Trusting God When You Can’t See Ahead

When things are going the way I planned, it’s much easier to trust in God. Of course he is leading and guiding our family. Everything is falling into place. But, what about when things go in all different directions and there seems to be no clear path? What then?

I’m writing in the middle of the confusion, so while it would be nice to say how it all worked out in the end, there is no end of the story yet.

Have you experienced conflicting signs in your life? Lord, what are you trying to tell me? Is this from you or another spirit? Am I supposed to work and homeschool? Am I really supposed to do that for the next ten years? How will you sustain me? Are we supposed to move or not move? Are we supposed to do online school, enrichment classes, or everything at home? What if I can’t handle it Lord, and yet I believe you want me to be the primary educator of my children?

I’d like to say that the first place I go in these unsettled times is to a place of trust and gratitude, remembering how God has led in the past and resting assured that he still knows the end from the beginning. But instead, this time I become angry, then confused, then irritated, then frustrated. I feel like Peter, sinking in the waves of the sea after having walked on water.

What to do? Finally, with much resistance, I go to the only place I know it is safe to go when things are churning around me. “Help me Lord! Help me to trust you, even when I can’t see the path ahead.”

And, amazingly and faithfully, the Lord answers as he always does.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths,” Proverbs 3:5-6.

It doesn’t say he might direct your paths. It doesn’t say sometimes he will, sometimes he won’t. God’s word promises he SHALL direct my path if I trust in Him. Trusting is the hard part, but with God all things are possible. I make a decision everyday to put my trust in the Lord and not in my own feeble understanding. It’s not always an easy choice to make, but it is always the wisest choice.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own,” Matthew 6:34.

There are no certain answers at this point, but I can sleep at night. There are many uncertainties and stressors, but we take one day at a time. I don’t know what the next year will bring, but the Lord does. That is enough for today.

Staying Healthy on the Road

We often find ourselves on long road trips. My husband travels quite a bit for his work, and we’re fortunate to be able to go with him at times. Two big challenges seem to always loom: 1) how to keep up with school work, and 2) how to eat healthy food on the go.

For now, I’ll address number 2 and share what we’ve done to try to eat healthy on the road. I’m almost hesitant to write this because we have a long way to go and certainly haven’t arrived yet. I’m eager to hear what ideas you have as well, so be sure to add your ideas at the end of the post or on the Facebook page.

On our last road trip, which lasted 2 1/2 weeks, these are some of the things we did to try and eat healthier on the road.

Bring Healthy Snacks

Take lots of healthy snacks so when the hunger pangs come we aren’t tempted to grab junk food from the gas station. Here are some of our favorites. While you may not have these brands where you live, look for snacks with non-GMO ingredients, whole grains, low or no added sugar, no high fructose corn syrup, and no hydrogenated oils or fats.

Limit snack times. Grazing all day isn’t good for the stomach. Healthy snacks can minimize food you have to buy along the way or make a rest stop into a lunch break too.

Crunchmasters gluten free multi-grain crackers

Nature’s Bakery All Natural Fig Bars or other healthy fig bars

Trail mix: Sometimes we make our own with almonds, cashews, and raisins or dried cranberries.

Kashi Chocolate Almond Sea Salt with Chia (I told you we aren’t perfect yet.)

Pack Fresh Fruit

Pack some fresh fruit. Apples and oranges travel well and last many days on the road. When we stop to eat at a sandwich or burrito shop, I stash some oranges in my bag. Then I have the kids eat them while waiting for their order. The double bonus is they get good nutrition in first and we don’t have to order as much food, which helps with the budget.

Grocery Store Meals

Skip the restaurant or fast food for a quick meal from the grocery store. Many stores have a deli that makes fresh sandwiches. Or, grab some bananas, granola bars, and applesauce.

Juice Break Instead of Fast Food

Take a juice break instead of a meal. Many grocery stores and even gas stations now have fresh vegetable/fruit juices and smoothies. While some are nutritionally better than others, they are certainly better than French fries and soda by far. Look for cold pressed if you’re really wanting a nutritional boost. In parts of the USA, Trader Joe’s has some great options. Otherwise, look for a vegetable/fruit mixture with no added sugar, artificial flavors, or preservatives. Be sure not to leave leftovers out for later as these can go bad quickly. We like to take a small insulated cooler bag with ice to keep our juice cold, as small tummies fill up quickly.

Stretch and Exercise

Take exercise breaks often to stretch the legs and keep the blood circulating. Long trips are hard on the circulation even for little people. Play jumping games or tag at rest stops.

Salad Bars to the Rescue

Seek out buffet style restaurants that feature big salad bars. We love Sweet Tomatoes, aka Fresh Choice, for its fantastic salad bar.

Share Gifts of Good Health

When staying with friends and family, bring some fruit or healthy snacks and give them as a gift. They’ll want to offer them to you while you’re there, and will help keep the healthy food flowing even if not everyone’s on board.

Graciousness and Healthy Limits

Remember that relationships are more important than food. Be gracious and thoughtful of anyone who hosts you along the way. Give kids limits they can abide by and still be polite — for example, “take only one cookie after dinner.”

Like I said, we are certainly not the poster family for healthy road trips. We have frequented too many fast food chains and eaten too many Doritos. But, we are making strides to improve. I as a mom am elated if we can make it through a long road trip without anyone getting sick. The time and effort it takes to keep everyone well fed with nutritious food does pay off. Happy and healthy traveling!

Healthy and Happy in the Kitchen

We are not a perfect family. We try to eat healthy, but do not always succeed. At home I fix mostly vegan meals. Still, my kids love to go to Grandma’s for mac and cheese and ice cream. What to do? How do I instill in them a positive emotion towards healthy foods? While I don’t have all the answers for sure, this is what we’ve done to foster health and happiness in the kitchen. The side benefits, of course, are the skills they’re practicing in math, food science, home economics, nutrition, and time management. But, we won’t tell them all that!

Let Them Cook

My 12-year-old son has taken a liking to baking and cooking. What a delight! Steering him in the direction of foods that he loves to eat, which happen to also be healthy, is the ticket. We started with corn bread (from Cooking Entrees with the Micheff Sisters: A Vegan Vegetarian Cookbook) and moved on to vegan mac and cheese. Once he realized, “Hey, I can read any recipe and follow directions,” he moved up the difficulty scale to vegan lasagna. We served this scrumptious dish to company, and he got praise and positive reinforcement for his efforts. Double bonus!

Other favorites are pasta with sautéed mushrooms, garlic, basil, oregano, and tomatoes, using the pasta water to get the right saucy consistency; and, the ever requested grilled “cheese” sandwich made with vegan CHAO slices on whole grain bread.

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When the boy wants to make banana bread or muffins, and there are no eggs available, he simply looks up a vegan recipe online and goes to work. Through this process he has learned how to substitute ground flax seed and water for eggs. We are also blessed to have a vegan society in our town and take both our kids to the vegan potlucks where they get to sample a variety of yummy nutrition packed food. At one dinner my lucky son won a cookbook, “The Uncheese Cookbook.” I never thought I’d see a pre-adolescent boy get so excited about winning a cookbook. He was thrilled!

Younger kids can start helping in the kitchen by measuring and mixing. My five-year-old has become quite adept at “skinning carrots.” That’s what he calls it! By helping us when we juice vegetables and fruits, he then wants to sample the juice and has loved it from the start.

Below are some of the kids favorite recipes to make.

Spinach Lasagna by Heather McDougall (adapted from the Forks Over Knives App)

Ingredients:

2 lbs. water-packed firm tofu

2 tsp. garlic, minced

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 Tbs. parsley flakes (or fresh parsley, chopped)

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup soy milk

1-2 lbs. fresh spinach, chopped (can use swiss chard)

8 oz. no-boil lasagna noodles (gluten free noodles work as well)

7 cups pasta sauce (we use Trader Joe’s Marinara)

1/2 cup Vegan Parmesan Cheese or daiya mozzarella style shreds

Directions: To make the tofu ricotta, combine tofu, garlic, nutritional yeast, sea salt, parsley, basil, oregano, lemon juice, and soy milk. Mix in food processor or with hand held mixer until just slightly lumpy. Place in large bowl, set aside. Chop spinach and mix into “ricotta.”

Preheat the oven to 350 ºF.

Spread 1 cup pasta sauce over the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Cover the sauce with a layer of noodles. Next, bread half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Top with 2 more cups of the sauce. Add another layer of noodles, the rest of the tofu mixture, 2 cups more of the sauce, and the rest of the noodles. Put remaining sauce over the noodles (make sure you cover all the edges), and sprinkle some parmesan or “cheese” over the top. Cover with parchment paper, then foil (we just use foil).

Bake for 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 30 minutes before cutting.

 

Baked Macaroni & Cheeze (adapted from The Uncheese Cookbook)

  vegan-mac-and-cheese

Ingredients:

1/4 cup water + 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice

1 large onion, chopped

1 lb. elbow macaroni

2 cups water

1/2 cup pimiento pieces, drained

1/2 cup raw cashew pieces

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tsp. onion granules

2 tsp. garlic granules

1 tsp. salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 ºF.

Heat the water and vinegar or lemon juice in a large saucepan. Add the onion, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender (about 15-20 minutes). If onion sticks to the pan, add a few teaspoons more water to loosen it.

Cook macaroni in boiling water as directed on package. Drain and set aside.

Process the onions and remaining ingredients in a blender for several minutes until completely smooth. Stir blended mixture into the macaroni and spoon into a lightly oiled 3-quart casserole dish. Bake uncovered for 25-35 minutes. Serve immediately.

Healthy and Happy in the Kitchen

Yes, my son loves to make chocolate chip cookies and pizza too. But, I’m hopeful that his positive exposure to healthy foods and fun healthy cooking experiences will carry into his adult choices. At least he won’t find healthy foods unusual or different, just a taste of home!

How have you instilled healthy and fun eating habits in your family? Has cooking helped your children grow and learn in surprising ways? Share in the comments and let’s support each other on this homeschooling journey.

Fun at the Library: The Flexible Homeschool

Have you ever gone to the library with a well-researched book list, only to discover that they don’t have 75 percent of the books on your list? I’ll still do this on occasion, but today I’d like to share another method I’ve been using to find books at the library in a non-conventional but semi-organized way. Think highly flexible, fun, and rewarding!

Here it is, very simple, though not scientific in any way:

  1. Go to the kids’ picture book or easy reader section of the library.
  2. Choose one small section, say two or three short shelves.
  3. Find a step-stool to sit on.
  4. Browse through this section thoroughly, choosing books that meet your criteria for good literature for kids. I don’t ask my kids which books they want. Sometimes they wander by and chime in.
  5. Check them out and enjoy reading together.
  6. When you find a gem, turn it into a project.
  7. Repeat on the next visit, moving to the next section. Our library organizes children’s picture books alphabetically by author. We started with the A’s and are working through. Sometimes I go to the Z’s and work backwards.

With this simple method we find some wonderful books, and I’m never disappointed because a book isn’t available.

Here are two sample projects we loved:

Book: What’s Alive? (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 1) by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld.
Subject: The difference between living and non-living things.
Project: Cut out pictures of living and non-living things in magazines and paste on categorized paper.

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whats-alive-collages

 

Book: If You Lived Here: Houses of the World by Giles Laroche.
Subject: Different kinds of houses people in various places live in.
Project: Choose one of the houses in the book and make a collage home.

log-house

pueblo

 

I love “school” ideas that are simple, flexible, fun, and educational. Do you have any tips for utilizing the library in a fun and simple way? Share in the comments below.

 

The World is a Book

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness” – Mark Twain

It’s common to take the family to visit a nearby national park or even a road trip to historical sites. We have enjoyed these vacations. But when we headed out a while back to visit Ecuador we got some interesting looks and comments.

Why would you go there? Isn’t that expensive with the family? Are you going on a mission trip?

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While I highly recommend international mission trips, it’s okay to take a vacation abroad. Our family vacation was economical, eye-opening, character building and an educational goldmine. Here’s a synopsis of our trip.

Using frequent flyer miles saved over many years, we reached our destination of Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. Spanish classes filled our first week while we stayed with an Ecuadorian family arranged through the “Cristobol Colon Spanish School”. My older son learned more Spanish that week than in the last six months of our homeschool Spanish program. The week included a trip to the equator. How’s cool is that – to stand with one foot in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern hemisphere. My kids will never forget where Ecuador is on the map.

Next we headed to the Amazon jungle. An overnight bus, another mini-bus and a 2-hour trip in motorized canoes. We stayed in a jungle lodge with no electricity. Our guide took us out daily to explore the river and jungle where we encountered anacondas, pink river dolphins, and loads of birds and monkeys. Swimming with piranhas anyone? I passed on that, but my son was an eager participant. The guide told us the piranhas were not in the middle of the lagoon. Thankfully all came out with limbs intact!

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After our jungle adventure we rented a car and drove along the Andes Mountain range which runs down the center of the country. Soaking in volcanic hot springs, exploring the colonial city of Cuenca, and hiking around Inca ruins were some of our activities. Some nights we spent a mere $25 for a room and $10 for dinner for four. Another time we “splurged” and stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast run by a friendly expat couple. The kids loved running around their huge garden filled with banana trees, papaya trees, coffee trees, and a vegetable garden. The price? About the same as we usually pay for a Motel 6 in the states.

Ecuadorians are very family oriented and often the tickets for our kids were either free or half-price, even on buses and tours. The people were also so friendly and helpful. Petty theft can be a problem there as in many developing countries, but we took precautions and found it no less safe than visiting a U.S. city. Everywhere we stayed the children were welcome and treated kindly.

Visiting the local markets filled with textiles, hand-made leather goods and all kinds of interesting fruits and vegetables we’d never seen made for fun shopping. Previously we were unaware that Ecuador was a large producer of chocolate. Using the always handy internet, we looked up a small local chocolate factory, called ahead and arranged to have a personal tour complete with samples.

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There were so many educational experiences. We tasted raw sugarcane and saw how the locals make it into raw sugar (not bleached and white). The boys helped grate yucca root to make into flat bread. We visited cathedrals that the conquistadors built, and walked on ancient Inca roads. We also visited a local Adventist church where there was standing room only. It’s fun to worship with believers from other countries and cultures and find how much our faith ties us all together.

International traveling is not only for the rich or for foreign missionaries. Many families spend more money taking a Disney vacation than we did on our Ecuadorian adventure. Yes, it took some planning, an adventurous spirit, and one night sleeping on the floor of the airport. However, if you have the desire to experience geography, geology, culture and history up close and personal, consider taking your kids abroad before they leave the nest. It will teach them that people all around the world are not so different than they are. We are all God’s children. 

“The world is a book, and those who don’t travel read only one page.”

If you’ve traveled abroad with your kids, leave a comment about your adventures below or on the Facebook page. Let’s inspire each other.