Thursday, November 24, 2011


I'm guest posting over at my friend Jen's place today for her series entitled "Nourishment".  Here's a taste of the post.  Click on the link below to read the whole thing.  Happy Thanksgiving!

I breathe deeply and I pause.  The Thanksgiving begins. 

Amidst the “hello’s” and “nice to see you’s” there is an awkwardness.  A hmm, do I really know these people?  I wonder and I wander. 

Between tables, around corners.  Through conversations, amidst scents....

For more, visit Finding Heaven.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


A leaf falls
and flutters
twisting and
like a breath caught
in the wind

A page turns
and bends
sliding and
through the book
to its end

A life moves
and breathes
seeking and
for the glory
to begin

A hand reaches
and touches
speaking and
this is not
the end

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Of Seasons & Sign-Offs

I've been dwelling on the notion of seasons lately, especially as I long for a change in our physical season.  We all seem to be holding our breath here in Texas, waiting, hoping, longing for the drought to lift and rain to come, bringing with it cooler temperatures and the shift into fall.

As I long for that seasonal turn, I look to my own life and see a shift happening there as well.  I have experienced one, full, glorious year of full-time stay-at-home mommyhood.  Now, while I am still primarily a stay-at-home mom, thank God, I am also a part-time worker bee, a writer, and one who is still trying to find balance and healing (in my body, specifically).  The addition of working at night and on the weekends is wearing me down, so something has to give.  It's like a tree that has to shed its leaves in order to experience new growth come spring: I cannot continue producing right now; I must shed some things.

So, I'm signing off for a while.  The blog is being put on hold.  I might throw up some posts every now and again, but it will be even less regularly than it currently is.  I'm doing this to make room for my novel and for rest.  I'm getting much stronger physically, but I still have a ways to go.  Your prayers are always appreciated for that part of my journey (or, heck, any part of it!).

Thank you for a wonderful year of bloggy-hood.  I pray grace and peace over you, my readers and friends.  In Him, Jenny

Linking up with Soli Deo Gloria today.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Quick Hello

This is a quick note to my Soli Deo Gloria friends.  I'm sitting in a quiet house while Lily sleeps and Gunnar tries to unwind.  Today was a preschool day.  He was line leader and had a blast.  As we walked to pick up his sister he said, "Mom, aren't you so proud of me that I was the line leader today?"  I assured him that I was, beaming as I spoke affirmation over him. 

He did a great job today: modeling how to line up for the other kids; delighting the teacher with his pretend play (fireman head to toe, including the princess gloves he put on because they were the only gloves available and, "firemen have to have gloves", or so he told his teachers); playing well with the other kids; and generally having a great attitude.  I am really, really proud of him.  He is learning to love others outside of the little world we call home.

How much more must our Father in Heaven feel when he looks down at us and sees us choosing well, acting well?  Most of you know what I'm talking about: that indescribable feeling of pride a mother has when she observes a moment of her child 'getting it'.  I can't imagine how His heart must swell if mine feels like it might burst out of my chest in that small, human moment.

All of this leads me to this juxtaposition: last week I had two very different experiences, both of which keep coming back to the forefront of my thought life.

One: I witnessed a young woman parking in a handicapped spot.  She had no sticker and was obviously quite healthy.  Giving her the benefit of the doubt, I asked her if she had realized she parked in a handicapped spot.  "Maybe she just missed the sign," I thought.  She brusquely turned a go-to-you-know-where look on me and said with a very mean tone of voice, "I'm quite aware."  Then she continued to stalk toward her destination.  In a sweet tone of voice, trying to control my temper, I replied: "okay, well I'll just call the police then."  I did and that was that.  She saw me - as my children did - photographing her license plate and calling it into the cops.

I later explained to my children why I had done that.  I told them that, particularly because of their grandmother (who is in a wheelchair) and grandfather (who is a lung transplant recipient), it offends me when people choose to break that particular law.  I also told them that, if they believe in something strongly, they need to do something about it.  Last but not least I said, "it's not our job to enforce all laws, but I happen to believe strongly in that one, so I did something about it."

The woman's response deeply upset me.  Why in the world would she choose to dig in her heels over something so insignificant (for her anyway, not insignificant to someone who actually needs a handicapped spot)?  She could have simply humbled herself and moved her car.  Instead she chose anger, rudeness, pride, stubbornness.  It was a real bummer.  As I told my husband later that night, it upset me so much that it actually made me lose hope in all people in general.  "People are so cruel," I said to him.

Two: I recently started working in the cafe at Barnes & Noble, part-time at night.  Although I would rather not be working (instead I want to give all of my energy to my kids and home), I am very grateful for the job.  I'm particularly grateful to be around books and people who love books, since I'm working on a novel of my own.  One night as I was working I struck up a conversation with a stranger, a regular who comes in to read books in the genre my novel is in.  We chatted for a few minutes and then I asked him if he would recommend some authors for me to read.  He said sure.  I only half believed that he would.

The next night he showed up and wrote me out a list of twenty or so authors and novels.  He explained where I should begin and what he liked about each of them.  There was nothing creepy about this - it was simply one stranger doing something nice for another. 

Because I so deeply love books I felt like this was a little tap of encouragement from the Father, a little angel He sent my way to affirm my likes and desires.  And this man had let the Lord use him to encourage me simply by being willing to be nice to another human being.  This small act was so completely opposite from the handicap parking woman's actions and attitude that it restored my hope, my belief that we as humans can choose rightly after all.

I have a feeling God was as proud of my new friend in the bookstore as I was of Gunnar today.  I thank Him for the gift of the kindness of strangers.

(On a side note: I'm published!  I just had a short article printed in this month's issue of Austin Monthly magazine.  Woo-hoo!!!  Another thing to be very grateful for....)

Linking up with Jen and the ladies at Soli Deo Gloria today.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Way the Wind Blows

The power just came back on.

It's been off for a whole 24 minutes, yet I've been squealing like a stuck pig, thinking about my new friends in Spanish Wells, Bahamas.  They dealt with their power outages like champs.  Me?  I'm a wimp.

Maybe it's because I know just how uncomfortable life can get when the power goes out.

Not minutes before this whole debacle, I had been singing God's praises, rheuminating on what a fantastic day today had been.  I was having visions of blog posts depicting all the goodness that has come my way today.  I felt like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, running through the hills, breathing in all of the beauty surrounding me.  (I'm serious - that's really how I felt, cheese and all.)

It only took 24 minutes for my mood to go from soaring to sour.

It only took one spot fire in my zipcode (I'm in Austin, Texas, where the fires are raging) to alter the direction of my day, thwarting my plans for a calm afternoon.

It might only take one gust of wind to bring that spot fire right to my door.

I became less perky, I admit, but I didn't become overwraught with fear.  I had merely a healthy level of concern.  As I waited to get more information on exactly where the fire was, I sat down to write a list of the things I would grab if the firefighters told us to evacuate. 

I was happy to find that my list was short.  As I looked around our house, I found that there really is very little here that I can't live without. 

I'm glad for that, thankful that the state of my heart is such.  I worked hard for a good, long season to let go of lots of attachments, actively engaging the process of repenting from any idols I bowed to, and this mini, 24-minute test reminded me of that work.  Work that has born fruit. 

(I don't say that in pride, nor do I say it without compassion in my heart for those who have lost their homes.  I know I would grieve if that happened to us.  I am grieving with my neighbors who are walking through loss right now.  I'm just trying to acknowledge God's goodness to me, how He has set me free, something He highlighted by bringing the threat of devastation close enough to remind me, to cause me to search my heart anew...the gift of release He gave me through the process of repentance.  When we empty our hands of that which we cling to, we really are able to live more peacefully, more open to whatever He has for us next.)

Now, when the wind blows, I won't be swayed by the deceit of fear and worry.  I'll simply know which way to bend.

Linking up with the lovely ladies at Soli Deo Gloria today.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I am not at church today.  No, between the hurricane trip and starting a part-time job, I am totally beat.  The kids are with one of their grandmothers, so Justin and I are sleeping in.  (Side note: I often think sleep is as holy as anything else we could do.)

I guess I need to be completely honest: by "sleeping in" I mean waking up naturally (no kids yelling my name, no alarm blaring) at 8 a.m. (late for me); doing a mountain of dishes; starting the 8-hour long process of cooking a brisket; and then, finally, sitting down to quiet time.  An hour later I think I've finally rested.  A little.

Sometimes I'm compulsive like that.  It normally happens when there's clutter.  I can't stand clutter, and yet, I'm always surrounded by it.  I don't know if I just don't have enough storage space or what, but there's never enough room for the records we need to keep, the scrapbook stuff that's piling up, the information sent home from the kids' school.  It's always paper, isn't it?  Do you have this problem as well?

On Friday the kids and I cleaned out their toys, clothes and shoes.  We purged ourselves of a mountain of items.  It felt so good.  At least that part of our house is no longer overflowing.  I think I'll do the pantry/adult closets next.

Why am I blogging about this?  I'm not exactly sure; I'm kind of rambling.  (This is how I almost always write, by the way...intuitively, letting the idea take shape as the words flow.)

I think this might have something to do with half-formed thoughts beginning to coagulate in my head.  Thoughts about emptying and letting go and making room.  We often hold on to too much, don't we?  I want to make space for Him, for whatever He has for me.  I want to clear away the clutter so that He and I can sit down at an empty table, one at which we can actually see across from eachother, reach out and hold hands.

Linking up with Michelle at Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Weathering the Storm

Last week my husband, two toddlers and I traveled down to Spanish Wells Island in the Bahamas to visit my sister, her husband and their four kids (age 9 and younger).  My mother went with us, so we were 11 in all.  At first, it was a dream vacation.  My mom graciously rented my family a beach house on the most pristine beach I've ever experienced. 

For two days we enjoyed the sand and sea, watching our two little ones run screaming and laughing into the knee-deep, calm, crystal-clear ocean (Lily yelling "POOL!" at the top of her lungs).  We met all of the wonderful folks on the Island, people who have welcomed my sister's family with open arms.  We went to church, went deep-sea fishing, sang karaoke, and more.

Then, on Monday the 22nd we heard the news: the men were on their way back; the storm was coming.

You see, most folks on Spanish Wells operate lobster boats.  The men are out to sea from August through April, filling and emptying traps.  They had been gone three weeks.  Their wives had heard from them on the satellite phones that morning: the guys were racing ahead of the storm and should be home in the middle of the night.  This was serious; Hurricane Irene was not going to miss us.

The next few days were a flurry of activity all over the 2 mile long x 1/2 mile wide island, where nobody's a stranger.  Neighbor helped neighbor as boards went up, generators were tested, food was cooked, and water was stocked.  Strangers in a strange land, we joined in as best we could, thanking God we were with 'locals' who knew exactly what to do.  By the time we knew the storm was headed right for us, all flights were either full or had been cancelled.  We had no choice but to weather the storm.

We were planning to abandon the beach house and ride it out at my sister's place, but she doesn't have a generator.  Some very generous friends of hers, Georgina and Nyles Roberts, invited all 11 of us to their place.  In total, we were 17 in a four-bedroom house for over 24 hours.

The following are some excerpts from my journal, written as I rode it out.  I'm sure I'll have more to say on this subject in future posts - it was a life-changing experience.

Wednesday, August 24th, 7 a.m. local time (Bahamas):
"All snuggled in bed with kids.  Justin's on the beach getting quiet.  The rain has started and it's starting to blow.  Hurricane should be here tomorrow.  I was terrified Monday, but now I feel like it will be fine.  Maybe I'm delusional, but I'm actually excited to see your majesty and power displayed.  I hope I get to see the waves crashing before it gets too dangerous and we have to leave the beach.  I hope everyone is safe, of course...."

Thursday, August 25th, 8 a.m. local time (Bahamas):
"Psalm 135 at 6 a.m. when I finally gave up and just got up.  Storm woke me up at 2, 3, 5, and (finally) 6.  It scared me last night, the creaking and moaning and gusting and rattling (of the tin shutters covering the windows in the small room where the four of us slept).  But now, when there's light and power and people are awake...well, now, I'm having a blast.

"I know it sounds strange, but there's a thrill that comes when standing in the middle of your majesty, quite literally.  It makes me happy to experience your power, to know - in the most real sense - how truly small I am.  There is freedom in limitation.  I may have no control over what's happening around me, but you do, and I can trust that.

"I wonder if I would feel differently if I were more exposed, like the Haitians in the shanty-town we visited yesterday.  This home is solid.  It made me think of: 'and I will hide you in the shadow of your wings.'  This gives a whole new dimension to that imagery.  I am hidden, sheltered, surrounded by - not a flimsy set of feathers - but a solid wall of steel and iron pillars carved in the shape of a wing.  Safe and secure and comforting like a mother's wing, and firm and reassuring like an underground shelter.  Yes, even as the wind and water whip around us, we are hidden because we are wrapped in you.

"Surrender.  That's what I'm feeling.  Earlier this week I was panicky and terrified, full of worst-case-scenario day-mares.  But, since yesterday, there has been a deep peace.  This thing is coming.  As the locals kept saying, all we can do is prepare the best we can and ride it out.  May I face all such sotrms in my life with the same attitude.

"There's a frog outside our window.  Its croak sounds like a duck's quack.  I can 'feel' the ebb and flow of the storm by the poor creature's cries.  When it's blowing hard out there, the croaks are fast and frequent, like rapid-fire gunshots.  When there's a reprieve, we experience silence together, as if we're all - earth, sky, and sea - taking a deep, communal breath."

Thursday, August 25th, 9 a.m. local time (Bahamas):
"Justin went out with Michael and Nyles and Luke earlier.  I think it's 9:15 right now, and we're in the eye.  It is dead calm outside, in an eery way.  The Boykins have gone to check on their house.  Mom is sleeping.  The four of us are now holed up in our room.  When Justin went out, he said it was truly awesome.  I can tell the locals are sad about the destruction that's happened already.  They have a lot of work ahead of them."

Thursday, August 25th, 10 a.m. local time (Bahamas):
"Eye has passed.  We're on the back side now.  Both houses and all boats seem to be okay.  Damage is mostly fallen trees.  Mom is sick.  Kids are hanging in there.  15 out of 17 holed up in this house are awake.  Please help Lily - she's showing attitude and seems to be overwhelmed."

Thursday, August 25th, 1 p.m. local time (Bahamas):
"Just had our first meltdown.  Gunnar lost it, poor child.  He's hot and sweaty and over-tired.  Justin is on edge.  I'm starting to faint.  Lily is sound asleep, praise you.  I didn't expect the heat - it's oppressive.  Please help Gunnar fall asleep.  And please let the storm pass soon.  We are weary."

Thursday, August 25th, 3:37 p.m. local time (Bahamas):
"Wheels are coming off.  Kids are stir CRAZY.  We're 18 1/2 hours into our sojourn to the Robers' home.  I'm so thankful for their hospitality (and their generator), but we're all a little on edge, even the adults."

Friday, August 26th, 6 a.m. local time (Bahamas):
"Back at the Boykins' last night.  The storm kept us up again last night.  That is, until it finally passed, probably around 2 a.m.  I was awakened by Lily at 3 a.m.  I thought the power had been restored, but no such luck.  I'm disappointed - we won't go home today."

Saturday, August 27th, 6 a.m. local time (Bahamas):
"Everyone's asleep.  Thank you for this alone time with you.  I got a hot shower last night thanks to some other friends of the Boykins.  My attitude immediately changed after that and some alone, quiet time with my nuclear family. 

"Power and water are now restored, praise you.  The locals have all of the major debris picked up (it was finished by noon on Friday!).  Now it's down to details and second homes/boats and such.  There are still roofs to be fixed, but it looks like we won't have rain today.  The way they have all come together to weather this thing has changed me forever.  Is this how people are supposed to live in the Kingdom?  Without complaint and with constant care for each neighbor?  I am humbled by their attitudes.  I will never forget them." 

Linking up with the faithful ladies at Soli Deo Gloria today.  Thanks for all your prayers, ladies!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Digging Down

I was in the kitchen mindlessly juicing some oranges while eating my lunch standing up while trying to answer my three-year-old's non-stop questions while trying to respond to my almost two-year-old's babbling commentary while also doing some dishes.  (For all you SAHM's out there, does this sound familiar?)  In the midst of this cacophony a line from a song on Bob the Builder drifted into my consciousness: "When you build a house, you first have to --."

As I listened my mind finished the line before the words played over my TV.  In my mind, the line went like this: "When you build a house, you first have to lay the foundation."

But that's not what Scratch and Scoop and Dizzy sang.  Nope, they sang "dig a hole."

I paused long enough to register the difference before going back to our multi-tasking lunch hour.  Now, both kids are down for a nap.  I'm in bed getting ready to nap myself, but the song from today's cartoon won't let me rest yet.  I need to write about it. 

I think this metaphor is deeply true.  I think about my marriage: the first years were often about deconstruction - uprooting old trees, tilling soil, removing rocks, aerating, turning over, and, yes, digging down.  Two were becoming one.  It started on our wedding day, but that was only the beginning.  It's a process for old to pass away and new to be born, to grow up.  And the process begins with removing the old and making space for the new.

I think about my faith walk, how over the years He has broken me down time and time again so that, when He builds me up, I am so much stronger, even in my weakness.

I think about how many lies and misconceptions - about myself, God, the world - have had to be dug up before something new, something true could be planted.

Today, in between lunch and nap, the three of us braved the heat to dig in the dirt and fill up old sand castle buckets.  A simple task, one that must have been inspired by Bob's song I guess.  Regardless of the inspiration, it was my son's idea.  In minutes he had us all dirtier than dirt pressing into dusty, dry, cracked land, trying to pry it loose from its packed home.  He said it best when he paused for a moment, wiped his brow and declared: "whew, I'm wore out; I need to rest for a minute."  Yep, digging is hard work.

It's slow work.

It's work that requires concentrated effort.  If you miss a rock or don't create a level bottom to your hole, the whole foundation will be off.

Perhaps this is why God so painstakingly, slowly picks away at our hard, packed, dusty places, pressing deeper into our soil as we yield only.  Perhaps He takes His time with this process because He knows how crucial it is.  Perhaps, in the end, all the whining about "how long will I struggle with ____?" or "why am I still walking in ____ old pattern?" should really be turned around to become: "thank you, Lord, that you will not give up, will not let this go, until I am truly, completely rid of it" or "thank you, Lord, for your persistance for without it, my foundation could never be laid."

Linking up with Jen and the ladies at Soli Deo Gloria.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hodge Podge

My good friend (you all know her as Jen, the SDG guru) recently reminded me that the point of the weekly SDG meme is to share "what's really going on with you" (her words).

Hmmm...this has had me thinking.  I'm not sure where to start.  My mind is all over the place today, hard to get still, so this will be a hodge podge...

1.  As most of you know, God has been talking to me about faith v fear.  I'm following His lead on that and trying to step into the space He's creating.  I think it sounds more dramatic than it is in practice.  In practice, this is just another level of the onion being peeled back, of Him pointing something out that He's ready to tackle and me responding to Him.  In other words, I'm in a never-ending process; this is just part of it.  It doesn't feel painful or heart-wrenching.  It did a few weeks ago.  Now, it's...well...obedience.  An act of worship.  And, kind of fun.

2.  I'm obsessing over politics right now.  Today at the library I checked out: Fed Up! by Rick Perry; A. Lincoln by Robert C. White; America by Heart by Sarah Palin; and a documentary on the White House.  I tried to check out Obama's autobiography but it wasn't available.  Two weeks ago I checked out Palin's first book (her autobiography) and four historical documentaries on Washington, Adams, Lincoln, and Jefferson, after reading more in my own copy of John Adams by David McCullough.  (I know, I'm a nerd.) 

I do this every two years when it's time to ramp up for a presidential election, as my poor friends know.  I think we have a God-given grace in this country to participate in our own government.  I take it seriously, so I study, both historical and contemporary documents.  The information-gathering is the first stage for me.  I learn first, analyze second, and pray throughout.  And of course, I discuss along the way with anyone and everyone who is willing (and some who are not!).  Expect to hear more about this in the coming months!

3.  Other than that, things are pretty good.  We've seem to hit a rhythm around here.  I feel in balance when it comes to food and health, as if my body has recovered a bit and is able to function well now.  I've even been able to start exercising again, praise the Lord!!!! 

My kids and I have wonderful days together, full of pretend-play adventures, singing, and reading (in between errands, of course).  Yesterday my son dressed himself in a racecar driver's suit, swim goggles, a fireman's hat, and firemen boots.  He called this his astronaut's outfit, and he subsuqently took me and his sister to the moon (with packed suitcases and all), where we checked in at a hotel, rode the train, and ate in the 'eating car'.  It was a blast!

My husband and I have had truly awesome communication over the last few weeks, so, even when circumstances aren't great, we are because we're communicating well, praise God.  And, our Father is very alive to me right now, speaking clearly and consistently through the Word and His Holy Spirit.  I am grateful. 

Lest I paint too much of a Polyanna picture, I will tell you this: I'm ready for summer to be over and so are my kids.  Instead of dwelling on that, however, I'm trying to resist the temptation to complain and instead choose to enjoy the last, dwindling, dog days.  I'm sure when the busy-ness of fall resumes, I will be longing for them.

Linking up with the ladies at SDG today. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Space Between

Peter stands in the space between faith and fear.

The story is familiar to most of us.  Jesus' disciples have gone ahead in a boat, at his instructions, and a strong wind comes up, buffeting the waves against them.  They are frightened, understandably.  Then they see Jesus walking on the water toward them.  They don't recognize him and believe he's a ghost.  Their fear escalates to terror.  Peter, always the blustery, forge-ahead type, calls out, "Lord, if it is you, call me and I will come to you."  (I'm paraphrasing here...the verses are Matthew 14:22-33.)

Jesus says "come" and Peter does.  He had been afraid, he chooses faith, and, then, he walks on water.  Until fear grabs hold of him again, and he begins to sink.  Back and forth the waves rock them.  Up and down they float.  He is firm and then he is sinking.  It only takes a moment for the circumstance to change, for fear to turn to faith and back to fear again.

I've often read this story and thought Peter was a wimp.  Then, I move on to berating myself for also having so little faith (I know I'd sink right alongside him).  Why does he look at the wind and waves?  Keep your eyes on Jesus, I think, as if that's easy to do.  I never look at Peter with admiration for getting out of the boat in the first place. 

This morning in church our priest pointed out how impressed she was by Peter's willingness to leap over the edge of the boat.  She said, "I can relate to Peter.  Many, many times, like him, I have stood on the edge between faith and fear."

And so have I.  Her words resonated within me.  I'm in a faith/fear place now, in fact.  God is calling me to trust Him for provision.  He's asking me to step and believe, not trusting in what I see happening all around me, but instead trusting in His voice, His presence in the midst of the tumult that comes against faith every time.  I pray that as I engage the process, step over the edge, and choose faith, that I will continue to choose faith even after I have slipped and fallen back into fear.  That, like Peter, I will reach out and take hold of Jesus' hand and experience His faithfulness all over again.

Linking up with Michelle at Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Balance Beam

I can tell I'm off balance.  In my thoughts.  In my attitude.  I'm having extreme responses internally that don't make any sense.


The word keeps coming up.

Last week while sitting in my doctor's office to address the latest side effect of my roller-coaster health ride (hot flashes at age 34!), I started to whine to Jesus: "why couldn't I have made healthy living choices years ago?  I've known what to do; I was just too stubborn not to do it."  I started to berate myself, and He interrupted me.  Cut me off.  Made me stop.

A picture.

Small, puny, brittle twigs scattered on the ground.  They have fallen down.  A few, sturdier branches remain of what once was...a tepee-like campfire awaiting the flame.  There are gaps in what is left.

I see a hand place a thicker, stronger branch into the kindling, and I know what His voice confirms.  You did not yet have what you needed in order to achieve balance.

I had to wait for certain things, people to come into my life before I felt safe enough to let others go.  Until those processes happened, balance was not possible.

Sitting here tonight, another picture.

Lily, my almost two-year-old, trying to walk on the balance beam in her Little Gym class.  She can not move forward without balance, and she can not achieve balance without support.  All of her core muscles have to come together to provide the base of support she needs to stand tall, reach out, and take a step.

Last but not least, a final picture.

Ocean waves seen from the deck of a sailboat.  All is quiet; it is a sunny day.

"God's word does not say we'll have peace like a pond but peace like a river, righteousness like the waves of the sea."  (July 25th, Beth Moore's Praying God's Word Day by Day)

Up, down, up, down, up, down...the peaks and troughs of the waves move in and out of view.  They balance one another, these highs and lows.  Both are necessary for the ocean to contain life.


Linking up with my friends at Soli Deo Gloria tonight.  Take a moment to stop by and visit some of the other wonderful bloggers that rest there each week.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

First Fruits

I had given up entirely.  In fact, I had planned to dig it up this tomato plant, that is.  This was my first foray into gardening.  Originally, I had wanted to plant an entire bed.  My husband, in his wisdom, said I should start small - tomato seeds inside one planter - to see how faithful I am with the daily necessities of growth.

To make a long story short, I was not faithful at all.  Some days I would forget.  Other days I simply chose not to water my tomato plant.  I would choose other things: resting when my energy was particularly low; working around the house when I had energy to spare; playing with the kids the rest of the time.  These were not bad choices.  In fact, they were good, but they had consequences: a tired, wilting, dieing plant, for one.

Or, so I thought:.  Today, my husband said, "congratulations honey, you grew a tomato!"

(What a precious, loving man to say it that way, since he was the one who faithfully watered the plant when I did not.)

Needless to say, there was much rejoicing over our late bloomer!  My three-year-old little boy and one-year-old little girl jumped up and down as I let out a loud "whoop!"

Watching my tomato plant this summer has been an eye-opening experience for me.  This may sound silly, but I have been astonished at how much water this plant requires!  I often think to myself: "I need to water it again?  Water daily?  Why can't it just take care of itself or live off what I gave it yesterday?  Why does it have to be so high-maintenance?"  (Obviously, I'm working through some legacy, negative thoughts toward the plant mirror how I treat myself - not validating my own needs much less moving toward meeting them.)  

The answer to my silent questions?

Because that's how God made it to be.  Because that's how God made me to be.  Because the need for daily watering keeps us coming back to our Maker, daily.  Whether I like it or not, I need daily replenishment, or I will wilt and wither just like my plant.

"On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.  Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." (John 7:37-39, NIV)

I need much more than I realize.  My self-sufficiency causes me to wilt and wither, but His grace produces growth.  Even when I am unfaithful, He is ever present, at work for my good, providing so that I may grow.

One of the ways He provided?  By bringing me to the end of myself and showing me how utterly, truly, and completely dependent I am.  I can no longer ignore myself - I must acknowledge my own dependency so that I can go to the Source and let His Spirit carry me.  If I'm honest, many days I can't even go to the Source; I simply have to sit and wait for Him to come to me.

So, I've started feeding myself.  Good food, lots and lots of water, and intangible things like rest, play, grace.  There are many less 'shoulds' in my life and far more 'wants'.  It's really fun.  Life is so much more peaceful and not dramatic this way.  There is much less stress.  And, I'm much more available for my husband and my kids (all by taking care of myself more!).  Our home is more balanced because I am more balanced. 

I wish everyone could experience this deep, convicting shift - this place from which, God willing, I will never come back.  I am dug in, root deep, reaching out for the groundwater I know He is.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Seven Steps to a Healthy Pantry: Step 7

Step 7: Review & Resources

Quick Review

In our seven steps we have:
  • taken an internal inventory to review our motivations;
  • defined our terms;
  • set a clear goal or goals;
  • rid ourselves of things that don’t serve us well as we seek to achieve our goals;
  • learned creative ways to try to afford healthier options;
  • organized our pantries in a way that sets us up for success;
  • and observed changes in our body as they begin to happen, making adjustments to our food as necessary.

I’ll leave you with a few parting thoughts that have helped me along the way. 

As I was beginning to change my eating habits, my naturopath gave me these sage pieces of advice:

It’s easier to add things than it is to take things away.  If you can’t take something out yet, just add vegetables – fresh and organic is best.  Make sure you get five servings/day.  One serving is either one cup raw or ½ cup steamed.”

She also advised:

“You need to cut out sodas, especially diet ones.  The artificial sweeteners act as a stimulant to your nervous system (among many other not so bueno effects they have on the body).  The high fructose corn syrup and caramel color are really, really bad for you too.  So, if you do nothing else after you leave here, cut out the sodas.  If you have to have caffeine, one cup of coffee/day is okay, though I would prefer that you drank unsweetened tea.”*

Her last piece of advice that I’ll share:

“Every person should be drinking at least ½ his or her body weight in water every day.  You have to do this daily.  So, if you weigh 200 pounds, you need to drink 100 ounces of water per day, plain water.  And if you drink a caffeinated drink you need to subtract that from your tally since it counteracts the hydrating effects of water.  They’ve even found that BPA-free plastics are leaching hormones into our system, affecting our internal hormone balance, so drink water in a glass or stainless steel container that does not have a BPA-free liner.  You can count herbal tea toward your total if you don’t sweeten it.”

*Again, these are pieces of advice that a naturopathic doctor told me, not you.  I’m sharing them here because I honestly believe that they apply to everyone, but know that I am not a doctor.  NOTHING I have written here (or anywhere on my blog) should be misconstrued as medical advice or taken as such.

Resources for Further Reading & Research

Living Without Magazine (hate the name, LOVE the mag and the folks behind it)

Klean Kanteen – a great source for BPA-free, stainless steel water bottles (there are others of course; I just happen to like this one)

Dirty Dozen Guide (see below) – this tells you how to prioritize where to spend your organic dollars on produce, reprinted from a pamphlet by the Environmental Working Group:

WORST: Buy These Organic
Bell Peppers
Grapes (Imported)
BEST: Lowest in Pesticides (okay to buy non-organic)
Sweet Corn
Sweet Peas
Sweet Potato
Honeydew Melon
Why Should You Care About Pesticides?
The growing consensus among scientists is that small doses of pesticides and other chemicals can cause lasting damage to human health, especially during fetal development and early childhood.  Scientists now know enough about the long-term consequences of ingesting these powerful chemicals to advise that we minimize our consumption of pesticides.

What’s the Difference?
EWG research has found that people who eat five fruits and vegetables a day from the Dirty Dozen list consume an average of 10 pesticides a day. Those who eat from the 15 least contaminated conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables ingest fewer than 2 pesticides daily. The Guide helps consumers make informed choices to lower their dietary pesticide load.

Will Washing and Peeling Help?
The data used to create these lists is based on produce tested as it is typically eaten (meaning washed, rinsed or peeled, depending on the type of produce). Rinsing reduces but does not eliminate pesticides. Peeling helps, but valuable nutrients often go down the drain with the skin. The best approach: eat a varied diet, rinse all produce and buy organic when possible.

How Was This Guide Developed?
EWG analysts have developed the Guide based on data from nearly 96,000 tests for pesticide residues in produce conducted between 2000 and 2008 and collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. You can find a detailed description of the criteria EWG used to develop these rankings and the complete list of fruits and vegetables tested at our dedicated website,

Headquarters 1436 U St. N.W., Suite 100 Washington, DC 20009
(202) 667-6982
Learn More at

Monday, July 11, 2011

Seven Steps to a Healthy Pantry: Step 6

Step 6: Eat, Observe, Repeat.

For me, this is the most important step (well, okay, maybe as important as Step 1 and Step 3).  It’s important because this is where the rubber meets the road.  I think I can best describe it by sharing my own story/timeline:

February 2011.  I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue/borderline failure.  In addition to med’s, I was told to test a gluten-free diet for six weeks.  After one day I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that gluten contributed to my adrenal troubles, so I made the switch.  My pantry transition began.  First step?  Change all foods in the house, including spices, oils, sauces, flours, etc, from gluten-full to gluten-free.

March & April 2011.  My naturopath echoed what my pediatrician had told me years before: eat as much organic as possible.  Because these two people – from two very different backgrounds and perspectives – were saying the same thing, I started paying attention.  I started looking for ways to buy organic pantry items (juice boxes, fruit snacks, etc). 

If I couldn’t buy organic because of cost I read the labels and bought the best option.  What was the best option?  The choice that had the least (or no) non-natural preservatives and the most whole ingredients.  Sugar was also a factor – I chose the lowest level of sugar possible.  More transition happened in my pantry (not to mention my refrigerator, deep freezer, and back-up shelf in the garage).

June & July 2011.  I started feeling the tug to cut out dairy in addition to gluten.  You might think this wouldn’t affect the pantry, but it’s shocking how many items have dairy in them (remember all those Blue Diamond Nut Thins from Step 5’s shelf picture?  They have dairy!).

So, with the dairy piece added in, I am now in my third stage of transitioning my pantry.

This is my process – it certainly shouldn’t be yours.  While I absolutely believe that some choices are bottom-line healthier than others, for everyone, I also know that our bodies are all unique and at different stages in the process of becoming healthy.

As I’ve changed the way I eat, my body’s needs have changed.  The healthier the food is that I put in my body – and by healthy I mean whole, non-processed, non-gluten, and non-dairy – the more sensitive I am when I eat something that is unhealthy.  Things that didn’t make me feel bad at all several months ago now send me spiraling into a general fog of yuckiness (muscle pain, brain fog, etc).  I believe this is because my body needs good things and simply has less tolerance for junk than it used to.

I could explain all of this chemically – because cravings and lack of sensitivity to junk are 100% chemical – but your eyes would glaze over.  For a detailed explanation I highly recommend The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolfe. 

Why am I mentioning all of this?  Because it’s important that you pay attention and validate what’s happening in your body by responding to it. 

I can’t wait to hear your stories as you implement changes in your diet!  Remember, even the smallest change will make a difference.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Seven Steps to a Healthy Pantry: Step 5

Step 5: Let’s Get Organized

You’ve bought the groceries, now what?  Organizing your pantry can be simple or complex.  Here are my tips on how to get organized:

Tip #1: Divide & Conquer

Hopefully you’ve taken advantage of online and warehouse shopping, which means you now have what I affectionately call “back-up” food.  This overstock could live in your pantry, or you could do what I’ve done:

When we realized we would save a lot of money by buying in bulk my husband and I spent $39 on a wire shelving unit at Costco.  He installed it next to my deep freezer, both of which are in the garage. 

I promptly filled it up with goodies from Costco and  This one change in the way I organize our home has saved me countless hours in drive time and shopping, not to mention gas money.  It’s by far my favorite part of my pantry switch.

Tip #2: Categorize

This may seem simple and obvious, but I really do believe that it will change the way you eat.  Here’s what I mean: organize your shelves according to type of meal. 

For example, put items that contribute to baked goods (flour, sugar, etc), on one shelf – preferably a shelf that is up high and a little hard to reach.  Put salty snacks on one shelf.  Put sweet snacks on another shelf (if your shelves are too large to devote to one type of meal, then simply create an area that is distinct).  Put side dishes on one shelf (grains, beans, etc.).  Put things like root vegetables and onions on a vegetable shelf. 

And of course, put kid-friendly snacks on a shelf that they can reach.  Be sure to tell them that this shelf is on-limits twice a day so they can choose what snacks they want.  (But they should be healthy snacks!)

Why does this matter?  You’re giving yourself a visual of how much you have of what type of meal.  If your salty snack shelf is overflowing and your vegetables shelf is almost empty, you see that you might need to make an adjustment there.  (It can be helpful to do this in the refrigerator, too.)

You don’t have to organize by meal.  You could organize by organic vs. non-organic, processed vs. clean (aka whole ingredients), etc.  I would choose something that will ultimately help you meet the goal you set for yourself in Step 3.

I’d love to see how ya’ll reorganize your pantries.  Post pic’s or share changes you’ve made!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Seven Steps to a Healthy Pantry: Step 4

Step 4: How to Shop

Alright, you’ve got clean pantry shelves just waiting to be filled (right?).  Now what?

I’ll admit that when I first started my own transition from gluten-full to gluten-free products, I was totally overwhelmed.  I didn’t know what to buy, and I certainly didn’t know where to buy it.  Now, many months later, I’ve realized there is a plethora of information out there, as well as a slew of sources. 

In today’s post, I’ll try to break down months of research for you to make your life a little easier!

Tip 1: Don’t go to the grocery store
At least, not at first.  Your regular, down-the-street grocery store can sometimes be your most expensive option.  Since we all know switching to healthier choices is more expensive, cost is the #1 issue I’ll be dealing with.

For the first few months of sourcing gluten-free products, I was literally driving to four stores in a week.  Not only did my gas bill go up; I also became very disenchanted with the process.  I knew it wouldn’t last if I didn’t find a better solution.  What did I do?  I went online.

Tip 2: Shop online
I know, I know, you’re thinking: shipping costs.  Ah-ha!  I have some thoughts here.  Sign up to become a “frequent flyer” at your favorite online store, and you will almost always get free shipping one way or another.

“Like” the store on Facebook for deals and steals and first pass at discounts.  This sounds obvious but a lot of us forget about it.  I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve found out something was half off this week at Whole Foods Market because I’m their friend on Facebook!

Sign up for email updates.  I hesitated to do this for a long time because I didn’t want to junk up my inbox.  If that’s your hurdle, then create an email account just for the deals:, for example.  Send all of your blast emails there.  (Some people are even really specific and break out their deal emails by category:,, etc.)

Join coupon sites that do the work for you.  My favorite is also a button on my blog (top left):

My best piece of advice: join Amazon Prime.  It’s $79/year, but you get discounts and free 2-day shipping.  Since pantry items are heavy and shipping is often by weight, this will end up saving you a lot (not to mention the gas you’re saving, and the sanity, by not having to drive all over town).

If you’re a mommy, you can join Amazon Moms and automatically become enrolled in Prime for free.  Amazon Moms gives you 15% off all baby items.  (I promise, this is the cheapest place to buy diapers!)

Last but not least, Amazon has started this nifty thing called Subscribe & Save.  If you find an item that your family uses a lot (like, I don’t know, toilet paper), you can “subscribe” to have it shipped to you on a regular basis for an extra 15% off!  The best part?  You can cancel your subscription at any time for no charge.  So, you could buy it once with the extra discount and then cancel it immediately.  And if it’s a Prime item, you get free shipping!  The subscription options are every month, every three months, every six months – you can choose one that works for you.  (For example, I subscribed to Pamela’s gluten-free pancake mix and set it to ship to me once every three months.  If I’m getting low then I can log on and ask for a shipment to come now, or I can change the shipment schedule altogether.) 

Did you catch that: if you’re buying an Amazon Moms item via Subscribe & Save (like diapers), you get 30% off + free shipping.  WOW!

The best part?  Amazon has almost every organic/natural brand I’ve found at specialty shops, but I don’t have to drive to a million stores!

Tip #3: Become a coupon clipper
You might already be one.  I resisted this forever.  Too annoying, not enough time, you name it – I had an excuse.  (The real impediment was probably pride, but I’ll save that for another day.)  Now, it’s an absolute necessity, and it makes organic affordable (sort of).

I don’t mean that I literally sit down every Sunday and clip coupons out of the paper.  I do mean that I shop the sales.  This involves knowing prices of the things that I buy the most.

Here’s a great example: Annie’s Organic Bunny Snacks, the fruit kind.  My kids eat these like crazy.  I can go through a box in two days.  So, I needed to find the cheapest source.  I have the bulk prices from Amazon memorized so that when I’m at my grocery store or on a Target run I can compare.  One week they were on sale at Target so I bought them there.  The next week they were on sale at H-E-B (the grocery store) so I bought them there.  I also have them on Subscribe & Save at Amazon, but only one flavor is discounted on their site.  The other two flavors are just as expensive as they are at the grocery store (price per unit), so I only buy the discounted flavor from Amazon.

Tip #4: Don’t get stuck in a rut
As my example above illustrates, be flexible, be aware, and always be on the lookout.  I even check drink prices when I’m at Lowe’s picking up something for the backyard – you never know where you will find a deal!

Tip #5: Share your resources
If you find a deal, let your friends know and ask them to do the same.  I can’t tell you how many times my friend Jen has called me to tell me that X is on sale at Target or Y is on sale at H-E-B.

Tip #6: Join a bulk shopping center like Costco
I mention Costco specifically because they have a wonderful assortment of organic, grass-fed, and gluten-free.  It’s truly impressive.  For a $50 annual membership you can reduce your price per unit significantly, easily recouping that up-front cost.

I buy things like Food for Life quinoa chips, dog food, toilet paper, paper towels, eggs (36 organic eggs at Costco cost $4.99, as much as 12 organic eggs at the grocery store), and meat at Costco.

Tip #7: Invest in a deep freezer
You can find one for less than $200.  If you calculate that steaks at Costco are three for $25 and organic ground beef is $4.99/pound (on sale at Costco) and is normally sold in 3 pound packs, and you buy one each per week, you’ll recoup that $200 in 5 weeks.  The meat will stay good up to one year. 

Obviously, the return on investment is worth it, not to mention the awesome feeling of knowing you have stuff in the freezer to make when you don’t have dinner planned.

Tip #8: Invest in a shelving unit for your garage
You might have oodles and oodles of space, but I don’t.  When I realized that buying in bulk would save me significant amounts of cash, I bought a $39 steel shelving unit (at Costco) and had my husband set it up in the garage (next to the deep freezer, of course).  It’s where I put my back-stock of gluten-free goods as well as my toilet paper, dog food, paper towels, sponges, trash bags, etc.

Tip #9: Get creativeOne of my neighbors has found a local source for a grass-fed, organic cow.  (Yes, I do mean, cow.)  She works directly with the rancher, orders the cow and cuts of meat, and then emails out a spreadsheet with a price per pound to all of her friends (and they then email it to their friends).  Everyone places their orders.  She graciously drives about an hour out of town to pick up the meat.  We all go over and pick it up when it’s ready, paying her for the meat.  She does this about once every three months.  It’s not cheap to buy a cow, but it’s less expensive than buying grass-fed, organic beef from any store source we’ve found.
A note on Farmer’s Markets: while the produce and meat and eggs are by far and away better from local, fresh, organic sources you find at these markets, I have yet to be able to afford anything but the occasional produce purchase.  I still go to them so my kids will learn, and because I sometimes find a great deal (peppers were much cheaper at the market a few weeks back than at the grocery store, and much tastier).

The bottom line?  When I switched to gluten-free my monthly grocery bill went up by about 1/3.  That was painful.  A few months later I decided I needed to also try to buy as much organic as possible.  This made my bill almost double (and I wasn’t buying organic meat yet!).

Now, after implementing the tips above, I’m back down to my average monthly bill, or sometimes just a wee bit more.  I shop at two stores monthly (and sometimes I pick up groceries at Target if there’s a sale) + 

What are your tips & sources?  Please share the love!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Top 10 Scariest Food Additives

I just read this today, and I had to share it in light of the series I'm writing.

Top 10 Scariest Food Additives

Seven Steps to a Healthy Pantry: Step 3

Step 3: Clean House

Okay, you’ve searched your heart to figure out your motivation.  You’ve done your research so you know what we’re talking about.  Now it’s time to get your hands dirty.

First, take out pen and paper and write a one sentence goal for your Great Pantry Clean-Out. 

For example, my one sentence would look like this:

I want to remove all non-organic food from my pantry.

It could also look like this:

I need to remove anything that has gluten (or, insert your allergy here).

Or, one last example:

I want to reduce the amount of processed foods in my pantry so that processed foods represent only 25% of the food we eat in a week.

Second, tape this sentence inside your pantry door or in a place that you will see it every time you go to the pantry.  You might want to make a copy of your goal and put it with your grocery list or in your wallet – some place you’ll see it when you’re at the grocery store.

Third, start removing what you don’t want.  When I went through this the first time I removed all gluten-containing snacks and packed them up for a friend who had kids my own kids’ ages.  You could donate the goods to a soup kitchen.  You could host a “I’m throwing out the junk!” party and invite friends over to get rid of all the outgoing items.

Don’t forget the spice drawer.  (If you are allergic or sensitive to gluten, for example, your spices need to be examined.  If you’re going all-organic, you definitely need to address the spices.)

This will be my shortest post during this series because you’ve got work to do.  J  Have fun!  And send me before and after pictures. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Seven Steps to a Healthy Pantry: Step 2

Step 2: Define Your Terms

You can’t find your destination unless you know how to get there.  And what would happen if all the roads along the way were mislabeled?  Let’s define our terms to help us find our way.

I encourage you to think through the definitions I’ve offered – do you agree with them; if not, what do they look like in your life? – and dig deeper using the links I’ve provided. 

I know it takes a lot of work up front to learn about this stuff, but we are talking about our bodies, one of the most precious gifts God has given us.  It’s worth it!  And once you’ve done the work once, you’ll own a treasure chest of knowledge that you can dip from over and over again to sustain you throughout the rest of your life.

Healthy.  First and foremost, we must begin here.  The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (citation 1).  To keep things simple, I’m going to agree with and adopt this definition for this series.

If I were to put this definition into my own words, I would say it like this:

A healthy person is one who is living a life that is whole and at rest with itself – mentally, physically, intellectually, and spiritually – within the limitations that exist in that person’s life.

In other words, I believe healthiness cannot exist without reconciliation to God.  (For a much more eloquent Biblical ethic on health and medicine, please read here.)  Within the contexts of reconciliation to God and the reality of a fallen world, healthiness exists in a constant state of tension between God-intended wholeness and the Fall-aftermath of limitation, disease and infirmity.  As in all things, the goal is to move toward God and His intention as much as possible.

As I stated above, I’m adopting the WHO definition of ‘healthy’ for this series because I do not intend to focus on the spiritual aspect of food in this series.  I’m trying to dig into the nitty-gritty practicals of what it means to eat well.  Maybe someday I’ll do a post called “God & Eating”, but not today! 

Organic.  This is a term that is legally regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture, within their National Organic Program as defined in the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.  According to the USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) the following are definitions related to the organic agricultural industry (citation 2):
·         Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.
·         ‘Organic’ is a labeling term that denotes products produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act. The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an ecological whole.
·         Organic agriculture practices cannot ensure that products are completely free of residues; however, methods are used to minimize pollution from air, soil and water.
·         Organic food handlers, processors and retailers adhere to standards that maintain the integrity of organic agricultural products. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people.

As you can see, the term “organic” is rather nebulous.  In general, you can think of anything labeled USDA Organic as free of pesticides, additives, preservatives, and anything else that doesn’t naturally occur. 
For a product to be labeled ‘100% organic’ every ingredient in the product, except for salt and water, must be organic.  For a product to be labeled ‘organic’ 95% of the ingredients must be organic.  For a product to carry the label ‘made with organic ingredients’ 70% of the ingredients must be organic.  In all three cases, the ingredients that are organic must be denoted on the label.  (Citation 3)

Though the term is a bit general, becoming certified organic is a rigorous process.  For more details on that, click here.  

The above applies to fruits and vegetables only.  I have been unable to find federal regulations governing the use of the term organic as applied to meat or poultry (including eggs).  Several states have regulating bodies, but – honestly – I haven’t found the answer yet.  I’ll get back to you if I do!

(I do know this: organic does not automatically mean grass-fed or free-range.  You can have corn-fed organic beef, for example.)

All-natural, 100% Natural.  As far as I can tell, there is absolutely no regulating body covering the terms “100% natural” or “all-natural.”  So, when you see that listed on products, I suggest you read the labels and do your research.

For an excellent discussion of food labels and what they actually mean, I highly suggest reading this link.  It is from several years ago, but the information is still current.

Free Range (& more).  According to the , “there are no restrictions on use of other truthful labeling claims such as ‘no drugs or growth hormones used,’ ‘free range,’ or ‘sustainably harvested’” (citation 4). 

In this case, I would suggest researching a brand online (like Buddy’s All-Natural Chicken) in order to decide if they produce food in a way you want them to.

Food Allergens.  According to the FDA’s Food Labeling Guide, “a ‘major food allergen’ is an ingredient that is one of the following eight foods or food groups, or an ingredient that contains protein derived from one of them:
·         milk
·         egg
·         fish
·         Crustacean shellfish
·         tree nuts
·         wheat
·         peanuts
·         soybeans
“Although more than 160 foods have been identified to cause food allergies in sensitive individuals, the "major food allergens" account for 90 percent of all food allergies. Allergens other than the major food allergens are not subject to FALCPA labeling requirements.”

At this point, only Crustacean shellfish and tree nuts are defined or regulated further than the general designation of “food allergen”.  In other words, if you see the term “gluten-free” on a package, the manufacturer has chosen to put it there freely – the term has no common definition.  Read the labels!

For more information on the Gluten-Free Label, click here.

Preservative(s).  Since this post is already long and I don’t want to reinvent the wheel, I’m going to let another amazing blogger address this topic: for a brief explanation of Food Preservatives, take a short trip to, an awesome resource I hope you’ll return to.

One last note on preservatives: according to the FDA’s Food Labeling Guide, “when an approved chemical preservative is added to a food, the ingredient list must include both the common or usual name of the preservative and the function of the preservative by including terms, such as ‘preservative,’ ‘to retard spoilage,’ ‘a mold inhibitor,’ ‘to help protect flavor,’ or ‘to promote color retention.’”

Partially Hydrogenated or Hydrogenated.  Partially hydrogenated oil is only produced artificially at high temperatures with metal catalysts in chemical plants, which means that it is not natural at all. Hydrogenation fundamentally degrades the nutritional properties of natural vegetable oils and creates trans fats that cause cardiovascular diseases.”

So, if a product claims to be all-natural but it lists ‘partially hydrogenated oil’ as an ingredient, versus canola oil for example, you know the claim is false.

Sugar & Sugar Free.  Sugar on a nutrition label is defined as “sucrose” (there are three types of sugars: sucrose, glucose, and fructose) or “a generic term that includes any of a class of water-soluble carbohydrates with various degrees of sweetness” (citation 5).  In other words, the front of a package might say “sugar free” because it does not include sucrose.  In the end, however, that same product might be made up of 75% carbohydrate (all food is either protein, fat or carbohydrate…sugar is a carb).

Are you seeing a pattern here?  READ YOUR LABELS, and, more importantly, know how to understand them!!!!