Understanding Me

Understanding Me“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” ~ Romans 12:9-12

These verses were read at our wedding over four years ago. We chose our passages carefully, intentionally staying clear of very traditional marriage readings and instead looking for where our hearts lay. They came to rest on practicing hospitality and it is something that has been important to us ever since. As I approach the end of my 20s, there are many other thoughts, activities and hobbies that have become important to me. I’m understanding more about who I am and what makes me feel content. What better place than a blog to record them so I can remind myself every now and then.

What I know

  •  “God doesn’t say ‘I have a plan for your life’ he asks ‘can I have your life for my plan?’” One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that God is not a puppeteer who masterminds our every move. He is in relationship with us. He walks alongside us. He will guide and direct when we ask and my word if we give Him our lives for His plan, He will do amazing things.
  • There are way more important things in life than achieving my agenda and having my own way.
  • Competition is energy wasted. Every life has its ups and downs so comparing yours with someone of the same age or at the same life stage is pointless. Achievement can only be measured by who you are.

What I enjoy

  • Life is about detail: having chocolates in a pretty tin to serve guests with their coffee, having frozen lemons and limes in the freezer ready to spruce up a G&T, having flowers in rooms that not everybody sees – it’s the small things.
  • Discipling younger women at Church. It makes me happy. Simples.
  • Baking. Or more accurately, baking for other people and taking photographs of what I bake.
  • Quiet. I am quite content without noise; without music, without the radio, just with the sounds of nature (without meaning to be overly tree-hugging, I do genuinely enjoy the ‘silence’ of the dawn chorus).
  • Reading. Anything that isn’t a screen. I’m sad that my kindle broke but pondering getting a new one so long as I can turn any backlights off. That said, good ‘old-fashioned’ books are still much loved necessities in this household.
  • Blogging/journalling. I’m not very good at keeping lots of thoughts in my head at one time. I don’t want to forget what I learn and I don’t want to allow good things to pass me by. Writing things down is my way of saving ideas, lessons, ambitions and random thoughts for posterity. Case in point with this blog.
  • Flexibility. Not having every free moment filled with pre-planned activity. I love interspersing work and seeing people with time to potter around in my own space, think, be productive or just chill as my heart pleases.
  • Being creative. Whether it’s drawing, painting, scrapbooking or playing music.
  • Movies at the cinema. They’re an escape from the world but there’s such skill in their production. They are a great art form and at their best they bring together clever scripts, breathtaking music and captivating moving image. There is something even more wonderful about seeing them on the big screen and there are so many movies I’d like to see in the coming months!
  • Baths – especially if I have a magazine or book to read that I won’t mind getting wet.
  • Getting rid of stuff, decluttering, giving things away, creating space – all variations on a theme and they all have the same affect of detox for my soul.
  • Writing postcards. They’re quick, they’re pretty cheap and they show someone you’ve taken the time to handwrite a note to make sure they know they’re loved, appreciated and thought of. So easy and the joy of their response is so worth it!
  • Brunch. Hands down, best meal of the day and totally makes a weekend
  • Kaffee und Kuchen. There are two reasons I love this. Firstly, because it reminds me of my German roots and of my grandparents – two of the wisest, most humble and most admirable people I have ever met. Secondly because cake and coffee go so perfectly together, who wouldn’t want this combination on a summer’s afternoon in the sun or on a cosy winter evening when it’s raining outside? It works all year round!

What makes me content and healthy

  • Not eating too much sugar – ironic for someone who is a self-confessed chocoholic but especially in recent months, my sweeter tooth is making me feel rough.
  • Most obvious answer? Exercise. I’ve flipped between classes, badminton, walking, running (the latter for six months last year, never again) and Tae Bo. They all have their advantages and disadvantages so I’ve opted simply to rotate them as and when I get bored and need new motivation.
  • Having my favourite Bible verses of the moment around our home where I can be regularly reminded of them.
  • When my husband is content. His happiness genuinely impacts my outlook and when he’s happy, I’m a much better version of myself.
  • Eating more fish, more vegetables, not eating when I’m bored… there’s a whole host of eating habits that make me feel healthier.
  • Spending a little time on myself – painting my nails, moisturising, getting a haircut. Simple things that show my body that it’s worth taking care of.
  • Daily time reading the Bible and praying. It shouldn’t surprise me that spending time with God quenches a thirst that nothing else can.

I’m sure I’ll continue adding to this list as life goes on. I’m sure some things on this list will change. I’m also sure that there will be many more lessons for me to learn and lessons that I will need to learn time and time again. It’s all part of the process of understanding me.

On wheat-free, low-calorie, cheap eating

It’s hardly surprising, as a self-confessed chocoholic, that I had very little awareness of what foods were good and bad for me growing up. Of course I knew the basics: meat and two veg, lots of fruit and vegetables and not much sugar right? But somehow the details of carbohydrates/proteins/calories/poly-unsaturated things all passed me by. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you for the life of me what was high in calories and what was basically ‘free’ from calories. Except maybe water, I knew water didn’t have calories.

I also assumed that carbohydrates meant your basic staples: potatoes, bread, pasta, rice. I had no idea it extended beyond that.

Now I’m almost 6’2″ and fairly slim so losing weight isn’t high on my agenda, but taking care of myself is. Feeling healthy, alert and like I’m treating my body well, impacts my mood and general outlook, so recently I’ve been finding out a little more about food. Being wheat-free has also meant that I’ve become far more aware of what is in what I eat as I have to check ingredients all the time to make sure they haven’t somehow snuck wheat in (you’d be amazed, it’s in so much)!

Those of you who are already wheat-free will know that with this particular diet, similarly to many other intolerances, often comes a high price tag. But I’m starting to find ways to eat healthy, wheat-free, low-calorie foods for a reasonable cost so I thought I’d make a note of them in case, as is likely, I forget these little tips I’m learning.

Breakfast

Simple: fruit, yoghurt, occasionally granola if made with pure oats and natural honey

Lunch

Here’s the fun one. I’ve only recently discovered that sandwiches are unnecessary calories, which isn’t so bad because gluten-free bread is not anything worth shouting about. Get rid of the bread but don’t get rid of the delicious and the filling. There’s no point in being hungry because if you’re anything like me, you’ll just keep snacking on whatever is close at hand.

Here’s my plan: Salads, but not your traditional lettuce, cucumber and tomato (although sometimes they’re fine too). I’m more interested in quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, feta cheese, pomegranate seeds, sundried tomatoes, roasted courgette and pepper, sweetcorn, dried apricot and beetroot. You can pick and choose whichever of those you like the most and add in extras or change the basics but it’s healthy, it’s low calories, it’s wheat-free and it’s pretty cheap when you spread it out over a week of lunches. It’s also easy to get variety in there. I’m easily bored.

Dinner

The two biggest things I have learned about keeping dinner healthy and cheap are:

  1. Lots of vegetables (seriously, lots)
  2. Fish

I’m certainly not a vegetarian but most of the time I can give or take meat so we only have it once or twice a week and intersperse it with veg meals and fish (the cheaper fish types, rather than salmon or seabass despite our esteemed Prime Minister mistakenly believing the latter to be a modern staple of the society he governs). I also only have pasta about once a week, if at all. I’ve become more of a rice and potatoes girl.

Lots of vegetables is crucial as they tick all boxes: they’re cheap, most of them are low in calories, they’re healthy, they’re filling and they’re naturally wheat-free! I have felt so much better since I switched to eating so much veg.

Overall

There are some principles that apply across the board:

  • Reasonable portion size – you always feel rubbish when you overeat anyway.
  • Figure out how to tell the difference between hungry and thirsty – not as easy as you’d think.
  • Don’t eat when you’re bored because you’re not really enjoying it anyway – I’m a sucker for eating a ridiculous amount of chocolate when I’m bored even if I’m not hungry.
  • Don’t take the fun and yum out of food – I definitely haven’t cut out my chocolate, desserts and snacks. I eat little and often but I’m simply more aware of what it is that I’m snacking on, what actually fills me up and asking myself whether I really want what I’m eating. You don’t need to cut out on the fun stuff to eat healthily and cheaply.

So what have I learned?

  • Vegetables fill you up and tick all important boxes.
  • Eating fish at least once a week and meat a little less often really does make you feel better and saves the pennies.
  • Lunch doesn’t have to be a monotonous calorific sandwich, nor the incredibly boring daily recurrence of soup. It can be fun and filling without being expensive. It’s all about the pulses and the variety.

So. It turns out ‘meat and two veg’ and ‘lots of fruit and vegetables’ weren’t so far off the mark after all.

Graze box

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I am a grazer by nature. I don’t often have big portions at traditional mealtimes but I eat constantly throughout the day. Being wheat intolerant, I find (although this may be entirely in my head) that eating little and often helps with symptoms like stomach pain. Plus I like food a lot so eating all the time isn’t exactly an inconvenience.

However, I did find that I wasn’t always snacking on the healthiest of foods – chocolate was and is one of my favourite things so that featured a lot – and it was getting quite expensive to fund my never-ending nibbling.

Enter the graze box. My husband encouraged me to sign up for this for many reasons:

  1. Primarily, it was something new and fun and different each week to look forward to, which he knew I would enjoy.
  2. It satisfied my grazing habit.
  3. It was healthy in some fashion – either low in calories, or high in fibre or one of my 5 a day. Every graze punnet has some kind of health benefit.
  4. It helped with our budgeting as the same amount was spent each week.

As soon as I signed up, I ‘binned’ everything that had wheat in. I then went through and binned items I knew I wouldn’t like – I’m not a fan of coconut flakes for example so I got rid of the options that had those in. Each week I rate the choices I’ve been sent as ‘like’ or ‘love’, or I ‘bin’ them so that I don’t get sent them again. It’s super easy.

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I’m so pleased my hubby encouraged me to try it out as I now have such fun opening my box every week to see what I’ve been sent, knowing that it’s all wheat-free and that I won’t be sent anything I don’t like.

And the best part? They have a wheat-free black forest slice – my favourite!

Disclaimer: I have not been paid to write this post.