Are you doing “just enough?”

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While in church service this morning I found myself once again pondering the vine and the branch.  It’s a topic I think about regularly and I’ve written a post about it before BUT the more vines and branches I’ve grown in my garden, the more I ponder the spiritual concept parallels.  Previously I’ve posted about how the branch separated from the vine is dead, not free. However today I was thinking about partial connections.

You see, I find myself regularly going through cycles of ups and downs, on fire and cooled off, pursuing passionately and being passive.  I’ve definitely been in more of a valley than on a hill for quite some time.  It’s not that I don’t think about God and talk to Him regularly but there’s been no passion lately.  Most of my communication with my Father has been all about me…very self-centered.  I know my Father loves me and thinks of me regularly but I also know that He wants more for me than for me to swim in a pool of ‘thoughts of me’ all the time.  I want to see my kids be successful and happy but I also want to see them make a difference for others.  I will love them equally whether they are productive or not but I know that their lives will be more fulfilling if they are doing more than indulging themselves.  Our heavenly Father knows this too (and so much more).

Now, back to my garden. 😉  As I sat in church pondering this today and asking God why I’m so stuck in thoughts of me and how to get out of it, He gave me a picture (love it when He does that!!).  I saw my zucchini plants.  Throughout the summer they became very bushy and heavy to the point that when I would lift them up to look under the leaves, it was common for stems to break or bend and crack.  I would remove the broken stems if I saw them but every now and again I’d hear one crack but couldn’t find which one it was.  Eventually I could find the damaged stem because the leaf would start to turn brown.  I know this sounds simple but stick with me here. 🙂  The stems were still attached to the vine…they still had nourishment flowing from the roots BUT there was damage and interruption.  The stems weren’t receiving the full flow of life needed to keep them healthy so they started to die…slowly.  Here’s the word I received this morning:

“The branch separated from the vine is dead but don’t be deceived, the branch which is partially separated is dead too.  The browning may come slower but it will come.  Don’t be satisfied with a partial connection.  Don’t be blind to the gradual decline of life and supply.  Connect, live, grow, flourish!”

I don’t know if that is revelation to anyone else but it was good for me so I wanted to share.

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Meal planning

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It’s been awhile since I’ve made a meal plan and stuck to it.  Summer really threw me off.  It’s strange that the more time I have on my hands, the less likely I am to stick to a plan.  🙂

However for this week, my menu is made, my groceries are purchased and my ingredients are prepped!  Here’s the plan:

Today:  Barbacoa meatballs with homemade guacamole.  I add chunky salsa to my guacamole so I didn’t follow the plan from the link.  The meal was good but my husband said he could taste the cinnamon and would prefer the dish without it.  I didn’t mind it but will leave it out for him next time. 😉

Barbacoa meatballs with guacamole, grapes, and veggies

Barbacoa meatballs with guacamole, grapes, and veggies

Monday: Chicken and vegetable lo mein from ’30 Day Intro to Paleo’ recipe book.  I couldn’t find this one online and I purchased the e-book so I guess I can’t share the actual recipe.

Tuesday: Deep dish zucchini pizza pie.  This will be the first time I’ve tried this type of crust but I’ve really enjoyed zucchini as a pasta substitute in lasagna so I’m hoping this will go well too.  For my layers I plan to use pizza sauce, smoked provolone, turkey pepperoni, black olives, and diced onions.

Wednesday: frozen junky food for the kids (pizza, nuggets, biscuits, etc.) and leftovers for me.

Thursday: Bacon mushroom honey Dijon chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans

Friday: Crockpot beef and broccoli over rice

I also have bell peppers, cucumbers, celery, baby carrots, grape tomatoes, grapes, bananas, clementine oranges, and ranch dips for snacks and sides.  I’m ready for a healthy and energized week.  Gotta fuel the engine properly to run on all cylinders. Let’s rock this!

Where has the time gone?!

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I can’t even believe that it has been over a month since my last post!  I’ve thought about many posts since the last one but just haven’t gotten them drafted.  So much has happened in the last month…Zeal, school, work, garden, church, friends…life!  I would love to take the time to do an individual post for each category but I just really don’t have time for that these days so this will be a compact post to cover some ground for those of you who are really wanting to know what’s going on in my life (yep, you family members). 🙂

School has started back and my children are in public school for the first time ever now that I’m staying home with them instead of working to pay for private school. My two oldest children are going to school in a neighboring town since they were accepted as transfers.  Unfortunately my youngest is in Pre-K and he couldn’t go out of our district so I’m making an hour trip every morning to get the three of them to the proper locations on time.  My Pre-K’er only goes to school from 8-10:30 so it’s a short kid-free time.  I’m grateful for it though because it gives me time to go to the park to exercise and get a shower before I pick him back up.  I’ll take it!!  My kids are all very excited about school and have had so many positive stories each day.  They are all excited to meet so many new people and even to be in a larger school with more children.  I’m so relieved!  However, homework has already begun and that’s not fun for any of us.  :/

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Speaking of ‘not working to pay for private school,’ I did actually start working again yesterday.  I am blessed to have been well trained in a technical field which is currently in high demand and I’m also blessed to know many people still working in the field who remember me as a good co-worker and employee.  I was asked by a good friend of mine to do some sub-contract work just to help out with some special projects in my own timing.  So, two days a week, I’m going into an office to work after dropping the kids off and leaving in time to pick them up.  My supportive father-in-law is picking up my four-year old at 10:30 on those days for me.  I’m excited about this opportunity because I’m getting to work with people I’ve always enjoyed working with, I still get to be with my kids and I’m earning a little extra cash to help out the family.  Win-Win!

On the Zeal front there’s much I could say…an entire post’s worth…but I don’t have time right now to write it all out.  Here’s the summary version:

I didn’t end up getting to go to the Zeal Champion’s weekend due to a death in the family that occurred the day I was supposed to leave.  As it turns out, the conference really was very good and would definitely have been worth the time and money.  However, since I didn’t go, I also didn’t get the money I won from that contest so I did end up being out the $194 for the conference tickets.  The prize was a package deal so I knew I had to attend the conference to get the money. However, due to the circumstances of my cancellation, I was hoping I could still get the cash portion of the prize so I wouldn’t be out the registration fee.   I contacted the prize giver about my cancellation but I never got a response to my request.  I understand the prize giver has been pretty busy over the last month so it’s possible my message to him got lost in the crowd.  I’m not really upset about it but I am a little disappointed, especially since the company always talks about helping others above helping yourself.  I’ve heard great things about this particular person that I won the prize from though so I’m assuming this experience of mine is just a fluke and I look forward to meeting him in person one day.  🙂

My 90 day challenge was technically over on the 18th (two days ago).  I can’t say I really followed the challenge after the first 30 days though.  I feel good and I still really enjoy the Wellness and the protein shakes.  I take the Cleanse still when I think about it but the Burn isn’t a part of my regular routine.  I have stayed the same weight since my last post but I haven’t remeasured so I’m not sure about fat vs. muscle weight.  I do know that my clothes are still fitting looser overall and my belts are getting fastened on a tighter notch than usual so I’m happy with that progress.  I’m still doing regular cardio exercise and I’ve been trying to fit in toning at least twice a week.  I know I need to get more serious about my diet and more consistent with toning but, considering the efforts I have invested, I’m happy with my current results.  I haven’t taken any pictures since the Day 30 pictures so I guess I’m just a slacker.  Oh well, there’s always another day. 😉

On the business front things are well.  I really haven’t been focused on signing new consultants with big starter packs as I said in my previous post but I have had one customer switch over to consultant and she is the only one actually selling under me.  It’s nice to have someone else on my team helping in that respect and she happens to be my neighbor so we also get to talk and visit regularly which I enjoy even more than the sales!  My team of consultants and customers is growing steadily and it’s always exciting to hear new testimonies of how Zeal is helping those who use it.  With the growth of my team also comes a growth in my residual income based on their regular orders.  I’m still not bringing home a large Zeal check but it’s enough to help me buy extra product to keep the kids on the Wellness.  I have remained G4 (get four, pay no more…free product) since the first full month of selling Zeal but my husband lost his G4 this month (based on July sales).  He still has four purchasers under him but last month one of his consultants put his regular autoshipment on hold while he uses up all his extra product so that put my husband one auto-order shy of a free Wellness canister this month.  We’ll get it back though as others continue to order. 🙂

Car qualified!

Car qualified!

On my way to a Zeal party.

On my way to a Zeal party.

My garden is still producing and has really been a full-time job.  Of course, some plants are doing better than others.  My pole beans have never really produced. The vines have grown and flowered, but many of the leaves have been turning black (like mold) and falling off ever since they’ve been forming.  We’ve gotten a total of five beans from the plants and even those weren’t at one time where we could eat them.  My tomato plants look really brittle and frail but they are still producing so I haven’t put very much effort into plumping them up.  All the peppers (bell, cayenne, jalapeno, and banana) are finally taking off so that I need to harvest them daily.  The carrot tops are really getting thick but the carrots aren’t ready yet.  I actually pulled one this past week to check them.  It was really little but cute.  However within days on the counter, it was soft and shriveled so we didn’t get to eat it.   Our onions are still vital but don’t seem to be getting any bigger (they are about the size of a golf ball).  In an attempt to keep them edible, I’m waiting to pick them until we’re ready to eat them…just a couple at a time.  My one and only brussels sprout plant is still alive but not producing yet.  I’m hoping there’s still hope as we get closer to Fall.  The summer squash and zucchini plants have gotten huge (although they aren’t the vining type).  They actually got so bushy that I couldn’t effectively keep the squash beetles at bay so I had to prune about half of the stalks off of each plant.  I still regularly kill several adult beetles and remove 3-5 egg patches every day!  I have four winter squash plants growing now so the squash beetle battle will continue to wage on!  My winter squashes are vining…everywhere.  I knew they would get rather big and I have been training them to grow up poles but they are still going everywhere.  It’s exciting to see the growth yet overwhelming to search for eggs.  The squash are so big and heavy that they are weighing the poles down so I definitely need a different support structure next year.  We’ve had an inordinate amount of rain in July and August so that has led to some unique problems.  Many of the squash blossoms are molding and causing rot on the vegetables if I don’t remove them fast enough.  Also, the water has made the ground really moist so that the structure poles aren’t staying stable with the weight of the plants anchored to them.  All in all, I’m really impressed with my first garden and I’m making mental notes for changes next year. 😉

Garden in full bloom.

Garden in full bloom.

Peppers

Peppers

Pole beans...kindof...

Pole beans…kindof…

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Onions

Onions

Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts

Vines growing out of the compst bin. Fail!

Vines growing out of the compost bin. Fail!

Pole beans

Pole beans

Winter squash growing vertically.

Winter squash growing vertically.

Winter squash. Buttercup?

Winter squash. Buttercup?

Winter squash. Delicata?

Winter squash. Delicata?

Winter squash. Delicata?

Winter squash. Delicata?Winter squash. Delicata?

Winter squash. Delicata?Winter squash. Delicata?

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Carrot tops

Carrot tops

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Summer squash and zucchini...bushy!

Summer squash and zucchini…bushy!

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On the church and friend front (covering both topics together since our friends are mainly from our church), we are on a journey.  I would’ve never thought we would, but we have started attending a new church.  I have grown up spiritually in one church and my friends and family and life have all been there.  It’s an odd thing to go to a new church but we didn’t leave our former church on bad terms.  I still very much love my original church and we have decided to continue going there on Sunday nights for friends and fellowship. However, we are following God on a new journey to a new location.  I’m not sure what is in store but it almost feels like a local mission trip, like we’ve left home but for a purpose.  It’s somewhat like walking in the dark while holding onto a guide wire…I’m not really sure where we’re going, how or when we’ll get there but I do know we are well led and it will not be in vain.  My husband and I are on the same page and that alone is worth the unknown and the discomfort of change.  I do really like our new church as far as the Word but my church family still feels like my former church.  Oh transition! I’m excited to see what all God works from this and we have already seen some really positive occurences from our stepping out.  Life is a journey and I have to keep remembering that it’s not about me.  Stay tuned on that one…I know I am!

I guess that’s about it for now.  Wasn’t that enough for one sitting anyway?! 😉

Vacation time!

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I haven’t posted in awhile because I’ve been on vacation with my family.  My husband was able to get two weeks off work which was awesome!!! In an effort to spread our vacation dollars, we decided to visit local fun places instead of travel and also have to pay for hotels.
We visited the science museum. Even after being there all day, we hardly got to really delve into most of the displays.  There was much to see, read, and explore.  The kids mostly wanted to play on the play areas though.  🙂

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We indulged in desserts we wouldn’t normally get.

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We went to Frontier City. It was my first time there and it was fun.  We went on a day that the temps stayed in the 80’s so it was nice.  Unfortunately my daughter is not a thrill seeker so I sat with her most of the time while the others rode the roller coasters but it was still a good time. Our youngest wanted to do everything but wasn’t tall enough.  Hopefully next summer that will be different. 

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We went to the party and fireworks display at our church.  It was the best one I’ve seen there so far! Also there was a live band this year which really added to the night.

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We painted our picnic table to give it a chalkboard surface. 

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We went to another fireworks display with my sister at her friend’s house.  Our kids really enjoyed getting to meet some new friends and go swimming too.

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We went to Andy Alligator’s Fun Park. All three kids tried the rock wall and go karts. It was a good glimpse into more fun to come as they get older.

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All in all, it was a great time of family fun and we didn’t have to get cat sitters or beg anyone to stay on watch for squash beetles. It was nice to have my husband home, keep up with house work and still be ‘on vacation.’

Stay tuned for my 60 day Zeal review in the next week!

Quite the pair!

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A few months ago our cat (and several others in the neighborhood) suddenly disappeared. After awaiting her return for weeks we decided that she probably wasn’t coming back and we should move on. 😦

One of our friends was expecting kittens (actually two of our friends were but we can’t save all the cats!) so we decided to take two of them and keep them indoors to avoid any further mysterious disappearances.  The kittens were born outside and stayed in hiding for quite some time.  Just as we were about to give up and take kittens from our other friend, the first litter came out of hiding.  They were a bit feral at first but have adjusted well after about a month with us.

I’d like to introduce you to Blondie and Goldie (AKA: the girls).

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Aren’t they cute?!

It’s harvest time!

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I’m continuing the battle against squash beetles and I’ve realized that I probably have tomato cutworms also BUT the harvest has begun so I’m excited and encouraged!  Last week I cut four zucchinis, one yellow squash, and some chard. My tomatoes are starting to turn red and the chocolate beauty bell peppers are starting to turn brown. My pole beans are making their way up the bamboo poles I staked for them and they’re starting to flower. Yea!! Below are some recent pictures.

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Squash beetle eggs on duct tape

How’s everyone else doing with their garden?  Any good tips for organic pest control?  I’ve read that cornstrach on tomatoes will help keep pests away…

The battle has begun!

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My zucchini are growing so beautifully!  I check on them several times a day and I’m always so surprised at how much they’ve grown from visit to visit. Most mornings I have multiple beautiful yellow flowers. I’ve been using a Q-tip to spread pollen from male to female flowers just in case the pollinators aren’t doing their job.  😉 All is well…or so I thought.  :/

Last night I was watering my plants when I noticed several squash beetles running up the netting posts.  That’s right…SQUASH BEETLES! I had read about these before I planted my garden but didn’t realize they were already taking over my plants.  Last night is the first time I’ve seen any and I’ve already chopped up at least ten of them since then. I also removed four patches of eggs.  Unfortunately some of the eggs slipped out of my fingers before I could squish them.

I’ve been reading up on how to get rid of these pests and the verdict isn’t giving me much hope. I’ve read it’s hard to destroy them even with chemicals but I don’t want to use those. If anyone has any tips on how to get rid of them and prevent further infestation, please let me know.  I’ll be so bummed if I lose my beautiful crop!

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Train them in the way they should go

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When we planted our garden, we added netting and poles for the vining food so that they can grow up instead of out.  So far none of the plants have been tall enough to start tying stems to the supports but I’ve been watching them every day.

Yesterday I noticed that one of my pole beans has started vining around the bamboo support all on it’s own! It is self-training. 🙂 In all my years of parenting, I’ve never had a self-training kid. Haha, go pole beans!

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The tomatoes are growing well enough that we had to go ahead and buy more tomato cages. Our one large bell pepper weighed the plant down after our eight inches of rain so we had to brace it too. All the bell pepper plants have multiple new buds now. I’m getting pretty excited to see my crops grow!

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In other news, our carport was finally installed. We’re still waiting on the tornado shelter and all our house repairs but we’ll get it all done. We are truly blessed!

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Life where it shound not be

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You’ve all been watching as I’ve posted update after update of my garden and I’m sure you’ve been able to tell how excited I’ve been over my growing plants.  

As I’ve watched them grow and tended them, I’ve had one recurring thought…how did these tiny tender plants spring forth from that rock hard ground?? See, you might not be able to tell from the pictures but my soil is clay. Sure I added compost and gypsum to loosen it but despite my efforts it is rock hard soil.

As I ponder this thought, my mind wonders to the spiritual application of that same question… how did something so tender spring forth from something so hard??

If you know me, you know that the ‘me’ before salvation was so hard. I was bitter, I was angry, I was mean, and I was unhappy.  BUT, emerging from that hard me was a more tender, sensitive, caring, happy person.

When the Word says that the old is gone and I have been made new, it’s so true! He makes all things new and I have been filled with Him. I may still have old thoughts sometimes, I may still display old actions sometimes but I AM NOT those thoughts and I AM NOT those actions.  My identity is only in Him. How is it possible that these tender plants grow out of clay?  How is it possible that I grew out of who I once was? It’s possible through God.

My plants have started producing fruit. You know how they did that?  They stayed connected to the source of their nourishment. The branches growing tomatoes couldn’t have produced if they were separated from the stalk with roots. Separation brings death, not fruit. Selah!

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Zucchini blossom

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Tomatoes

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Bell pepper buds

Add water, will grow

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I’m amazed at how quickly my garden is growing with all the rain we’ve had lately. Thankfully we haven’t had any destructive weather like so much of the state. I took the pictures below yesterday morning. Two more waves of storms are expected today.

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Squash and zucchini

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Brussels sprouts

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Greenbeans

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Rainbow chard

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Onions