Nov 07 2011

We are not that Family…Learning to live in Grace NOT Guilt

“Her children arise and call her blessed; 
   her husband also, and he praises her: 
29 “Many women do noble things, 
   but you surpass them all.”  

Proverbs 31:28-29 (NIV 1984)

Like all of you…I want to be a blessing to my husband.  I want to be the kind of help-meet that the Lord calls me to be to Will.  But sometime in the last six months I got being a blessing to my husband confused with being perfect…especially when it comes to cooking meals for my family.

I love to cook!  Will tells me that I am a good cook.  One of the things that he fell in love with about me was how I loved to cook and prepare home cooked, healthy meals for him while he was courting me.  LOL  It all started with the first time I cooked for him…I made my special spaghetti sauce…which Will lovingly calls my “Italian Salsa”.  After we were engaged, he told me that it was that night that he knew he would marry me!

Will is a real pleasure to cook for!  He loves everything I cook and is an appreciative eater.  He always tells me what he loves about it and how much he appreciates the work that I do to learn and adapt our favorite recipes so that they are healthy for him and help him to manage his Diabetes.  Will has Type 2 Diabetes.

I was doing quite well with finding recipes, creating new ones, and adapting his favorites and mine to a Diabetic friendly version.  We were all very happy with how I was doing with this area…and Will was enjoying teaching me some new things along the way (he is a really good cook too!).

But about six months ago…all that began to change.  I was reading as much as I could find in the blogosphere about how other homeschooling moms plan out their days and researching ideas for tips to prepare healthy home cooked meals while homeschooling our children too.  We just started homeschooling in April 2011…so I wanted to get the thoughts of what I saw as “the experts” in this area…long time homeschooling moms with large families.  If they could do it…I figured…so could I!

Unfortunately, I began to fall back into my all or nothing thinking again…and the more I learned the more the critical voices in my head taunted me…and by the beginning of October was beginning to doubt that I should share my own recipes here on our blog anymore…

The first thing that I learned was that we should always eat fresh produce not can goods.  But it went farther than that.  The produce at the store wasn’t good for us either.  I started reading articles telling me that by feeding my family produce from the grocery store I was poisoning my family with the hormones and pesticides that were filling these fresh veggies.  It needed to come from a garden I raise myself or our local farmer’s market-as long as they didn’t use pesticides and it was organic.  If I couldn’t find what I needed there, I should purchase it from a farm co-op.  The guilty feelings began…

Then I found out that the eggs that I cooked with from Aldi’s weren’t right either…I needed to find a way to afford organic, farm-fresh eggs only to be sure that there are no hormones or other things in them.  More guilty feelings…

I had already begun using whole wheat flour in my cooking…usually 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 all-purpose for most things.  I had found, what I thought was a good deal that we could afford at our local Wal-Mart for Whole wheat flour.  But then I found out that this wasn’t the best way to do it either.  If I really wanted to bless my husband, I needed to start grinding my own wheat grain.  Then I found out that I was filling our bodies with preservatives and if I really wanted to bless my husband…I needed to only serve him homemade, freshly ground wheat bread that I baked myself.  (Problem…I don’t know how to bake bread!)  The guilt grew even larger…

As I said before…Will is Diabetic.  Sugar is NOT his friend.  In fact…I have to use VERY little of it or it can spike his blood sugar dangerously high.  So I have spent a lot of time learning about artificial sweeteners and talked with Will about the ones I found and asked his advise…after all, he had been cooking for himself for years with Diabetes and he knows what works for him and what doesn’t.  So together, using what he has learned from experience and what we were both reading about other sugar-free options we had found some that worked well for him and the rest of us.  Life was good, until…I learned that I was doing it all wrong…according to the blogs I was reading and comments on my recipe articles, I was being told, by people who really wanted to help me,  that I am poisoning my family with cooking with artificial sweeteners.  I needed to use only natural sugar substitutes.

We tried this.  One time, this past summer, we bought Stevia packets (which were not in our budget) and Will has tried using them to sweeten his iced tea…his blood sugar up to between 200-400 each time he used it.  We had been working hard, and usually succeeding, to keep his blood sugar between 90-120.  Frustration and guilt multiplied!

None of these bloggers or commenters were telling me these things to hurt me.  They all wanted to help me!  Most of them were homesteaders and raised most of their own food.  They have wonderful ways of cooking!  And it is wonderful for them!

Did every blog I read tell me this?  No!  But many did and still do!

But here comes my problem again…remember how I told you that I tend to be an all or nothing kind of person?  Well…I want to be the best help-meet I can be to Will!  I want to take great care of him!  I want to provide a healthy and supportive environment for him!  So, after reading so many articles telling me that I was doing it wrong whenever I read on the internet or read posts on Facebook…I began to completely doubt my own abilities and feel very guilty.

But I forgot something very important!!!!  I decided that in order to be a good wife and to provide healthy meals for Will and our kids…I must implement ALL of their advise right away or I was a bad wife and a bad mother!

But instead of helping my family, here’s what has happened…

photo credit

So in my desire to help my family I managed to over spend our food budget for the first five months trying to purchase all of our food supplies/ingredients that were natural, organic, not processed, farm-fresh, no pesticides, and the list went on and on!  This caused many problems in other areas of our budget…we live on a very fixed income.  The things that I thought I needed to be buying were much more expensive than the previous items I had been purchasing before my “enlightenment”.

I no longer had enough time really enjoy and minister to my husband by just being there for him when he needed me.  After all, when I wasn’t homeschooling our kids I had to make sure the house was picked up all the time and find the time to bake fresh whole wheat biscuits (since I just couldn’t seem to master yeast bread we were stuck with just biscuits), make all of our meals from scratch, scour the farmer’s markets for produce that matched the criteria I now had, and prepare enough in advance so that I had time to home school during the day…drive Will to all of his appointments, run all of our family’s errands (Will cannot drive until he has been seizure free for six straight months), and do everything else I thought I needed to do to make everyone happy and healthy.

Unfortunately this all resulted in a guilt-ridden, depressed, exhausted, frustrated, driven, perfectionist, insecure, harried wife.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Will with my frustrations and in tears poured out my apologies for not being a better wife to him and not being able to handle taking care of his health through good “healthy” cooking like he needed.  I cried that I needed him to help me figure out how to fit it all into our budget and my schedule.  I didn’t want him or the rest of us to be sick because I couldn’t live up to the overly high expectations I had put on myself!  I was devastated.

Will took me into his arms…and told me that although he had started seeing the benefits some of the things we were learning…he never, ever wanted me to stop trusting my own instincts!  He wanted me to do what I do best (as he puts it) and just cook with my heart.  But to stop thinking that I needed to feed us in the way that someone who has a homestead feeds their family.  We are not that family.

He reminded me that I am doing a good job with his diet.  His blood test results came back in the middle of October and even though we were using artificial sweeteners, whole wheat flour purchased at Wal-mart and ate our sandwiches on wheat bread from a bag at the store, even though I had begun purchasing can goods and fresh vegetables at the store and farmer’s market when we could afford it…the results were MUCH better than they had been the year before!!!

He told me that I wasn’t a failure at all!  He is very proud of my cooking and enjoys it very much!  He told me that I needed to stop stressing and exhausting myself and to most of all…stop trying to be someone other than myself!  He told me that I was doing the best that I could and that what I was doing was working because his health was improving every month!

He reminded me that he didn’t marry me because he wanted me to be his full-time cook/chef!!!!  He married me because he wanted to spend the rest of his life enjoying the adventure of our lives as best friends and lovers.  He didn’t want me to spend every waking moment trying to please him with unrealistic goals in the kitchen and collapsing after the kids went to bed with nothing left to offer him.  He wanted me to stop staying up until all hours baking and preparing foods for the next day.  He wanted me to start getting a good night’s sleep…taking care of myself…treating myself with grace…and just being me…the woman he fell in love with and loves more and more every day.

He said that while all the things that I was learning…and things he was learning were good.  We needed to stop thing craziness and look at what is realistic for our family, with our time, and our budget…and by all means PLEASE STOP FEELING GUILTY for not being able to be someone else.

He took me by the hand and tucked me into bed and told me to go to sleep.

Over the next few days, we looked at our food budget and needs together and he encouraged me to do what I thought was best.  Not to worry about what anyone else would think.  He told me that he trusted my skills…after all I helped him get his blood tests into a much healthier range than they had been in a long time.  He told me that he loves my cooking…but he loves me even more and he didn’t want to lose me to exhaustion and guilt.  What may work for some one else may not work for us.  We are not that family!

So I went back over what I had learned…I took what I could use and what worked for us and I left behind the rest.  I decided that just maybe I am not the only one who is in a similar situation to mine…just trying to do my best to feed my family healthy meals on a fixed income with limited time in the kitchen.

I realized that instead of surrendering in the kitchen and trusting the Lord to provide and be content with what we could do…I had surrendered to “the critical voices” that filled my head and the discontent with my skills because of what “everyone else” said I should be doing.

Everyone’s situation is different.  I am so happy for the families who are able to homestead and have all fresh ingredients to work with…and have a large enough family to provide helpful hands to help them prepare those from earth to table meals.  But what I was reminded of  was that we are not that family.

I love my family!  I love my home!  I love my husband!  I love being creative and finding budget friendly ways to create healthy meals that don’t take all of my energy to make.  I love finding bargains at Aldi’s and hitting the sales at the Country Mart, Kroger, and Wal-mart and occasionally at Big Lots.  I love our farmer’s market but I understand that we can’t afford to buy everything there.

The Lord and my husband have forgiven me for becoming discontent and thinking I needed to be like the women I admire and treat myself with Grace NOT Guilt!

I need to give my husband healthy meals…but even more than that…I need to make sure I am rested, take care of myself and bless him by having the energy, peace and cheerful spirit to be his best friend and lover.  I need to remember that I am his wife…not his professional cook…and that’s the way he likes it!

When I started making those changes…lol…I started feeling so much better and it showed in my laughter, joy, peace, and I had the energy to bless him in the ways that are best for him.  I am more patient with the kids…because I am not exhausted all the time…I have more perspective on situations and much less anxiety.  I am re-learning to handle myself with grace…the same grace that I want to offer my husband and children.  I have forgiven myself now…and the “voices in my head” speak with grace more than guilt…most of the time.  But I am learning to acknowledge them and let them go.

I have a fresh start and have gained a lot of wisdom through this experience.

I hope that you have found some encouragement here today…encouragement to be content and do the best you can in your own family. We are all in different situations with different budgets, different homes (some on farms some in cities or towns)…some of us love to cook completely organically from scratch…some of us may not.  No matter what…we can encourage each other to follow the Lord on the journey He has us on…which is different from any other woman’s journey.  To be sisters in Christ doesn’t mean we have to do everything the same.  We aren’t meant to be cookie cutter Christians.  We just need to encourage each other as we walk together in the paths that we have been given and bless each other with gentleness and grace.

God bless you on your journey today!

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Cooking with my husband at the foot of the Cross,

Mrs Mary Joy Pershing

Gathering with:

Time Warp Wife’s 31 Days of Love Challenge

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About the author

Mary Joy

I am a broken daughter of God and a work in progress. I am passionate about encouraging women to embrace God's grace and faithfulness as I discover and share His faithfulness, grace and even joy in the messiness of my journey as a widowed (less than 2 yrs), homeschooling mom with a missionary's heart. I am in awe of how God fills me up and carries me through each day. My Heavenly Father leads me as I continue to parent and home school my two recovering and very active boys and encourage my beautiful teenage step-daughter (long distance) during her first year in of college. In every moment I see incredible evidence of God's healing love, grace and faithfulness. I am so blessed to be the creator, manager, and an author of Unwrapping His Grace as I lean on my Savior to lead us in this special web-ministry.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.surrenderedlivingnow.com/2011/11/07/we-are-not-that-family-learning-to-live-in-grace-not-guilt/

  • http://www.bloggingwhilewaiting.blogspot.com Sarah

    Good stuff, Mary Joy, thank you! ;) It's so hard not to feel bogged down by what everyone else seems to be doing so perfectly! I just had a similar situation with my husband this morning. I've just felt like such a failure…yet, I've improved my own self and abilities by multiples since we were first married. The only one I should compare myself to is ME :)

    Have a great night!


    • Mary Joy Pershing


      I really do appreciate your encouragement! You are so right! Comparing ourselves to others is a big mistake and only leads to frustration and pain. I am so glad that you were able to go to your husband too for comfort and help. What a blessing! I am so glad that you can see how well you are doing and hear the words of encouragement from your sweet husband. God is so good! He created us as individuals and doesn't want us to be cookie cutter images of each other…He is the one who we want to shine through! You are such a blessing! Thank you so much for commenting!


      Mrs Mary Joy Pershing

  • Angela

    Great post, Mary Joy! I struggle the same way when I read marriage books. I feel like I need to do EVERYTHING they say. My husband is like yours, he says, "We are not them." And he encourages me too! It sounds to me that you love your husband very much, and that is more important than perfect meals and farmers market veggies! Thanks for your encouragement, and keep on loving that man of yours!!

    • Mary Joy Pershing

      I am so glad that you were encouraged, Angela! You are so right about books about marriage being the same way! Oh my, how I relate! Thank you for sharing your heart experiences on this subject. I am so glad that your sweet husband is there to remind you that he loves you just the way you are! I really appreciate your words of encouragement too. He reminds me often that the most important ingredients that I put in the meals I prepare are prayer and love…and you can't find that at your local Farmer's Market! lol He is so good to me!

      I am so glad that you stopped by and shared!


      Mrs Mary Joy Pershing