Tuesday, June 30, 2015


"Prayer and praise are the oars by which a man may row his boat into the deep waters f the knowledge of Christ."
Charles Spurgeon
Pastor Trey preached another excellent sermon Sunday night at The Church of Pecan Creek. One of the things I appreciate most about Pastor Trey is his exegesis and expository preaching. Currently, he is teaching us through the book of Ephesians.

He did not break to have a sermon regarding the latest cultural change but covered Ephesians 3:14-21 just as he would have if last week had just been another, uneventful week. Yet, the passage still spoke to our current situation. When a person teaches or preaches the full counsel of God, it will address whatever we are in at the moment.

Verse-by-verse, expository preaching is by far the most affective, efficient, and Biblical form of preaching, in my opinion. As a person preaches, verse-by-verse, you get the entire message, in context. With other forms, such as topical, it is common to have verses ripped out of context and twisted to fit into the topic the preacher has chosen to speak on that week. Also, with verse-by-verse preaching, you may address many topics in one passage rather than just one topic. Now, there is a time and place for topical preaching and, yes, there can be abuses in verse-by-verse preaching, but, on a whole, it is the safest and most beneficial for addressing the whole counsel of God. In addition, I doubt you will ever hear of a verse-by-verse expositor saying they have "run out of things to preach about."

This past weeks sermon touched on many topics but one topic especially resonated with me this week and it may be partly due to having thought about the subject a lot over the last few month. That topic was prayer. Not just that actual act or that we never do it enough, but what we really should be praying.
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:14-21)
Paul stresses many times in his epistles praying for his and other brothers and sisters in the Faith spiritual health. Many times, in churches today, the prayer list reads like a list of diseases a physician my address. Not that we shouldn't pray for the health of each other, we absolutely should, we are to bare one another's burdens (James 4:14). However, what is so much more important is the persons spiritual health, his sanctification. While we should not neglect the praying for our friends and families health, it is vitally more important to pray that their faith is strengthened. 

The best place to learn how to pray, is the Bible. I have found it most helpful to look at the opening and closing paragraphs of just about any epistle. Here are a few I have found especially instructive recently:
"And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who was qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light." (Colossians 1:9-12)
"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 5:23) 
"Finally brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ." (2 Thessalonians 3:1-5
"Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all." (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
"I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ." (Philemon 1:4-6
"Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews 13:20-21)
"Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul." (3 John 1:2)
We are also instructed to pray for the leaders of our country, state, county, city, church, etc... This may not always be the easiest of tasks but no one ever said the Christian life was the easy life. 
"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quite life, godly and dignified in every way." (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
Here are some quotes by some wonderful men of God. 
"Pray, and let God worry."
Martin Luther
"You are close to people who are far from God -- will you beg God for their soul? Will you give them the gospel?"
"Fear not because your prayer is stammering, your words feeble, and your language poor. Jesus can understand you."
JC Ryle
"Let us resolve by God's grace that however poor and feeble our prayers may seem to be, we will pray on."
JC Ryle
"Grant, Almighty God...[that we may] learn to elevate our minds higher, and so make continual advances in your spiritual service."
John Calvin
If you have the desire to read some of the most beautiful prayers written outside of the Bible, I would highly recommend purchasing"The Valley of Vision." It is a collection of Puritan prayers that will humble you and teach you how to separate yourself from our physical desires and seek God's will for our spiritual sanctification. Anthony and I try to read one prayer before bed each night. We fail more than we succeed but it is always a humbling and encouraging experience when we do. Here is one prayer, the prayer in which the book received it's name:
The Valley of Vision
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, 
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, 
     where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights; 
     hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold they glory. 
Let me learn by paradox 
     that the way down is the way up, 
     that to be low is to be high, 
     that the broken heart is the healed heart, 
     that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, 
     that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, 
     that to have nothing is to possess all, 
     that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, 
     that to give is to receive, 
     that the valley is the place of vision. 
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, 
     and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine; 
Let me find Thy light in my darkness, 
     Thy life in my death, 
     Thy joy in my sorrow, 
     Thy grace in my sin, 
     Thy riches in my poverty, 
     Thy glory in my valley."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Trim Healthy Mama: Our Take

So, we aren't so happy with the Trim Healthy Mama plan. We definitely like some parts of it but other parts concern us. Not to mention that we haven't been happy with any recipe we have found while doing the program. I'll talk about our dislikes and concerns first, then I'll talk about what we did like. Before anyone asks, we did try this program (not strictly) for about a month.

For those of you who may love the THM life, don't get too mad at me, there are many positives with the program and if it works for you and your family, that is wonderful and I am happy you have found a healthy plan for your family. I would actually encourage people trying the plan. Every family is different, every cook is different, every person's taste is different. We all need to find what works best for our families. 

Less than plan friendly foods
My first issue is that there are several foods that are not exactly plan friendly but are very healthy. I will say the plan isn't necessarily against these foods and they do stress eating these foods but only rarely. Most of them are off-plan if you are attempting to lose weight. Some of these foods include all fruit, carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, and honey. 

I will repeat, these aren't exactly "off-plan" foods but they are encouraged to be eaten only in very moderate amounts. That I do agree with, at least the eating in moderation part. Moderation in all food types is a key to healthy living and something most of us have a very difficult time practicing. 

What I don't agree with is that these foods are looked at as almost bad guys. Some may say I have gotten the wrong impression but this is the feel I have gotten from this program. 

Most of the plan teaches a low glycemic index diet which I totally agree with and the foods that they put in this "less-than-friendly" category are on the higher end glycemic index foods and should be eaten in moderation but some of these foods are incredibly healthy alternatives to less healthy counterparts. For example, a sweet potato is much better for you than a russet potato, carrots are better than chips, and you can sweeten foods with carrots and onions rather than using sugar. 

Honey. They state in the book that "honey can make you very fat." I agree that eating too much sugar in any form can lead to gaining weight. However, most people don't eat tons and tons of honey. We use honey but we can keep a bottle of honey in our cabinet long enough for it to crystalize. We occasionally sweeten a cup of herbal or green tea with honey and we use it in cooking from time to time. There are many benefits to consuming honey and I believe that it is a much healthier alternative to sugar. Unless you are slathering your Chick-Fil-A or Babe's biscuit in honey, you are likely fine. And, lets be honest, if you are eating at Chick-Fil-A or Babe's, honey is probably the least of your concerns. ;)

While I agree you should be careful with them, I hesitate to criticize them as much as I feel this plan does. Again, this may just be a misunderstanding on my part but many of these foods are considered low glycemic index (GI) foods so I'm probably going to use them in cooking more than this plan prefers.

Sugar alternatives
Anyone who knows me, especially from my younger years, probably knows I had a probably unhealthy love of Sweet-'n'-Low. I've never been too afraid of sugar alternatives. I love to add generous helpings of Splenda when I'm making sweet tea. However, let's be honest, in the back of our mind have we not always had the inkling that sugar alternatives may possibly just be one of those "too good to be true" situations? 

As a kid and don't-care-about-"healthy" adult, I scoffed at people who were skeptical of sugar alternatives, or pretty much any "healthy alternatives." People who criticized margarine, products marketed as fat-free/low-fat, and processed/packaged foods, annoyed me slightly. I figured either they were overly cautious, just didn't like the taste, or were conspiracy hunters. However, I still managed to marry one of these people. Anthony immediately changed some of the ways I cooked. We cooked more at home with real foods, opted for the full fat rather than low-fat/fat free alternatives (real sour cream, real cream, higher fat milk, etc), used real sugar, and real butter. After about a year of this, my cholesterol dropped by about 20 points. I didn't lose any weight but I figured there had to be something to this.

One the THM plan, most sugar alternatives are highly discouraged but sugar is not on-plan at all. They do have a couple of sugar alternatives that are used and used in almost everything. They allow stevia and erythritol. I have used stevia before and found it tolerable in very small amounts. When we first started the plan, I got some Truvia. It's probably the most common and popular form of powder stevia on the market. We did not like it at all. So, we purchased the Sweet Blend and the Pure Stevia powder from THM. I will say, these are much better, and if you are looking for an alternative, I highly recommend their blends. 

Stevia is a sugar alternative that is natural. It comes from a herb that a lot of people have started including in their home gardens. I am not one of those that jumps on the band wagon of anything that someone says is "natural." Usually when someone is telling me "______ is good for you. It's natural." I usually reply with something like, "Poison ivy is natural too but you don't see me eating it." Yes, I know, I'm a little snarky sometimes. But, the point is, just because something is "natural" doesn't mean it is good for you. Due to the fact we live in a Genesis 3 world means we have to be careful of the "natural." 

Now, I'm not trying to denigrate stevia. However, I have done a little research looking into whether stevia is really a safe alternative to sugar. Here is what I have found:

Animal testing in the 1980's linked stevia with problems with fertility, reproductive growth, and genetic mutations. Stevia could only be sold as a dietary supplement due to the safety concerns. However, in 2008, Truvia and a few other manufacturers, using a highly purified extract of stevia called Rebaudioside A (aka Rebina or Rep A), petitioned the FDA to rate Rep A as "generally regarded as safe" (GRAS). The FDA accepted Rep A as GRAS but not whole leaf or crude stevia extracts

Here is what the FDA says about stevia:
"FDA has not permitted the use of whole-leaf Stevia or crude Stevia extracts because these substances have not been approved for use as a food additive. FDA does not consider their use in food to be GRAS in light of reports in the literature that raise concerns about the use of these substances. Among these concerns are control of blood sugar and effects on the reproductive, cardiovascular, and renal systems. Food additives and GRAS affirmation petition or pre-petition submissions for the use of such substances that FDA has received in the past have not contained the data and information necessary to establish the safe use of these substances as ingredients in food."
Even though the FDA approved Rep A as a GRAS ingredient, there are some people/organizations who are concerned at that the FDA did not require as strict of testing for Rep A as they usually do for other ingredients. 

To be honest, "generally regarded as safe" doesn't generate confidence in a substance. Even then, how do we know if a product is using Rep A and not the pure or crude extract? I just checked all my containers of Truvia, THM Sweet Blend, and THM Pure Stevia Extract. None of them said what form of stevia they used. 

I'm also not super trusting of the FDA considering some of the things they do pass but when even the FDA finds concern with a product, that makes me a bit more skeptical regarding that product.

Considering that we have issues with the three biological systems that the FDA were concerned as to the effects of stevia, I'm not super comfortable with continuing using stevia. 

I have read a few other testimonies from women who struggled with infertility while using stevia and then their problems resolved after they removed stevia from their diet. This is just anecdotal evidence but probably does suggest more testing being done regarding this product.

I'm not saying stevia isn't safe but I do think their may be some concerns worth considering. Personally, I'm no longer comfortable with it.

I know I need to break my addiction to adding sweeteners to my tea and coffee. Personally, I would rather have less of the real thing than all I want of the alternative.

The THM Food
So, we have tried several of the recipes and only had one that was good. Several we had to throw out because they were inedible. We bought the THM Baking Blend and made pancakes the other night. They were full of fiber so we weren't hungry after dinner but I must say, we were less than happy with the texture. We would never make them again. Hopefully, we can find something to do with the rest of this Baking Blend because it was quite expensive.

That brings me to another point. This lifestyle is less than budget-friendly, if you ask me. Much of this food is essentially gluten free. Anyone who has had to go to a gluten-free diet knows buying flour alternatives is anything but cheap. 

I will talk more about fat in the Pros section but this is my concern regarding fat on this program.

This program has categorizes meals into "S," "E," and "FP." I explained these meals in my last post. The "S" meals have to include over 5g of fat which is not really the problem. However, most recipes I have found for "S" meals seem to be overly generous with fat. To the point that it would never be considered a healthy meal by any sane person. Delicious, possibly, healthy, not likely. This seemed to be a complaint by many people with the Adkins diet. People seem to get in the mind set that as long as a meal doesn't have carbs in it, you can throw caution into the wind. I don't think this is what the creators of THM intended but it does seem to be inevitable in plans like this.

This is probably more of a complaint with how humans react than with the plan itself.

Eating out or eating at a friend's house
Like many diets, eating out or eating the food someone else cooked, is almost impossible to stay on plan. 

Planning a menu
Anyone who has read this blog at all knows I have no qualms regarding planning our meal. I actually enjoy it. It has really been one of the most helpful and enjoyable habits I have adopted.

I have certain rules I stick to in making our menus (topic for another future post). However, with this plan, trying to make sure each meal type alternated was beyond difficult. Menu planning became less than enjoyable and if I don't enjoy it, I probably won't stick to it. Another major reason this plan will not work for our family.

Religious aspect
The sisters who created this plan are two Christian women. They love the Lord and love the Bible. I am thankful for that. However, I think they may have tended to over-spritualize their plan.

Don't get me wrong, there is a spiritual aspect to all parts of our lives and I believe it is important to recognize that. Our temptation and addictions to certain foods can be a form of idolatry and a parable to how we approach sin in our lives. 

However, these ladies implied that aspects of their diet plan came directly from the Bible. I believe they may be leaning a little too far into "twisting Scripture" to come up with some of their ideas. 

I did watch a video where they discussed their plan at a conference for women associated with The Hebraic Roots Network. I am not exactly familiar with this organization but I suspect they are a part of the Hebrew Roots Movement. This movement is a false teaching within Christianity. While I don't doubt their salvation, their passion, or their devotion to Christ and the Gospel, if they are involved in the HRM, it does reveal that their interpretation of Scripture is less than reliable.

While that may not exactly make much of a difference regarding the safety and healthiness of their plan, it is a con for me. Any plan, like this or Rick Warren's "The Daniel Plan," that tries to make the Bible or certain passages into a diet book concerns me. 

There are many good points this plan makes and we have definitely used this program to add some healthy aspects to our own diet. As far as diet plans out there, THM is probably one of the better one's I have seen in a while.

Whole foods/Cleaner eating
There has been a movement in the nutritional world in the last few years to move to a cleaner diet, a diet of more whole foods. There isn't an exact definition of "whole foods" or "clean eating." What some people call "clean eating" others would not. However, the essential aim of these movements, is to get away from overly-processed foods and eat more foods as closely to what would be picked off the plant or taken from the animal as possible. 

One recent suggestion I have seen in this program and others is to consider "Is this something my great, great, grandmother would recognize as food?" This doesn't always work but it is something worth thinking about before purchasing a product. Would my great-grandmother recognize me making mashed potatoes from freeze-dried flakes or from a potato? 

Unfortunately, much of what she would call food these days isn't the same as when she was around. Wheat is completely different than it was a few decades ago, corn has changed as well, and the chicken we purchase in the grocery store is not even recognized as an animal by US law and referred to some people as "frankenchicken" due to the way this particular type of chicken was bred. 

Moving away from overly-processed foods is a undeniably more healthy step in the right direction. It is also something our family doctor was completely in agreement with. 

I do wish that organic, grass-fed, free-range food was more affordable. But, until then, we will just do our best.

Glycemic Index
I had heard of the Glycemic Index prior to this diet but I did learn more about it. It is definitely something Anthony and I must start paying more attention to due to diabetes being so prevalent in our families. 

All fats are not created equal. All saturated fats are not created equal. In the past, anything that had fat in it was bad, anything with saturated fat was down right evil. In recent years, more research has been done regarding fats and this myth has been exposed. There are some saturated fats that are actually healthy. More research is needed to fully understand fat but it goes to show that we don't always know everything. ;)

While I don't think the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle is for us, we did learn some beneficial habits and would recommend it as a diet for people to try if they are trying to find a plan they like but it isn't for us. 

Also, this may be a result to trying this plan for a few weeks or not but as a side note, I had to have lab work for our annual insurance lab draw and my cholesterol is back up where it was when we first married. I'm not sure it can be blamed on this program but it did concern me a bit.

I will say that Anthony was quite the trooper during this time of new food trials. He was really positive about everything and willing to really try which is never easy for us foodies with all our very strong feelings regarding food's taste, food's texture, and how food is made. I have an amazing husband!

So, I am going to continue making menus and I'm going to incorporate more of the good habits but I'm not going to be stressed out over the correct combos. We are going to continue moving to a more whole food/cleaner diet and just opt for less of the real stuff rather than all we want of the manufactured. 

As Christopher Kimball said on a recent installment of America's Test Kitchen Radio podcast (episode 417):
"Please don't ask me about diet, health, and weight. Is it calorie intake, is it when one consumes those calories, is it the type of calories, or is it simply your metabolism? All of this leads to a very simple fact, when it comes to the human ecosystem, theories abound. So, until scientists sort all this out, follow this simple maxim: Eat early, eat natural, and enjoy your food."

Thursday, June 11, 2015

June 2015...A Change of Plans

May was a really busy month for us. Anthony's youngest sister, Tanya, graduated from high school. We are so proud of her. She has come a long way both literally and figuratively. Just in the few years I have known her, I have seen her grow from a cute girl with a deep Ukrainian voice to a beautiful young lady who love the Lord deeply. Yet, she is still as silly as ever. Hehehe. :)

We have officially been an aunt & uncle for a year now. Elijah is one year old. Crazy. He had a great party with family and Kapp's Kitchen decorated sugar cookies for his party (unfortunately I forgot to take pics of them). Along with the other goodies, we were stuffed and all on sugar highs for days. :)

Anthony and I have taken on more and more in our church, The Church at Pecan Creek. Too much, actually, but there are some people taking over what we can't keep up with to keep us in a more technical role. Anthony is now essentially the IT guy for our new church. He is learning how to run the sound board; post-editing the sermons, music, and discipleship lessons; and uploading everything to the website and iTunes. Having said that, please check out The Church at Pecan Creek on iTunes. I'm in charge of lyrics and the projector. Making sure the lyrics are uploaded into my iPad correctly can take about two hours before going to the church but the projector only takes a couple of mins to set up at the church. So, I try to help the rest of the team but I really don't know what I'm doing right now, so I need to get in there and figure it out.

Brandie is on her way back to the US from Mongolia and I can't wait to see her. I have a newer friend who just had a baby the other day so I can't wait to introduce the two of them, I think they will get along just great. 

So, I have been making monthly menus for over a year now. We stuck to them fairly well, not great, but it helped guide me at the grocery store. I hope to return to it soon. But, for now, there is a change in the plans for food in our house.

Anthony and I are starting a new eating plan. This plan is called Trim Healthy Mama. It is a low glycemic index eating plan but also includes eating certain foods in separation from each other. They divide meals into three categories: "E" meals are for energizing, "S" meals are satiating or satisfying, and "FP" are fuel pull meals. E meals are lower in fat but allow for healthy carbs. S meals are higher in fat but very low in carbs. FP meals are low in both fats and carbs; they cause the body to pull from fat stores at a higher rate and burn fat more quickly than the other meals. It is a more whole foods type diet as well.
With this plan, you need to eat every three hours to keep your metabolism up. So you don't really get "hungry." There is no keeping up with a daily counting of calories or points or anything else. You do need to take a look at your meals occasionally to make sure you are eating the right type of meal. My nutritionist told me she is no fan of counting any nutrition. She said she prefers to help people just make wiser choices rather than beating yourself up for going over some number that that is very subjective.

This plan helps to break our addiction to sugar. In most developed countries but especially so with America, we eat WAY too much sugar. If we eat processed foods, low fat/calorie, or in restaurants, those foods are packed with extra sugar in order to make the food palatable. This plan allows for certain types of natural sugar alternatives including stevia and xylitol. This is certainly going to be a challenge for us. I'm personally not a big dessert eater but lots of foods I like including breads, pastas, potatoes, sauces, etc... all contain lots of sugar. I have heard from others on this plan that the first couple of weeks are really tough but afterwards it gets much better and you usually really regret it when you "cheat" because you feel awful.

Anthony & I both have family histories of diabetes so we need to be better about how we eat and at least get in the habit of eating low glycemic before we have to. We both need to lose weight so hopefully it will help with that as well. :)

So, for now, I have to plan all our meals so I will just be doing a week at a time for now. As for snacks, I'm going to post a list of snack options in our pantry so we know what we can grab when we just need a little something. One bread that is allowed is sour dough. So, I need to learn to make that as well. 

So, below is my menu for next week. If you want to look at it closer, the pic is linked to the pdf of the menu on my Google Drive.