23 March 2006

1000 Miles to True Freedom.

“Gas in the car, get in...
Say we're never spontaneous
We're taking a chance at living the wild life, baby…

The clothes on our back are plenty
Everybody will wonder where we've gone to…
This could be a real good story, someday soon.”

A little over a week ago, I was in Nashville for a short trip, and Suz and I decided to do something we’ve wanted to do ever since we became friends: wake up at 6am on an ordinary Friday morning, throw an iPod, some clothes, apples, and peanut butter crackers into a bag, hop into Suz’ Jeep named Boy Scout and drive to one of our favorite places: the emerald coast of Florida. Oh yes, 500 spontaneous miles, many laughs, and one emergency bathroom stop later (giggle), we drove into Seaside, Florida with perma-grins on our faces and flip-flops on our feet that were itching to be removed so our toes could wiggle in the sugar white sand.

Amidst the myriad of times we’ve been to Destin and the memories we’ve made there, something was very different about this trip. I think we’d both come to expect multiple beach trips each year and had become greedy with how much time we could spend in the “perfect little beach town.” But due to a few situations that have happened lately, this trip was characterized not by greed but by overwhelming thankfulness: several days of working overtime that allowed us to both get off work on Friday, my husband giving me an enthusiastic thumbs-up and encouraging us to get a hotel rather than sleeping in our cars as originally planned :), our financial problems and then Suz’s generosity to pay for all the gas…So, tell me, would I have appreciated this sweet trip so much if life hadn’t been standing in the way of it before? Would I have treasured a day-and-a-half getaway with one of my closest friends if I didn’t normally live hundreds of miles away from her? I can’t help but think that sometimes God makes us release the fingers that so tightly grasp our dreams and ideals before He will give us some or all of it back – in His time and in the right way.

And now for some pics from the trip....

0 minutes into the trip. We left so early that no one was awake except the Pest Control man, who we asked to take this shot. Judging by the blurriness, we figure he should probably stick to spraying termites :).

Morning sun is shining, and we’ll be at the beach in 7 hours. Can’t fake these smiles!

Somewhere between Nashville and the Alabama line: Two Idealists in the car always makes for some good laughs. We pass an 18-wheeler truck in the shoulder with smoke pouring out of the side of it, and what does Suz have to say? “Ooooh, look at how the sunbeams are shining through the smoke! That’s beautiful!”

1.5 hours into the trip: The Alabama line. We made it out of Tennessee, and we’re happy to announce that not only is that a rocket, but yes Alabama is STILL happy to see us.

No road trip is complete without some luscious Diet Sunkist!

7.5 hours into the trip: It’s cloudy, but we’re finally in Seaside, so who cares?

8 hours into the trip: I think we can pass as beach house owners, don’t you? We sure look like the kind of gals who could own million dollar summer homes. Hee hee.

Here are some more fun ones from the beach…

Wow...just wow.

16 hours into the trip: Let’s not forget the infamous Destin Walmart – where else can you get airbrushed t-shirts and useless plastic beach bling??

16.5 hours into the trip: All the ice cream shops were closed when we finished dinner, so we bought some No Sugar Added Breyers Peanut Butter Tracks at Walmart and ate it in our hotel room. Yes, we’re both seeking recovery for this addiction, and I realize it violates my previous Whole Foods post :).
But no time with Suz is complete without an ice cream run!!

28 hours into the trip: Beautifully sunny Seaside welcomes us Saturday morning at one of our favorite picture spots.

33 hours into the trip: Ice cream, sunshine, and a quiet spot to sit in a quaint beach town – I didn’t think I’d ever get Suz to leave this gazebo :).

34 hours into the trip: Saw this beach house and fell in love. It’s even my favorite color, and the handpainted sign above the door says, “Remember To Smile.” What a wonderful way to end our day before heading back to Nashville…

“If the ocean is warm we'll take a swim…
Fill our pockets with sand to prove we went…
To our friends.”

The next morning, sleepy-eyed at the airport, I was fishing for my boarding pass and found sand in my purse :). I closed my eyes and said, “Thank you, Jesus.” Not because I had been at the beach, but because since the last time I was there, I’ve been learning what true spiritual freedom is. I’ve been learning that I don’t need to get away to Seaside, FL to be on a spiritual high or to feel content with my life. Instead of having the momentary satisfaction that comes from worldly things or places or being with certain people, I’m tasting the kind of freedom that comes from a deep change inside the heart.

When this is happening, I believe that everything I enjoy about this life...from the coast to being in the sun to ice cream to Diet Sunkist…all point to a much greater joy. Only can we truly enjoy and appreciate the little gifts this world has to offer when they do not stand alone.

03 March 2006

Whole Foods = pretty darn close to Heaven.

OK so the title of this post is a bit of an exaggeration, but all I know is that I’ve felt a hundred times healthier, more energetic, alive, and strong, since we went all organic.

Call me a health nut, call me “granola,” call me whatever you want, but the extra cost of natural foods is worth it to me now. I just can’t help but be reminded that they didn’t inject meat with hormones in Biblical times, nor were strawberries grown to mutant sizes. And it should be worth mentioning that some of the healthiest people in the world (lowest rates of cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes…) are those who live in the south of Italy and other Mediterranean locales. They eat food in its purest form.

A good friend of ours is a holistic nutritionist and corrective exercise specialist (among about 10 other titles), and he always reminds us, “If God didn’t make it, don’t eat it.” And while that sounds radical, I’m finding through practice that there is a lot of truth to that saying. I only have one body, and I’m not going to waste it. I’m not going to obsess about it either, because the Scriptures say, “do not worry about what you will eat or drink,” but I believe I can love people better and serve God better when I’m feeling my healthiest. I have to admit I can’t completely give up having ice cream and some sugar every now and then (tee hee!), but the change between what I put in my body now and what I used to is pretty drastic.

My workouts have gone through a complete overhaul as well (I heart my yoga mat), and that’s a huge part of my physical and mental changes, but for now I'm going to focus on the good eats found at Whole Foods ~ and those favorites I put in my cart every time.

1. Organic Produce. Folks, I'm not lying when I say that I just recently started to truly taste fruits & vegetables. There's a distinct difference in taste with organic produce. Apples, pineapples, strawberries, ohhhh the oranges, pears....shallots, onions, avocado, broccoli...pretty much everything in the produce section :).

2. Ezekiel 4:9 Live Grain Bread. This is the best bread I have EVER put in my mouth. Sesame is my favorite flavor, but all of the Food For Life flavors are great. Toasted with a bit of real butter and some natural orange marmalade...and it melts in your mouth. There is no flour in this bread, just natural grains.

3. Carob Energee Nuggets. Yes, ma'am. This is a great treat to curb a sweet tooth. Just one nugget, and I'm satisfied (now that's a phrase you don't hear everyday...). Although this pic shows them in a package, I've only found them in the "bulk" bins at Whole Foods, and they're made of honey, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, cashews, peanuts, carob powder, peanut butter, and pumpkin seeds. Mmmm.

4. Stevia. This is a wonderful substitute for sugar, and it comes from a plant instead of being manufactured in a factory with chlorine bleach like Splenda. Sick. I made this delicious Oatmeal Apple Muffins recipe using Stevia last week...and wow, you couldn't eat just one. Warning: Stevia doesn't taste very good in coffee. But it's perfect in tea. Which leads me to....

5. Yerba Maté. I have Jenni to thank for this recommendation! Not only is it a natural stimulant, but it also detoxifies the body, boosts immune function, and decreases hunger cravings, along with a host of other good things. In Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, they drink it out of a hollowed-out gourd. I love the Chocolatté flavor by Guayaki. It comes in a bag just like tea, and you steep it in hot water. I add one packet of Stevia. Of course the FDA won't approve it because our nation is addicted to crap like sugar and preservatives. The FDA sucks.

6. California Suncakes. Another great natural treat! I love the poppy seed flavor. It almost has the consistency of a scone – dense and very filling. I've read that parents use this as a great natural snack for their kids. Sure beats Pop Tarts. Oh, and I love the packaging artwork :).

7. Turkey Bacon. This is a breakfast staple for me. Heck, an anytime staple. It kind of resembles the taylor ham I grew up eating in Jersey. Way less greasy than pork bacon, and it comes in wider thin strips. I love to tear it into pieces and scramble it with eggs and green onion. Or dill. Or raw broccoli! It's also great wrapped around a chicken breast and secured with tooth pics while baked - gives the chicken a great flavor.

8. Kombucha. This is an organic raw fermented tea. I know, gag a maggot, right? OH, but no! It tastes like spiked sparkling fruit juice! The first sip is kind of gross, but then you find yourself wanting more and more. Not bad for something that also detoxifies, helps reduce colds, regulates the appetite...and I just read it helps restore gray hair to its natural color - what? gimme a case of that stuff!

9. 96% Lean Grass-Fed Ground Beef. I used to not be a big beef fan, unless I was really in the mood for a burger from Logan's (Suz, can I get an Amen??). But this beef is unbelievable. Unless beef is marked "grass-fed," that means the cows are fed grain, and oftentimes they're fattened up way before they're supposed to be naturally. This beef is almost as lean as fish and chicken. Make burgers by mixing the ground beef with chopped onions and garlic (or jalapeños if you're feeling brave!).

10. Horizon Organic Cottage Cheese. This is by far the best cottage cheese I've ever tasted, and I would consider myself a cottage cheese connaiseur :). It also has at least 4 more grams of protein than other cottage cheeses I've seen. Mix it with strawberries, apples, or any other fruit. Put it on crackers. Spread it on live grain bread and sprinkle on some cinnamon. Mercy.

So, there you have it. I'm probably going to get beaten over the head by our holistic friend for including dairy on here, but that's a topic for another day.