Monday, April 27, 2015

Come With Me; Cast Worries Away

"I'm so excited, Mommy!" Paul shared the night before. "I can't believe we're going to the Cleveland Zoo!"

We've wanted to go there for ten years, but owning a house and repairing it frequently swallows up these dreams all too often. Saturday was Educator's Day, gifting us with four free tickets.

So, there we were after all these years. The animals were wonderful to observe. We all felt pretty blessed, except that Peter's OCD took away his smile most of the trip, and Mary's anxiety over storms and car breakdowns reared its ugly head as well. Beth's arthritis means she can't walk all over the zoo like a typical six year old. Thirty minutes in and she needed a stroller, over which I received some surprised and nasty glances due to her height and age. To some, she looked pampered and spoiled and lazy in her stroller and I had to consciously ignore the stares. I knew it wasn't fruitful to dwell on them.

The day seemed to represent life in all its messy gloriness. Legitimate heaviness was there, sure, but if I chose to focus on it, I missed the blessings all excited little girls, Mary skipping with joy all over the zoo, Paul making sketches of the animals, and God's glory reflected in every creature.

Life is astoundingly hard. Sometimes the days just seem full of uphill climbs. Sometimes it seems there's nothing to look forward to but more hills the next day. Hope can get lost as our chests and hamstrings burn from the exertion.

I encounter ugliness, but I also find God's grace around every bend, eclipsing the pain. He doesn't make the pain go away, I'm afraid; that isn't his modus operandi most of the time.

Instead, he changes our perception of the pain by passing his glory over it. Our pain remains, but we're distracted from it by his awesome display of glory. Awe struck by his love, we lift our eyes off of ourselves and weep with joy over his presence.

He provides sustenance for us daily, just as I bake and provide the daily bread here. Homemade bread has no preservatives; you can't bake ahead even if you had the time. You bake and eat, bake and eat, bake and eat, as though it's manna in the desert, falling at just the right time.

Is there security in this method?

Well, it depends on whom or what you're depending on for your security. If you're depending on Momma, then no. Sunday morning I don't bake bread. I get six people ready for church. Saturday morning I get distracted by trying to catch the house up and sometimes forget to bake bread.

So, no. Momma's method for delivering bread is only secure five out of seven days...not very good odds, with two breadless days.

God's manna delivery is secure, if we seek first His kingdom. We don't need to awake with anxiety, wondering if our hunger will gnaw away at us all day. We can awake with joy, knowing God will provide.

Abraham put his son Isaac on the alter in Genesis 22 and appeared to be ready to murder him. How strange, I've always thought. What parent goes through with those motions?

Isaac inquired about the source of the burnt offering, saying “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”

And Abraham want on preparing to burn his son.

The Offering of Isaac - Genesis 22 (source here)22 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go tothe land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy[a] will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.

Should I give the tithe on Sunday, knowing he'll provide for the broken door next week? Or do I fix the door...or the toilet...or the rusting bottom of the van, whichever the case may be, and then put the leftovers in the offering plate?

If your pattern is to store up your manna, then you'll choose to forgo the plate until your broken things are fixed...if that ever happens. If you look to God daily for your needs, knowing he doles out as needs arise, then you'll confidently have money ready for the plate--and not any less than last week.

The longer I live--the more that goes wrong in my life--the more I see exactly why Paul the Apostle uttered it: To live is Christ, to die is gain.

Nothing matters except the Gospel. Jesus didn't save us so we could enjoy conveniences and perks. He didn't save us so we could have everything working well in our bodies and minds and houses and cars, or to have the time or money for the things we want.

He saved us hoping we'll identify with him in suffering, bringing him glory through our weakness, our ills, our dependence. He saved us to be banners of love, receiving from Him vertically and handing out His spiritual riches horizontally. He saved us to advance the gospel through us.

To live is to walk with Christ, even on the narrow, uphill, barely-there trails. To live is to never wonder if the manna is really coming. To live is to know that His grace is sufficient, his love divine and perfect.

To live is to know that a place is prepared for us in our Father's House, and over the next bend, He's waiting for us.

On the trail to the next bend, we need only focus on the blessings all around--the trees, the singing birds, the toiling insects, the hidden crocuses, the wild daffodils, the smell of the pine, the sound of the needles and leaves under our feet, the blue of the sky. The blessings all around us are his graces, his majesty, his glory, his very presence.

Come with me. Cast all your worries away and get lost in the blessings, excited at knowing we'll be face to face with Christ soon, as faithful servants, not ashamed of the gospel. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Raccoon is back!

This is broad daylight! Momma raccoon thought we would be stupid enough to leave the grill off the shed attic. My guess is that when the freezing nighttime temps returned, she wasn't content to live in someone's tree, or in the rain gutter (or someone else ran her out of their shed). She's climbed the tree and the roof twice trying to get the grill off while still keeping her baby in her mouth. We hadn't seen her since my husband scared her out last weekend with a chainsaw, and then boarded up the damage she caused in the siding.

She went running out at the sound of the chainsaw, then returned that night for her babies. Husband deliberately took the grill off and left it off so she would go back and retrieve her babies. I saw her take two babies out but I don't know how many there were in total (usually 1 to 6, born in March or April).

We've seen raccoons around here for a few years but never living on our property. They are somewhat used to people and like all the trash cans they can easily raid. Raccoons are capable of opening doors and jars, if you can believe it. Getting rid of her won't be so easy, with so many sheds and trash cans around.

In California all one had to do was call animal control, but here in Ohio there's no public service for wild animal removal, and typically it costs a few hundred dollars to trap one, and a few thousand to get them out of an attic, and you're not allowed to hurt them or do any poisoning or the like (not that we'd want to do that).

The kids and I are wondering if she's being so persistent because she may have already transferred one baby into the back door of the shed, before Peter noticed that it was opened and closed the door.

Have you ever had a raccoon in your yard? What worked for you?

Weekly Homeschool and Life Wrap-up 4/24

Outside my window

Winter returned to Northeast Ohio as soon as I put the sweaters in storage boxes, and just as the tulips were about to bloom. We'll have another 30 degree night and I'm trying to remain hopeful about our flowers. Last year they didn't make it. The crocuses, hyacinths and daffodils have done well.

On my mind...Field Trips

We have a lot of medical appointments between the neurological issues and the juvenile arthritis issue, so field trips have never been plentiful for us. If I pursued those and continued to be faithful with appointments as well, no teaching would get done. Three of my four children need explicit teaching so we must show restraint with our scheduling.

Not to mention, the stress involved in the neurological issues just compels a mom to keep it all as simple as possible for everyone's sake.

However, this summer, while still doing some school, we will add our share of 70-mile radius field trips, starting with some cultural and science opportunities in Cleveland, the closest big city. Funds are extremely limited so we can't think big, but it's time to show my children around nonetheless.

Middle School Learning

The boys are continuing with Sonlight Core H (World History Part 2), reading Story of the World Early Modern Times, Madeleine Takes Command, Kingfisher World History Encyclopedia, and Usborne History of the World.

Synopsis: This historical novel, set in 17th century New France, features Madeleine de Vercheres, a teenage girl who takes up arms in defense of family, country, and faith against the Iroquois.

Madeleine Verchere's story is based on a true account of colonial French Canada of the 1690's. Harassed by Iroquois, the Verchere family's fort must keep a continual guard. 14-year-old Madeleine is left alone with two younger brothers and few others when the Indians attack. We follow the brave and determined stratagems of Madeleine and her small circle. Madeleine's youthful leadership, especially of her brothers, will win the reader's admiration.

My Thoughts: This novel is a powerful one for any late elementary to early high school child. It provides an inspiring and detailed portrayal of courage, bravery, leadership, principle, and strategic problem solving. For any child who ever wondered: "What does courage look like?"...this is the novel to hand them. I was very impressed and so thrilled that my boys were reading it. Sonlight chooses stories that move you, teach you, and compel you to reach for higher ideals. 

Next up for the boys is an award-winning mystery novel entitled The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler.

It isn't as scary as it looks. Weird cover, but I tried not to let that dissuade me. It teaches much about 18-century Japan.

School Library Journal Synopsis: Grade 6-8 A Sherlock Holmes-style mystery set in 18th-century Japan. Fourteen-year-old Seikei, son of a tea merchant, longs to be a samurai, although he knows that this is an inherited honor he can never hope to attain. While on a business trip, Seikei and his stern father take shelter at the Tokaido Inn where a cruel and oafish samurai, Lord Hakuseki, is also staying. A precious jewel is stolen from the lord, and a young girl whom Seikei has just met is accused of the theft. He risks his life by speaking out to defend her and Judge Ooka, called in to solve the crime, is taken with the boys bravery and enlists his help to solve the mystery. This sets Seikei onto a dangerous path where he goes backstage at Kabuki theaters, meets an enigmatic actor, and more than once must act in the honorable way of a samurai. He remains resourceful and courageous, although he often fears he may be on the wrong path. Judge Ooka maintains a steady presence, urging Seikei to observe, be logical, and reason out the motives for the crime. The plot builds towards an exciting, dramatic climax. All of the action is placed solidly in the context of the Tokugawa period of a Japan ruled by an emperor and a shogun, and pervaded by the need to defend ones honor above all else. An unusual and satisfying mystery that will be enjoyed by a wide audience.

My Thoughts: I'm not done prereading it, but I'll let you know more soon. There are two sequels.

Middle School Writing

Write Shop Junior Level E is a good program, well-written and thought out, and well-organized, but if you're teaching four children, it has too many steps and lead-up activities to be feasible. I'm sorry I spent the money on it, but don't let that dissuade you. For smaller families, I think it's an excellent curriculum option. 

I don't have time to tweak it, so I've decided for other reasons too, to go out on my own with the teaching of writing. College-level writing is a big leap and many homeschooling moms say they wish they had given more difficult assignments leading up to it. I've been giving the boys mini literary-analysis essays so they can get used to citing text to support and strengthen their arguments. In high school they have to use two sources in their papers, so now is a good time to practice.

I'm also varying the type of writing they're assigned, including narrative, descriptive, expository, and persuasive. Check this link for an excellent sample and explanation of a literary analysis paper.

We had a raccoon have babies in our shed sometime in the last month, so that made for a good narrative paper. Daddy tried different tricks to rid our property of the critters, since we couldn't afford to have professionals come out. After three attempts they're gone, hopefully for good (very humanely done; no animal harmed). Let me just say that raccoon mommas are very good mommas.

Current Passions

Peter continues to plan his garden, research plants and herbs, and try to predict the last frost. He can read horticulture books for quite a while, though he tells me he just skims them for information. Actually, he does more researching than planning, which I think will help him sometime if he wanted to own a nursery, help farmers, etc. His knowledge base is really growing and he has plans to heal our woes with herbs, which will be appreciated.

Mary and Beth continue to love sewing and making clothing for their stuffed animals, and Beth continues to make homemade dolls out of anything and everything. She tells me she gathers ideas from books and loves to think up new ones. She sees them in her mind, she explains.

Paul continues to love, love, love with a deep passion the computer programming classes on Khan Academy. It's all he talks about and he starts all his subjects early to have ample time in the afternoon for his programming, which means we have a lot more competition for any computer time around here, since we have just the one PC and a Kindle Fire. Paul is almost done with the first course and is wondering how he can use this for the glory of God. I explained that Christian organizations need programmers and web designers and he could easily turn it into a God-honoring pursuit.

I continue to bake a loaf of whole-wheat flax bread each day, with it coming out of the oven around lunchtime. I use the breadmaker on the dough cycle only, rather than using it for the actual baking. The last rise occurs in a warm oven. As well, I'm continuing to research the healthiest foods and work out how to afford them.

I continue to enjoy reading all the books from the boys' curriculum, as well as reading to the girls.

Lower Elementary Happenings
Mary, my second grade dyslexic reader, is in All About Reading Level 3, and she also began reading the Magic Tree House books I got her for Christmas. She still needs help on at least 4-6 words per page, but she's working hard and pulls them off the shelf without my prompting, which is huge for a dyslexic reader. They don't typically like reading, but we're hoping to beat those odds around here. This mom loves books and that helps a lot. If books are valued in a home and given a place of respect in the daily time schedule, I think we're doing all we can as parents and teachers. Read them, have them all around, and talk them up.

My kindergartner is doing far better in math but Mary still struggles with the numbers a lot. The blog on my side bar entitled The Dyslexic Advantage has been invaluable to me as a teacher and parent. I read more this week about why math is so difficult for 50% of dyslexics. It feels like such an uphill climb, but I like a challenge. 

I think when Mary starts 3rd grade Teaching Textbooks math (CD ROM) next January, she will be helped a great deal. The visual and the auditory together have really changed the game for Peter, who began using the program in the 3rd grade. He and Mary have a similar learning profile with math (dyscalculia), although dyslexia affected Peter far less in reading than it does Mary. And Mary fares better as a speller/writer than Peter did at this same age.

I have some outstanding Social Studies picture books to share, newly published in 2015.

Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson and Sean Qualls Published March 2015

School Library Journal Synpsis: K-Gr 2—This powerful and winning picture book tells the story of a young man overcoming the odds. Born in Ghana with a deformed left leg, Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah experienced stigma as a result of his disability: his father abandoned the family, and many assumed that the boy would be little more than a burden. However, with the encouragement of his mother, Yeboah refused to give up, hopping to school (instead of walking) and even learning to play soccer and cycle, despite receiving no extra help or accommodations. Thompson's lucidly written text explains how Yeboah cycled 400 miles in 2001 to raise awareness, forever changing how Ghanaians perceived those with disabilities. The narrative is simply and clearly written, and the illustrations are skillfully rendered in charmingly emotive ink and watercolor collages. A brief author's note explains how Yeboah inspired legislation upholding equal rights for the disabled and how he continues to make strides, working with organizations that provide wheelchairs to those who need them and setting up a scholarship fund for children with disabilities. VERDICT This uplifting account will resonate with readers and supplement global and cultural studies. A triumph.—Kathryn Diman, Bass Harbor Memorial Library, Bernard, ME

My Thoughts: Beautifully done in every respect. An outstanding addition to any elementary social studies curriculum; inspiring for all ages. I disagree with the above reviewer that the interest level is only as high as 2nd grade. My older boys were captivated and educated too.

In the New World: A Family in Two Centuries 
by Gerda Raidt, Christa Holtei Published March, 2015

School Library Journal Synopsis: This fascinating picture book blend of fiction and nonfiction uses the story of the Peterses, a made-up German immigrant family and their fifth-generation American descendants, to explore immigration in the 19th century. Through well-crafted text and charming, detailed drawings, Holtei and Raidt convey the severe economic conditions that precipitated the Peterses' journey in 1869. Charming panoramas of the Peterses' home and village and close-ups of their careful planning prepare readers for the trip's progression, including what items the family carried with them in the one trunk allowed aboard the Teutonia. Onward from their passage in steerage, the Peterses disembarked in New Orleans and transferred to the steamship Princess on their way to Nebraska. There they made their final connection to their new home via covered wagon. Well-written paragraphs expand on topics such as "Life in Steerage" and "Seeing the New World." The narrative then highlights the fifth-generation of Peterses, who traveled back to their ancestral home in Germany to uncover their history. This tale emphasizes the triumph born of hard work and industry, themes that reflect the experiences of many immigrants to America, and humanizes this period. VERDICT A thoroughly delightful and informative story that may even inspire some readers to discover the joys of genealogy for themselves.

My Thoughts: My girls and I were fascinated with this beautiful, charmingly-illustrated book. Ages 6 and 8, they're usually pretty wiggly, but my girls they didn't squirm a bit, listening attentively the whole time, and interjecting a few comments here and there. They learned a lot and I was very impressed with the presentation of the material.

John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall 
by Julie Dannebery, Jamie Hogan, Published March, 2015

School Library Journal Synopsis: Gr 3–5—This attractive picture book retells naturalist and writer John Muir's climb up a steep trail behind a waterfall along Yosemite Falls in April 1871. Danneberg includes information about Muir's love of the outdoors, his house in Yosemite (where he slept in a hammock that hung over an indoor spring), and his exploration of the park's natural setting. Lucid descriptions and the use of the present tense make the story immediate and relevant. Hogan's expressive renderings of the explorer's face are the highlight of this book, depicting the excitement and awe that Muir experienced standing beneath the falls. Many pages include supplemental information about the man and his love of nature. Quotations used in the text are cited, along with suggested readings and pertinent websites. VERDICT This is a solid work, ideal for those looking to add to collections or units on environmental studies, geography, writing, or biography and sure to inspire further interest in Muir.—Patricia Ann Owens, formerly with Illinois Eastern Community Colls., Mt. Carmel

My Thoughts: Excellent choice for all, but especially for your nature lovers. I've been to Yosemite four times as a California resident and I miss it terribly. Raising children in Ohio is better on a lot of fronts, however, so I have to remember Yosemite in my daydreams. We took our boys there one last time before we moved here, when they were 22 months and 3 and a half. The girls have never seen it.

Earmuffs for Everyone: How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs 
by Meghan McCarthy, Published Jan. 2015

School Library Journal Synopsis: K-Gr 3—This picture book charts the evolution of the earmuff. McCarthy starts in the 18th century, discussing the ways that various inventors improved on one another's designs, until Chester Greenwood made one last tweak to the wire headband and applied for a patent. Woven into the narrative is a description of patents. Children will also come away with a greater understanding of the nature of inventions. The book ends with a brief biography of Chester Greenwood and a section about the dedicated citizens in the state of Maine who lobbied for a Chester Greenwood Day (made official in 1977). Back matter includes an author's note, a note about patents, and a photo of the annual Chester Greenwood Day parade in Farmington, Maine. Rendered in acrylic paint, the illustrations are appealingly cartoonlike, portraying people with exaggerated round eyes and faces, and complement the concise but upbeat text ("[Isaac Kleinert] also made dress guards, which protected ladies' clothing from sweat. Ew!"). A solid addition for those seeking titles about inventors and inventions.—Samantha Lumetta, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH

My Thoughts: This book is cool! Read it to your older children too and let them dream about the patent they will one day apply for.themselves, when they get that invention under way. It's great for budding engineers and truly creative kids...and those who need to be encouraged to think creatively. It just made me smile and I was so grateful for the engaging storytelling style and the excitement it caused around here.

More new trade books next week! How was your week?

Weekly Wrap-Up

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Christian Trade-Off

When the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts and we are born again, a trade-off occurs. We give up control over our lives to make Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. We are bought and paid for and made into servants of the Most High. And in trade for that, we get two things:

Eternal Life
The Lord's Presence

Eternal life is a down-the-line thing; it's hard to even imagine sometimes, though we know it will be perfect and beautiful.

What is very tangible and always available now is the other blessing: the Lord's presence.

Oftentimes we fail to take advantage of this blessing. We don't sit down and invite His presence, so half of the blessing of our salvation is not realized in our lives on a daily basis. We are missing something huge that facilitates a powerful witness to others. Those who take advantage of his presence are a balm to others and a testimony of His grace.

Here are verses for strength, hope, peace and joy. Print them out and sit down with them as often as you can, and especially when you're suffering. They've been powerful and game-changing for my children and me many times. His presence is powerful and transformative. Don't live without it.

For Strength
Joshua 1:9 I repeat, be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do.”
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord is indeed going before you – he will be with you; he will not fail you or abandon you. Do not be afraid or discouraged!”
For Hope
Romans 5:1-5  “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory. Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Romans 15:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
1 Peter 1:3-5 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that is, into an inheritance
imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
For Peace
Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.
Isaiah 54:10 Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
For Joy
1 Peter 1:8-9 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Isaiah 12:6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you."
Isaiah 35:10 and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
John 16:22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
Psalm 30:5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins
Romans 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ephesians 3:19 And to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Jeremiah 31:3  The Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
John 15:9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
Psalm 103:11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Nourishing Your Family Series: Greek Yogurt

As you may have noticed, Greek yogurt is threatening to overtake the dairy case at your local market. It's fast, convenient, and very healthy, so this is one bandwagon you can get on with confidence.

Over in Greece they strain yogurt (called straggisto) and use it as a key ingredient in other foods, such as tzatziki dip. However, they don't use the term "Greek yogurt", which has become a hit in Europe and America.

Before we discuss the specific benefits of Greek yogurt, let's go over some comparisons.

How does it stack up to regular yogurt? Pretty well, with less sodium, far less sugar, much more protein, and only slightly less calcium. Greek yogurt is made by separating out the liquid whey, so it contains less lactose, making it a good alternative for people with lactose-sensitivity or allergy.

Just beware of the fat and buy the non-fat or low-fat version. I've been consuming non-fat dairy for decades and believe me, you'll get used to the taste quickly and afterwards, even low-fat dairy won't appeal to you.

If you can handle sour cream, you can handle non-fat, plain Greek yogurt. I drizzle a tiny bit of maple syrup or raw honey on mine. Don't stir in the syrup or honey because it won't add much overall taste or sweetness that way. Just use it as a topping.

Another alternative is to add dried cranberries, raisins, or fresh blueberries or strawberries--the list is endless.  If you must have more flavor and sugar (our your kids want it), try Chobani flavored non-fat Greek yogurt, which is a good, natural brand with less sugar than regular yogurt.

Sugar Content Comparison:
1 cup non-fat, plain Greek yogurt = 9 grams sugar (naturally-occurring sugar, not added)

1 cup Chobani non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt = 20 grams sugar (evaporated cane juice adds sugar)

1 cup Chobani non-fat strawberry Greek yogurt = 23 grams sugar (evaporated cane juice)

1 cup Activia peach low-fat yogurt (regular yogurt, not Greek) = 38 grams sugar (sugar and fructose)

Maximum recommended daily added (not naturally occurring) sugar for women is 25 grams or 6 teaspoons (100 calories).

A nutritional note about adding honey or dried fruit to non-fat, plain Greek yogurt:

1 T. honey =  17 grams sugar

60 raisins (1 oz) = 17 grams of sugar

1/4 cup of dried cranberries (Craisin brand) = 29 grams sugar (find a brand with less added sugar than Craisins)

Dried cranberries contain antioxidants and can help regulate blood sugar for Type 2 diabetics, but it's important to find a brand with lower added sugar--and Craisins isn't one of those brands!

How does honey compare to table sugar as an additive? Honey contains the same basic sugar units as table sugar--glucose and fructose. But granulated table sugar, or sucrose, has glucose and fructose hooked together, whereas in honey, glucose and fructose remain in separate units. Fructose does not convert to energy as efficiently as glucose, so foods containing granulated sugar high in fructose convert to fat stores more easily than honey.

1 tsp. table sugar = 16 calories
1 tsp. honey = 22 calories (but people use less of it. It's sweeter and denser.)

Here we go: The health benefits of Greek yogurt:


Protein is necessary for cell growth, building muscle, and repairing tissue. As we age we need more protein to keep our skin and our immune system healthy.

1 cup of non-fat, plain Greek yogurt = 23 grams of protein 
1 cup non-fat, plain regular yogurt = 13 grams
1 cup of non-fat milk = 8 grams protein
4 oz. grilled chicken breast = 36 grams protein


Greek yogurt is packed with B-12, which we need for energy level and healthy brain function. In the American diet, the other significant source of this vitamin is meat.


Our bodies must have a balance between sodium and potassium--especially important in American diets, which tend to be high in sodium from processed foods. Greek yogurt is high in potassium and helps with this essential balance.

Iodine (helpful for weight loss)

Greek yogurt is full of iodine, which is essential for proper thyroid function and as such, is necessary for a healthy metabolism and a healthy weight.

Calcium (and limiting fat production)

Not only is calcium necessary for bone health, but also for limiting fat production. Here's how: Cortisol is a hormone whose release can cause the body to store more fat (stressed much? Wondering where that fat is coming from?). Calcium is linked to the regulation of cortisol output. 

Here's the science surrounding the stress hormone, cortisol, excerpted below:

"In scientific lingo, the stress response system is called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis). After perceiving a stressor, a small brain area called the hypothalamus sends a chemical message to the pituitary gland. From here a new chemical message is sent out of the brain through our blood, to the producers of stress hormones called the adrenal glands that sit on top of the kidneys. This message says “secrete cortisol”."

Thus, by consuming a diet high in calcium, you can partially limit fat production. One cup of non-fat, plain Greek yogurt contains 30% of your daily calcium.  We're encouraged by nutrition experts to get calcium from dietary sources, rather than from supplements.


Greek yogurt is packed with probiotics, which are microorganisms (good bacteria) that normally live in our intestines. Without a proper balance of good bacteria, bad bacteria build up and damage our immune systems. A healthy digestive system is especially important for those with disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome.

Do you eat Greek yogurt? How do you like it? 

Along with a slice of homemade wheat/flax bread, it's my favorite lunch treat, and I also sometimes use it in place of meat to reduce our grocery bill (in place of meat just for me, not the others). Peter loves it too, and Beth is acclimating to it, but she misses her vanilla Activia, which I quit buying due to the additives and sugar. My husband, Mary, and Paul have never liked any kind of yogurt.



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