ~ Amy

I ran a marathon before I was married. I’ve never really cared for running, but caring for my body has been a priority for a while now.  Without access to a gym, training for a marathon was a great way to employ discipline to stay fit.   And the peer pressure of the friend I was doing it with was a great help too.
The marathon was in San Francisco, California. The course took us through all kinds of terrain; flat roads by the bay and wharf, hills by the Golden Gate Bridge and through Golden Gate Park.  Along the way I was presented with a few obstacles.  I broke out in hives on mile one so by mile 3 I was running with Benadryl in my system.  About mile 13 my foot started throbbing and swelling.

christine fam

Christine and her family

Just as the race course goes through different terrain and we are met with all kinds of circumstances- our spiritual life looks similar. As we approach the different seasons of life, it’s crucial to realize that this race we are in is a marathon.  This is no 5K.  This race is our lifetime and will impact eternity.  Friends, there will be a time to sprint and a time to walk.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Hebrews 12:1-3

Perseverance has been defined as a steady persistence in a course of action, steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success, a continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure or opposition.  So I would say following the instruction in Hebrews 12 means moving forward.  As long as we don’t let a circumstance take us out, if we take the time to deal with them so that we can continue in the course marked out for us, we are persevering. Let us consider Jesus, the way our God cared for Himself and others as He ran His human race.  His actions were never rushed, His ways were steady as He moved toward His finish line.

I was diagnosed with a hypothyroid a few years ago.  The season of discovering my illness and recovery was slow going, learning how to really rest was crucial to my recovery.

It was in this season I came to a much greater understanding of God’s grace.  My inability to run well forced me to lean into Him.  His grace carried me, and I had to be okay with not being strong enough. I saw this image of trying to run my race with my four young boys.  Like hauling them along with me- constantly verbally pushing them and physically dragging them along this dusty trail.  They were getting filthy and scuffed up.  I was getting nowhere and my exhaustion was not only going to destroy everything in my world but also kill me. This picture slowed me down.  And when I did the scene changed.   In this new picture I was not in workout gear sweaty and straining, but in more elegant attire.  Walking leisurely along this dirt road, holding a mug of coffee and smiling while conversing with the four children around me.  They’d discover things along the path, eager to show me and tell me all about it.  I was able to laugh and enjoy every bit of them. Although this picture is different than the one that comes to mind reading Hebrew 12:1-3 I think it can be applied.
I knew that Jesus had come to give me a full life- wanting me to thrive- not just survive, so I changed my battle plan.  It was time to look at the season I was in and consider the terrain.  It takes discipline to slow down.  Sometimes it takes more discipline to slow down then to “keep up”.  Sometimes the things that ensnare us on our journey are sins of pride as we seek perfection and holiness with our own effort and perhaps even competition with our fellow runners.

christine boys

Christine’s four boys

Run your race sister.  Focus on the ground before you, feel inspired and encouraged by the other runners, but remember they won’t be able to beat you in your race, because God did not make your life or my life a competition.  Others are running their own race and we can celebrate the successes they have, the ones they post on social media, just as we would want them to celebrate with us.

Warrior, strive to press on, enjoy and embrace the terrain God has brought you to. This requires us to beat our body into submission.  Practically speaking this will mean striving to keep up in spin class or telling our body to be quiet, and climb in bed mid-day to read a novel.   Maybe it’s doing the dishes, and maybe it’s snuggling with a child.  God has called us to run the race as if to win.  You will need to pace yourself.  Depending on the terrain you’re on, acting in the spirit of discipline will be to reach out and say “yes” to the leader in church who’s asking you to serve.  Other times it will mean beating that people- pleasing desire down and saying the word “no.”

As we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith we will be able to run with perseverance the race marked of us.  Our goal is progress- not perfection.  Perfection is being with Jesus at the end.  For the joy of being with Him in eternity- of finishing the race with a smile and an embrace from our proud Lord.

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God Cares About Mom Friends: and other seemingly trivial requests

When January comes around each year, like so much of the world, I like to reflect on the past year and come up with some goals for the new one. Some years I come up with a whole list of resolutions and some years I decide on a word that I want to focus on for the year (for example, this year my word is discipline).  However, one year, when I was a young first time mom, I only had one New Year’s wish – only one cry of my heart – I really wanted a friend.

I had lots of friends, don’t get me wrong, but as a new mom I felt what, I believe, is common for so many new moms – I felt lonely.  My life was suddenly so different and I had very few friends who were in the same place that I was – a mom who mostly stayed at home (I did work a couple days a week), nursing an infant, in need of a friend.   Becoming a mom changes things in so many ways that you do not expect – I felt lonely and isolated.  It kind of snuck up on me.  That New Year’s I realized what I needed – what I wanted more than any lofty goal – was a mom friend.  So I asked God to bring me a friend that wasn’t miles away or too busy with work or school or kids activities.

It was one of those prayer requests that you think really doesn’t matter, right? It wasn’t a request for healing from cancer; it wasn’t something catastrophic; it almost seemed trivial, mundane, ordinary.  Would God really care that this young mom was lonely and just wanted a friend?

But, friend, I know my Jesus. I know how much He loves me – how much He loves you.  And just like my husband would never want me to be lonely, my Jesus wants it even less. Sometimes, God is just waiting for us to ask…

I have asked God for many things in my life and although I have received many “yes” answers, the more frequent response seems to be “no” or “not yet, my child”. But I was reminded of the words of my Jesus – words that mean so much more to me now that I am a parent.

 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7: 9-11

All I had to do was ask. So that New Years night, sitting exhausted on my bedroom floor after feeding the baby (again), I prayed for a friend.  Then, I fell asleep, exhausted, and forgot all about it…

Sometimes prayers take a long time to be answered and sometimes I think God is standing there, holding a gift out, just waiting for us to take it.

I don’t remember how many days later it was, but less than a week, I somewhat begrudgingly attended a baby shower for a neighbor.  Usually I like showers, but I was not looking forward to this one at all.  In fact, I told my husband I was going to make a polite appearance and duck out as soon as possible.  So, I took the baby – always a good excuse to leave early – and reluctantly walked down the block to the shower, gift in hand.

I am a strange combination of personalities – an extroverted introvert.  I can certainly be confident and bubbly and make acquaintances easily, but I secretly hate small talk and long for deep conversation with someone I really connect with.  Going to the baby shower, without really knowing anyone was uncomfortable and required a lot more energy that this sleep deprived young mom wanted to give.  But I went and God met me there with the gift that I had asked Him for.

You know when you meet someone and within minutes you know there is a connection?  That was the case with my friend Jen. I had met her before – we were also neighbors, but we had only introduced ourselves at the mailbox and pointed out our houses.  At the party, both not really knowing anyone, and both not being comfortable in that situation, we connected.  We talked the entire party, and as we walked home together after the party (I didn’t leave early after all), we made arrangements to meet for coffee and shopping a few days later. And, without even realizing it until several months later, God answered my prayer – my silly, trivial, won’t stop the world’s problems prayer – because He loved me.

God loves to give good gifts to His children, no matter how trivial they may seem. - NatureAmy.com

My friend, Jen, and I on a recent coffee date (well, we both had tea)

So, my friend, what is your heart longing for today? What seemingly trivial request do you have for our Father? Because, you know, He loves you more than anyone in the world – He thinks about you all the time – He delights in giving you good gifts.  All you have to do is ask…

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Why I don’t want a “successful” blog

You may have noticed that things have been quiet on the blog for the last couple of weeks and I have not posted anything new.  I wanted to apologize to my loyal readers (Hi, Mom, Dad, and Grandma!) and let you in on the why…

I started this website because I love to write (and had not written for fun in way too long) and I love to teach and share; I wanted a place to share my passions and I have really loved this new experience.  I loved being a mom and a teacher and I loved my life, but I wanted an outlet – something that was just mine – to be able to share my heart.  This blog is the result of that longing.

However, I also did a lot of research on how to make a blog successful (i.e. attracting large numbers of visitors and making an income) and I started to feel very overwhelmed.  I spent a good amount of time trying to make sense of the world of successful blogging and the more I read, the more I felt in over my head.  I am not a business woman and I have no desire to sell anything.  In fact, I want people to buy and consume less, yet the world of “successful” (read money making) blogs is about selling products and essentially become an advertiser.  Annoying popups and flashy ads make money.  I started to feel like I needed a degree in marketing and business to be successful.  I felt like I needed to be flashy and impressive to draw in an audience and the whole thing was making me feel sick to my stomach and very uncomfortable.  I started to stress about the number of visitors on my website and likes on my Facebook page and as my anxiety grew, I realized I needed to take a step back to remember who I am and why I started a blog in the first place.amy crop

I am a teacher at heart and an encourager.  I believe in living a simple and lighter footprint life by consuming less and loving others more.  I love to eat healthy, get outside into nature, and create sugar-free recipes. I want to encourage people who find my site no matter where they are in life.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think there is anything wrong with monetizing a blog and working hard to increase an audience. Most of the bloggers I love are monetized and it does not bother me, but it just isn’t for me.  I may occasionally promote a product that I really, really love or become an affiliate of a company that I truly respect and admire (like Trim Healthy Mama, the one company I am affiliated with currently), but that is not why I started this blog and it is not what makes me happy.  

The second reason I have stepped back a bit at this time is I am finding it hard to get back on track after my miscarriage. Everyone told me to take time to heal and grieve and process the loss.  But, I am the type of person that wants to jump back into everything immediately – I’m fine, I’m strong, etc. – but when I tried, I just felt overwhelmed and I cried – a lot.  So I have had to take some time to quiet my soul and to allow myself space and time to heal.  I am getting there, but I am not there yet…selfie

I will get back to writing some posts soon, I promise. I have several in the works currently.  Plus, I have been listening to some great audio books recently and am feeling inspired to write some more about living simply.  I will also be writing more about our journey to live greener lives with less negative impact.  And, of course, there will be more recipes and healthy living tips.  And, hopefully, some great guest posts, as well!

This blog has only been around for three short months, but I am blessed beyond measure with the number of shares and pins my posts have gotten and the positive feedback I have received.

Thank you for reading, my friend,

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