Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Taking a Break...

You may (or may not) have noticed my absence this week, but I have decided to take a temporary break from blogging to prepare for Baby Annabeth's arrival, spend more time with my family, and sleep as much as possible. With only a few weeks left before our new little one arrives, I am exhausted! Most of my energy is expended taking care of our other two young children, cooking, cleaning (minimally), and just mentally preparing for life with a newborn, an 18-month-old live wire, and a 3 1/2-year-old princess/drama queen. Let's just say I'm busy and writing has not been too high on my radar. 

I intend to resume blogging very soon--and may even post a few times before AB's arrival--although I'm not making any promises. I will let you know when she arrives and post some pictures for your viewing pleasure. :)

I just wanted to give you a head's up so you wouldn't think I'd fallen off the face of the earth :)

Praying God's richest blessings on you as you grow in God's glory...



Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Are You Producing Someone Else's Fruit?

I have been relishing Priscilla Shirer's The Resolution for Women, which I'm reading for a biweekly women's Bible study group I attend. In her section entitled "Authentically Me," Shirer urges women to stop beating themselves up for who they aren't and to start figuring out who they truly are. Underneath the layers and layers of "what I should be" and "who I wish I were" is a woman with strengths and unique qualities that endear her to her husband, children, and friends. That is the woman Shirer urges us as women to rediscover and hold on to. 

But all too often we as women become blind to the God-given traits we possess, seeing only our weaknesses and trouble spots. We focus on our flaws, comparing our looks, our clothes, our possessions, even our children to those of other women. Instead of being content with who we are and being happy for others in their unique God-given qualities, we are in constant competition. Even friends "compete," vying for top prize in the game of life. 
But what is the point?

We were created, chosen, set apart by a God who has a perfect plan for us. A God in whose image we have been made. A God who expects us to "go out and produce fruit" (John 15:16). 
“Apple seeds are supposed to grow apple trees. Radish seeds are supposed to grow radishes. Likewise, your seeds are designed to produce a crop that’s uniquely yours. So there’s no point in trying to produce fruit that is someone else’s to grow. Your job at any given moment is to bring all your gifts, all your talents, all your propensities, and all your passions into this thing called life and believe that they are good enough to produce the fruit that is expected of you.”
                        Priscilla Shirer, The Resolution for Women, p. 59

We have a job to do, and that job involves the special talents and gifts God has granted us. It also involves encouraging other women in their walks. 

As women we need to begin by rediscovering who we are--our strengths, weaknesses, skills, idiosyncrasies and all. We need to start taking pride in ourselves as products of a wise and perfect Creator. We also need to abandon the petty competitions and start working together as women in Christ to accomplish the specific plans the Lord has laid out for each of us. 

An easy way to begin doing this is by giving sincere compliments to one another. I know personally that when a sister compliments me--whether it is on the behavior of my children, my appearance, or a post I've recently written--my heart bubbles with pride, and I am encouraged to persevere. Those "[p]leasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones" {Proverbs 16:24} When I feel discouraged, I remember them, and they provide sweet peace to my soul. 

What about you? Do you struggle with being authentically you?  How can you resolve today to change?

I'm praying for you, sister. Know that there is a God who created you as a part of His perfect plan and that you are "fearfully and wonderfully made."

Blessings to you,

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Menu Plan for the Week of April 15

If I were to say life is crazy right now, that would be an understatement. Besides our regular weekly routine of "school," Bible study, and Mother's Day Out, we are having an Open House on Saturday, just three weeks shy of my due date. I know I should be "nesting" right now and our house should be sparkling and dust-free, but I have never experienced this cleaning phenomenon and don't expect it to hit me now. I would appreciate your prayers for a sufficiently clean house and a good attitude :)

Besides getting our house ready for potential buyers to ogle, we are also trying to get prepared for our new baby. That means moving little sister into big sister's room and fixing up the nursery. There's lots to do and very little time left; so, this week I'm trying to simplify our menu plan. Again, prayers are very much welcome!


Yogurt & granola with fresh fruit
Oatmeal with raisins 
Egg sandwiches with mayo & pickles {a family favorite}, orange slices
French toast with maple syrup {from the freezer}
Peanut butter smoothies


Turkey & cheese sandwiches with fruit & carrots
Black bean quesadillas 
Creamy Mac & Cheese
Grilled cheese or PB&J with fruit & carrots


Sunday, April 15: Refried bean & cheese nachos

Monday, April 16: Pot Roast with carrots, russet & sweet potatoes, onions, & celery and Quick Rolls

Tuesday, April 17: Beefy Greek Pita Folds with Homemade Naan and Cucumber Sauce

Wednesday, April 18: Pinto beans, Creamy Macaroni & Cheese {double recipe to freeze}, and cornbread

Thursday, April 19: Lawnmower Taco {double recipe to freeze} with lettuce & tomatoes

Friday, April 20: Pizza Night!

Saturday, April 21: Leftovers or Dinner Out!

That's what's on our menu this week. What's on yours?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

10 Ways to Prepare for Baby: The Final Weeks

Childbirth is weighing heavily on my mind right now as you may have gathered from the past few posts on the topic. At 36 weeks, the end is definitely drawing near, and I am honestly ready in the physical sense but not at all prepared.

I wanted to share with you some of the ways I am preparing for the upcoming labor, delivery, and homecoming to encourage you if you, too, are pregnant or for you to pass on to an expectant Mama you know. I am by no means an expert on childbirth. These are simply things I have done that have proven helpful to me in preparing for a natural childbirth. I hope you might be inspired or encouraged by what you read here.

(1) Read some birth stories. If this is not your first pregnancy and you have written down your own children's birth stories, dig them up and re-read them. Reading our daughters' birth stories--one born naturally, the other via c-section--has made me truly see how unique the birth experience is even for the same person.  Below is a link to our first daughter's birth story. You can find lots of others online.
I also love reading and rereading the birth stories in Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, which is filled with a variety of diverse birth experiences. These stories will not only give a first-timer an idea of what to expect in your own labor and delivery, but also boost confidence in your ability to give birth naturally, something almost every woman is quite capable of doing.

(2) Exercise. I must admit that I have not done as good a job of staying active and exercising during this pregnancy as I have in the previous two. It's such a challenge with little ones, and my energy level has been extremely low. Still, I make a point to do squats, tailor sit {sitting "Indian-style"}, and stretch throughout the day. Also, I think playing in the yard with the kids counts :) Because it is much more difficult in the third trimester to sleep and stay asleep, staying active really helps you get the rest you need. Plus, it's a great way to clear your mind and relax.

(3) Stay hydrated; drink pregnancy teas. Besides exercising, though, I have been working hard to drink lots and lots of water. With my previous pregnancies, there was a concern with low amniotic fluid levels, especially in the last few weeks of pregnancy. So, I try to drink, drink, drink all day long, which means that I also pee, pee, pee all night long.

Instead of boring old water, I put a bag of Traditional Medicinals red raspberry leaf tea in a 32 oz. water bottle filled full with filtered water. I try to drink at least one bottle per day using the same tea bag and several glasses of water. Red raspberry leaf is known to help tone and relax the uterus and prepare it for the hard work of labor.{Note: Be careful if you drink a lot of this tea because it will make you contract quite a bit.}

(4) Prepare mentally. I posted a few days ago about one spiritual way in which I am preparing for this labor: making scripture cards

Additionally, though, I have been rereading the following birthing books to refresh my memory about the process and the various techniques for relaxing and coping with pain.
(5) Deal with fear. Whether this is your first bull ride or eighth, I think there is always some inkling of fear in every mother leading up to her baby's arrival. Fear may stem from a previous difficult labor or delivery, uncertainty about how to care for this new life, not knowing what will happen during labor, or any number of things. Whatever fears you are feeling need to be addressed and dealt with before labor even though they may not be {fully} resolved. That's because fear negatively affects the birthing process, increasing pain and slowing down progress. 

Because this go-around I am having a VBAC {"vaginal birth after caesarean"}, my concerns and fears are different from in my previous labors. However, I deal with fear through prayer, conversations with my husband, and journaling as well as reading birthing books {see above}. The comfort and peace I find in God and my spouse allay most all of these fears and reassure me that everything will be fine. Writing helps center me, and if there is a specific concern I have, educating myself often eases those fears.

(6) Gather supplies. Consider what you have and what you will need to purchase before baby arrives. Remember, babies can subsist on the bare minimum: A few outfits, some diapers, an infant car seat, and breast milk or formula are all you really have to have. 

Since this is our third child of the same gender, we have all we really need for her arrival other than newborn diapers and wipes. However, because our youngest is only 18 months old and still sleeps in her crib, I plan to buy a playard or pack & play for the new baby to sleep in. Plus, I'm just a little concerned for her safety during the day when her bigger sisters are awake :) 

Besides baby's supplies, think about what YOU will need. I like to have a well-stocked pantry and refrigerator with fresh fruits and vegetables. It's also handy to have personal hygiene supplies like lansinoh (if you're breastfeeding), breast pads, witch hazel, overnight pads, and pain medicine so that you don't have to make trips to the store once you arrive back home. 

(7) Do some cooking. I am very blessed to have my mom, who is an excellent cook, come and stay with us after the baby arrives, as well as great friends who chip in and bring meals over. But when the meals stop rolling in, it is really nice to have some already-prepared foods in the freezer. 

For the past few weeks, I have been doubling up on family favorite recipes and freezing the leftovers, so, hopefully, I won't have to do a lot of cooking or rely on take-out in the weeks following baby's arrival. Make meals to freeze that are comforting to you so when you need a little TLC after baby comes, you can pull out the mac & cheese you made a month earlier.

(8) Love on your children. You've probably heard the line, "A baby changes everything." That is especially true for children who may not be as thrilled as you are about the arrival of a new baby. Give your children an extra dose of love in the weeks leading up to your due date: hug and kiss on them, snuggle more, play together more, and let them know that no matter what, they are dearly loved. Before our youngest child arrived, I bought a special present for our older daughter so she would not feel left out. 

(9) Create your birth plan.  Essentially, a birth plan is a written statement detailing your vision of the labor and delivery experience. A birth plan not only states your preferences {use of a shower or tub, children allowed to be present, delay of clamping and cutting umbilical cord}, but also any procedures you wish to avoid {medications, use of pitocin, supine position for pushing, episiotomy}. As I learned with our second child, which I had via c-section, birth plans are not set in stone and will change depending on circumstances often out of your control. Childbirth is very unpredictable! The key is to be flexible. A birth plan is not a script to followed line by line. Don't be disappointed if things don't go exactly according to plan :)

Our first child's birth plan was three pages typed. Crazy, I know. With the second child, I toned it down a bit and settled on one full page. To date, I still haven't written up Baby Annabeth's birth plan, but that is my goal for tonight. 

(10) As much as you can, REST. Easier said than done, I know, especially if you have small children or are carrying multiples. The pressure of baby on your bladder may mean several late night trips to the bathroom. Plus, sleeping on your side may not be very comfortable. But try to nap or at least lie down when your kids are resting. Because my girls take early naps, I have instituted an afternoon quiet time so that Mommy can rest while they play quietly in their rooms. Find a way to take a load off and relax because you will want to be as rested as possible in preparation for labor and for those sleepless nights once baby arrives.

Yes, that's me sound asleep. Another great use for a Boppy.

Preparing for childbirth is a special time. Emotions run the gamut from excitement to fear and everything in between as you get ready to welcome a new life into your family. Use this time to prepare yourself--mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually--for the challenging work that lies ahead during labor and delivery and culminating in the arrival of your precious new baby. 

Blessings to you!

Other pregnancy-related links:

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Preparing for Childbirth: 10 Scriptures of Comfort & Encouragement

As I count down the weeks to the anticipated arrival of our newest addition--Anna Elizabeth {Annabeth}--I am preparing for natural childbirth like I experienced with our oldest daughter, Kate. 

One way I am preparing mentally and spiritually for the exhausting and grueling demands of labor and delivery is by selecting and memorizing scriptures. God's Word does more than just provide guidance and direction, it also comforts, encourages, energizes, and lifts up the weary.

Here are ten verses from the Bible that I have jotted down on note cards to help me as I prepare for labor. I plan to meditate and pray on them during the different phases of childbirth, from the easy contractions early on, to the mounting, seemingly never-ending rushes of the latter stages of labor, to the challenging but exhilarating time of delivery, and finally through the beautiful moment of our daughter's birth.

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified...for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you."   
Deuteronomy 31:6

"He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."

Psalm 91:4 

“Cast your cares on the Lord 
and He will sustain you;
He will never let the righteous fall."
Psalm 55:22 

[The Lord] "gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak...but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
 Isaiah 40:29, 31
“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them."
Psalm 34:7

"He tends His flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in His arms
and carries them close to His heart;
He gently leads those that have young."

Isaiah 40:11

"So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."

Isaiah 41:10 
"Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:21-23
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
 2 Corinthians 12:9

"I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."
 Philippians 4:13

Doubtless I probably will not have these 10 verses memorized. Still, by meditating on them daily and having my note cards with me during labor, I believe I will be better able to endure and appreciate this childbirth experience.  

I have found that clinging to the Word of God during moments of fear, pain, and sheer exhaustion, during trials and challenges that seem insurmountable, has been a source of strength and hope, helping me to accomplish what I never could do alone. Knowing that my God will never leave me nor forsake me is a source of peace for me.

What are your favorite scriptures that help YOU through the difficult times of life?

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Menu Plan for the Week of April 8

We had an amazing Easter feast at my mom and dad's today and were lucky enough to snag some leftover pork roast, which will feed my bunch for a meal or two. Plus, I have several odds and ends in the fridge and freezer that we'll be eating on this week. 

Leftovers--whether from others or my own refrigerator--are truly a blessing in these last few weeks before our baby's arrival. 

Here is our menu for the week:

Sunday, April 8 EASTER
Visited with my parents and pigged out! :) 

Monday, April 9
Breakfast: Yogurt with granola, orange slices
Lunch: Spinach salad with hard-boiled egg, tomatoes, carrots, & mushrooms
Supper: Pork roast-green beans & potatoes-cheesy cauliflower 

Tuesday, April 10
Breakfast: Oatmeal with berries
Lunch: Turkey & cheese sandwiches-apple slices
Supper: Pasta Bolognese {the Pioneer Woman's recipe}-steamed broccoli-garlic bread

Wednesday, April 11
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with sausage links, orange wedges
Lunch: Leftover pasta Bolognese
Supper: Refried bean tostadas with avocado, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, & plain yogurt

Thursday, April 12
Breakfast: Yogurt & granola with berries and flaxseed
Lunch: Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches-fruit
Supper: Popcorn chicken-sweet potato fries -roasted broccoli

Friday, April 13
Breakfast: Cranberry orange muffins with eggs
Lunch: Bean & cheese nachos
Supper: Pizza Night!

Saturday, April 14
Breakfast: Pancakes with berry compote
Lunch: Sandwiches
Supper: Grill Out! Steaks, corn-on-the-cob, & baked potatoes

That's what we'll be having. What's on your menu?

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Savoring Every Morsel: Being Content In The Right Now

A day doesn't go by that our 3 1/2 year-old doesn't ask, "What are we doing tomorrow?" It could be 6:00 in the morning, and she will want to know our plans, not for that day, but for the next. And every time she asks that question, I shake my head and tell her, "Let's not worry about tomorrow, Kate. Let's just get through today." 

My husband reminds me that she is young and has absolutely nothing else to worry about, so she wants to know what to expect tomorrow. But part of me is annoyed every time she asks this question. 


First of all, because I have to think up an answer. An answer isn't hard to give. But even after giving her a response, it still doesn't settle well with me.  

I know she is happy as a lark with whatever I tell her, but what bugs me is the real reason I'm annoyed with her question: I see so much of myself in it. While my daughter's forward-thinking may be innocent, it shines a spotlight on my own weakness-- my lack of contentment in the present.
  • The part of me that is never content with today but is always looking to tomorrow. 

  • The part of me that runs at break-neck speed to avoid my present stresses and move on to the next phase of my life. 

  • The part of me that longs for something more, something better, something that will satisfy me once and for all.
I am always rushing through today trying to get to tomorrow. 

I struggle with just being in this moment and enjoying life right now because tomorrow seems so much more enticing.

And what are the consequences if I keep this up? 

I will miss out on the beauty and preciousness of the present because I am not present. 

I will not be fully participating in the journey that is my life.

The apostle Paul knew about real suffering, something I cannot truly fathom. He told the church at Philippi:
"...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."

Philippians 4:11b-12
And where did Paul derive his contentment?  
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Philippians 4:13
From Christ: The One who supplies ALL our needs. Not all our wants, but all our needs.

How can we be truly content in the here-and-now?

1. Realize that true contentment comes when we honor God and center our lives on Him. We must recognize that God has a plan for us and that plan includes both difficult times and times of ease, stressful times and times of peace.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord,'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"

Jeremiah 29:11
God is doing great things in our lives right at this very moment. Focus on Him.

2. Slow down and be present. Stop trying to dodge the challenges or rush through the stressful parts of this season in your life. Instead, find joy in the pain and beauty in the suffering, for we know:
"suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us."
Romans 5:3b-5
When we embrace our present circumstances instead of running from them, we can rejoice in our sufferings knowing that they are strengthening our character and better preparing us to stand up against Satan.

As Priscilla Shirer so beautifully describes in The Resolution for Women, discontentment "robs you of your years. Then before you know it, you've missed out on the joys in the journey, the growth that comes from battling through the difficulties, the sweet and savory experience of creating the memories" (15).

Have you, like me, been rushing through the difficult parts of life hoping to get to a good place?  Have you missed out on or forgotten the good memories along the way? Why not commit now to make a change?

My goal is to take five minutes every evening to recount the joyful as well as the difficult aspects of the day. I plan to either jot them down in my journal, share them with my husband, or both.  

My prayer is for God to teach me contentment and help me find joy in the present that I will be the right example to my children.

What can you do TODAY to live in the moment and truly enjoy your journey through this life?

I am praying God's richest blessings on you as we grow in His glory! 


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Monday, April 2, 2012

Top 10 Tips for Dealing with Fatigue in Pregnancy

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little BlessingsWhen I was pregnant with our first child, I taught and went to school full-time. Fatigue was easily remedied though because I had the luxury of napping whenever I wanted. With child #2, I was at home but taking care of a toddler. However, I made time to sleep during my daughter's nap time. Now that I am caring for two active little girls ages 3 1/2 and 1 1/2, with our third baby expected to arrive within the next five to six weeks, I have really found myself struggling to stay vertical, especially in the afternoon hours.

Here are my top 10 tips for dealing with pregnancy-related fatigue:

1. Get some rest. Obviously, if you're tired you need to take a break. That is easier said than done, though, if you work or have children to take care of. However, if you have a designated nap/rest time, take advantage of it! Drop the housework and get horizontal. I always rest when my girls nap: sometimes I sleep, other times I fix some hot tea, put my legs up, and read. Or, if a friend offers to take your kids for the afternoon, graciously accept and use that time to rest. 

2. Make sure you're eating. Sometimes in an effort to get my girls fed, I neglect to feed myself. Then, when I turn into Miss Crabby-Pants, I realize I haven't eaten in hours. Don't just grab a candy bar or something loaded with sugar or caffeine. Sure you'll get a quick pick-me-up but only temporarily, and then you will be in worse shape than before. Carefully consider if what you're eating will boost or ultimately diminish your energy level.

3. Drink to thirst. Often the number one reason for fatigue is dehydration or lack of water. Dehydration can lead to over 20% reduction of energy output as well as cause headaches, so make sure you're drinking at least 64 ounces of water a day. I fill up a water bottle to drink from while I'm away from home. If water bores you like it does me, then add some citrus slices. I love lime or orange in my water while some women I know enjoy cucumber in their water. Whatever motivates you to drink more water, do it!

 4. Exercise (a little). While moving my body is the last thing I want to do when I'm tired, often just getting up and stretching, doing some pregnancy exercises, or taking a short walk with the kids will give me a burst of energy that will allay my fatigue. I speak from experience when I say that lying around all day will only increase your feelings of tiredness. So get up and move even if just a little.

5. Get up late and/or go to bed early. If you have the luxury, sleep in! However, if you have children who wake up before the sun rises, then make every effort to head to bed an hour or two earlier than usual to get more sleep. Some nights I am so exhausted that I go to bed just after our oldest falls asleep around 8:30. Those nights I get 9-10 hours of rest and feel much better in the mornings. Resist the urge to stay up late even if you're just lying on the couch watching TV, and instead go to sleep. 

6. Eat iron-rich foods. Foods like spinach, dark leafy greens, dried fruit, cooked dried beans, soy products, and lean red meats are high in iron, which play a major role in red blood cell formation. Iron-rich foods will also help pump up your energy level. If you find yourself craving red meat, then trust your body and indulge in moderation. I have been trying to eat a serving or two each of spinach and beans daily to help reduce fatigue and can really tell a difference. 

7. Plan your days around your energy level. For me, my energy level is at its highest in the mornings, so I take advantage of it by doing housework, running errands, playing outside, and doing "school" then. After lunch, my energy level plummets, and mere thoughts of going outside or cleaning wipe me out. However, there are the boisterous kids to consider. That is when I drag out the art boxes, have read-aloud time, or put in a video so Mama can rest. 

8. Stop stressing! When you're feeling fatigued, the last thing you want to do is expend energy cooking or cleaning. Although those household duties must be done, don't worry if your house doesn't pass "the white glove test." If someone offers to help, let them! A clean house and home-cooked meals will resume in due time.

9. Eat a high-protein diet. Protein is the building block of the body, essential for healthy bones, and vital to preventing fatigue. Healthy sources of protein include eggs, beans, chicken, fish, nuts, cheese, and milk. With my first pregnancy, I tracked my daily protein consumption, making sure to eat between 80-100 grams per day. I haven't been so disciplined since then, but I do try to center meals and snacks around one or two healthy proteins. For instance, I usually eat 2 eggs at breakfast, a bean & cheese quesadilla or tuna or salmon salad at lunch, peanut butter on whole wheat bread or yogurt and granola for snack, and a variety of proteins for supper. 

10. See your doctor or midwife. If you find that you have extreme fatigue even after improving your diet and getting plenty of rest, then consult your doctor or midwife. She or he may run tests to check for anemia. 

Praying God's richest blessings on you as you continue to grow in His glory!

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