What I Gather About 2013

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This year on January 1st I sat down with my husband and spent several hours discussing the ups and downs of 2013 and setting goals for 2014.  After a long break from blogging, I thought this would be a good time to share some things that worked for me in 2013.  Soon I will also share some goals I have for the coming year.

Health:

1.  The Paleo diet.  Nothing in my 32 years of existence has brought about more positive changes in my body than our radical change in eating habits.  I’m reluctant to call it a “diet” because we have become so accustomed to eating this way that it feels very natural.  I have more energy, have lost nearly 30 pounds, sleep better, feel alert and don’t have any digestive issues.  Several weeks of eating cruddy, sugar-laden food at Christmastime left me feeling bloated, tired, foggy and depressed.  This Paleo lifestyle is here to stay.

2.  The Whole 30.  Thirty days of saying no all sugar and processed food did wonders for my sugar addiction.  I was amazed at how little I craved foods I have always craved after even a week of adhering to the Whole 30 plan.  I highly recommend The Whole 30 for anyone who needs to reset their nutritional habits or kick their sugar addiction.

3.  Food.  Who am I kidding?  Food always works for me!  There were some clear winners, though, in 2013…. foods that I rediscovered or helped me meet my goals or made the Paleo lifestyle a breeze.  My favorites?  Brussels sprouts, eggs, dates, Lara bars, bacon, prosciutto, greens (especially kale, spinach, and beet greens), chicken sausages, pistachios, sweet peppers and organic ground beef.  Yum.

Books:

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1.  Bread and Wine  by Shauna Niequist.  I can’t recommend this book enough.  It inspired me to open my home and my heart to friends, neighbors and even strangers.

2.  Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.  I am a huge Kingsolver fan and this book didn’t disappoint.

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3.  Prototype by Jonathan Martin.  I closed this book feeling more beloved by God.  My eyes were opened to the way God sees and loves me.

4.  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  This was such a fun book, full of whimsy and mystery.  I couldn’t put it down.  Thankfully I read it on vacation and was able to read all hours of the day and night to finish it!

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5. Saturday by Ian McEwan.  This book was beautiful and descriptive and made me want to become a novelist.

Personally:

1.  Transparency.  It has been a challenge blogging about some of my biggest struggles and insecurities, but I have found it to be extremely therapeutic.  I find myself working through my feelings as I write them out for the world to see.  Thank you to all of you Rachael Gathers readers, for your e-mails, comments, phone calls and shares.  You let me know that I am not alone and I draw so much courage and encouragement from your stories.

2.  Letting go.  This has been a  year that forced me to recognize that not everyone is going to like me, approve of me, or support me.  I will admit this has been a hard lesson to learn, but it is an essential lesson for us all.  I have found great peace and comfort in the love and acceptance I find in Jesus Christ and am trying not to care so much what everyone else thinks.  

Spiritually:

1.  Reading through the Bible in a year.  I didn’t quite finish on time, but I am almost done!  While this doesn’t take the place of Bible study, it was really good for me to be disciplined about reading the Bible nearly every day.  The app I used on my iPhone was extremely helpful in this regard.

2.  Creating a list of priorities.  This may have brought about the biggest change for me this year.  I didn’t see a drastic change in my behavior immediately, but rather a change in my thinking.  I began to think about what is important in my life based on time spent in prayer and study.  This has allowed me to evaluate many aspects of my life and begin to say no more often.

On the Blog:

Being flexible.  I am a very goal-oriented person, so I have felt a huge amount of frustration at not being able to plan posts better.  With my family, job, planting a church, and various other commitments, I have had to come to terms with blogging when I am able.  I try not to pay attention to stats and just enjoy posting when I can.  Mostly I enjoy the comments and feedback from all of you!

With that said, here are my ten most popular posts from 2013:

1.  Gathering Ideas for a Shabby Chic Bedroom

2.  A Gathering of Recipes for Crowds

3.  Gathering for a Shabby Chic Baby Shower

4.  A Gathering of Goodwill Finds:  Kitchen and Dining Edition

5.  I Gather a Letter of Love (Happy Birthday, Jimmie!)

6.  A Gathering of Goodwill Finds:  Dress Edition

7.  A Gathering of Bible Study Methods

8. Gathering Delight

9.  What I Gather About Chelsea

10.  What I Gather About Women of Valor

Many of these were popular thanks to Pinterest.  Thanks to those of you who pin my blog posts!

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There is a look back at some of the things that worked best for me in 2013.  I can’t wait to share with you some of my goals for 2014!

What about you?  What did you learn in 2013?  Was there anything that really worked well for you?  I would love to hear about it!

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What I Gather About Whole 30

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If you had asked me a year ago if I would ever drastically change my eating habits, I would have laughed.  I probably would have laughed the way I do now when people ask me if I plan to start exercising.

I love food.  I savor every bite of quality food.  Restaurants are my happy place, especially if we are talking Indian restaurants, authentic Italian, or hole-in-the-wall heavens.  If you ever find me sitting at Mediterrano Cafe during a weekday lunch buffet, you will find a glowing Rachael.  Don’t even get me started on desserts and chocolate.

But when my husband came home with news of pre-diabetes and a warning to lose belly weight, I knew something had to change.  Just because I was never overweight did not mean I didn’t have a problem with food…. more specifically, an addiction to sugar.

So we began Our Wheat-Free, Almost Paleo Diet.  Our friends joined in with us and the results were immediately noticeable.  As we progressed in the changes in our eating habits, I began researching The Whole 30 program.  It looked like something that would be beneficial to our families, especially right before the holidays, so we jumped on board and are now on day 24.

I don’t like to focus on weight, but to give you an idea of the transformation, I will tell you that I have lost 25 pounds since July (13 since we started Whole 30), Jimmie has lost about 30 pounds, and even Ava has lost 10.  I find myself with a substantial increase of energy that typically lasts throughout my entire day.  I have noticed a difference in mental clarity… I don’t feel like I am ever walking around in a fog anymore.  I also think I have fought off illnesses in a shorter time frame than typical of this time of year.  Jimmie is also completely off of his medicine for diabetes.  The crazy thing?  I don';t miss the foods I used to eat.  Occasionally I will have an emotional desire to eat ice cream or pizza, but physically I am satisfied with the foods we are eating.  And the recipes are GOOD!

I never want to push a lifestyle onto anyone.  If you want more information about the Whole 30, see the link above.  I am frequently asked, however, about why we are doing it.  More than that, I am asked…

What do you EAT??

So I want to give you our actual meal plans from our first four weeks.  I have provided links where available.  Anything with an * next to it refers to a recipe from the NomNom Paleo app for iPad.  I highly recommend this app, whether you are a Paleo enthusiast or not.  Every single one of her recipes has been fantastic.  We aren’t so scheduled with our breakfasts, either, so first I will give you some ideas for healthy, Whole 30 approved breakfasts.

Breakfasts:

Bacon and eggs

Lara Bars (apple pie, cherry pie, or cashew cookie)

Coffee with Paleo creamer

Egg muffins

Deviled eggs*

Hardboiled eggs

Avocado baked eggs

Egg and veggie scramble

Coconut balls

Sweet potato and chorizo hash

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Week 1:

Lunch 1: Tuna salad salad, nuts and sliced peppers

Dinner 1: Garbage stir fry*

Lunch 2:  Tuna salad salad, deviled eggs

Dinner 2:  Mahi Mahi, sweet potato fries, salad

Lunch 3: Pastrami and pepper roll-ups, guacamole and pepper slices, fruit

Dinner 3: Bacon burger with sautéed onion, mushroom and green pepper, salad

Lunch 4: Chicken salad salad, Paleo trail mix*

Dinner 4: Beef and tomato stew*

Lunch 5: Leftover stew

Dinner 5: Cobb salad (hb eggs, grilled chicken, bacon, avocado, cucumber, tomato)

Lunch 6: Pastrami and pepper roll-up, cucumber salad, trail mix

Dinner 6: Asian meatballs*, mashed cauliflower*, salad

Lunch 7: Leftover meatballs

Dinner 7: Grilled chicken, roasted broccoli

Week 2:

Lunch 1: Crab BLT salad*

Dinner 1: Chocolate chili, sliced avocados

Lunch 2:  Leftover chili

Dinner 2: Pork burgers on greens*, sweet potato fries, roasted zucchini

Lunch 3: Spicy tuna cakes*

Dinner 3: Grilled chicken, salad

Lunch 4: Pastrami and pepper wrap

Dinner 4:  Pork roast* tacos

Lunch 5: Leftover pork, cucumber salad

Dinner 5:  Broiled salmon, roasted broccoli, sautéed greens

Lunch 6: Bacon and guacamole “sandwiches*”, slices peppers, fruit

Dinner 6: Frittata muffins, sweet potato hash, bacon

Lunch 7: Leftover frittata muffins

Dinner 7: ?

Week 3:

Lunch 1: BLT egg salad

Dinner 1: Garbage stir-fry*

Lunch 2: Spicy tuna cakes*, sliced peppers

Dinner 2: Chicken sausage skillet meal

Lunch 3: Leftover chicken sausage skillet, trail mix

Dinner 3:  Shredded chicken taco salad

Lunch 4: Pastrami and pepper wrap

Dinner 4: Spicy Tunisian shrimp*, roasted broccoli

Lunch 5: Bacon-wrapped chicken tenders, sliced avocado

Dinner 5: Chipotle chicken soup, sliced avocado

Lunch 6: Leftover soup

Dinner 6: Pork chops, roasted zucchini, roasted mushrooms

Lunch 7: Brunch, bacon and fried eggs

Dinner 7: QDoba,( meat, lettuce, guacamole)

Week 4:

Lunch 1: (Brunch) Chicken sausage and peppers, fried egg

Dinner 1: Crispy smashed chicken with salsa*, bacon topped Brussel sprouts*

Lunch 2: Leftover chicken, cucumber salad

Dinner 2: Big O Burgers*, cabbage steaks

Lunch 3: Cobb salad

Dinner 3: Chipotle chicken soup, salad

Lunch 4: Pastrami wraps, tomato salad

Dinner 4:  Crock pot Italian beef over spaghetti squash

Lunch 5: Leftover Italian beef

Dinner 5:  Chocolate chili, sliced avocados

Lunch 6: Leftover chili

Dinner 6: Tilapia, baked sweet potatoes, salad

Lunch 7: Prosciutto muffins

Dinner 7: ?

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Whew!  If you are counting, that is 28 days.  We haven’t decided on our last two yet.  This is just a glimpse into how we eat.  We have eaten at QDoba a couple of times, but otherwise haven’t eaten out at all.  For snacks, we eat nuts, fruit (I especially like dates), veggie slices, fried eggs, or avocados.  We are also able to drink coffee and tea, as long as there are no added sweeteners.

What do you think?  Could you ever do this?  Have you ever tried The Whole 30?  I would love to hear your thoughts.  If you have any questions about recipes or about my experience, please contact me or ask in the comment section!

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Missed any posts?  Here are the latest:

Dear Dad, Letter 4

What I Gather About Priorities

A Gathering of Vacation Reads

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A Gathering of Links XVI

links It’s that time again! I have been saving up all of my favorite links to share with you, and as usual, some of them are fantastic. But first… some updates on life in the Rennard house…..

Our church, Gathering, has had morning prayer every day this week from 6-7. It has been so amazing to gather with friends and pray while we watch the sun rise. I think I have always known in the back of my mind how powerful consistent early morning prayer can be, but this is the first time I have experienced it in such a profound way. Sitting in my living room, surrounded by my brothers and sisters in Christ, ushering in a new day with prayer and consecration felt sacred and holy.

I started back to work at the preschool last week. Isabel goes with me and LOVES her class. I love being able to peek in her room and see her interacting with the other kids. Ava has had a great first three weeks and joined the school choir. Her passion seems to be music, and this excites me. After years of struggling through violin practices and lessons, she has turned a corner and can MAKE MUSIC! Violin is a difficult instrument and she still has a long way to go, but as my mom says, “Once they realize they can make music, everything changes.” We are over a month into our wheat-free diet and going strong. Here is some first day of school cuteness for you:

firstday firstday2 Let’s get to some links! My most popular post from the last two weeks is: Dear Dad, Letter 1.

That doesn’t include my posts that gets lots of hits from Pinterest.  These are:

A Gathering of Recipes for Crowds

Gathering Ideas for a Shabby Chic Bedroom

Gathering for a Shabby Chic Baby Shower

My favorite links, in no particular order:

Spiritual Inspiration:

From A Deeper Story, There Are No Trophies Here

11 of the Greatest Hymns in Church History at (in)Courage.  This is really cool.

On Truth, Specks, and the Blinding Goodness of  God at Narrow Paths to Higher Places

Over at Rachel Held Evans, What Would Jesus Do (With His Enemy)?

In Which I Will Become More Undignified from Sarah Bessey

At A Holy Experience, When You’re Ready to Wear Who You Really Are

You don’t hate me.  You hate my brand.  From Rachel Held Evans

From Tim Brister, From Strangers to Missionaries:  A Neighborhood Strategy for Mission

Food Love:

Broccoli Slaw at Smitten Kitchen

At A Beautiful Mess, It’s Smoothie Time!

How to be a Great Dinner Party Guest from Shauna Niequist.

Marriage and Parenting:

In Which I Beg Barbie’s Pardon from Sarah Bessey.

Worst End of Summer Mom Ever from Jen Hatmaker.  So funny.

How Mothers Are Made from Lisa-Jo Baker

From Addie Zierman, For the One Who Married Young

Home Love:

From Design Mom’s Living With Kids series, Living With Kids:  Emily Hart.  I love this home.

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So there you have it!  Grab a cup of coffee, sit outside on a summer afternoon and read some of these posts for inspiration.  I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!  Have a great weekend!

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Our Wheat-free, Almost Paleo Diet

When my husband came home from the doctor a few months ago and told me his doctor recommend a wheat-free diet, my heart momentarily sunk.  I have a long, complicated relationship with food.  While I have never had terrible eating habits, my motivation for eating healthy food was mostly so that I could indulge in whatever I wanted later on.  When I heard wheat-free, I immediately started thinking of all the things I couldn’t eat if we chose this nutritional path.

Then I started some research.  Diabetes runs in my husband’s family, and he has been on medicine for “pre-diabetes” for quite some time.  His doctor assured him that cutting all wheat from his diet would lead to weight loss and getting rid of the medicine.  Our doctor himself is on a wheat-free diet.

I won’t go into the science of why many scientists and doctors are recommending the diet, but our doctor recommends the book Wheat Belly as a starting place.

I also happen to have a brother who adheres to the Paleo diet and sings the praises of the health benefits he has experienced.  Paleo goes a few steps beyond eating wheat-free.  Again, I won’t go into the science of it, but you can read more about it here.

Our family has landed somewhere in the middle.  We are eating a strictly wheat-free diet, and are getting closer to a strictly Paleo diet, although we occasionally consume rice, potatoes, corn, and dairy.  For us, the changes have been drastic.  I try not to focus on numbers, but in about  6 weeks, I have lost 13 pounds.  I feel more energetic overall and feel better about the foods I am putting into my body.  We attempt to eat the highest quality foods possible, buying mostly organic and buying high-quality meats from the Noblesville Real Food Market.  We have cut out nearly all processed foods and very rarely eat out.

If I were a food blogger, I would have fantastic photos to share with you of the kinds of meals we eat.  A food blogger I am not.  However, I will share with you what a typical weeks looks like for us, just to get you thinking.

*Please note that nearly all of the ingredients should be organic and high-quality.  Also, these are not recipes, but merely examples of a meal plan.

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Egg Muffins
Monday:

Breakfast:  Egg muffins (made on Sunday) with organic eggs, chicken sausage, mushrooms, onion, and green pepper

Lunch:  Chicken sausage hash (same that I used in egg muffins), organic red pepper slices, fruit salad

Dinner:  Large spinach/baby green salad with artichoke hearts, heart of palm, tomato, cucumber, mushroom, feta cheese, kalamata olives, red/green peppers, onion, and protein of choice (shredded chicken, chicken sausage, pastrami, bacon, etc.)

Tuesday:

Breakfast:  Pre-made egg muffins

Lunch:  Pastrami wrapped red peppers, mixed nuts, Greek yogurt, cucumber slices

Dinner:  Broiled tuna steaks, sweet potato oven-fries

Wednesday:  

Breakfast:  Last of the egg muffins

Lunch:  Large bowl of tomato salad with feta, basil, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper

Dinner:  Oven-fried chicken (breaded with almond meal, corn meal, and spices), pumpkin sautéed in pork lard, spices and maple syrup

Chickenedited pumpedited Oven-fried chicken and sautéed pumpkin

Thursday:

Breakfast:  Egg scramble with ham, mushrooms, spinach, peppers, onions and feta.

Lunch:  Avocado topped with bacon, berries

Dinner:  Chicken sausage (cut into chunks), sautéed with lots of red and green peppers, onion and spices.  sautéed kale, spinach and beet greens as a side.

Friday:

Breakfast:  Chorizo hash with potatoes and onion, fried egg served on top

Lunch:  Canned tuna mixed with olive tapenade, served on gluten-free crackers, pear

Dinner:  Ground pork meatballs with marinara, roasted broccoli, salad

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Please remember that I am by no means an expert.  I am just getting started and am learning as I go and I do not strictly adhere to the Paleo diet.  My favorite Paleo blog is Nom Nom Paleo.  Do yourself the favor and download the Nom Nom Paleo app for iPad if you have one.  It is the best food app I have ever seen, with detailed shopping lists, easy to follow recipes and huge photos of the food.  There are also so many great blogs, books and recipes if you are interested in learning more about this lifestyle.

I am really thrilled with the transformation in our eating habits.  I no longer crave carbs (although I emotionally crave ice-cream from time to time!) and am eating more fresh produce than I ever have.  Our entire family is losing weight and feeling better.  I’m even adjusting the way I feed my guests when we have company.  I am learning that if my body is truly a temple of the Holy Spirit, it is my responsibility to take care of its every component.

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What about you?  Have you heard much about the Paleo or wheat-free lifestyle?  Would it be hard for you to make this kind of change?  Do you have any tips for this wheat-free/Paleo beginner?  I would love your feedback!  If you want a more detailed recipe from the foods mentioned above, just comment and I will get back to you.

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Missed any posts?  Here are the most recent:

What Kind of Person?

Dear Dad, Letter 1

A Gathering of Links XV

You can also follow me via e-mail HERE!

 

A Gathering of Links XV

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I haven’t posted my favorite links for several weeks, so all of my favorites have been piling up. I hope you are able to take some time to read through some of these. I love them all, but I have put a * next to my very favorites in case you only have time to read a few.

Spiritual Inspiration:

Labels at A Deeper Story.

*From A Holy Experience, How to be Beautiful and Have a Beautiful Home Life.

At A Deeper Story, On Peace.

In Which I Climb a Metaphor from Sarah Bessey.

At A Deeper Story, Meet the Racists.

Just do yourself and read this over at A Holy Experience.

At A Deeper Story, The Day I Ate 6 Cheese Buns.

The Church:

Sunday Night Church by Jen Hatmaker.

*At A Deeper Church:  Church Words:  Preach.

From Rachael Held Evans, Why I Can’t Stay Angry.

Doing it Wrong at A Deeper Church.

Parenting:

A look at Girl Drama from A Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Food Love:

Simply the Best from Pioneer Woman.

Book Love:

*31 Noted Authors Pick Their Favorite Books at Real Simple.

Twaddle-free Books for Young Children from A Simple Mom.

Summer Survival:

*I can totally relate to An Introvert’s Guide to Surviving Summer from Narrow Paths to Higher Places.

Rachael Gathers:

My own most read post over the last month or so was I Gather a Prayer for Ruby.

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What about you?  Have you read anything funny, inspirational or informational lately?  I’d love you to comment with your favorite links!  Have a fantastic week!

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What I’m Into, July 2013

(This post is linked with Hopeful Leigh’s What I’m Into post.  Check it out here.)

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Books:

I had high hopes for July.  My June reading list was extensive and I hoped to continue that trend into July.  And then…. something happened.  I will share later.  Keep reading.

But I did succeed in reading a few books.  Here they are:

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Saturday by Ian McEwan was the best piece of fiction I have read in a long, long time.  Each night when I finished reading, I would marvel, sometimes to myself, sometimes to Jimmie, about the genius of this author.  The first chapter was a bit slow, and I must admit I nearly gave up on it.  I am so glad I persevered.  The entire novel takes place within a 24 hour time span in the life of one man.  It is insightful and surprising, sad and hopeful.  I am excited to read more of McEwan’s work.
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The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty was a solid summer read.  It kept my interest and was the kind of entertainment I relish during lazy summer days.  I will say that I thought the end dragged on a bit much.  It was interesting after reading Saturday reading this book, which covers a 50 year time span.
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 Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist was beautiful and moving.  This is storytelling at its finest.  I loved the heart I felt on each and every page.  God has been prodding me and challenging me in the area of hospitality for a couple of years now, and this book opened my eyes to the profound impact hospitality can have.  I earmarked so many pages with fantastic recipes.  I can’t wait to make some of them.  I have a feeling that I will re-read this book many times.

Television:

Remember when I said I had high hopes for the books I would read in July?  Well, television happened.  We got rid of cable and hadn’t been watching much, if any, television.  Then I had one of those nights when I just wanted to curl up in bed and watch something.

Enter Parenthood.

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Friends, let me just tell you, I finished all four seasons in the month of July.  I watched episodes on Netflix every night, late into the night.  I was hooked so fast and fell in love with the characters in a way that has only happened with a couple of other television series.

Blame my wimpy reading list on this show right here.  Then watch the first episode on Netflix.


Make fun all you want, but I own all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls on DVD.  I get in the mood to watch this series from time to time.  I finished season 7 in July.  It’s always a little sad saying goodbye to Lorelai and Rory, at least until next time I start the series over….

Funny story.  My mom saw the DVD’s at my house a few weeks ago.  I gave her season 1, not sure if she would get into it.  She called me a couple of days later, asking for all seven seasons.  She and my aunt  had spent lazy days at her camper, watching Gilmore Girls.  They fell in love with it.  How can you not?

Food:

As I announced a couple of months ago, I have given up sweets and soda for the rest of 2013.  It has been going really well.  I had a successful cheat day on July 4th (which is part of the plan).  I have had a little Nutella two times in two months.  I also have eaten some fruit pops that are very lightly sweetened, but only a handful of times.

Then about a month ago, Jimmie’s doctor recommended that he go on a wheat-free diet (based on the research in this book.)  We discussed it and decided to dive in.  We have eliminated nearly all wheat from our diet and most carbs.  We are working toward adhering to the paleo diet.  Basically, we eat high quality meats and eggs, tons of fresh, organic vegetables, some fruit and a small amount of dairy.

Jimmie and I have both lost weight and are learning day by day how to change our eating habits.  Here are a couple of things making our life easier right now:

1.  Nom Nom Paleo – This is a great website with lots of paleo recipes.  There are so many websites out there, but this is one my brother (who adheres strictly to the paleo diet) recommended.

2.  Eggs and feta.  I have never been a breakfast eater.  I am now making myself an egg scramble each morning with mushrooms, peppers, spinach, whatever veggies are around the house, and… FETA.  I have always loved Feta cheese but had never tried it in my eggs.  This has made me a breakfast convert.

3.  Trader Joe’s.  Trader Joe’s has long been my favorite grocery store.  Now, with their extensive offerings of gluten-free items, we can find affordable groceries that fit our wheat-free diet.  We go every Sunday evening, spend about $100 and are (mostly) set for the week.

4.  Noblesville Real Food Market.  My brother is part of this market, and provides us with organic produce and high quality meats.

5.  Live the Way’s Noblesville Community Garden Project.  My  husband has been working tirelessly to get this project off the ground and now we are (literally) enjoying the fruits of our labor.  We have been eating tons of fresh kale, broccoli, spinach, zucchini, beets, beet greens, turnips, peas, tomatoes and more.  It is so rewarding eating food I planted myself.

Other:

I’m also into the pool:

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And my new camera, along with the A Beautiful Mess app:

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I have a new love for downtown Indianapolis after our trip on the 4th of July:
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And I’m hopelessly in love with this newborn. Ah, Ruby: (read my prayer for her here)

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That’s about it for me!  I can’t believe Ava starts school tomorrow and I start work the following week.  It has been a great summer, full of fun, family and friends.  I am feeling blessed.

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What about you?:  What are you into?  I would love to hear about it.

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A Gathering Under the Trees

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I have this character flaw that sometimes can be a blessing.  I am a perfectionist, at least in some areas of my life.  In college, I had panic attacks frequently and wouldn’t settle for anything less than an A.  This characteristic turns from being useful to being a flaw when I simply don’t do something because I can’t do it perfectly.

Every year I want to have a picnic on or around June 21st to celebrate the longest days of the year.  Every year we don’t do it because in my mind, our picnic must be perfect.  I need a beautiful tablecloth, my Longaberger picnic basket filled with cloth napkins, beautifully packaged gourmet food, real silverware, candles and perfectly dressed attendees.  Sound ridiculous?

Sadly, this kind of perfectionism keeps me from doing so many things in my life.  Some days I leave my house messy because I don’t have three hours to make it perfect.  I don’t start a book if I know I won’t finish it within a few days.  I want to learn more about photography, but don’t consider myself artistic enough to ever be a professional.  I don’t cook a meal because I know it won’t be as good as the meals Jimmie makes.  On and on it goes.

Last Thursday I came face to face with this character flaw.  Ava was leaving the following morning for a 9-day trip with my mom.  I told her we would go on a picnic that night so we could spend some quality time together.  As usual, life happened and I didn’t get to pack the perfect picnic basket.  So, instead of postponing like I normally would have, we went to Marsh, picked up a bunch of random food, and headed to Forest Park with an old blanket, grocery sacks, and paper plates.

It was divine.

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We had Pringles, stuffed peppers and garlic mushrooms from the Olive bar, summer sausage with cheese and crackers, baked potato salad from the deli, and iced tea and coconut water. Weird? Yes. But we ate to our heart’s content.

Ava talked about what she was looking forward to most on her trip. She played at the playground while I read under the giant evergreen. In those moments, it didn’t matter that I didn’t have my beautiful tablecloth or gourmet food. All that mattered was that we were with our little girl.

As I snapped a few photos, I realized that I have learned something from my new camera. I used to think there were certain moments that were photo-worthy…. birthdays, special outings, holidays and momentous occasions. My camera has taught me that special moments take place in the mundane events of my everyday life. It didn’t matter to me that the picnic wasn’t something that wasn’t magazine worthy. I wanted to capture it anyway. My standards of perfection too frequently limit me from embracing each and every moment as a gift from God. Instead of waiting for perfection, I instead want to find the beauty in my everyday life. I want to be quick to say, “YES!” when an opportunity comes my way, not worrying about living up to some unrealistic standard that no-one holds me to except for myself.

I will be quick to see the beauty when sitting under a tree, leaned against my husband, reading a book. I will relish in the joyous laughter of my daughter on the monkey bars. I will pause and notice the way the evening light streams through the trees. I will see God in it all and I will be thankful.

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Do you struggle with the need to be perfect?  Does it keep you from living your life to the fullest?  What are some of the most mundane details of your life that you find inspiring or beautiful?

sig Missed any posts? Check out the most recent:
A Gathering of Links XIV

What I Gather About Friends Without Fathers

Gathering for a Shabby Chic Baby Shower

And you can get e-mail updates to Rachael Gathers by subscribing HERE!

 

A Gathering of Links XIV

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First of all, I want to say thank you to all of my new readers and subscribers!  Welcome to Rachael Gathers.  I am so grateful for those of you who take time out of your week to visit my little corner of the Internet.  My goal is to gather ideas and experiences for our journey in the Kingdom of God.  I hope that will include spiritual inspiration, parenting and marriage encouragement, and fun ideas for making a house a home!

Each week or two I feature my Gathering of Links post.  I am an avid blog reader, so I take my favorite links from the recent week or two and feature them conveniently listed in one blog post.  It is my little gift to those of you who don’t have time to sift through the blogosphere daily like I do and link you up to my favorite posts.  I also include a little glimpse into what’s happening in the Rennard house.

Summer is in full swing at the Rennard house!  We have spent a couple of glorious days at the pool at my mom’s house.  Isabel isn’t a big fan of the pool yet, but we are working on it!  We celebrated Jimmie’s birthday and Father’s Day within one week!  Ava just left for a 10 day trip with my mom and stepfather.  The house is already eerily quiet.

This is my favorite photo from the last couple of weeks.  It captures Isabel, mid-spin.

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Ah, to be three again!

My most popular link lately was Gathering for a Shabby Chic Baby Shower.  Thanks for all of the likes and shares!  I had more hits on the day I posted this than any post in RG history!

Now, let’s get to it!  This may be my favorite gathering of links yet!  There is SO MUCH great material here.  I hope you grab a cup of coffee or glass of iced tea, sit back, relax and enjoy some of these awesome links.

Spiritual Inspiration:

From A Deeper Church, Watching Our Language.  Discipleship is important…. so is friendship.

From A Deeper Story, Everything Must Go.  Yes and AMEN!  This rings to true in my life.  I am learning to let go of stuff….

Sex and the Path of Holiness at Rachel Held Evans.

From A Holy Experience, Why You Are Where You Are:  For Such a Time as Now.  Also, her post A Letter to the North American Church: Because It Is Time is so powerful.

The Perfect Shade of Greige from Jamie the very worst missionary.  This spoke to me.

From A Deeper Story, When It’s Time to Throw Out All of the Good Answers.

Parenting:

From A Holy Experience, a powerful look into what it means to show grace to our children.  What All Mamas (and us) Need to Thrive This Summer.

From Narrow Paths to Higher Places, A Mother’s Faith.  An all too familiar account of miscarriage, mourning and the questions that come along the way.  Moved me to tears, remembering my own pain.  Also, check out her series on Empowering Parents to Prevent Abuse.  All of it is great.  This link is to part 3.

From Lisa-Jo Baker, When Your Temper Scares You – some suggestions for defusing.

A hilarious look at Surviving Summer from Jen Hatmaker.

At A Deeper Family, I Don’t Want My Daughter to Hate Me.

Love and Marriage:

Over at Sarah Bessey, In Which [Love Looks Like] Spinning Our Own Yarn.  My dear goodness, this is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

Food Love:

Red Pepper Shrimp Scampi from A Beautiful Mess.  I love all of these things.. how could I not love this recipe?

Watermelon Pico de Gallo from Pioneer Woman.  Yum.

House Love:

Part of Design Mom’s series, Living With Kids.  I love this home so much, I could move in  tomorrow.

Book Love:

From A Modern Mrs. Darcy, Reading is better when it’s done wine tasting style.  I love this concept.

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Whew.  That’s a lot of links!  Please let me know what your favorites are from my list, or point me in the direction of some of your favorite blogs and/or posts from the past few weeks!  Maybe I will feature one next week!

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Missed any posts?  Here are some of the latest:

What I Gather About Friends Without Fathers

What I Gather About Movement

Also, you can get e-mail updates of new posts by clicking HERE!  Have a great weekend!

Gathering for a Shabby Chic Baby Shower

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My friend Heidi is having a baby girl in July.  We are so thrilled to meet little Ruby.  My friend Tasha and I began planning her shower a couple of months ago (with the help of Chellee, Andrea and Kathy as well!) and decided to go with a Shabby Chic theme to correspond with Ruby’s nursery.

We enlisted the help of my very artistic sister-in-law, Marty, and got to work.  We decided to do an outdoor afternoon tea under the trees.  My mom agreed to let us use her house, which is beautifully landscaped.  The result was lovely in every way.  I have to say it was probably my favorite shower of any kind I have attended.

IMG_0559The shower was truly a collaboration.  Marty and my mom had several tablecloths we were able to use.  We layered lace over solids, then topped the lace with vintage squares.  We brought a variety of our own plates in pinks and whites.  The tables were just long, portable tables and we rented the chairs from a local party supply store for $2 each.
IMG_0560 Mom let us use her collection of teacups. All of them are gorgeous. I brought my collection of mason jars to use as glasses for the iced tea and water. Tasha found the adorable striped straws at Hobby Lobby. Marty brought her vintage blue mason jars and we bought bunches of baby’s breath for a simple floral arrangement.
IMG_0562 IMG_0570 IMG_0572 We found these tags at JoAnn Fabrics. They are from the Martha Stewart line and they went with our theme so perfectly. We stapled the name tags to a tea bag and set a name tag on each plate.
IMG_0580 We bought the eyelet paper lanterns and the garland at JoAnn as well. They are also by Martha Stewart. We loved the look of fresh white against the backdrop of the trees.  Mom had a gorgeous pink begonia on her deck that we carried under the tree.  It was a beautiful addition to the shower.
IMG_0583 Six little girls attended the shower, so we set up a table just for them. It was so cute watching them pour their tea and act like little ladies.
IMG_0584 You can see here how we set up a seating area for Heidi to open her gifts. Thankfully we had perfect weather for the shower. It sprinkled lightly about 20 minutes before the shower and we were a little panicked, but thankfully it stopped just in time. It wasn’t too hot or cold and there was a light breeze under the shade of the tree.
IMG_0590 IMG_0594 We served hot tea, iced tea and ice water with lemon for the drinks. For food, we served simple finger foods. I made pinwheels out of spinach tortillas, garden vegetable cream cheese and ham. Andrea made delicious cucumber sandwiches. Tasha made little toothpicks with half of a strawberry and a slice of banana. Chellee brought mini-scones and little strawberry cookies. I didn’t get a photo, but at the end we served cupcakes in teacups. It was such a cute idea (thanks, Tasha!). We bought pretty teacups and plates at Goodwill, washed them well, and put our peach and tres leches cupcakes inside. The girls got mini cupcakes in mini teacups. As a thank you for attending the shower, everyone got to take their teacup home.
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Chellee looked so beautiful in her white dress.  I just had to snap a photo!
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Tasha worked so hard to make this special day possible for Heidi.
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Heidi and her mom.
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Heidi’s daughter, Lily, is so beautiful and excited about the arrival of her new little sister.
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That’s me with Heidi!
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I love these ladies and had so much fun working with them to pull this shower off!  I have to mention again that we couldn’t have done it without Marty’s help and my mom’s yard!

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What do you think of this shower?  Is there one idea we used that stands out as your favorite?  What’s your favorite baby or bridal shower you have attended?  Do you like planning and throwing showers?  Have you pulled off any great ideas for showers from Pinterest or elsewhere?  I would love to hear your ideas and thoughts! (You can get more party ideas by following me on Pinterest!)

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What I Gather About Movement
I Gather a Letter of Love
A Gathering of Links XIII

A Gathering of Recipes for Crowds

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Things have been a bit serious here at Rachael Gathers for a few weeks now.  I thought for a change of pace, I would share some of my favorite recipes when cooking for a crowd.

Almost two years ago, we started hosting a small group in our home.  One of the first weeks, I offered to serve dinner.  There was something really sacred about inviting people to my home and serving them a meal.  I never looked back, and have been cooking for anywhere from 8-25 people nearly every week for two years.

When I first began, I had NO IDEA what I was doing.  I could barely pull off meals for my own small family, much less a group of 15-20.  Thankfully, my crock pot and Pinterest came to the rescue!  I’m honestly not sure I could have pulled off so many meals without my two crock pots.  I have learned so much about not only cooking for large groups, but also about hospitality.  God has opened my heart as I have opened my home.  There’s simply no other way to put it.

So without further delay, I present my favorite recipes for a crowd.

1.  Shredded chicken tacos

This is my go-to meal when I’m in a hurry or out of inspiration.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit just how easy and foolproof this recipe is (and I must credit my friend Tasha for sharing it with me!).  Ready?

6-8 chicken breasts

1-2 jars of salsa (I prefer Herdez)

Yes, that’s it.  This makes the juiciest, most flavorful meat for tacos.  I dump the chicken and salsa in the crock pot and cook it on low for 8 hours or so.  Before I serve, I simply shred it with a fork.  You can drain the liquid if you prefer, but I like how juicy it is.  I typically plan on one chicken breast per two people.

2.  I LOVE this Crock Pot Minestrone soup from Skinny Taste.  I typically double the recipe.  I always have extra spinach, cooked Italian sausage, Parmesan cheese and cooked pasta for people to add in on their own.  It is delicious and healthy.

3. This Italian Chicken from Crock-a-doodle-do is tasty and I like that it incorporates vegetables.  I like to cut the chicken breasts into large chunks before I serve it.

4.  Slow Cooker Jambalaya from My Recipes has been a crowd favorite.  I typically make one crock pot with shrimp and one without for people who don’t love seafood.  It isn’t too spicy, which is great for kids, but forces me to have a large selection of hot sauces on hand.  With this recipe, I also recommend letting the rice cook longer than 30 minutes.  I typically let it cook closer to an hour.

5. Chicken Tortilla Soup from Miller Musings has been one of my most frequent dinners.  It is one of those meals you that you can dump everything in the crock pot and not worry about it again until 5 minutes before dinner.  I love that.  This soup has a great flavor and is delicious with tortilla chips, cheese and sour cream on top.  I always double or triple the recipe to feed the crowd and have leftovers for the next day!

6. Crock Pot Ravioli Casserole from Becoming Betty is delicious.  It sort of reminds me of lasagna.  Again, I always double or triple the recipe.  This is typically served with a large salad and garlic bread.

7.  From Southern Plate, this is the recipe for Cheesy Chicken and Rice.  You have to love casseroles to love this recipe.  Everyone at my house always gobbles this up.  We actually had it Monday night!  It is just a classic chicken and rice recipe.  I have quadrupled this recipe before and had two giant crock pots full.

So there you have my favorite recipes to feed a crowd!

We also rely on go-to meals like hamburgers on the grill, chili in cool weather, spaghetti, sandwich night, and lasagna.  I normally have a big salad to help fill people up, offer something healthy, and make the main dish last for everyone.  I also use paper products so I can enjoy my company and not stress about clean-up.

You can find all of these recipes and many more crock recipes by following me on Pinterest.

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Do you ever cook for a crowd?  What are your go-to recipes?  Are there any crock-pot recipes you can suggest for me?  I’m sure our small group would be thrilled to have some new recipes added to the same old mix!

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What I Gather About Accusations

A Gathering of Links XII

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A Gathering of Links XII

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It’s that time again!  I love linking you up to my favorite posts of the week and this week there are a LOT!  First, some highlights from my week…

We had a relaxing three-day weekend, spent mostly at home.

Some exciting things are on the horizon for Gathering!

Ava had her last day of school and is home for the summer!

A long-time friend was married, seemed incredibly happy and had a gorgeous wedding.  Here we are, getting ready to leave for the celebration:

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We actually planted at the community garden!  All of my husband’s hard work is finally paying off.  The garden is looking fantastic and we are all eager to taste the (literal) fruits of our labor!

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Now let’s get to it and link you up!

My most read post of the week was Gathering Self-Control (and an announcement).  Thanks for all of the positive feedback!  We now have at least 10 adults committing to all or part of this challenge.  Day 1 down.  Lots to go.

Marriage and Family:

On Loving Well from Narrow Paths to Higher Places.  I can’t tell you how much this post resonated with me.  My love language is also acts of service, and I found myself relating to so much of what she discussed, especially after having just written What I Gather About Myself as Mom!  Love this post!

At A Holy Experience, When strong mamas feel quite weak.  This was so insightful.

From Lisa-Jo Baker, How to Fall in Love.  Again.  Because we all must choose to fall in love over and over again.

Spiritual Reflection:

At A Deeper Story, Lessons from a Fundamental Baptist on Memorial Day.  I enjoyed this perspective.

Food Love:

Info about the paleo diet at Simple Mom.  Our family is attempting to transition to a more paleo-friendly diet and I found this really helpful.

Fried pickles at A Beautiful Mess, because who doesn’t love fried pickles??

Also at A Beautiful Mess, Three Super Healthy Salads.  Because months and months of no sweets = new food choices necessary.

For Fun:

I’m going to make these Washi Wildflowers from Girl in the Garage with Ava.  They are so cheerful and I love that they won’t ever wilt.

So.  Funny.  From Jen Hatmaker, Worst End of School Year Mom Ever.  This made me laugh out loud.  Truly.

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So there you have it!  Those were my favorite blog posts from the week.  What are you reading these days?  Have you discovered any new blogs I need to check out?  I would love to hear from you.  I hope your weekend was fantastic and that the coming week is full of sunshine and joy!

If you haven’t already, subscribe to Rachael Gathers and get posts delivered right to your inbox!  You can do that HERE!

 

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Gathering Self Control (and an announcement)

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It was one of those rare days when I went to bed having accomplished all I wanted to accomplish during my day.  I spent time with an old friend, played with my kids, read scripture, spent time in prayer, connected with my husband, cooked a healthy dinner and walked/jogged over three miles.  I felt healthy, happy and connected to God and his purpose for me.

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When I gave up sweets for Lent, I lost 9 lbs.  After a few days of serious withdraws, it was smooth sailing.  I didn’t crave sweets anymore, and I naturally started making healthier food choices.  My head felt clearer, my body lighter and my spirit edified.

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Yesterday I had a talk with Ava about spiritual growth.  We discussed how once you have been filled with the Holy Spirit, it is our responsibility to nurture the spiritual man in order to experience spiritual growth.  We talked about the fruit of the Spirit being evidence of that growth.  We pulled out a list of the fruits of the Spirit and I asked her to mark the three she felt she needed to work on developing with the help of God.  #1?  Self-control.

Join the club, sister.

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Last year I was talking with my pastor-brother about how I struggle with discipline.  His response was basically something along these lines….. “Rachael, the root of the majority of our problems is lack of discipline and self-control.  Join the club.”

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I think of Paul’s words to the Romans…..

“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.  For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate……. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members…..”

I highly recommend studying Romans chapter 7.

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So, here I am, making a declaration.  I know that my works do not save me, as I know that my righteousness is as filthy rags before a holy Savior.  However, I also know that there is something powerful in denying the flesh and feeding the spiritual man.

I am cutting out sweets and soda for the remainder of the year as a small part of my plan to deny my flesh and feed my spirit.  

I am doing this for many reasons.  I am a sugar-addict.  I want to be healthier and I want my family to be healthier.  Cutting out sweets has proven to radically change my diet for the better.  Cancer and heart disease run in my family.  Diabetes runs in Jimmie’s family.  I am reading more and more about the long-term dangers of drinking soda.  My friend just had a baby and is attempting to lose the extra baby weight and I want to be supportive.

Mostly, I am doing this to deny my flesh, making room for my spiritual man to grow.  Through prayer and fasting, I want to be an example to my daughter of what the fruit of self-control looks like when developed.  I fear I have been a poor example to her.

So far I have five other adults joining me.

I am making a little wiggle room, in order to remain flexible.  I will allow myself one day a month to eat sweets if I so desire, mainly for the purpose of enjoying holidays (4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas).  I will occasionally use sugar in my coffee, I will allow myself to occasionally eat Nutella and syrup on my pancakes and I will use honey to sweeten smoothies and such on occasion.  Otherwise, no soda, cookies, candy, cakes, shakes, pies, ice-cream (yikes!), cupcakes, and anything else obviously considered to be dessert.

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Does anyone want to join me?  Maybe for you giving up sweets wouldn’t be difficult or meaningful.  Maybe it is television, social media time, potato chips, smoking, alcohol, inactivity, or something else entirely.  But maybe you feel a nudge to deny the flesh and feed the spirit?  I would love to have others on this journey with me.

Even if you don’t join, would you mind sharing what you would give up IF you participated?  I think it would be a positive activity for me and all of my readers to identify some of the areas in our lives where we lack self-control.

And forgive me in advance if you cross my path in the next week or two.  This fast starts tomorrow.

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Recent Posts:

What I Gather About Roads

I Gather A Prayer for Zion

A Gathering of Links XI

A Gathering of Links XI

We are wrapping up a three-day weekend here in the Rennard house.  It was spent almost entirely at home, which brought much-needed relaxation and family time…. not to mention all of the spring cleaning and yard-work we finished!

I have been experimenting with my new camera and more with Photoshop.  The following photos are from the last week.  No editing was done other than cropping and making them sepia.  Can you tell I love my new camera? I have so much to learn, but am having such a great time in the process!

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We have blooms on our peony bushes as well! Peonies are my favorite flowers. My step-dad gave me three of his bushes two years ago. Last year I didn’t have any blooms. This year? Two. Our hope is that next year we will have an abundance of blooms. The two we have are gorgeous.

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Now, what you have been waiting for! My favorite links from this week!

My most popular post of the week was:

What I Gather About Myself as Mom – Thanks for all of the positive feedback.  I appreciate your honesty and the grace you show to me when I open myself up to you!

Spiritual Reflection:

Windbag speeches:  The Cruelty of Talking Too Much from Brian Zahnd

At A Deeper Story, When God Feels Like an Abusive Father

For Fun:

Because sometimes you just need satire in your life…. A Great Gatsby Book Report by a Kid Who Only Saw the Movie.

Book Love:

At Modern Mrs. Darcy, 2013 Summer Reading Guide.  You have to subscribe to the blog to download the reading guide, but it is so worth it!  I rely so heavily on book recommendations before reading anything new.  Having someone put together a list like this makes my reading life so much easier!

Food Love:

Because who doesn’t love Loaded Nachos?  From Pioneer Woman

Friends Who Blog:

My dear friend over at Becoming Whitney always makes me smile and motivates me to get crafty!

Jen at Girl in the Garage amazes me with her DIY projects!

Mindy’s words are beautiful and lead me closer to Jesus… at How to Mend a Broken Life (follow her on Pinterest, too!  Her boards are GORGEOUS!)

And finally…

I don’t usually recommend TV shows, but I just finished season 2 of Call the Midwife.  It is warm and touching and grapples with issues of motherhood, poverty, gender roles and service.  If you are going to watch anything this summer, watch this!  It is free on Netflix, can be watched for free on PBS online, or can be ordered on Amazon.  My understanding is that the show is based on the journals of a midwife in London in the 1950’s.  Her journals have been turned into a trilogy of books, so I will be reading the books soon!

What about you?  What have you been reading lately?  Have you watched any good TV shows or movies?  I would love to hear what is happening in your world.

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A Gathering of Links IX

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Happy Monday to you all!  It is a beautiful, warm, sunny day in central Indiana and I couldn’t be happier about it!  We have a lot going on in our world.  Friday we had a Mad Men themed going away party for my niece, which was a blast.  We had a huge turnout for the community garden workday last week.  Ava is taking ISTEP this week and Isabel is at a campground with my mom.  I am trying to soak in all the time I can with my niece before she (*tear) moves out.

I have lots of great links to share with you today, but first I want to share some exciting news….

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Agnes has a sponsor! A huge THANK YOU to the special family who will be making an impact on this precious girl’s life. I can’t thank you enough. I had hoped to have more sponsors by now, but I believe the seed has been planted and we will see more of these kids sponsored very soon! (If you are interested and missed our big promotion, please see this SPONSOR AN ORPHAN link)

Also, I want to express my sincere gratitude for the way all of you received my most popular post of the week, A (Re)Gathering of Faith.  It was my most popular post in the history of Rachael Gathers, thanks to all of your shares.  I was so moved by the comments and messages I received from so many of you responding to my story.  Sometimes I hesitate before I hit “publish” on personal stories, but the feedback from you reminded me that we all struggle and we can draw strength from the testimonies of one another.

So, let’s get to it!  Grab a cup of coffee or tea, sit back and check out some of the best links from the WWW this week!

Spiritual Inspiration:

From Winn Collier, Revolutionary Shepherd.

At Mary DeMuth, Candace’s Crazy Beautiful Story of Healing.

From A Deeper Church, Not Just Bread, Not Just Wine.

From Narrow Paths to Higher Places, On Loving Well: A Stone’s Throw Pt. 1.

At A Holy Experience, 6 Books When You’re Looking for Change.

From Sarah Bessey, In Which We Need to Ask Questions that Have No Answers.

Food Love:

At A Cozy Kitchen, The Best Tabbouleh Salad.

For Laughs:

At It Just Gets Stranger, Dear Vague Facebook Status Poster.

And my very favorite post of the week, beautiful and challenging and straight from the Bible:

From Brian D. McLaren, a compilation of “one another’s” in the New Testament.

What have you been into this week?  I would love your comments about your favorite blogs, books, TV shows, movies or activities these days.  Have a blessed week!

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A Gathering of Links VIII

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Have you subscribed to Rachael Gathers yet?  If not, please do so HERE.  You will get an e-mail updating you of new posts and can even read the blog right in your inbox!

This week the big focus on Rachael Gathers is the Helping Hands sponsorship program for orphans in Uganda.  If you aren’t quite sure about making the commitment to sponsor an orphan, let me just say it has made such a positive impact on our family and of course makes a tremendous impact in the life of a hungry child in Uganda.

Thanks to all of you, my most popular post this week was Gathering at a Garden.

There is lots happening in the Rennard house!  Jimmie has been focused on the community garden.  Our niece who lives with us is getting ready to move to New Jersey, but also just had a pretty serious car accident.  So we have been occupied with trying to sort out insurance issues while also getting her packed up.  Ava is ready for school to be out and Isabel is in a tap-dancing stage.

Here are my favorite links from this past week.  I hope you enjoy them!

Spiritual Insight and Inspiration:

From Guy at A Deeper Family, on sadness.

From Sarah Bessey.  Yes to this!

This inspired me…. over at Sarah Markley.

For the Home:

From A Beautiful Mess, I really love this gallery wall.

I absolutely love this home.  I think I could move in tomorrow and not change a thing… from Design Mom.

Marriage Talk:

Honest Talk About Marriage in the Middle of Life by Sarah Markley.

Food Love:

Over at Simple Bites… empanadas.  Because one of my earliest memories is making empanadas with a visitor from Colombia.

Just Because:

This video over at Design Mom is beautiful and moving.

Over at Oprah, the best novels of 2012.  Has anyone read any of these?

Instagram’s Envy Effect by Shauna Niequist

I will leave you with my favorite Instagrams from the week.  Have a fantastic week!

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My Friday babysitting charge… so precious.
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Hanging out on the dining room table!
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Spring. Lovely.

A Gathering of Links VII

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I hope wherever you are, you are taking in spring and the glory of God’s creation.  We had a beautiful time of worship with some friends last night and spent the majority of our day at the community garden.  It has been so good for my soul to be outside, surrounded by new life.  I am reminded of new life in Christ Jesus.

Thanks to all of you for making my most popular post What I Gather About…. Here.  It was dedicated to my husband.  I hope you could tell how great he is from the way I gushed!

Here are my favorite links from the last week.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Parenting:

From Lisa-Jo Baker, when you’re wondering if you can face another week of the same routine.

Food:

From Jerusalem Greer, because bread pudding is one of my favorite foods ever.

From A Cozy Kitchen, because who doesn’t love spaghetti and meatballs?

For Inspiration:

An interview with Sarah Bessey.

Please take a moment to look through these breath-taking photos from Smithsonian Magazine.  God’s beauty is all around.

Have you subscribed to A Holy Experience yet?  Take my word and do yourself the favor.  I am weekly amazed by the beauty and depth of Ann Voskamp’s words.  It is so hard to choose a favorite to share with you, so read them all!  My favorite this week was this…. When Life Burns, What We Could Do For Each Other.

I also want to share a quote with you that I read from Rachel Held Evan’s blog.  It was spoken by Brennan Manning, who recently passed away.  I didn’t know who he was, but this quote has been in my mind an on my heart all week.

“The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian.” ― Brennan Manning

I hope you enjoy my favorite links from the week.  I will leave you with my Instagrams from this past week.

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(Subscribe to Rachael Gathers HERE)

 

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A Gathering of Links VI

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It has been two weeks since my last gathering of links post, so this one may be a little longer than usual!

It amazes me how much things can change in such a short time.  Two weeks ago we got about a foot of snow here in Indiana.  Today I spent the day working with my family in the community garden, in a t-shirt, in 70 degree weather.  I even have a mild sunburn to show for it!  It is just another demonstration of God and the mysterious ways He works.  He makes all things new, sometimes in ways that are beyond anything we could ask or think.

Thanks to all my fabulous readers, my most popular post in the last two weeks was A Good Friday Gathering.  My favorite post was the one that poured from my heart… What I Gather About the Walk to Golgotha.

Here are some of my favorite posts from some of my favorite bloggers.  Why not grab a cup of coffee, sit out on your deck, and enjoy some evening reading?  You won’t regret it with these links!

Easter Reflection:

From Jen Hatmaker, A Broken Hallelujah.  Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

From Melissa Greene at A Deeper Story, Easter Snow.

From Kathy Escobar, Easter Hope(less).

At A Deeper Story, The Red Balloon.

For Spiritual Inspiration:

From Mary DeMuth, The Enoughness of Enough.  I can so relate to this post.

Interesting perspective on the gay marriage debate at A Deeper Story.

From Sarah Markley, Kneeling in the Dirt.

Turning Hate Mail Into Origami from Rachel Held Evans.

Parenting:

Lisa-Jo Baker’s On Letting Our Girls Be Ourselves.

On Marriage:

Addie at A Deeper Story:  Unequally Yoked.

The Case for Not Marrying Young from Leigh at A Deeper Family.  What a great perspective!

Home Inspiration:

I love the bright colors in this featured home from Design Mom.

I love this tray from Jen at Girl in the Garage.

Food Love:

Anyone love making granola as much as me?  Check out this recipe from A Cozy Kitchen.

At A Beautiful Mess, mini pineapple upside down cakes.  YUM!

And…

Such helpful iPhoneography tips from A Simple Mom.  Loved this!

Was anyone else able to enjoy the beautiful weather today?  What have you been reading and loving lately?  I would love to hear from you!

Finally, if you haven’t subscribed to my blog, would you take just a moment to subscribe?  Just enter your e-mail address at the top of my page where it says “Follow Rachael Gathers” – Thanks and I hope the start to your week is fantastic!!

 

A Gathering of Links II

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This has been a great week in the blogosphere!  I have to really limit the amount of time I spend reading blogs.  My obsessions move in waves… Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (<- big one), books, games on my iPhone, etc.  Now I have moved to blogs and I will say that if I allowed myself, I could spend hours every day reading posts about lives, journeys, families, recipes, homes and conversations with God.  So, for those of you who enjoy blogs as much as I do, or for those of you who need someone to sift through the bad to find the good…. this list is for you!

Fun projects for the crafty or those who aspire to BE crafty:

I love this adorable gold glitter bowl from A Beautiful Mess and want to try it out as a mother-daughter project with Ava.

This party closet idea from Oh Happy Day is brilliant!  I would totally do it if I had space.  And here is a link to what she accomplished using supplies from her party closet. I love the yellow.  It makes me smile.

I would put this pillow from Becoming Whitney on my couch right now… if I had a sewing machine…. and any clue how to sew!

If you are looking for some spiritual inspiration or something that makes you think about God and/or His people a little differently, the following links are for you:

In Living with Power, I love how honest she is about it being time to regroup.

From Preston Yancey, this is a beautiful reminder that people show you who they are

From Rachael Held Evans, a question and answer with ordinary radical Shane Claiborne

It is hard to choose one post from A Holy Experience, but I did…. this one.

Advancing Ministries discusses a cure for the common Christian.

My friend Mindy from How to Mend a Broken Life beautifully dispels a myth.

Need inspiration for your home?  Check these out:

I love practically everything about this church converted into a house from Houzz.

Houzz also delivers ways to declutter your library.

Some interesting perspectives on motherhood:

Sarah Bessey’s practices of mothering.

From A Deeper Story.

And a few that just make me smile:

Shepherd’s pie from A Cozy Kitchen.

Homemade corn tortillas from Miller Musings.

The Pioneer Woman always makes me laugh

And finally, from Yellow Bird, Yellow Beard, a few beautiful things to make us think of spring.

I would love to know if you loved any of these links as much as I do!  What else are you reading these days?  Any good books or blogs?

A Gathering of Links

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There is an ice storm of sorts in Indianapolis right now.  I hear sheets of ice beating against the screen of my bedroom window.  My big girl shouted with glee at the news of a 2-hour delay tomorrow morning.  As for me, there is nothing I would rather do than curl up in my comfy chair and read, read, read.  Here are links to my favorite blog posts from the last week or so.

Are you looking for spiritual inspiration or something that will make you think outside the box?  The first handful of links address spiritual matters and the church.

First up is a post by my brother about worship:

http://faithapostolic.us/2013/02/incense-beaten-small/

These are my favorites from A Holy Experience:

http://www.incourage.me/2013/02/the-1-thing-you-really-have-to-know-about-your-family.html

http://www.aholyexperience.com/?p=15182

http://www.aholyexperience.com/?p=15107

A Deeper Story was full of great stuff this week!

http://deeperstory.com/burn-the-heretics/

http://deeperstory.com/why-the-church-should-quiet-down/

http://deeperstory.com/why-i-respectfully-decline-feminism/

http://deeperstory.com/blooming_normal/ (This especially struck a chord with me…)

Have you heard of Kathy Escobar?  Love her blog.

http://kathyescobar.com/2013/02/18/three-things-about-one-word-church/

http://kathyescobar.com/2013/02/16/formation-friday-thirsty/

Who can resist beautiful coffee table books?

Coffee Table Books: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/7452527/list/Guest-Picks–20-Coffee-Table-Books-for-Style-Lovers/

This post just glows of springtime beauty:

http://www.yellowbirdyellowbeard.com/2013/02/tuesday-treasury_19.html

Baked french toast sticks?  Yum!

http://www.abeautifulmess.com/2013/02/baked-french-toast-sticks.html

I love the curves of this home.  I could be very happy here:

http://www.designmom.com/2013/02/living-with-kids-erin-allan/

Weekend home projects?  Sign me up!

http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/7348896/list/9-Ways-to-Make-Dreamworthy-Rooms—–in-a-Weekend/

Last but not least…. I am (a very-early-beginner-so-don’t-judge-me) learning how to take better photos and edit them.  I use Camera+ on my iPhone to take the photos and am using Snapseed to edit them.  This blog tutorial of Camera+ is incredibly thorough and informative.  Check it out if you want a camera that out-shines your basic iPhone camera!

http://parasam.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/edit_efx_soemo.jpg

I would love to hear what blog posts you loved this week!  Also let me know if you read and love any of these I recommend today!

Gathering Courage for Lent

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I am blessed to work with a kind-hearted, God-loving and FUN woman.  She also happens to be Catholic and we enjoy our daily talks about God, what it means to serve Him and how to stay positive when challenges come our way.  We also share another passion: chocolate.

I know, I know.  Lots of people say they love chocolate and sweets.  I choose to believe that my love beats yours, hands down.  My chocolate-loving ways have evolved over time.  Once upon a time I enjoyed chocolate.  Then I began craving it.  Now, it is nearing obsession level and I must confess…. My name is Rachael and I am an addict.  Naturally, when my co-worker told me she was giving up sweets for Lent, I felt betrayed.  I mean, she was my partner in crime, eating cookies meant for the kids at snack-time and pilfering M&Ms from the “potty reward” jar.  Me?  Give up chocolate and sweets?  She must have been crazy.

She planted a seed.  It grew.  I took a good hard look at myself and realized I have a problem.  If gaining ten pounds since fall wasn’t a good enough indication, all I had to do was look in the eyes of my ever-so-loving husband who frequently makes sweet-tooth craving runs for me after the kids are in bed.  So last night, while slurping my cookies and cream shake, I made the decision.  This non-Catholic would give up sweets for Lent.

The idea behind Lent is similar to the Protestant practice of fasting.  It is a time of self-denial leading up to the recognition and celebration of Easter.  It begins on Ash Wednesday (tomorrow) and ends, for many, on Good Friday.  Lent is approximately 40 days, parallelling the period of time Jesus fasted in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry.  Sounds great, right?

Funny thing is, the moment after I decided to participate in this 40 day fast, I told myself I would cheat on Valentine’s Day.  Then I proceeded to tell two other friends I was doing it, but cheating on Valentine’s Day.  It IS Valentine’s Day after all and what is Valentine’s Day without chocolate?  Thankfully, my loving Savior knocked me over the head with the metaphorical 2×4 and pointed out my tendency to MAKE EXCUSES and my LACK OF DISCIPLINE. When we take a hard look at our lives, aren’t those always the two things that keep us from reaching our life goals?

I want to work out -> I don’t have time.  I am lazy.  It is cold outside.

I want to be a better parent -> My kids are disrespectful.  I never have any time to myself.  Someone else can teach them about Jesus.

I want to eat healthy -> Healthy food is expensive. Spinach doesn’t taste as good as chocolate. I don’t like to cook. My body is craving carbs.

I want to pray -> Time just got away from me today. I would rather watch TV. I’m mad at God.

I want to study God’s word -> Deuteronomy is hard to get through. I’m tired. My kids take all my time.

I want to forgive -> They really hurt me. I’m still mad. They deserve to pay.

I want to give up sweets to show some discipline in my life, dedicate myself more to God, identify with His suffering in a small way -> Valentine’s Day is coming up.  Giving up something else would be easier. I will physically go through sugar withdrawals.  I won’t be able to feed the bitter things in my life something physically sweet in a useless attempt to mask my pain when I should be running to God in the first place.

Does this sound familiar to anyone else?  I so easily talk myself out of what is good for me, settling for less than what God wants for me.  I so often fail to recognize that the scripture I have heard my whole life is actually TRUE:  “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

So, tomorrow I start Lent.  I will not be cheating on Valentine’s Day.  I’m glad to be on this journey with my friend as well.  As my co-worker said to me today, “Misery loves company”. Using my power of persuasion, I have also successfully talked my husband and another friend (both enablers of my addiction!) to join me.  What about you?  Have you ever given something up for Lent?  Did you just finish a Daniel fast?  In what ways are you disciplined? In what ways do you lack discipline?  I would love to hear from you.