Enjoy The Small Things and a Goal Update

happy baby

That baby really liked her little slice of bread.

Life is always sending me little reminders.  This weekend my wife and I found it funny that our one-year-old was so entertained by a little piece of bread.  My wife picked up one of those loaves of rye bread that is cut into little slices for the girls.  When she gave one to our baby it gave her the biggest smile that wouldn’t go away.  She didn’t start eating the bread for quite a while because she was so busy smiling.  I even snapped this pic because she was just the cutest little thing with her little slice of bread.

So often I find myself reaching for the next goal or distracted by trivial things, that I don’t stop to enjoy the small, simple blessings that fill my life everyday.  I have been trying more and more to be ‘present’ when I am at home and to be home more often.  My new early morning schedule has really helped to facilitate that.  Each night I write down a list of important things to accomplish for the next day.  Once those things are accomplished in my work day, I pack up and head home.  I recognize not everyone can do this, but it allows some extra time with my young family since my schedule includes many evening activities.  When I am at home I try to avoid the computer and phone as much as possible, so I can do things with all three of my girls.

family working together

Working together to plant a tree.

One of the best things we do together is the work of the home.  I believe there is great value in cooking and cleaning as a family.  Some of the best times I have had with our oldest daughter have been in the kitchen.  It often takes longer and is messier when she is helping, but she is learning and growing and spending quality time with us.  She often volunteers to help fold laundry too.  I had no clue a five-year-old could do such a good job folding laundry.  It probably helps that I often do silly things with her while we fold clothes.

I am a husband before I am a father. I am a father before I am a minister.  And I’m not a good minister if I fail to be a good husband and father.  I have to constantly keep these things in mind.

Two quick notes before my goal update:

1) I mentioned my wife going grocery shopping.  She is an excellent couponer.  She saved close to 50% on her trip to Kroger on Saturday.  She is amazing!  2) If you believe in working together as a family and the value of common tasks, you might be interested in Seeing the Everyday magazine.  I am truly excited when this publication shows up in our mailbox.

And now for the goal update:

It has been another great week!  I really think that soda is starting to get out of my system and my brain.  We went on a family outing Saturday night and I had a small soda with dinner.  There are certain meals that just seem to need soda.  When we eat at Potbelly’s sandwich shop there is the need for a Cherry Coke.  It was interesting to note that I really feel like I could take it or leave it now.  I feel kind of bloated and ‘bleh’ after I have one with a meal.

I still enjoy the occasional soda now and then, but soda and I seem to have a much healthier relationship.  Instead of being my ‘go-to’ drink, it is something that is a treat.  There have been several days this week where I didn’t have any soda, and I didn’t really think about it.  I can’t remember a time in life where I have ever drank this much water. It feels good!

The treadmill desk is going good too.  After 7 weeks I am now up to 132 miles of walking and working.  I still look forward to getting into the office so I can hop on and get going.  I find that I don’t spend too much time on the computer at home because I really don’t like sitting and working.  In fact, it is 5:30am as I am writing this and I am standing in the kitchen with the laptop on one of our taller counter tops.  (Got up at 4:30 to see my wife off to work.)

I appreciate all the positive feedback and encouragement from both online friends and offline friends.  I also appreciate the example of other people who are trying to improve their health, provide better food for their families and striving to live more balanced lives.  I’m down a few pounds but more importantly I feel great!

One blog note:

Thanks for all the positive feedback on the blog!  I have been hearing from a lot of people, including several I don’t know in person, who are enjoying the blog.  A good number of you mentioned the chicken cam this week.  That post was one of the most popular I have ever written.  Let’s be honest…it was all about the cam 🙂  Today will be the last day for the chicken cam, we have storms coming tomorrow in Texas and the cam is not fully waterproofed.  Don’t worry, it will most likely be back on Wednesday as the ‘baby chick cam.’  I plan on taking part of the day off to go visit the breeder we use and pick up some new chicks.

Have a blessed week!

Saturday Roundup: Chicken and Kale Edition

Welcome to the weekend!  I hope it has been a great and productive week for you.  Even if it hasn’t, I hope you enjoy some relaxing time with family and friends this weekend.

kale smoothie happy baby

Our 1 year-old after enjoying a smoothie with kale in it.

This week I learned a lot about kale.  Have you ever cooked with kale?  This was my first time.  It is a lot like spinach, but it is better for you and doesn’t have the lingering taste of spinach.  It is amazingly cheap.  I picked up one bunch of kale at our local Kroger store and it cost a whopping $1.49.  I have used 4 cups of kale in a soup recipe, another 2 cups in a smoothie recipe, gave some to my mother and still have approximately 4 cups left.  That is a lot of use for $1.49.

According to WebMD.com, kale is a nutritional powerhouse.  It has lots of fiber and is an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K.  It also has a number of other nutrients and compounds which are great for your body.  It is a great fresh vegetable to eat during the winter months when so many other vegetables have to be imported from far away.

The ideas I used for making chicken and kale soup and kale-laced smoothies came from my favorite recipe site – sugarfreemom.com.  Her “Crock Pot Turkey Kale Rice Soup” was very easy to make.  I substituted chicken for the turkey since we already had the chicken on hand.  We have found that her recipes are always mildly seasoned, which is great since our 1 year-old eats what we do.  I added a bit of extra garlic, basil and pepper to my bowl.  Later in the week she also posted up a Blueberry Coconut Hidden Green Smoothie that is dairy, sugar and gluten free if you follow her recipe.  I made a few modifications but the kale did blend in very nicely which adds a great boost of nutrients.

Will you be adding some kale to your diet?

And now for the roundup of weird and interesting things:

First off, let me plug my own posts from the week 🙂  My backyard chicken post (with live chicken cam…which is still on) was a huge hit.  I finally beat the record that my treadmill desk post set for views in a single day.  A friend texted saying he was having trouble working because he couldn’t stop watching the chicken cam.  Our baby enjoyed watching the cam and saying “bak bak” as the chickens moved around.  We hope to get chicks in this coming week.  I also had an update on my health goals and posted a family devotional about Abraham.

My friend Kevin Langford put together an excellent post on putting together a successful retreat.  Kevin is one of the most organized and successful family ministers I know, so this is worth a read!

One of my favorite sites for simple activities for children is madebyjoel.com.  This man is a genius!  He takes very simple things like cardboard and yarn and makes amazing things.  He posted up a tutorial on teaching kids the basics of weaving.

soap dispenser for kids

Image courtesy of lifehacker.com

Over at lifehacker.com they posted up this amazing idea for limiting the amount of soap that little kids will use with pump dispensers.  It only involves a rubber band.  So smart!

99u.com posted this great article about the benefits of being knowledgeable about many things but a master of none.  Some of the greatest innovators in history have been great generalists, drawing on their diverse knowledge base to invent, create or solve.  As a ‘jack of many trades, master of none’ kind of guy, I can truly appreciate this read.

A new site I’m following, keeperofthehome.org, has been putting up a great series of posts about how to find, buy and cook with real food.  I have found this series incredibly informative.  This week I especially enjoyed “Finding Real Food In The Grocery Store” and “Simple Steps To Begin Homemade Cooking.

Speaking of simple steps, our 1 year-old started walking this week:

[weaver_youtube id=A8DlzjpYG08 sd=0 percent=100 ratio=.5625 center=1 rel=0 https=0 privacy=0 showinfo=0]

 

Lifehacker had this great article on the need for margin in life.  What is margin? Extra time and space to make sure the important things get done.

Tentblogger.com put up this short piece on the need for guts in any creative endeavor.  There will always be critics.

Wisebread.com is always full of useful information.  This week I really enjoyed “25 Ways to Save $5 This Week.

Jeff Jenkins, a preacher friend of mine, put up this great article based on a quote by his father.  “…for the Bible contains the mind of God”  is a great thought and Jeff does a great job writing about it.

And finally a quick one from Neatoram.  This dude must be serious about grilling.  He turned an old oil truck into a massive portable grill.

 

Favorite Things Friday: Backyard Chickens

backyard chickens flockOur family has had backyard chickens since the spring of 2010.  It has been a great joy to have a working flock of chickens in our backyard – right in the middle of the big city.  We have learned a lot, and these fun, working pets have been worth the time and energy invested.  (Chicken cam is at the end of the post.  You can see what our girls are up to today…keep reading.)

backyard chickens chick

One of our chicks at about a week old.

We started with 4 chicks from a local breeder.  The chicks were just a few days old and they were so much fun to watch.  We set up a brooding box in the office area of our house.  (Chicks have to stay warm until they ‘feather out.’)  One of our chicks turned out to be a rooster so I returned that chick to the breeder and wound up with 2 hens of similar age to the others.  Our first five chickens were Penny, Oreo, Clementine, Hatty and Nana.  (When you have small children, chickens get named.)  You can see all 5 girls in the photo at the beginning of this post.

I built the chicken coop after looking at a variety of ideas online.  The type of coop I decided on is called a “chicken tractor.”  It was designed to be moved around the yard so the chickens could enjoy fresh grass and dirt to scratch in.  The coop is approximately 4′ wide and about 10′ long.  The chickens can roam the entire length and width of the coop since the roost box is elevated.  I will talk about a few things I learned about coop design, including my favorite feature, in a future post.

Owning backyard chickens has been very enjoyable for our family, but I would not say it is for everyone.  Simply stated, not everyone can deal with chicken poop, brooding chickens, and a few

backyard chickens eggs

The first day all 5 girls laid an egg. The big one is a fake that is their target.

other things.  Other than that, chickens are low-cost, entertaining and educational pets.  When we had 5 hens our chickens were eating about $20 of feed a month.  At their peak, the 5 hens were laying a total of 3-4 eggs a day.  Approximately 25 eggs a week.  The eggs are some of the best you will ever eat.  The yolks are dark yellow, almost orange.  You won’t save money or make money with backyard chickens, but the educational and entertainment aspects balance things out nicely.

Raising chickens hasn’t been without its sad moments.  In the summer of 2011 we lost 2 of the girls to the heat.  They were both Buff Oprington breed of chickens.  It was a hard, hot summer.  We used shade, a fan at night, and mist during the day to try to keep them cooled off. (We had a month long stretch of 100+ days here in Texas.)

Spring 2012 we purchased 2 pullets (10 week old hens) and added them to the flock after they matured a bit.  In the Fall of 2012 some irresponsible pet owners down the street allowed their dogs to escape.  The dogs chewed their way into the coop and killed 4 of our 5 chickens.  Oreo is our strong survivor that outsmarted the 2 big dogs and survived a nasty dog bite.  A few weeks later we added our white Silkie chicken named Zsa Zsa to keep Oreo company through the winter.

Our girls now reside inside their coop which is inside a 12’x12′ dog kennel.  I figure if a kennel is supposed to keep dogs in, it can also keep them out.  The only draw back is that the chicken tractor must now stay in one place.  As an added bonus they get to run around in the extra space of the kennel when we are home and will be in and out of the backyard.

backyard chickens coop

Our coop on a foggy morning. This is before the kennel.

All of our chickens are friendly.  We haven’t had any problems having small children and chickens.  By far, our friendliest bird is Zsa Zsa.  She is a unique breed of chicken (Silkie) that has fluffy feathers, black skin and an extra toe.  Zsa Zsa thinks she is a poodle and will gladly perch on your arm and be carried around.  She is a favorite of many people and has appeared in several photos on this site.

I think the chickens are interesting and many of our friends would agree.  I often get asked, “How are your chickens?”  We have even taken one of the chickens to our daughter’s preschool for pet day.  When we had a full flock it was also fun to give away eggs as gifts and to let our oldest daughter sell the eggs for $2 a dozen.  Many, many friends have also been kind enough to give us their empty egg cartons for our eggs.

If all goes as planned, we will have two new chicks in the next week or two.  The local breeder that we use is expecting a large shipment of unique breeds.  The chicks will only be a few days old, so expect some cute photos.  We are hoping to get Zsa Zsa a unique friend or two.  Over the next few weeks I will be writing a few posts about things I have learned from raising backyard chickens.  We have several friends who are interested in having a small flock of their own and I wanted to share the lessons I have learned.  The general reader will probably find it interesting as well.

The live chicken cam has been taken down for now.  It will return in the next few days as the ‘baby chick cam.’  Come back Wednesday, January 30 to check it out.

Family Devotional: Faith of Abraham and Bonus Old Testament Timeline

family bible study abraham

Click image to download study.

Welcome back for another week of doing the best thing you could possibly ever do for your family…studying the Bible together!  I continue to receive positive feedback on the family devotional series.  It is good to hear that a number of you are using this material and I am pleased to announce that I now know of a third church that is sharing this material with their congregation.  I am truly pleased that we can offer these materials at absolutely no cost!

I’d like to share a short story with you.  It was written by that prolific writer – ‘unknown’

Old Brother Higgins built a shelf
for the family bible to rest itself
lest a sticky finger or grimy thumb
might injure the delicate pages some.
He cautioned his children to touch it not
and it rested there with never a blot
though the Higgins tribe was a troublesome lot.

His neighbor, Miggins, built a shelf
“Come children,” he said, “and help yourself.”
His book is old and ragged and worn,
with some of the choicest pages torn,
where children have fingered and thumbed and read.
But of the Miggins tribe I’ve heard it said,
each carries a Bible in his head.

Bibles were meant to be used and enjoyed.  Some of the best people I know are children who have grown up in a home where God is an honored guest. I appreciate each one of you who spend quality time with your children. Loving them, teaching them, and cherishing them is a privilege and a blessing.  This week’s study includes a bonus timeline of the Old Testament.

Download this week’s study >>> Week 4 – The Faith of Abraham

 

Goal Update: Jon + Treadmill – Soda = Beast Mode

A merry Monday to you all!  I hope that you are all as excited to start this work week as I am.  Perhaps a good number of you have the day off today…enjoy!  I’ve been at the office since about 6:45am.  Already 3 miles into my workday with a target of 8 miles.  Taking a quick break from church work to write this update.

winter quest youth retreat campfire

A long-exposure pic I took of the group gathered around the bonfire. (Click to see the full version)

Brianne and I had a great weekend at the Winter Quest youth retreat at Pettijohn Springs Christian Camp near Madill, Oklahoma.  The event is organized by my friend Kevin Langford who always does a great job with anything he does. The theme of the event was “Rooted” and came from Hebrews 11.  I was able to present a lesson on the faith of Sarah and had a great group of teens and adults in class.  We were all able to enjoy a productive conversation about the faith of Sarah.

I appreciated Kevin’s recognition that we are probably sending the wrong message to the kids in our churches when we provide sodas and candy at snack time.  Because of various food allergies, Kevin had to purchase snacks for the 200+ attendees that had no traces of nuts.  A challenging task.  I didn’t hear any complaints about having fruit, healthier snacks, water and lemonade for the various snack times over the weekend.

It is my tradition to stop at Dairy Queen on the way back home to get the kids a treat…if they all behaved.  They were EXCELLENT, so a DQ blizzard is always a good way to end a great weekend.  After DQ we stopped at a gas station to fuel up and I told the kids not to get any sugary drinks or snacks since we had just had DQ.  I fueled up the church van and no one had come out of the store.  I went in to check on them and found them all gathered around the drink cases.  They were saying things like – This one doesn’t have caffeine, does it have sugar?  Does the ‘major brand sports drink’ have sugar in it?

dr pepper nutrition label

This is where you find sugar info!

I thought it was interesting that very few of them knew if drinks had sugar in them or not, or even how to find out what the sugar content was.  I’m not a soul-crushing oppressor of sugar, but also have come to realize that it is my job to help these young people realize what they are consuming.  Just like I do with my own children.  The funny thing about junk food is that no one really misses it when it is gone.

And now for my update:

My soda reduction goals are still going very well.  I was honestly concerned about the retreat this weekend, but Kevin not having sodas around made life a lot easier for me.

I have been very pleased that my soda reduction goals have caused a significant reduction in my junk food diet as well.  It is odd to think that in the first 3 weeks of 2013 I have only had soda at one restaurant.  This used to be a daily event for me.

I have re-developed a taste for water because it makes me feel so good.  Well, water and all the other things I have been doing – treadmill desk, getting enough sleep, early morning work schedule.  It feels like I am in beast mode right now.  What is beast mode?  A rare unification of energy, creativity and productivity where you tear through the workday like a beast.

Several people have asked if I have noticed any weight reduction.  Not really, and I attribute this to the fact that my pulse rate doesn’t get high enough at the treadmill desk.  I have worked my way up to working at a 1.0 incline and 2mph speed.  I have noticed that I am thinning out a bit.  Brianne noted the other day that my stomach doesn’t hang over my belt anymore, it’s pretty much flat now.  Usually I can see changes in my face too, but my face is currently covered up with a very nice beard 🙂

I hope you are having good success with your goals in 2013!

I also wanted to let each of you know how much I appreciate you reading my updates.  I was checking my site stats before posting this update. My mind is blown by the traffic that my little site is getting and in such a short time of existence.  My Alexa ranking (a website traffic statistic) is slowly working its way down everyday.  I have some exciting plans for this site in the next few months and have been tinkering with a second blog that would focus on a specific niche.  Like I said…beast mode!

Well, I’m now at 4 miles for the day.  Time to get back to work.  Thanks for reading and make it a great week!  You might consider checking out Kevin Langford’s excellent blog – myglimpsesofglory.com.

 

Saturday Roundup: Fix Your Facebook Edition

Happy Saturday to you all!  I hope you’re being productive, lazy, or whatever feels best to you on a day off.  Most of all, if you have a family I hope you are spending some great quality time with them!

This Saturday we’ll start off with a quick look at at a plug-in I use with Facebook called Social Fixer.  This plug-in is available for the Firefox and Chrome internet browsers.

social fixer logoWhy do you need Social Fixer?  Let’s look at some reasons:

Do you have friends that talk about subjects that drive you crazy? You need Social Fixer.

Do you have friends who constantly send you game invites or other app updates…and that drives you nuts? You need Social Fixer.

Do you hate seeing profanity in your Facebook news feed, but have a few friends who use that kind of language? You need Social Fixer.

Would ‘defriending’ some of your Facebook friends for any reason possibly cause trouble? You need Social Fixer.

I have been using Social Fixer since September 2012.  There are certain things on Facebook that just get old after a while.  I am on Facebook to share fun, positive things about my family and life.  I enjoy reading fun, educational and inspiring information from my friends.  Some people use Facebook as a sounding board for other ideals and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  In fact, I am glad we live in a country where people are free to share their opinions using one of the most powerful pieces of technology we have ever known.

You are probably like me and try not to upset anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings.  You could always ‘defriend’ people who constantly post things that you don’t want to see.  Or you could use Social Fixer to filter out content you don’t want to see.  You can input keywords that you would like filtered out of your news feed on Facebook.  These could be hot topics, people, curse words, anything really.

Social Fixer also divides your news feed up into the various sources it was generated from.  For example you might have tabs for news feed, Twitter, SongPop, etc.  You can quickly skim just the feeds you want to see and block out categories all together…like SongPop notifications.  Social Fixer can also restore old Facebook features that you might have preferred.

The only negative I have experienced with Social Fixer is the constant updates.  This is no fault of the programmer.  Facebook is constantly changing their code and structure and the programmer that makes the plug-in does his best to keep up with their changes.  If you don’t keep the program up to date it can lead to errors.  Give Social Fixer a try and see if it streamlines your time on Facebook.

And now for the roundup of interesting and weird things:

Become an Early Riser – This tip-filled read from wisebread.com gave me some encouragement for my new sleeping pattern.  I have been going to bed by midnight at the latest and getting up between 6 and 7 every morning, sometimes earlier.  My productivity has skyrocketed.

Tie Shoes into Velcro Shoes Tutorial – A quick tutorial from one of the Mom blogs I follow.  Great idea on quickly and cheaply turning tie shoes into velcro shoes.

Put a Magenet in Your Pocket to Hold Screws for Easy Access – Genius!!!!  I usually just hold them in my mouth which has to be horribly bad for me.  I wouldn’t recommend this if you have a pacemaker.

inspiration existsSwitching to Real Food– I wouldn’t call myself ‘granola nut crunchy’ but we have been taking steps to get away from eating so much processed food.  This is a great read with suggestions for local sourcing food (as in meeting the cow you’ll be eating).

Inspirational Messages – I’ve been following Jon Acuff for a while and he has a knack for finding quality inspirational messages that you can surround yourself with while you work…if you’re into that kind of thing.  Some of my favorites this week included – “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” – Picaso“It’s the possibility that keeps me going not the guarantee.” “Create a life that feels good on the inside, not one that just looks good on the outside.”  Click any of the quotes to see the associated image.

Disguise Your iPad Mini with this Holy Bible Case – for my friends with an iPad mini who want it to look like an old time Bible.

 

vintage cat bed

Photo by brooklynlimestone.com

Vintage Suitcase Cat Bed – Don’t ask me how I found this link.  This is a woman who truly loves her cat.  I think the framed photos of the cat are a nice touch.

Speaking of cats – 10 Helpful Non-Kitty Uses for Cat Litter – who knew that stuff was so handy?  About the only extra use it gets at our house is sticking to the bottom of my feet when the cat flings some out of her box.

You could make your own playdough with the kids.

Say, Cheese! – This is perhaps one of the strangest things I have seen all week.  A photographer had a Pentax K1000 tattooed on her forearm so she can hold it over her face to make it look like she is taking your photo.  Best part – her mother did the tattoo work!  I’ll be getting a tattoo just as soon as my Mom learns to ink people.

And finally – Are Tablets Worth It? – I really enjoy the makingsenseofcents.com blog.  On Friday, one of the staff writers posted up an entry about the value of Tablets (iPads, etc).  I actually had this conversation at a youth worker’s luncheon this week.  It’s an interesting read and the comments are even more interesting.

Have a great weekend!  And as always, thanks for reading.

 

Favorite Things Friday: Merrell Olmec

Favorite Things Friday is all about my shoes this week.  My Merrell Olmec shoes are honestly the best thing I have ever had on my feet.  Why am I writing about these shoes?  These shoes are a big part of my success with the treadmill desk

As always with my Favorite Things Friday, a quick disclaimer.  I purchased this item with my own money.  I am not being compensated for this review or posting by Merrell.  All opinions are my own.

merrell olmec reviewWith that out of the way, let’s talk shoes.  I have been wearing these Merrell shoes since July 2012.  I had worn out my third pair of Born loafers and was looking for a change.  The Born shoes had been wearing out too quickly and the soles were so compacted that there was no support or cushioning left.  I read a number of reviews and decided to try the Merrell Olmec.

I picked up my shoes at a local store.  If I recall correctly, they were about $75 after I applied my discount.  I chose this shoe because I knew Merrell hiking boots had a good reputation among hikers.  This specific pair also had a Vibram sole. I preferred the look of another of the Merrell shoes but it did not have a Vibram sole.  The Olmec was also reviewed favorably on a number of shoe websites.

I’ll be honest, when I walked out of the store wearing these shoes I was really concerned.  They felt a little loose on my foot, compared to what I had been wearing.  The sole of the shoe also seemed very narrow under my foot.  I wore them around town for a few weeks before taking them out of the country on a two week mission trip.

The Merrell shoes really proved their worth when we were on the island of Dominica in the Caribbean doing a mission trip.  I took this pair of shoes for wearing at church events and a pair of New Balance runners for other needs.  I wore the Merrell shoes almost exclusively.  In the days before the trip I injured my right foot, which was diagnosed as a strain and a deep bruise.  The doctor wanted to put me in a boot but that would not work in Dominica.  We were going to be walking a lot in Dominica on roads and other surfaces, uphill and downhill.  I was nervous about how my foot would make it.

I had no problems with my foot on the entire trip because of the Merrell Olmec shoes.  They provided enough stability and cushioning to allow my foot injury to heal even though we were walking several miles a day.  They were also comfortable to wear in the humid tropic environment.  The anti-bacterial lining was also a nice touch, keeping foot funk to a minimum.

merrell olmec 7 months old

My not so stinky shoes – they are lined with anti-bacterial material.

My Olmec’s have been a key part of my success on the treadmill desk.  In just the last month I have walked over 100 miles while working in these shoes.  They are comfortable and keep my feet feeling energized even after standing and walking all day.  Most workers who use a treadmill desk have to switch back and forth between dress shoes and walking shoes.  My Olmec shoes look good enough to function with jeans and khakis in my work setting at the church building.

I have done a little bit of everything in these shoes.  Walked many miles on a tropical island, pounded out over 100 miles on the treadmill desk, mowed the lawn, chased babies, chased chickens, and kept up with teenagers.  The waterproof exterior is a nice touch on rainy days.  I bet these shoes would have been great in the snow and ice when I lived in New Hampshire. The very top of the toe guard on the right shoe is starting to pull away from the leather just a bit, but it shouldn’t be a big problem.  The leather is very durable and hides scuffs very well.

All in all, if you are looking for a good everyday shoe, especially if you are going to be walking a lot.  I would recommend the Merrell Olmec.  I picked my pair up at Macy’s. They would make a nice gift too.

If you made it all the way through this post…THANKS!  I know writing about my shoes is a bit odd, but a good pair of shoes can make all the difference in your attitude and your health.  Have a great weekend!  And as always, thank you so much for reading.

Bonus: Some of you may be new here.  Check out my Merrell Olmec shoes in action on my treadmill desk in this short little video.

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Family Devotional: Interested In Spiritual Things – Week 3

Week 3 interested in spiritual things

Click image to download devotional.

Sorry I’m running late with today’s Bible study posting.  The good news… it has been a great day filled with good conversation, good friends, good opportunities for the side business and best of all our 5 year-old is feeling better after battling strep for the last few days.  It is my sincere hope that you are having a great day and a blessed week.  Give thanks to God from whom all blessings come!

Many times I find myself not talking about God in day to day interactions.  God is a big part of my life and the life of my family and I should be talking about Him more.  Do you ever feel that way?  Over the weekend, my family had a nice conversation with a young lady who was looking for a church home.  A simple conversation that started about our baby led to a good opportunity to invite a stranger to worship.

We may never know the impact of the conversations we have with people, but that shouldn’t hinder us from trying to share God’s love with the people we meet.  That is the idea I am hoping to convey in this week’s Bible study – “Interested In Spiritual Things.”  The study starts with a discussion of spiritual health, then features a story from a missionary who recently preached at our church.  I hope that this study is a blessing to your family and that you enjoy spending time getting to know God better and growing closer as a family.  God bless you!

Download the study >>> Week 3 – Interested In Spiritual Things

Money, Money Monday and a Soda Update

“Bad habits are like a comfortable bed, easy to get into, but hard to get out of.”
– English Proverb

Over the last few years I have let myself get into some bad habits in various areas of my life.  It is amazing how easily they creep in and how they can go unchecked for so long.  The excuses I have made in my mind are somewhat entertaining when I look back on them…and kind of sad.  Tackling my soda habit has caused a snowball of ‘cleaning house’ in my life.

Two Dollar Bills in a Wallet

Money, Money Monday

A bad financial habit is coming around to bite us in a few weeks.  The bad habit is LAZINESS, perhaps you’ve heard of it.  I am a minister which makes for some interesting finances.  Our church is very generous and I feel well provided for.  We are able to afford to have my wife work just two days a week as a nurse which provides health insurance for our family, brings home some additional money and allows her to be home with our children as much as possible.  My system of saving to pay big bills requires active money management…not laziness.

At work I get paid every two weeks.  We are blessed to not live paycheck to paycheck, because of great jobs, the example of our parents, frugal choices and always hustling to make a little extra cash.  Within our bank account I have sub-accounts where I am supposed to deposit a certain percentage of each paycheck so that at the end of the year we will have a nice lump of money to pay property tax, insurance, and income tax.  Guess who got lazy and didn’t do this in 2012?  That’s right…me!  Fortunately we didn’t go wild spending money that we didn’t have so the funds are still in the main account to pay our property tax bill at the end of this month.  It’s a BIG bill and I am glad I don’t have to worry about how to pay it even though I was lazy.

Some of you might be asking – “Why are you paying your own property tax if you pay a mortgage?”  When we first took out a mortgage when we built our house in 2007 I was very active in managing our money.  There was not a penalty to opt out of the escrow fund for property tax and home insurance so I collected the money throughout the year and made a bit of interest off the funds as they sat in a money market account.

My first paycheck of 2013 is ready for deposit and I will be getting back onto track with purposing money into the various accounts.  I have sub-accounts for home, car, tax and IRA.  I always go inside the bank to do my business and I can fill out a deposit slip so that the funds are automatically distributed in the proper percentages into these accounts.  There is a certain amount of security in knowing that these funds are set aside for when the big bills come and that there will be no worry or last minute scrambling to scrape together funds.

I think it is important to note, when talking about purposing money, that I don’t set aside funds for our weekly contribution at church.  We will give the amount we have purposed every week until we have no money left to give.  We believe in giving to God from the first of what we get, not what’s left.  If times get tight we will not cut back on giving, we will cut back on other areas – on comfort items and such.

So that is my tale of laziness with money.  I suppose we all fall into that trap in various areas.  I am glad to say that my laziness didn’t get us into too much trouble, but it could have easily gotten that way.  What areas of your financial life do you need to work on?  Do you have a budget that you work from?  Have you reviewed your monthly bills lately and called your providers to ask for discounts and lower rates?  There is always money to be saved somewhere, even if it is just a couple of bucks.

And now for the soda update…  It has been another good week.  I have been able to avoid drinking too much of the sugary stuff, staying inside my goal all but one day this week.  Saturday evening we went out for pizza as a family and I had 2 styrofoam cups of Dr. Pepper.  Now that I think about it I wound up not finishing the 2nd cup so I might have actually stayed pretty close to 12 ounces.  There is something about pizza that really requires Dr. Pepper.  I think it is perfectly fine to let loose every now and then.

I haven’t felt this good in a long time.  Cutting out all the sugar has caused a significant decrease in fast food consumption as well.  I did 24.48 miles at the treadmill desk last week.  Probably about 6-7 miles of that was at a 1.0 incline.  (I’m not sure how many degrees that is on this machine.)  My body feels great.  Some mornings my legs are a bit stiff but it is the good kind of stiff, the kind where I know my muscles have been working.  I’ve been battling a tender foot.  I was horsing around with our 5 year-old and she landed on my foot and made it fold up in an odd position.  It has been tender ever since but I believe it was just from muscles or ligaments being stretched that aren’t used to it.  It stops hurting after 10-15 minutes of walking.

Something else to note on the health front – Our 5 year-old got really sick on Saturday evening after we got home.  She has her Mama’s immune system and rarely gets sick.  This is the first time she has had the ‘technicolor yawn.’  She was doing that all through the night – every 30 minutes – until she was too exhausted to even get herself up off the bed.  It wound up being a variety of strep throat.  Kudos to my wife for being the best Mommy and nurse that a little girl could ever ask for.  She has been right by her side the whole time.  My point…  I am not sick, yet.  I have always been the sickly one of the family.  I am hoping that getting a reasonable amount of sleep, walking at work everyday, and avoiding all the junk food I have been consuming has allowed my body a better ability to fight of germs.  Time will tell.  If I miss my regular posts on Tuesday or Friday you know what’s up.

My blessings to you as we start another week!  I hope that it is a great one for you and that God allows you the opportunity to share the blessings you enjoy with others.

Saturday Roundup: Google Image Search edition

A happy weekend to all…glad you made it!  Hopefully you’re enjoying lots of time out and about with family and friends.  Sure hope you’re planning to take some time out of the day on Sunday to go to Bible class and worship!

The end of the work week was fun and interesting.  Thursday morning my sister texted to tell me about a Rock Center story she had seen promo’d that would be talking about the dangers of sitting and working.  The inventor of the treadmill desk was interviewed..  I’ve mentioned on here (probably too many times) that I love my treadmill desk!  It’s been a month now and I routinely walk 25-30 miles each work week.  I’ve even started working in some incline so I can actually feel like I’m having a workout.

I noticed on Thursday that I started getting a lot of search traffic for the treadmill desk.  Most of it was coming from Google Image Search for the phrase “treadmill desk.” So I decided to check it out.  Right there on the first page I saw my smiling face….that was kinda weird.  I was right there along with a bunch of other people who made their own desks and the manufacturer photos.  There were actually 2 of my photos on the first page of search results….check it out!

Google Image screenshot

I was pleased.  I’ve been doing this for less than a month and I’m already on the first page of anything Google that was a search for a general term.  The report was interesting.  I’ve never seen a reporter walk on a treadmill in high heels…I guess the cameraman never had either.  You can view the report here.

Working on the treadmill has been doing great things for my attitude and health.  I’m not dropping off too much weight but I can tell a difference for sure.  I feel better and am much more productive.

And on to the roundup of interesting links.  There are quite a few this week:

Recipes / Kitchen

This week we tried two new recipes.  They are both from sugarfreemom.com.  The Turkey (or chicken) Pot Pie was excellent but a lot of work.  The Turkey (or chicken) Enchiladas were tasty, easy to make and kid chef friendly…and gluten free for those who need that.  I haven’t tried this yet, but the salad in a jar is going to be on the list of things to make.

Crystal Paine, the head blogger at MoneySavingMom.com was guest posting on another site this week.  She wrote a great piece on saving time in the kitchen.

Interesting Reads / Ideas

This year, do this.  A great and inspirational graphic from Jon Acuff.

If you have Photoshop (which you can legally get for free here straight from Adobe) you can modify the free calendar template that was provided by YoungHouseLove.com.

I thought this Lego lamp from Our Fifth House that was posted on InfarrantlyCreative.net was a great idea.

My friend Kevin Langford wrote a great article this week over at his site myglimpsesofglory.com.  “A Church @ Work – The Fulfillment of Serving One Another” is a great read for anyone who wants to build up the church.

Over on Lifehacker I saw this idea for the Netflix of neckwear – Freshneck.com.  I personally think this is a great idea!  I don’t wear a lot of ties, but that is probably because I usually cycle through the same ones.  With some variety I think I would wear more.

MoneySavingMom.com posted up a great article on 10 saving apps for smartphones.  Most of these are coupon based apps, but it is good to save/make a little money wherever you can.

Another link via Lifehacker – How to Easily Start Your Garden Seeds Indoors On The Cheap.

This week was CES, a HUGE electronics convention out in Vegas.  Tethercell was pitched out at CES.  The device fits into AA powered devices and can remotely turn off those devices via Smartphone.  Think…silencing children’s toys and other devices.  The ultimate in tech fueled laziness.