Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Starting Line...

I would like to take today's post to get a little personal... I hope you don't mind... and sorry about the length... but it is a lifetime in the making!

My husband Jeremy and I were married when my son was 7, but he entered our lives when Alex was just 4. Those two instantly hit it off! Alex had a wrestling partner, a snow ball fight side kick and an overall good guy to have as another great male figure in his life.

When my husband and I met we were both at the beginning of a journey of recommitment to our faith... We did not know it at the time but we knew it later, that God brought us together at the perfect time.

Sometimes when coming back to a walk with God, you have to let some aspects, and people in your life go for a while... it's not easy to do and often not even a conscious thing, but at that moment in each of our lives, we were needing to do that. And at that time, we needed each other desperately...

My husband is a man who doesn't pull punches, but tries to do everything in love (it doesn't always come out that way... but I know he has the best intentions.) He said a lot of things the me the evening we met in person (after a weeks worth of all night phone calls!) that made me fall in love with him right away, but two things I distinctly remember:

  1. First, he asked me if I ever thought of growing my hair out, I had just a few months earlier chopped off my long blonde locks.. very, very short and his comment, at first, took me aback because he was being so forthright, but made me think, "Gee, this guy is honest!" And his desire to phrase it as a question, well I appreciated the effort... Needless to say I started growing my hair out that day... and have not looked back!
  2. Second, he told me that he did not desire to physically father children, he was open to adoption but did not wish to have his own children. I thought this was peculiar, but I was totally ok with it as I did not want to physically have anymore children either... This guy was perfect!

As people say, time changes many things... but in 11 years of being together, one thing had absolutely remained the same, we would not be having our own children... and as Alex got older, the more that became solidified, as I did not want to have children so far apart and did not want to go back to that starting line of motherhood!

After we got married, people continued to ask that question, "so when are you guys going to have kids?" Our answer remained that same, "We won't be having any of our children." After a few years of marriage they tried again, "So, you guys are surely going to have kids now, right?" The answer was still a firm, "No."

In late 2013, and early 2014, I suffered two great losses; one of those losses was my brother. He was six years older than me and the only sibling I had that shared both of my biological parents with me. We grew up together from the beginning... and all of a sudden, he was gone, before he even reached the age of 40....

Needless to say these losses shook me in ways I never knew I could be shaken... They tested my faith and helped bolster it as well, I learned who God was in ways I never knew possible, He proved Himself to me in ways I had been totally unaware of.

I had an appointment to make our desire to not physically have any children official, and came to about two weeks before the procedure would permanently make me unable to bear children, what we had always wanted!

I had an uneasy feeling about it, it did not feel right and even my husband (who had also been previously all for the procedure) was unsure as well... We still did not want to have children, were still open to adopting but had no interest in physically having our own.

But after going through something so final, so unpredictable, and so out of my control, in losing a great friend and also my brother... I couldn't do anything "final." Too much had been taking from me without my consent that I couldn't give this up... even if I still didn't want to have any more children, I couldn't take the "ability" away... and my husband was totally on board, although still very firm in his desire to not father children...

Many people were often perplexed by my husbands almost obstinate desire against fathering children. He is amazing with kids, has an awesome sense of humor and is the most compassionate man I have ever met... of course he would make a good father! He was such a wonderful step-father already, it only made sense to everyone else for him to become a father to his own children.

Although it may be difficult to understand, ever since my husband was a teenager he knew he wouldn't have any kids of his own, he had too much "stuff" and "junk" that he didn't want to pass on. The fear of bringing a child into this world, the state of it, brought fear... The fear of passing genetic dispositions to an innocent baby, greatly outweighed any desire to bring children into this world.

The Lord has a way of reminding us where we started and I believe it is so important to remember where we began, otherwise sometimes, we don't think we have made any movement at all! He has promised not to leave us where He found us...

At the beginning of 2015, my husband laid the biggest shocker of all time on me... He said, "Why don't we leave this whole baby thing in God's hands?" My response? "Excuse me? Who are you and what have you done with my husband?"

Little did I know that God had been working on and softening my husband's heart towards having children... That was great! But my prayers for my husband never included, "Lord, please give Jeremy the desire to have children of his own." NO WAY! But my prayers for my husband included things like, "Lord, please help Jeremy to trust you with every area of his life, help him to let go of fear and doubt and be able to have a peace that surpasses all understanding."

As I pondered my husband's statement to me of leaving this whole "baby" thing up to God, I realized God had been answering my prayers, but as it very often happens, it was not in the way I thought. Now I had to ask myself, "Am I trusting God completely? Am I operating in trust or fear?"

My husband had taken a fertility test that revealed it was "highly unlikely that he could father children without medical intervention."

I have to admit, this helped me ease into the idea of "leaving the baby thing" up to God! Months and months passed and my job was coming to a place where we thought a lay off was coming... so I was really stressed! I attributed that to not feeling well, being exhausted and nauseous... but I was very wrong...

Every fear I had about starting over (my baby Alex is now 16) with a new baby, going back to the beginning of the journey, just evaporated at the sight of those two lines that confirmed what used to be mine and my husbands biggest fear... we were going to have a BABY!

So here we are 20 weeks in, half way to the finish line of this journey and the starting line of another (and almost exactly 12 years to the day of Jeremy and I becoming a couple) and God has shown me so much more of His great plan for our lives, but specifically how truly far He has brought both myself and my husband in this crazy journey of life, there are many cliche's you can say, "never say never," "it aint over till the fat lady sings," "expect the unexpected."

But only one thing is true to me... God answers prayers, it may not always be how or when we think, but He does.. and His plans for us are so much greater than we can even imagine!

Thanks for reading and remember that He has promised not to leave you where He found you, never leave or forsake you and that He has amazingly wonderful and perfect plans for your life!

Michelle

Sunday, January 17, 2016

What’s On the Box? Beware of Front Label Tease

Several years ago my husband and I had found ourselves a little lazy in healthy eating arena (due to crazy busy lives and other things that distracted us from taking care of ourselves.)

We decided it was time to cleanse. We took some drastic measures at the time because my husband was suffering from some serious health problems at the time and we had a sneaky suspicion that our diets had a huge part to play.

It all began with a pact at my job to go gluten free for 30 days. After the 30 days we took it a step further and removed dairy, sugar, gluten, processed food and more.

Even though it was a drastic measure, it was what both of our bodies needed to reset... But this post isn't about detoxing or cleansing, it's about what we learned in that first 30 days. Because we had committed to going gluten free we needed to read the nutrition labels of EVERYTHING we ate!

We discovered we really had no idea what we were feeding ourselves on a daily basis.... 

What the food industry put on their packaging can be confusing at best, misleading at worse. They can give consumers a false sense of eating healthy; leading them to eat more processed and packaged foods – which ultimately lead to a slew of health issue that our nation is facing right now.


  • Fortified, enriched, added, extra, and plus = nutrients such as minerals and fiber have been removed and then vitamins are added back during processing.
    Look for 100% whole-wheat bread, and high-fiber, low-sugar cereals.
  • Fruit drink = probably little or no real fruit and a lot of sugar.
    Look for products that say "100% Fruit Juice", and consume in moderation. Even better, eat a piece of fruit instead.
  • Made with wheat, rye, or multi-grains = have very little whole grain.
    Look for the word "whole" before the grain to ensure that you're getting a 100% whole-grain product.
  • Natural = the manufacturer started with a natural source, but once it's processed the food may not resemble anything natural.
    Look for "100% All Natural" and "No Preservatives.”
  • Organically grown, pesticide-free, or no artificial ingredients: Trust only labels that say "Certified Organically Grown” and look for the USDA seal.
  • Sugar-free, reduced fat or fat-free: Don't assume the product is low-calorie. The manufacturer compensated the change in texture with unhealthy ingredients that don't taste very good and some of these products have no fewer calories than the real thing. Also, sugar-free foods are most likely to be sweetened with artificial sweeteners – which the body recognizes as toxic chemicals.
  • The term “whole grain” is allowed to be used very loosely. The nutrition value of flour made from whole grain is quite different from when you eat the grain in its entirely – such as when you cook quinoa, brown rice, or millet.
  • 0 trans fat = this label is allowed on foods that contain less than 0.5 gram of trans fat per serving. (No amount of trans fat is recommended, and it only takes 2 grams of trans fats to show its harmful effect.)
I would encourage you to take one simple step if you are trying to take better care of your health.... Start reading the nutrition labels of everything you put in your mouth... at least be aware of what you are feeding your body.... 


Have an awesome day!

Michelle

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Recipes!

So I do not create a lot of recipes... but I love finding good ones and sharing them with you!

So here is a roundup of the most recent and awesome recipes I have found (and tried!) 

There is link to each recipe (click on the name of the recipe, so the original creator gets credit), I have also put in my 2 cents on each one!

Pears Chips

from Gina from Kleinworth & Co

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Spray baking pan lightly with cooking spray.
Slice your pears very thin & lay on pan in single layer
Sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture
Bake 2 hours – turning pears over half way through.
Transfer to wire rack to cool.

** They are ready to eat at this point however they can be less than crisp.  I decided for photo purposes to place them back in the oven.  I had been baking something else after I made these, so my oven was then set at 350 degrees.  I pulled out what I was making & turned the oven off.  I placed the pear chips still on the wire rack in the oven for about 15-20 minutes.  This really browned them up & made them more crisp.  Just what I was looking for.   This is entirely optional.


What Michelle says: 
"These are super yummy and easy too. They make a great, healthy snack, and make the house smell wonderful too!"

Sweet Potato Cupcakes

Recipe courtesy of Chloe Coscarelli

Ingredients

Cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup pureed sweet potato

Coconut Whipped Cream:
2 13.5-ounce cans of coconut milk (not lite), such as Thai Kitchen brand or Whole Foods 365 brand, chilled in the refrigerator overnight (be sure not to shake or stir)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Chocolate shavings, for garnish, optional
Ground cinnamon, for garnish, optional

Directions

For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 12-cup cupcake pans with 14 cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, oil, vinegar, vanilla, and sweet potato until smooth. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix until just combined. 

Do not overmix.
Fill the cupcake liners about two-thirds full with the batter. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean with a few crumbs clinging to it. Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting.

For the coconut whipped cream: Chill the bowl and whisk of a stand mixer in the freezer for about 10 minutes. If they are not very cold, the cream will not whip properly. Skim the solidified coconut cream from the chilled can of coconut milk and transfer the solids to the bowl of the stand mixer. Do not include any of the coconut water, even if you have to leave behind a little margin of coconut cream (even a little bit of coconut water can harm your results).

Add the powdered sugar and whip for a few minutes until the mixture begins to stiffen and turn into whipped cream. Chill the whipped cream in a covered container in the refrigerator. It should firm up even more as it sits in the refrigerator for the next few hours or overnight.

What Michelle Says: 
"These were super yummy and it feels good making a dessert that uses great, healthy substitutions!


Gnocchi with Zucchini Ribbons

Recipe from Eating Well


Ingredients

1 pound fresh or frozen gnocchi
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium shallots, chopped
1 pound zucchini, (about 3 small), very thinly sliced lengthwise (see Tip)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley



Directions

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. 

Cook gnocchi until they float, 3 to 5 minutes or according to package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. 

Cook until the butter is beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. 

Add shallots and zucchini and cook, stirring often, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add tomatoes, salt, nutmeg and pepper and continue cooking, stirring often, until the tomatoes are just starting to break down, 1 to 2 minutes. 

Stir in Parmesan and parsley. 

Add the gnocchi and toss to coat. 

Serve immediately.

Tip: To make “ribbon-thin” zucchini, slice lengthwise with a vegetable peeler or a mandoline slicer

What Michelle Says: 

"I could eat this every single day! It's a great, filling meal and uses some of my favorite veggies!"



Please let me know if you try any of these and what you think!

Have a wonderful day!

Michelle


PS.  Don't forget our 10 Day Pure Living Program starts on Monday the 18th... and it's free! Click HERE to join!


Michelle Tolleson is a Certified Health Coach, Group Fitness, PraiseMoves and Mira! Instructor.

She attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and continues to enjoy furthering her knowledge in the health, wellness and Christian coaching field.

Her love for Jesus and desire to love people as he did fuels her passion to help people attain their optimal place of health and wellness in Spirit, Mind and Body.

Michelle and her husband, Jeremy, make their home in beautiful Rhode Island where they have a 16 year old and are expecting another child in June!

If you're interested in working with Michelle, schedule a Complimentary 30 Minute Session by clicking HERE and choosing a convenient time!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

GLORIOUS RUINS

Glorious Ruins?

This morning I was preparing breakfast for the boys (I made myself an amazing walnut banana smoothie as well, another Giada recipe I saw while getting rehydrated in the hospital the other day) I always play worship music (thank you Pandora!) while making breakfast in the morning.

A song came on this morning that I have heard many times, I know all the words to it... but this morning it struck me... I had to listen to it over and over again... Just became enraptured in the words and the meaning of this song. Has that ever happened to you? When something just stops you in your tracks? A moment, a song, a word, someone walking into a room?

The song was Hillsong's "Glorious Ruins" If you haven't heard this song... Take a listen, you won't regret it..

When I think of my journey as a child of God, I would describe the terrain as a long path that has contained rivers, valleys, mountains, peaceful beach strolls, battlefields, long and boring car rides, and high speed chases on the Autobahn (yes I looked up how that was spelled.)

When it comes to the word ruins, I have used this term to describe moments, times, and circumstances in my life. While listening to these lyrics this morning, something struck me with this word "ruins."

So often in my life I feel like I am in a place of ruins, I feel the circumstances around me, my environment, people in my life, issues, trials, struggles are all the ruins that God wants to to make "come to life" as the song says.

This word ruins, I could not get it out of my head, so I decided to take some time to study it for myself. This is what I found...

Dictionary.com says the following about the word ruins:

noun1. the remains of a building, city, etc., that has been destroyed or that is in disrepair or a state of decay:2. destroyed or decayed building, town, etc.













































    













3.

wrecked, or decayed condition
4.the downfall, decay, or destruction of anything
5.the complete loss of health, means, position, hope, or the like.
6.something that causes a downfall or destruction; blight:7. the downfall of a person; undoing


Then I looked to see what the Bible said about ruins and found the following verses:

Jeremiah 22:5 "But if you will not obey these words, I swear by Myself," declares the LORD, "that this house will become a desolation."'"
Jeremiah 4:7 "A lion has gone up from his thicket, And a destroyer of nations has set out; He has gone out from his place To make your land a waste. Your cities will be ruins Without inhabitant.
Psalm 89:39-41You have spurned the covenant of Your servant; You have profaned his crown in the dust. You have broken down all his walls; You have brought his strongholds to ruin. All who pass along the way plunder him; He has become a reproach to his neighbors.
Jeremiah 51:37"Babylon will become a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals, An object of horror and hissing, without inhabitants.


I must admit that I was not very comforted by these first few verse I read... but then I realized something... It's NOT the circumstances, the people, the crisis, the issued, struggles or the trials that are the ruins here... The ruins are ME!

Immediately my thoughts returned to the song I had been struck by (which was still playing on repeat by the way) and realized that this song contained somewhat of an oxymoron: GLORIOUS RUINS? 

I have said the following statements over and over again throughout my life out loud, to other people, while singing, while reading and realized that, once again, I knew these in my head and believed them wholeheartedly, but something about them hadn't really, truly dropped into my heart:

"God turns ashes into beauty" "God takes broken things and makes them beautiful"

While I continued to ponder this thought of "glorious ruins" I also searched out other oxymorons in the Bible:

1. Beauty from Ashes

2. Life through Dying


3. Strength through Weakness


And also came across things that just don't make sense in the natural:

1. Ruins coming to life

2. Mountains singing


3. Joy for mourning


4. Beauty from ashes


5. Peace amidst the storm


6. Praise for heaviness


7. Old things made new


I soon realized there are so many oxymorons and terms in the Bible that just don't make sense in the natural. 

Being curious I started looking up certain symbolic terms in the Bible and these are the ones that struck me:

1. Bruised Reeds

2. Smoking Flax


3. Dry Bones


4. Ruins


There are two major revelations to me this morning:

First, although many times I am looking for relief and hope through specific struggles, times, circumstances etc... It is not the circumstances that are being spoken about through these Biblical oxymorons... these terms above are describing ME!

I AM the RUINS, I AM the ASHES, I AM the BRUISED REED, I AM the SMOKING FLAX, I AM the DRY BONES!!!

Second, and most amazingly, that although God wants us to have peace in our lives, relief from trials and struggles, for our path to be smooth like the damp sand on the beach after the tide goes out, He most desires to change US! 

We are not guaranteed an easy life as a child of the most high God... but what He wants for us is so much better; what difference does it make if our circumstances change but we remain the same?

Going back to the term "ruins" for a moment... here is what the Bible says God will do to the ruins/us.


Jeremiah 30:18-19"Thus says the LORD, 'Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob And have compassion on his dwelling places; And the city will be rebuilt on its ruin, And the palace will stand on its rightful place. 'From them will proceed thanksgiving And the voice of those who celebrate; And I will multiply them and they will not be diminished; I will also honor them and they will not be insignificant.

Isaiah 51:3Indeed, the LORD will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places And her wilderness He will make like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the LORD; Joy and gladness will be found in her, Thanksgiving and sound of a melody.

Amos 9:11-12"In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, And wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins And rebuild it as in the days of old; That they may possess the remnant of Edom And all the nations who are called by My name," Declares the LORD who does this.


Isn't that amazing?!?! God has promised to restore the ruins, rebuild them, joy and gladness will be found in them(us)...He is talking about what he wants to for us!
He doesn't break the bruised reed, He will not quench the smoking flax, he won't be turning our ashes into beauty but he will be making us beautiful because we ARE the ashes!
Today read these lyrics as a prayer, a reminder of what God desires to do in you! For it is only in Him does the impossible become possible!
                                                                                                                     "Glorious Ruins"
When the mountains fall
And the tempest roars You are with me
When creation folds
Still my soul will soar on Your mercy
I'll walk through the fire
With my head lifted high
And my spirit revived in Your story
And I'll look to the cross
As my failure is lost
In the light of Your glorious grace
Let the ruins come to life
In the beauty of Your Name
Rising up from the ashes
God forever You reign
And my soul will find refuge
In the shadow of Your wings
I will love You forever
And forever I'll sing
When the world caves in
Still my hope will cling to Your promise
Where my courage ends
Let my heart find strength in Your presence

HAVE A WONDERFULLY BLESSED DAY KNOWING THAT HE NEVER FAILS AND THAT RIGHT NOW HE IS MAKING YOU BEAUTIFUL, WHATEVER YOUR JOURNEY SO FAR HAS CONSISTED OF AND NO MATTER WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS!

Michelle



Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Weekly Challenge Info: Adding Leafy Greens!

Since this weeks challenge is to add more leafy greens to our diets I wanted to share some information about them.

WHY GREENS?

Greens are high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc and vitamins A, C, E and K. They have a ton of folic acid, fiber, and many other micronutrients.

I always recommend (with greens) to purchase organic, if you can... However if that is not possible for you, it is better to eat non organic greens than non at all!

Greens are the number one deficiency in our modern western diet. (Greens are just one of many food definicies in this "modern" diet)

Greens help with a number of bodily functions as well like blood purification, improved circulation, strengthened immune system, clearing congestion, assisting in organ function and so much more!

WHICH GREENS?

There are many year round options when it comes to leafy greens. Of course we all know about spinach and lettuce, but let's branch out this week... Pick up a green that you haven't tried before like endive, arugula, chicory, or bok choy!

HOW GREENS?

Greens can be cooked in many different ways like steaming, boiling, sautéing in oil or water or boiling. (If you boil your greens do so for 1 minute or less so you don't lose too many nutrients in the water. You can also drink the water like a broth or tea, but only if you are using organic greens is this recommended. Drinking the "broth" can help to curb your appetite if weight loss is something you are looking to do.) You can also just eat your leafy greens raw!

TRY THIS

So for the last week I have been down and out with the stomach bug (no fun!) Yesterday I was advised to head to the ER to make sure that Baby T and I were not dehydrated and that there wasn't anything else going on...

Fortunately everything turned out OK and even though I was there for a few hours, I looked at the bright side: it was awesome to hear Baby T's heartbeat (we are 17 weeks today!) and know that we were both on the mend. Also, another bonus, I was able to watch the Food Network for a while and came across this recipe while watching Giada; I thought it was a great one for this week's leafy green challenge!

Not only will you be consuming a leafy green but also Farro (a whole grain) too! Bonus! (If you're not into or can't find Farro, you could use brown rice or Quinoa instead)

GIADA'S FARRO AND KALE SALAD 

Ingredients
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, diced
1 cup farro, rinsed
2 sprigs oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Juice of 1 large lemon
Juice of 1 orange
1 small bunch Tuscan kale, stemmed and finely shredded
1/2 cup dried cherries or 1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and halved
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 ounces goat cheese

Directions
Put the walnuts in a small, heavy-bottomed skillet over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted and fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely on a small baking sheet.

Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the shallot and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the shallots have softened and are fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the farro and toast in the olive oil, stirring often, for about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in 2 cups water, the oregano and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the farro is cooked through and tender, about 25 minutes. Remove the oregano sprigs, drain the farro, and set aside.

Whisk together the lemon juice, orange juice, remaining 1/3 cup olive oil and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add the warm farro and toss to coat. Add the kale, cherries, cucumber and walnuts and toss to combine. Crumble in the goat cheese, toss gently just to mix and serve.

Recipe courtesy of Giada DeLaurentiis

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/farro-and-kale-salad.html?oc=linkback