Meet a “real” Christian

You know what? I’m a Christian. A big one. I know I may well lose half my followers with this but I feel like it’s important to say. I think I am representative of a lot of Christians and I wanted to put a big shout out to all those Christians who are sitting in the middle of all the pressures of our crazy world, and are just trying to do life.

If you are not interested in this, please do feel free to scroll on by. If you are Christian, I hope what I am about to say resonates with you. If you are not Christian but are faintly amused and intrigued, please take the time to meet us.

Real Christians are messy. Some of us are messier than others. But what i mean is we are not perfect. Far from it. Our lives are full of the same struggles as everyone else. We have the same troubled relationships and work place issues. We have failed marriages and kids who are going off the rails. We have gay family and friends and people close to us who are chronically ill and dying. We are married, we are single, we are divorced, we are widowed. We self-medicate with pills or alcohol or shopping or social media. We have mummy guilt and and self-doubt. We have messy houses and crazy time schedules. We are scared and overjoyed and stressed. We love ourselves and hate ourselves. We lie awake at night worrying, just like everyone.

What props us up is knowing God loves us. In the middle of the mess and fear, God loves us. There is nothing we have done or could do that could earn the outstanding grace he extended to us. He doesn’t love us because we loved him – when he sacrificed his son for us – us small, messy, fragile people – we know for sure that he loved us first.

And we struggle. Oh yes we struggle. Being a Christian isn’t a magic bullet. We didn’t just join the Perfect Club and start blissfully ignoring everything that doesn’t fit the perfect picture. We do life in community. We belong to each other and hold each other up. In all honesty, its how a lot of us are still standing.

Why am I writing this? Because I am a Christian. And I have a voice. I don’t want to pretend that Christianity is just a lifestyle choice, or something nice to do on a Sunday. Being a Christian is a life choice. It’s not just life changing, it’s a whole new way of living.

But I also don’t want to pretend that it is license to become a sanctimonious ass. And if your experience of Christians is this, I am truly sorry – please know that they don’t represent the majority. We were given grace. Grace is what we need to live. That doesn’t mean we have to like or agree with everything, or be a doormat. But living by grace is the goal. Respectfully disagreeing with someone in no way compromises that. You don’t have to hate on someone to disagree with them.

Grace. That’s what we strive for. We may screw it up, but that’s the intent and the motivation.

I am a Christian and I have a voice. So lets hear it for us little guys, us normal messy Christians struggling through life but loving Jesus, loving the bible, and loving God.

Sticky soy tempeh and Asian style salad

So after my mediocre eating week last week, this week I have been getting back in the saddle. Priority #1 – find some interesting things to do with tempeh because, you know, it really doesn’t taste that great. I mean, it doesn’t taste bad, it’s just kind of….meh.

So why eat it? Well, I wrote recently about improving my gut health so I can improve my mental health. You can read about it here. So eating fermented foods is kind of like taking medicine. But medicine doesn’t need to taste blergh.

For me it’s not a taste thing per se, it’s a texture thing. Tempeh is solid but doughy, beany but pasty. To be honest, I wouldn’t necessarily choose to eat it, but it’s cheap (one package does 3-4 servings) and I am super keen on this gut health thing so I can max my chances of having good, and consistent, mental health.

First experiment was to stir fry it.

Sticky Soy Tempeh

  • 1 x 300g packet tempeh, diced
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • Chopped fresh chilli to taste
  • Wombok (Chinese cabbage)
  • Crunchy noodles
  • Spring onions
  • Coriander
  • A squeeze of fresh lime to serve (optional)

Mix the honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and chilli and set aside a moment.

Stir fry the tempeh until browned and then throw in the sauce ingredients and then stir until sticky and shiny.

Slice the wombok thinly and toss with chopped coriander, spring onions and crunchy noodles – note, you could also serve this with crunchy stir fried veg if you prefer.

You can adjust the sauce to your personal tastes if you like it hotter or sweeter. Me, I prefer the tang of citrus so I squeeze some lime juice over the top to serve.

As you can see in the picture, I washed it down with a crisp dry rose that someone had given me for my birthday. That isn’t part of the recipe but it was still yummy.

What to do when you have a bad week

Sometimes you just have a bad week. As much as I want to eat freekeh and quinoa and kefir and fruit and veg, sometimes I just have a bloody bad week. I always wonder if I will be the kind of lifestyle hippie that doesn’t have bad weeks, because my health and diet regime isn’t a regime – it’s just my life. But I’m not a lifestyle guru. And I’m not a twenty-something hipster with the metabolism of an Olympiad. I’m a 46 year old late adopter trying to be healthy and happy. And sometimes that means I just have a bad week.

“Bad week” means when things are just a bit rubbish on a lot of fronts. I’m tired, it’s cold and dark at this time of year, I get bills I wasn’t expecting, I’m reading too much into things people say and do, I over think things I’ve said and done or not said and done. And before you know it I want a thousand hash browns and five bottles of wine.

Well last week was just that kind of week. I managed pretty well considering. I stayed away from chocolate and wine (mostly) and kept to some simple eating habits. But all I felt was deprived and miserable.

Then My Mate Laura messaged on Saturday morning to say that she and My Other Mate Alice we’re going for a grown up coffee date and did I want to come. Frankly I wanted to stay in bed and binge watch Suits, but I asked her to tell me when she was leaving so I could put a bra on and get myself over there.

Best. Decision. Ever.

We drank coffee and ate carbs. We laughed a lot and cried a little bit. And then we had more coffee. There were lots of things I was supposed to be doing, there were other places I was supposed to be, I had a list of chores as long as my arm. There were things I wasn’t supposed to eat and drink and things I was. But you know? Sometimes you have to give yourself permission to let that go. Sometimes letting go is more important than all the woulds and shoulds and supposed-tos.

Life is to be enjoyed. We should delight in the world and each other. And when we’re having a bad day or a bad week, we can just go with it. It’s not about trying to make the bad feelings go away. It’s about letting the bad feelings happen, acknowledging them and then riding them out. And to do that, we need to get ourselves out of bed, put our bras on and go and meet our friends for a grown up coffee date.

Tomorrow will be better. Next week will be better. I can eat vegetable lasagna and stir fried tempeh next week. This week I need coffee and hugs. And that is in no way a bad thing.

The hunt for easy breakfasts continues

I’m a late adopter. Generally by the time I have jumped on board it’s about 5 years after something first appeared. When I was in uni, we hand wrote essays and used the library. When we had a special seminar on “the internet” (which did not look like it does now) we all fell about laughing. Why would we need this “internet”? We have a library sitting right next door! We shook our heads. It’ll never catch on.

Same with this “overnight oats” phenomena. It seemed like hippy stuff to me. But then in the hunt for an easy breakfast to avoid bingeing at lunchtime, I was forced to try them out.

Yum yum!

I’m a savoury person by taste, but a couple of times a week when I have to commute a million miles to get into the office, this is perfect. I grab and go and then have at the office. I can even eat it on the train if I can’t wait. So here’s a really easy basic recipe that then you can add stuff to for variety.

Overnight oats basic recipe

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup – I use almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

This makes one portion. Add all the ingredients to a jar, mix ’em up and stick it in the fridge.

I add 2 scoops of chocolate flavoured protein powder to the ingredients above (you could also add some organic cocoa or cacao). Then in the morning I add half a banana and some pecans.

For variety, you can add any fruit and any nuts. This also makes a great base for Bircher muesli (add some nuts to the mixture and grated apple).

I have a glut of cherries in the freezer so I plan on making some cherry compote that I can add to this in the morning with some toasted almonds.

You can also make it slightly different by using coconut milk instead of milk and then go crazy with your toppings – toasted shredded coconut and kiwi perhaps? Or mango and pineapple?

Its easy. It’s unprocessed. It’s healthy.

What could be better?

Mental health is influenced by gut health. Here’s how we can improve it

I’m a big fan of talking about things in the light and removing the stigma of things we don’t normally talk about. Mental health and medication is a real thing. Lots of people I know struggle with these issues and many are on either anti-depressants or meds for anxiety.

I’ve been on anti-depressants since the birth of my second child. I found that talking about it made it easier, especially when then I found out how many people were also taking them.

Let me just say this if this is not something you are familiar with – meds help with coping. You can be totally fine but then something triggers a downturn and you can become overwhelmed with sadness. The meds help balance that out so when the triggers come, you have more capacity to absorb the stress and carry on. You can manage yourself of course and mindfulness, meditation, avoiding as many triggers as you can (where that is possible) are all good. But sometimes it’s not enough. It’s like having asthma – the condition is always there and sometimes it just needs to be managed with medication to keep it under control.

Having said that, I am hoping to be medication free by the end of the year so I went to see my GP. He asked me if I knew about the gut-brain-axis.

What he told me was earth shattering.

He said that we’ve focussed on medication to boost serotonin in the brain, a deficiency of which is linked to depression. But recently they (smart scientist people) have discovered that only about 10% of serotonin is produced in the brain. The other 90% or so is produced in the gut, which our meds don’t do anything about at all. So the meds can only do so much! If we increase our gut health, we can help our bodies to increase the serotonin by a far greater proportion, and so then improve our mental health and acuity.

By gut health, I mean enteric microbiota, which is the millions of microorganisms living in our intestines that help with everything from synthesising key vitamins, to communicating with the central nervous system.

My doctor gave me a list of things to start adding to my diet to increase and improve the health of my gut flora – and please don’t take my word for it, this is what my doctor told me, you should go see your own GP and seek your own advice! The list he gave me though, seems to be generally accepted as the lists of good fermented foods to eat (from what I’ve seen on publicly available articles).

He told me if I wasn’t used to eating this kind of food to add it to my diet gradually so my system could get used to it. Thankfully, I had already started eating this kind of thing for general health reasons. But if you’re not used to it, please go slow (and seek your own advice).

The foods he gave me, he said, were to be eaten in small amounts, and switching between foods so it fed the gut flora with variety. It’s like watering a plant basically. You need to water and feed it so it grows and then keep feeding and watering to maintain it.

The foods he gave me were:

  • Kombucha (I have been drinking Remedy which is available at my local shops and is really nice. It’s a fermented tea and slightly fizzy)
  • Tempeh (Also easily available. I have stir fried this and it was ok. It’s not bad, it’s just a bit boring so I’m searching out recipes to make this fermented soy bean “cake” a bit more tasty)
  • Kefir (Not madly available but there is one brand at my local shops. It’s a yoghurt that can be drunk or added to normal yoghurt)
  • Pickles (This isn’t just veg in vinegar, this is properly pickled veg that’s fermented in brine. I have dill pickles and pickled cabbage that I add to sandwiches and wraps)

There are other fermented foods too, you can easily search around on the interwebs. The main thing is, if I start adding these things to my diet, I’m going to be in a much better position over the coming months to be off anti-depressants for good, with my doctors help.

The main thing is though – it doesn’t matter if you are on pills or not. Adding these things to our diet seems to be, from what my doctor said, generally A Good Thing. So much of our health seems to be driven by this gut-brain axis and so strengthening it and improving it can be such a good thing for our physical and mental health.

Happy days 😃