Parenting Recipes

10 Unique Healthy Eating Tips for Your Picky Eater

March 30, 2021
how to encourage my toddler to eat healthy

In this post, we are discussing how to get your picky eater to eat healthy – whether that’s your toddler, preschooler or your husband! I share my favorite methods for encouraging my picky eaters to eat healthy foods.

Hey there, friend. You’re probably reading this because you want to know how to help your child to eat better, healthier, and more consistently.

First of all let me say that I am NOT a medical professional or dietitian. I’m just a regular ole mom like you who has struggled with the same things. This is what I’ve learned through experience, tons of research and consulting with doctors, nutritionists and registered dietitians. If you or your child has a health issue, please consult with your doctor.

Dr. Justin Coulson at Happy Families – a psychologist and father of 6 (!!) daughters – remarks that some of the most common mealtime mistakes are:

So, what do you do when you fall into some of those pitfalls? I know I have done ALL of those things at one point or another.

Tip #1: Take a deep breath.

Seriously. Take a deep breath. I’ll wait.

Now, hear this: your kid will be okay. They will not starve. They will not grow a third ear because they refuse to eat their broccoli. Let’s have some perspective on this.

One thing my doctor mom would always say: eating is not a learned behavior.

We are not taught to eat, it is something that we are biologically programmed to do. Yes, we learn bad behaviors and unhealthy habits – but starving ourselves is not typically one of those!

Recently, we realized that dinnertime had become a struggle for us with the kids. They just weren’t eating their food! We bribed them, cajoled them, throttled them (just kidding)…after weeks, we decided that they simply were not hungry at that time. So we adjusted their snack schedule and then finally made the decision that they did have to sit with us during family dinner, but they didn’t have to eat at that exact time. However, they couldn’t choose to eat something else: they had to eat a reasonable amount of dinner if/when they wanted a bedtime snack or treat.

I can’t tell you what a stress reliever this has been for our family. We’re able to have fun, light-hearted meals without battling over food. The kids still eat their dinners – albeit, later than we would like – but they eat when they’re hungry and oftentimes they eat ALL of their dinner and more!

This all started with us taking a deep breath and gaining some perspective. What mattered was that our children ate and that they ate reasonably healthy, filling foods. It doesn’t HAVE to be on “our” schedule and it may not look like what we want it to, but we’re accomplishing our goal: happy, healthy children.

Tip #2: Don’t bring food into the house that you don’t want your child to eat.

If your kid only wants to have hot dogs and macaroni for dinner and cocoa puffs for breakfast – just don’t buy it anymore. If they fill up on Doritos and Chewy bars all afternoon long and then aren’t hungry for dinner – there’s a simple fix for that.

Look, I’m not saying this is easy to do…but I am saying it’s simple.

We recently stopped purchasing applesauce pouches – not because they were unhealthy, but because that was the only thing my son wanted to eat! We were spending more money on pouches than on any other category of food each week. So, I stopped buying them.

Now, let me tell you that at first he was devastated. It broke my heart. But, as kids do, he moved on. He doesn’t even ask for them anymore and is perfectly happy with the other snack choices that we offer him.

Tip #3: Have your picky eater eat what you eat but allow for flexibility.

I once heard a mom share how she got her child to eat a healthier breakfast: she made herself the healthy meal and gave her child something relatively bland/boring. Within seconds, the child was leaning over to see what her mom had to eat. Before the mom could take more than one bite, the child had commandeered the healthy meal!

This just shows us how much our kids look to us. If they see us eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains, they will be more likely to do the same.

Also, this is just a sanity check: don’t make a separate meal for your picky eater! This is a slippery slope. If you have 5 picky eaters in your family, will you make separate, customized meals for all of them?! Please stop this habit before it becomes a mom’s worst nightmare.

So, how do you do this?

By making balanced, healthy meals with flexibility.

Here’s an example: I’ll make this meal frequently in our household. However, we all eat it differently. I like to squeeze lime over mine and sprinkle some cilantro. Tyler likes to cover his in cheese and sour cream and then eat it with tortilla chips. Finn and Justus get a dollop of plain Greek yogurt to make theirs more creamy and get cheese like Papa. I’ve made one meal, but everyone gets what they like.

(By the way, here are some of the meals that I make frequently for our family. They’re healthy but relatively simple and flexible.)

Figure out what your mealtime boundaries will be and stick to them. For example: I won’t make separate meals for everyone in our family, but I will allow my child to slather their vegetables in cheese.

My friend Betsy at GroWell Nutrition has wonderful tips and tricks on her Facebook page for your picky eater!

Tip #4: Plan your meals AND snacks AND desserts.

If you don’t have a plan, it’s so much easier for meals to get “blurry.”

What I mean is this: if you don’t know what you’re going to eat for breakfast (or lunch or dinner…) then we usually gravitate toward what’s easiest and what we’re craving in that moment. But that’s not always the healthiest option for us! However, when we plan ahead, we know exactly what we’re going to eat and it helps us to make better decisions.

The same goes for our kids: if we know what we’re going to feed them, it’s so much easier than staring into the fridge/pantry and asking them what they want to eat! That never goes well.

So that’s why I make a meal plan for the week on Sunday evenings. I sit down and plan out what we’re going to have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day and make sure I have a plan for snacks and treats. I try to do some batch cooking so that I’m not making meals from scratch for each and every meal of the day! For example, on Sunday nights I usually make a large batch of steel cut oats to feed us breakfast through the week (Monday-Friday…weekends are for pancakes 😉 ) and I’ll throw some sweet potatoes into the oven to feed us lunches through the week. For dinners, I generally try to make a meal that will feed us for two nights in a row so that I can have a little break from cooking.

Check out my healthy week-long meal plan on my Etsy shop. It includes a plan for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts for 7 days – that’s 35 meals planned out for you along with recipes, tips and tricks for your picky eater, a grocery list and more.

It’s super important to have balance and a healthy perspective with our food choices, which is why I think it’s good to incorporate treats and desserts into our diets. It’s nice to have something to look forward to after a long day or week. Generally speaking, I try to have “healthy” desserts and treats for during the week and reserve the splurges for the weekends. For example, my four-year-old has a small handful of dark chocolate covered almonds during his quiet time (AKA little brother’s nap time) each day and then we usually have ice cream or roast marshmallows on Saturdays or Sundays. This gives us all something to look forward to and provides a nice balance in our diet.

A word on snacking for picky eaters…

In our house, over-snacking has led to many food battles. Dinner time was ROUGH until we figured out that we need to schedule our snacks. So, each day we have snacks at 10:00am and at 3:00pm. The boys’ snacks typically consist of one pantry item such as a Larabar, whole grain crackers, dried cranberries or popcorn AND one or two refrigerator/produce items such as a clementine, apple, grapes, cheese stick or goat cheese with their crackers.

Tip #5: Give some choices…and take some choices away.

It’s a give and take here. Literally.

One of the silliest things I do is ask my four-year-old what he wants to eat for lunch.

I know exactly what he wants to eat for lunch: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Every time.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a good ole pb&j – but when I ask him what he wants and it’s not: a. what I want to give him or b. all that healthy for him…then we’ve got problems.

One of the goals here is to de-pressurize our meals. We don’t want our kids to pick up on our anxiety over their eating – that’s never good.

So, stop asking your kid what they want to eat. Instead, pre-determine what you will feed them, and THEN give them options. For example:

Would you like cinnamon on top of your sweet potato?

Do you want blueberries or strawberries on your yogurt?

Would you want your avocado on your sandwich or on the side?

You see what I’m getting at here?

Tip #6: Involve your picky eater in the meal prep process.

Finn (4) helping me make our favorite pumpkin spice steel cut oatmeal.

One way that I get my four-year-old to try new foods is by having him cook alongside me. When he was first starting to eat solids, I would let him play with the spices and we would do the “smell game” where I would let him sniff various spices. As he got older, he started to help me do some basic measuring, scooping and mixing. He cracked eggs and whisked them. Now he peels potatoes, chops zucchini, and adds seasonings to our meals.

We’ve started keeping a garden and it’s been wonderful for getting him to eat vegetables! After all, they’re the work of his own hands.

One of Finn’s jobs around the house is to help me keep our garden alive!

Tip #7: Mix new, healthy foods with old favorites

If you’re trying to get your kid (or picky eating husband!) to eat broccoli, for example, try mixing it with other foods they already like to eat. If you leave the broccoli on its own on their plate, it’s much easier to push it to the side than if its covered in cheese and mixed with macaroni!

This works all of the time with my husband. He has a very limited number of vegetables that he likes, but if l chop up onions, bell peppers, zucchini or other veggies small enough and mix them with the “approved” foods, he either won’t notice them at all, or only grumble slightly as he eats them.

My friend Betsy at GroWell Nutrition has wonderful tips and tricks on her Facebook page for your picky eater!

Tip #8: Regularly introduce new foods to your picky eater

Each weekly, as I’m grocery shopping, I try to choose one new fruit, vegetable or whole grain to try. I like to treat this more as an experiment than as something I expect my family to happily devour. I choose foods that are in season, inexpensive, and interesting.

Together, we learn how to prepare and eat our new food. For example, a few months ago, we purchased one pomegranate. I didn’t even know how to cut up a pomegranate! So Finn and I watched a video together about how to cut one up. He helped me pick the seeds out of the pomegranate and we remarked on the color and texture, how interesting the fruit was. It was fun!

Now, fast forward several months and pomegranates are one of their favorite fruits!

On the other hand, a few months ago we tried pitaya (also known as dragon fruit). It was a super neat looking fruit – but none of us loved the taste. It had the texture of a kiwifruit, but to us, it didn’t actually taste like much. We had a few small bites and put the rest in a smoothie. No harm done – it was a fun experiment for the family. No pressure, just an interesting experience for all of us.

Another example of this was when we purchased an eggplant. Finn and I scrolled through Pinterest searching for “eggplant recipes” and I let him pick the recipe for us to make together. We made eggplant pizzas and it was fun!

I’m not advocating for us to come up with unique meals every night of the week – that’s not realistic or sustainable. We all tend to eat the same meals and foods over and over again – which is totally fine and normal! – but it’s helpful to introduce new foods in a fun way with no pressure.

Tip #9: Consult with a pediatric dietitian

If you’re at your wits end with your picky eater, I highly recommend consulting with a pediatric dietitian. This is someone who knows a ton about nutrition, healthy eating, a balanced mindset when it comes to food AND knows about kids.

These days, lots of pediatric dietitians are doing online or phone consults – so you don’t even have to leave the house. For example, Betsy Britt at GroWell Nutrition has an online picky eating course – or you can do a personalized family consult via Zoom.

Tip #10: Don’t Give Up.

Having tension and difficulty during mealtimes with a picky eater can be SO challenging. But don’t give up, mama! Think of this as an exercise in growth, just like working out: when you first start to exercise, it’s hard and you’re sore and tired. But after a while, it becomes easier and easier. You get stronger, have more energy and feel more confident. It’s the same thing with parenting! Choosing to do the “hard things” for and with our children is draining at first, but over time it becomes easier and we all reap the benefits.

Dietitian and mother of two, Betsy Britt of GroWell Nutrition, says that it can take 20-30 introductions for a child to accept a new food. That’s A LOT of tries! So don’t worry if it doesn’t go well the first time, or the second time….or the fifteenth time.

I heard this tip from Betsy last year as my youngest, Justus, was starting to eat solids for the first time. This has been instrumental in helping him to become a well-rounded eater.

I will also say that physical growth and the natural process of maturing will help our kids as well if we’re consistent and patient. For example, there were foods that Justus did not eat last year but now (because I kept introducing those foods) he loves them!

One of Justus’s favorite meals: stir fry. He especially loves it between his toes!

Also, it’s hard to explain to an 18 month old why they should eat their veggies, but it’s much easier now with my 4-year-old. I can explain to him the benefits of each food and he really likes that!

These carrots are filled with beta carotene which help keep your eyes really healthy – it especially helps you to be able to see better at night!

This chicken has lots of protein to help build your muscles up so you can be strong like mama!

Your avocado that you’re eating has some really healthy fats – that helps your heart to be even more powerful! Can you feel your heart beat?

Those blueberries have tons of antioxidants in them, which helps your body have more energy to fight off bad-guy germs!

With three boys around our dinner table, there’s a lot of muscle-showing, karate-chopping, and pirate-like ‘arrghh’ going on while we eat. It’s a little chaotic, but it’s also fun and makes our meals way more interesting.

Well, friend, I hope this is helpful for you in your journey toward better health and more sanity! Don’t forget: you are not alone. Always feel free to reach out to me for prayers and support. I’d love to pray for you!

Comment below: what are some unique ways you’ve gotten your picky eater to eat healthy foods more consistently?

Chronic Pain Tips Recipes

Simple Anti-Inflammatory Stir Fry

February 24, 2021
simple anti inflammatory stir fry

A simple anti-inflammatory stir fry that’s easy to make and filled with inflammation fighting foods!

If you’re looking for a go-to anti-inflammatory meal, this is mine. This simple stir fry is chock full of inflammation fighting foods, it’s easily customized and very versatile depending on what veggies you love in your stir fry. Also, it’s dairy-free, gluten free, sugar free and yet, it’s NOT taste-free!! 😉

For more anti-inflammatory meals that the entire family can enjoy, check out this post: Anti-Inflammatory Meals for the Whole Family.

There’s so many different ways to make this dish – and that’s what makes it my go-to weeknight meal that we don’t get tired of. You can swap out rice for rice noodles or even spaghetti squash as the base. You can utilize in-season vegetables along with tried-and-true veggies your family loves. I’ll also occasionally include chunks of pineapple or mango for a sweet surprise!

So, pick your family’s favorite veggies, throw them on the pan with some olive or coconut oil and stir fry away! You can easily make this a vegetarian dish or include shrimp, seared tuna or beef.

One way to make this dish even simpler is to purchase pre-chopped veggies in your produce department. Some stores even have a “stir fry” bag with fresh (not frozen) vegetables that are perfect for a weeknight stir fry. Alternatively, you could chop up your veggies in the morning or the night before so that you can throw them on the pan right when you get home. I’ve also been known to use kitchen shears to make my chopping and cutting even easier! 😉

So, what makes this stir fry “anti-inflammatory”?

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Devotionals for Moms

A (Short) Biblical Guide to Caring Less What Others Think

February 3, 2021
how to care less about what others think

Today, we’re discussing something I’m trying to work on this year: caring less about what other people think. Now, you may ask: is that actually biblical? Aren’t we supposed to care about people? Of course! When we are enslaved by fear of what people think of us, we are not imitating Jesus. Jesus loved others deeply without being blown back and forth by other people’s opinions.

I was inspired by Timothy Keller’s (very short) book “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness,” I HIGHLY recommend this book.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about The Dixie Chicks’ song from 1998, “Wide Open Spaces.” It’s a song about the need to get away from the life you’ve always known, so you can have room to make “big mistakes.” 

It seems like in our society today, that’s the opposite of what we have.

Have you felt that?

The tight, confining spaces of today’s culture: to fit into a certain box, espouse specific opinions, raise your children in a defined way. People who stray from this are blasted on social media, castigated for their intolerant dogmatism.

Perhaps we say things we don’t really think or believe because we’ll be looked down on. I know I’ve done that plenty of times.

…For they loved praise from men more than praise from God.

John 12:43

The problem with all of this is that we simply care too much about what other people think.

Without putting too much thought into it, we do what everyone else is doing because, if everyone else is doing it, it must be the right thing…right? 

When I look at the scriptures, the people who truly made an impact, who have changed the course of my life as well as the course of history itself, are the ones who did not care at all what other people think. 

No, they are not selfish. 

In fact, these people tend to be the most selfless because they are not concerned about themselves, either! Imagine that. 

Caring Less What Others Think: Consider Jesus.

Think about Jesus. He was countercultural in a way that would make us squirm. Can you imagine going into a church building with a whip, turning over tables and chairs, yelling at people about the way they were taking advantage of God’s house? If he did that today, we’d call him an extremist, a brute, or just simply insane. To make matters worse, he repeated his offense (John 2:18, Matthew 21:17-23). 

Jesus broke the rules (John 4:9, Matthew 12:11-13). He touched the untouchable (Luke 5:12-16). Jesus frequently made scandalous statements (John 6:54, Mark 2:5). And He hung out with people the religious society stayed away from (Mark 2:16). 

Even his enemies accused him of not caring what others think (Mark 12:14). 

But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people.He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.

John 2:24-25

This year I’ve decided I want to care less about what other people think. I don’t want to make decisions based on what everyone else is doing. I want to make decisions based on God’s Word and what HE thinks above all. 

This is much easier said than done. I don’t want to look stupid in the eyes of others. I don’t want to stand out as countercultural – I’d rather fly under the radar. 

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Devotionals for Moms

What Do You Think of When You Think of Heaven?

January 11, 2021
what do you think of when you think of heaven

What do you think of when you think of Heaven?

What makes your heart sing?

What makes you feel whole?

Where are you when you are truly at home?

For me, Heaven is the shoreline at dawn, me atop a chestnut horse. Loose reins, galloping at the edge of the water. The ocean sprays up under his hooves, splashing us. The scent of saltwater fills my lungs and I breathe deeply. I am standing up in the stirrups, hands in my horse’s mane, urging him forward. We are going nowhere – simply running for the sake of it. The wind in my face, the rising sun warms my cheeks. My steed is surefooted and strong; we work as one across the terrain. I drop my reins and outstretch my arms as he gallops forward. I am free. 

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

2 Corinthians 3:17

Heaven is a quiet walk with my Lord in a copse of live oak trees. It is a hidden place, one that no one knows about but me and Him. My fingers brush against the trunks of trees, the vines crisscrossing through the forest. My feet crunch the leaves below as the sun winks at us through the branches. The forest opens up to a river: pure water cascading down a waterfall, pooling into an inviting pond. Without a second thought, we run and jump into the water. It envelopes us. We swim freely, twirling and jumping like children in the water. We float on our backs, looking up at the brilliant blue sky. I realize that the pain that has so often pervaded my body is gone. Even as my subconscious reaches for it, this pain that has been an old friend, a dear enemy, I know it will never come back. My body is free, fluid, perfect. I am whole. 

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

Revelation 21:4

Heaven is a good book on a rainy day, curled up in an overstuffed chair with a soft blanket and a large cup of tea. The fireplace flickers beside me, giving just enough warmth and light for me to read. The story is an adventure, a tale of romance and bravery. I devour the pages, wondering what will come next. I cry, I laugh, I gasp. When the book ends, I realize it is never finished. I am part of the story, and the story is part of me. I am home. 

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

Revelation 21:3

Heaven is a throne room, filled with more people than I’ve ever imagined. A light fills the room – the most beautiful light we have ever experienced. The light is made of colors and sounds and textures I’ve never fathomed. It fills each one of us and tears of love, of hope, of relief stream down our faces as we clasp hands. I want to turn to the person next to me, to ask, Is this real? Are you seeing this, too? Because it feels too good to be true. And yet, I cannot look away from the light because it is too beautiful, too captivating, too lovely. And then, a voice sings out. A heavenly soprano sings in a language I don’t know, and yet I understand. One by one we join in song – it is a song we have never sung before, and yet we know all of the words. Everyone sings with full voice, no one holds back – we know our voices are beautiful to Him. The song takes form and lifts up into the light, joining with the light into a dance of love, freedom and joy. The room shakes with the power of the song, the floor trembling beneath our feet, and we sing louder. We are His. 

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 

Revelation 21:23-25

What do you think of when you think of Heaven?

Comment below!

Devotionals for Moms

What I’ve Learned About God from Outer Space

November 11, 2020
What I've Learned About God from Outer Space

Many of you know how much my son, Finn, loves outer space. Most days we spend A LOT of time learning about space, talking about space, pretending we’re in space or about to be in space. We read about space, watch videos about space, and when we sleep, we dream about space. Because of his obsession, I’ve inadvertently learned a ton about outer space. This has made me reflect on God, and myself, as I’ve considered His creation. I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learned about God from studying outer space.

lessons from outer space
My space-loving son, Finn (4)

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky displays what his hands have made.”

Psalm 19:1

God is big, and I am small.

The Universe is gigantic in a way that is impossible to measure and grasp. Most scientists seem to agree that the universe is approximately 13.8 billion years old, and that space is constantly expanding. The only thing we know for sure, according to NASA is that the universe is “much larger than the volume we can directly observe.”

Some believe that the universe is currently 93 billion light years wide. Here’s what this means: light travels approximately 5.88 trillion miles in one year. So 93 billion light years is 5.88 trillion miles 93 billion times. That’s, like, a lot.

Our galaxy is approximately 100,000 light years wide (although a recent number put it at 200,000 light years wide). This means that if we were in a spacecraft traveling at 186,282 miles per second, it would take us 100,000 years to get from one end to the other. Or, it could take us 200,000 years!

And, our galaxy isn’t even the biggest. Our closest neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy, is twice the size of our Milky Way home.

Our solar system is massive. Our sun alone can fit a million earths inside of it – and it is a relatively average-sized star!

Actual image of our sun, with Venus (which is roughly the same size as Earth) passing in front of the sun. Venus is the small black dot in the upper left corner of the sun. Photo courtesy of NASA/SDO

We used to think that Earth was unique in the universe – but it turns out there could be as many as tens of billions of other earth like planets in the universe.

Even if you’re like me and those numbers just get jumbled in your head and make no sense, this is the bottom line: our universe is massively gigantic. And the God who made each galaxy, each nebula, each supermassive black hole – He is capable. He is larger than anything we can fathom. And He is Our God.

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Chronic Pain Tips Devotionals for Moms

7 Scriptures for Finding Joy in Trials

October 5, 2020
Finding joy in difficulties

Our church is going through a Bible reading plan together this year and right now we are reading the book of James. A passage in James 1 resonated with me and challenged me to my core about finding joy in trials. It led me to this Bible study on more verses about trials and hardships.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

James 1:2-6

When I read this verse, one question kept coming to my mind:

Why on earth would I consider it joy to go through hardships?!

One of the first things I did was look up exactly what this word ‘joy‘ means. In this verse, joy is the Greek word charan which can be translated joy, gladness, a source of joy. My favorite definition was “a calm delight.”

Again, I wondered, why would I be delightfully calm during hardships?! And…how?

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Chronic Pain Tips

10 Tips for Chronic Pain Survival Days

July 29, 2020
chronic pain survival days

Today I want to share with you what helps me get through extra difficult days with my chronic pain. If you’re suffering from chronic pain – whether physical, mental or emotional pain that is ongoing – this should be helpful for enduring those days when you just have to survive the day. 

1. Accept help.

If you’re battling with chronic pain, you need to find a tribe of supportive people to surround you. Whether that’s your physical family, your church small group, or some friends and neighbors – find your tribe. Have your go-to people that you can text or call if you’re having a bad day. People who can pray with and for you, or who can come over to help distract your kiddos if you need a break. 

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17
chronic pain survival days inspirational quote

Of course, if you want this type of friendship, you have to be this friend to others as well. Be intentional about your relationships. It’s not realistic to have 15 super close BFFs – but you can have 2-3 friends whom you would do anything for – and who also will understand if you have to change your night-on-the-town plans to a movie night in bed because you’re in pain.  

2. Communicate your pain.

“A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.” 

If your friends and family members don’t know you’re in pain, it’s going to be impossible for them to know how to help you. So even if it’s hard, you have to share your pain. You don’t have to tell everyone – but be intentional with what you share. Don’t just say “I’m fine” when you know that’s not true. Be specific. Be real.

Have one or two people that you know you can shoot a text to on painful days. For me, I typically reach out to my sisters-in-law, Amanda and Andrea. Just a simple, “pray for me, I’m in a lot of pain today,” text can help take some of the burden off of me. 

A note on getting help & communicating your chronic pain:

One question that I get a lot from friends or family members is: how can I help? This is a difficult one for me because I genuinely need help, but I don’t want to inconvenience people and I certainly don’t want to ask for something that’s more than they were willing to give. However, I think if someone is asking this question, they most likely really want to do something for you! My mom often reminds me that God can use my pain as an avenue for others to answer His calling to serve. I shouldn’t hinder that call by being too proud to ask for help. So, communicate specific ways that a friend can help. Perhaps they can bring a meal, watch your kids for an hour while you rest, pick up groceries or medicine for you, or just bring you a coffee.

Please don’t be hurt if people don’t “get it” when you’re in pain.

If you’ve never had a migraine before, it’s hard to grasp how debilitating one is. Oftentimes we feel like we’re falling apart on the inside, but to others we look just fine! This can make it much more difficult for them to connect with how we’re feeling. I’m always surprised after a group hangout if I mention that I was in pain and people reply, “I had no idea!” Don’t assume people know how you’re feeling and don’t be afraid to explain in detail what you’re experiencing. However, make sure to offer lots of grace when a friend or family member inevitably doesn’t quite understand. That’s OK!

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Chronic Pain Tips Recipes

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Meals for the Whole Family

May 20, 2020
anti-inflammatory meals for the whole family

For this post, we will discuss the anti-inflammatory diet: meals, recipes and ideas for beginners, picky eaters and kids! This lifestyle can be beneficial for those with IBS, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromylagia, endometriosis, PCOS, and general chronic pain. Please discuss any diet or exercise changes with your doctor or a registered dietitian.

After battling with chronic pain in my joints and endometriosis/PCOS for several years, going from doctor to doctor, medication to medication, I turned to more natural methods in a desperate attempt to control my pain. Today, I am healthier and more functional than I have been in 8 years through a combination of eating an anti-inflammatory diet, exercising regularly (even when I’m in pain!), and finding the right medication balance for me. This is just my personal experience, but it has made such a difference in my own life that I believe it can help others, too!

Don’t forget to download the Anti-inflammatory “Eat This Not That” List – you can post it on your fridge or use it for meal planning to help you get started with your inflammation-fighting meals.

I’ve spent a lot of time searching Pinterest for anti-inflammatory foods that I could consistently eat AND feed my family at the same time. It was tough to find! Most of the recipes I found were inaccessible, difficult to make on a regular basis or just wouldn’t appease my picky eaters. However, over the past several months I’ve accrued a collection of some of my favorite anti-inflammatory recipes and wanted to share them with you!

What is the anti-inflammatory diet?

First of all, “the” anti-inflammatory diet is not a diet plan. It is a lifestyle and way of eating. I don’t like calling it a “diet” – I call it my eating regimen.

The point of an anti-inflammatory regimen is to cut out inflammation-causing foods and incorporate as many inflammation-fighting foods as possible. These foods are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols – which are protective compounds found in plants.

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Chronic Pain Tips COVID-19 Devotionals for Moms

When God Has Other Plans

May 4, 2020
When God has other plans
For the busy mom: listen to an audio recording of this post!

I’m a planner. Literally. My undergraduate degree was in Recreation, Parks & Tourism with a concentration in Event Planning. I enjoy planning things. In fact, one of my “hobbies” is planning vacations that I’ll (probably) never go on. 

The older I get, the more I bump up against this problem with planning: oftentimes, my plans don’t coincide with God’s plan. And it’s frustrating, and, at times, painful. 

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Proverbs 19:21

When God Had Different Plans for Me

At the beginning of 2013, I started to have debilitating pain in my joints. At the time, I was a riding instructor at a local horse farm. I would get home from teaching lessons at the end of the day and literally crawl up the stairs to our apartment because I was in so much pain. I started to see an orthopedic doctor and then a sports medicine doctor, and when neither helped, I went to a rheumatologist, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, a physical therapist… the list goes on. I got a knee brace, shoe insoles, a plethora of medications and side effects, and a myriad of injections in my joints. Instead of getting better, the pain only got worse.

With every new doctor, I would hope that this would be THE ONE. This would be the doctor who would know what was wrong with me. This would be the therapy to finally “fix” me. This medication would make it all go away. But it didn’t. I found the truth in this verse: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12).

Three years into my journey with pain, I was consistently walking with a cane and taking several medications daily just to function. The pain kept me up at night—I spent a lot of nights crying on the bathroom floor, praying to God, feeling so alone and defeated. I was unable to work, barely able to go to church. There were days when I couldn’t even walk to the bathroom without help from my husband. This obviously wasn’t part of my plans.

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Family Devotionals Gift Guides

Playing Through the Word: A Review of Bible Games for Kids

January 13, 2021
bible games for kids

Several months ago, I received these games from Bible Games Central. We have SO much fun with these! If you’re looking for a playful, unique way to teach your kids about the Bible, these games are perfect.

Bible Bingo

This is not your typical Bingo game – although if you’ve played Bingo before, you’ll know exactly how to play. Each player has a Bingo card and each square has a different book of the Bible along with an illustration from a story within that book. The Bingo squares, as well as the Bingo calling cards, are all color coordinated and labeled with not only the book of the Bible but the section that book is in.

This is not only a fun way to play Bingo, but it is also an enjoyable way to learn the books of the Bible and how the Bible is organized. We play this game as a family, but this would also be perfect for a youth group or another larger group. The game includes 24 double-sided Bingo cards so up to 24 people can play!

My 4-year-old, Finn, had a fun time playing this game – it was his first time playing Bingo and he had a blast. He laughed a lot while trying to pronounce some of the harder-to-say books of the Bible (“Deuteronomy” for example!).

My recommendation for playing this game is to read through the booklet beforehand – it gives a very succinct overview of each section of the Bible. This is helpful for being able to explain the books of the Bible as you play. The only thing that I would love to see added to this game is a one sentence summary of each book of the Bible! Which, I know, is easier said than done. I found myself trying to recap each book to Finn – which is simpler for books like Jonah or Esther, but harder for books like Lamentations or some of the books of history.

Playing this game, and telling Finn about the books of the Bible, is an inspiration for understanding the whole arc of the Scriptures.

It also made me wonder how much to tell Finn about some of the not-so-kid-friendly stories of the Bible. How do you explain Job to a four year old? This takes wisdom and discernment from parents and teachers.

Bible Games Central also has a fun Christmas Bingo edition of this game, which comes with a memory card game as well!

Parable Parade

Parable Parade comes with illustrated cards of Jesus’ parables, along with “oopsie” cards and “kingdom” cards!

This is a fan favorite in our house. I was pleasantly surprised that Finn was able to follow along with the rules and understand how to play! The focus of this game is the parables of Jesus. Each “parable card” is illustrated with a scene from one of Jesus’ parables and there are 4 cards in each parable set. I would compare this game to Uno – you take turns pulling cards from a draw pile and you try to match the parable cards with each other. There are “oopsie” cards, which function as skip cards as well as “kingdom” cards, which allow you to steal from another player.

Finn has so much fun playing Parable Parade!

What I love about this game is that it’s a fun way to teach biblical concepts. To assist with this, there are parable summary cards with a summary and explanation of each parable. The explanations are simple and easy to understand. There is also an optional addition at the end of the game for players to retell the parables in their own words using the cards and their illustrations as a reference point.

I love these summaries and explanations of each parable!

We did make some modifications to the game for my 4-year-old: I removed quite a few of the Kingdom cards and oopsie cards, and we took turns drawing one card at a time instead of drawing unlimitedly. We also started the game with 4 cards in our hands. This made it go a little faster for my little guy.

I highly recommend this game – it’s perfect to play as a family or in a Sunday school class, youth group, or other church setting.

Bible Memory Game

This memory game is another great one for learning the books of the Bible. The game comes with A LOT of cards – which means you can make it as challenging as possible. Of course, for my little one, we only use a fraction of the cards. But it is fantastic for challenging your memory and learning the names of the books of the Bible. I was surprised by how quickly Finn got better at this game! We are increasing the difficulty more and more each time.

As he gets older, I foresee that we will add another biblical element to this game. For example, if a player matches two cards from the same book of the Bible, in order to “win” the cards, they have to recap a story from that particular book. If they can’t, the next player gets a turn to do it and possibly win the card set!

A final thought on playing games…

Games are SO great for kids to play, especially at home with family. It teaches them real world skills that they’ll need as they grow – but allows them to learn these in a safe setting. They learn about following rules, strategy, negotiation, sequential thinking, cooperating with others, healthy competition, and so much more. Playing these games inspired us to help Finn to grow more in his competitive nature – he was such a sore loser!! Since playing these games, we have started teaching him how to be encouraging to others even when he doesn’t win. This is a tough lesson!

Playing games is also a “sneaky” way to teach concepts that otherwise would be done through rote memorization – such as letters, books of the Bible, numbers, etc. I’m grateful that we live in a time when we can take advantage of games and activities such as these to teach our little ones about our awesome God!

If you’re looking for more ideas for family devotionals, this is what we use! Check them out in my Etsy shop.

family devotionals for preschoolers
Devotionals for Moms

Christmas Lessons from Mary the Mother of Jesus

December 9, 2020
Lesson from Mary

During this Christmas season, as we’re going about our shopping, planning and traveling, let’s take a moment to consider the reason for the season: Jesus. Whenever you have a moment this month, I encourage you to read the story of Jesus’ birth in Luke chapters 1-2. I recently read through these passages and was inspired by Mary the mother of Jesus. Today, I thought I’d share with you three lessons I learned from Mary in the story of Jesus’ birth.

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Luke 2:19

Lesson from Mary #1: She chose her focus

As a virgin mother of the newborn Son of God, there was a lot Mary could have focused on. She could’ve been concerned with where her son would sleep, how she could recover from labor and delivery ( in a barn!), what God was going to do next, and so much more. For those of us who have recently had newborns, it’s easy to recall those early difficulties: the shocking pain of delivery, the hardships of learning to breastfeed, the doubts that your body will ever be functional again. I’m sure Mary had all of this and far more than we have today – plus, oh yeah, she was holding the Son of God, in a barn, with a bunch of stinky shepherds showing up wanting to see what was going on!

And we cringe when Aunt Bertha doesn’t sanitize up to the elbows when she picks up our newborn!

Yet…that’s not what Mary was focused on.

In this simple line, I see how Mary was quiet. I’m reminded of the verse in Psalm 131:2 where the psalmist says, “I have calmed and quieted my soul.” Mary could have let her mind go a million miles an hour, but instead she quieted herself and was able to be present enough to take in what was going on around her.

Mamas, this is something we should take note of. Sometimes we are so caught up in all of our concerns and worries that we’re missing what’s going on in that moment.

Mary could have made note of all the ‘negative’ things going on – but she didn’t. She treasured up the incredible experience she was living.

We should follow her example.

Let’s be honest, some of us could find flaws in Mother Theresa. We’d be discontent no matter where we were or what we were doing.

If you were holding the Savior in your arms, what would your attitude be? Would it be one of faultfinding, dissatisfaction, restlessness – or would it be one of quiet contentment?

Here’s the thing, mamas: if you are a Christian with the Holy Spirit living inside of you, you do have the Savior. You are holding Him inside of you, taking Him with you wherever you go.

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Gift Guides

A Christmas Gift Guide for the Christian Family

December 6, 2020
Christmas gifts for Christians

Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post contains affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission when you buy through the links on this page.

As you’re making your lists and checking them twice for Christmas gifts this year, perhaps you’re wondering what to get for your Christian friend or family member. Here are a few of my personal favorites as well as recommendations from my Christian friends and family members! There are gift ideas for the whole family: dad, mom, kids, grandparents & more. When possible, I’ve chosen small businesses for you to support.

Custom Bibles & Notebooks

A custom engraved Bible would be a beautiful gift for your Christian friend or family member. For something a bit different, consider choosing a different version, such as the English Standard Version (ESV) or New Living Translation (NLT).

How about a personalized leather Bible cover case?! Like this one here on Etsy.

A custom leather journal like this one would be perfect for quiet time journaling or sermon notes.

View listing here

Faith-Based Apparel

I love the graphic t-shirts from Crazy Cool Threads – their Christmas ones are awesome, like this one:

View listing here

I think it’s challenging to find non-cheesy men’s Christian apparel, but this design by Etsy seller Christian Life Tee Co is timeless:

View listing here

I love their mommy-and-me designs, too!

View listing here

For a 2020 necessity, how about purchasing faith masks?! Like these on Etsy. I love this simple faith design here.

View listing here

Bible Games

View listing here

We love this Bible Bingo game from Bible Games Central. Not only is it fun, but it’s a great way to teach the kids about the books of the Bible. They also have a fun, Uno-esque game called Parable Parade and a Bible memory card game (the kind where you have to find matching pairs).

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Gift Guides

A Few of My Favorite Things: A Christmas Gift Guide for Toddlers

November 25, 2020
Christmas Gift Guide for Toddlers
Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post contains affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission when you buy through the links on this page.

I cannot believe it’s already time for Christmas shopping! With Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming up, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite things for boys & girls ages 1-3 years old. These are toys we have used and loved that are perfect Christmas gifts for your toddler. Check out the full list on Amazon here. If you’ve got an older kiddo, check out my space-themed Christmas gift guide here.

Check out my full list of gift guides here, including the perfect gifts to give to the Christian in your life.

Step2 Rain Showers Splash Pond Water Table

I have this as #1 on this list because this is the BEST gift for a toddler. Not all water tables are created equal – we’ve experienced that the hard way. We purchased this for Justus’s 1 year birthday after A LOT of research and an earlier “fail.” This water table is endless fun and, unlike other water tables, it is sturdy and has lots of options to keep everyone entertained. Our 16-month-old AND 4-year-old enjoy this table a lot!

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Recipes

Anti-Inflammatory Diet Holiday Side Dish Round Up

November 16, 2020
anti-inflammatory holiday meals

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Christmas music, sparkling lights, exchanging gifts, reflections on Jesus and His birth. It’s a beautiful time. However, if you’re trying to eat healthy or manage a chronic illness, it can be difficult to navigate the holiday season that so strongly revolves around food – particularly, sweets. So, how do you find balance this holiday season?

Luckily, I have some tips for us from my friend and dietitian, Betsy Britt of GroWell Nutrition! She has three recommendations for us:

  1. Start the day with fitness: consider getting the family outside for a touch football game or even a 5k walk or run.
  2. Eat a good breakfast: don’t skip breakfast to ‘save room’ for the afternoon feast. This may lead to binge eating less healthy foods later in the day.
  3. Skip the seconds: enjoy your first plate of food and wait 20 minutes before deciding whether you are still hungry for more.

Personally, I’m choosing to be intentional about what to eat – and where to splurge – for the holidays. I’m swapping out the typical green bean casserole for this delicious, and much healthier, roasted honey garlic green bean dish. I’m also looking forward to sharing my favorite kale salad with everyone!

I plan to splurge on my mom’s sweet potato casserole (the kind with the roasted mini marshmallows on top – yum!). I’m allergic to apples, but every year I have a slice of my mother-in-law’s award winning apple pie.

If you’re looking for anti-inflammatory-approved side dishes to ‘upgrade’ your typical holiday fare, here are some excellent options:

Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Brussel Sprouts

GF, DF Cornbread with Paleo/Keto options

I’ll be making this fresh salad with kale, pears, cranberries, fresh beets, quinoa, goat cheese, walnuts:

Grain-free Paleo “Cornbread” Stuffing

Dairy-free Paleo Mashed Potatoes

Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon

A friend sent this to me – this dish looks so beautiful! Had to share it here:

Paleo/Whole 30 Gravy Recipe

GF Turkey + Cranberry Sauce

GF, Dairy-free Mac & Cheese

I’ve made this recipe a few times – Tyler and the kids LOVE it so I plan to make it for Thanksgiving as well. Instead of sautéing the green beans, I throw all of the ingredients together on a pan and roast the green beans at 425* for about 15 minutes. I like to throw some sliced almonds on there, too!

Anti-Inflammatory Diet Holiday Desserts:

AIP Baked Apples

Keto, Vegan, Paleo Pumpkin Pudding

AIP Keto/Paleo/Vegan Apple Pie Bars

I am absolutely planning on making these pumpkin pie truffles from fellow faith blogger Jenny at Wholesome Family Living: AIP/Vegan/Paleo Pumpkin Pie Truffles

GF Sweet Potato Pie w/Pecan Crust

I hope this is helpful to you as you are crafting your Holiday menus this year! Don’t forget to check out some of my favorite anti-inflammatory meals that the whole family can enjoy.

Happy Holidays!

Activities & Crafts

Outer Space Activities for Your Future Astronaut

November 11, 2020
outer space activities for your future astronaut

If you’ve followed the blog at all, you know just how obsessed my 4 year old son, Finn, is with outer space. He wears his astronaut costume ALL. THE. TIME. In fact, when we were trick-or-treating this year for Halloween, we overheard a neighbor we didn’t know point to Finn and say, “I see that astronaut in the neighborhood all the time!” Yep, that’s my son. So, if you have a similarly space-loving kid, here’s some fun outer space activities and experiments to do with them!

Also, don’t forget to check out this Astro-Mom’s Gift Guide for the Best Gifts to Buy on Amazon for Your Space Loving Kid as well as this week’s devotional on Lessons I’ve Learned About God From Space.

Space Activity #1: Marshmallow Constellations

Supplies: 

  • Mini marshmallows 
  • Toothpicks 
  • Black paper
  • Chalk
  • Scissors
  • Tape
Finn’s astronomical sign, Libra.

Instructions:

  • Find a constellation you want to re-create. Here’s a link with 15 simple constellations.
  • For younger children, you may want to trace the constellation first 
  • The marshmallows are each a star in the constellation and the toothpicks are the invisible lines that connect the stars to create the constellation
My attempt at my astronomical sign, Sagittarius.

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