Saturday, January 3, 2015

For the New Year

"He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain & pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest."
-Lina Sandell

 While I've been quiet on the blog, words have been ringing loudly in my heart. As we move into the new year and reflect on the year past, I can't help but add this reflection to the blog that held me together so dearly for the last few years. 2014 was a year of soaking-- the kind of soaking that leaves you lying still and listening for any sort of direction-- and after soaking for so long, I'm full and ready to burst with so much grace, hope, and promise for the future. I've learned what it means to be brave, truly brave, in my interactions and friendships and learning how to say yes and no. I've soaked in so many experiences and relationships in the past year, listening and receiving, resting in the experiences rather than finding the itch to always react. I haven't reacted to much; I've just absorbed. New friendships, new administration, flights to & from Uganda, hearts in Mexico, eating well, broken engines, knitted hearts... it's all absorbed.

And now I'm ready.

I'm ready to live in 2015 the things that I've soaked up in 2014. I've learned that His heart is kind beyond all measure, no matter how long He waits to provide genuine friendships and answers to prayer. I've learned that He mingles peace and rest into everyday moments of pain and toil... even on days when I work nearly 24 hours to "get it all done." I've learned that rich generosity can well up out of trial and poverty, and it fuels me to give beyond what I ever thought I could before. I've learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

I can truly do all things-- the bravest, most difficult, most genuine, most servant-hearted things-- through Him who gives me strength. He makes me brave.

2014, I'm glad you're over... but my heart is full and ready to spill over. On to the next year with a heart open to change, to bravery, to giving grace, to healing hearts. I'm so ready for it.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Whole30: The Good, the Bad, and the Jesus in all of it

In case you haven't noticed, our eating habits have changed in the last month. Like a lot. At the beginning of the year, we (but mostly I) determined that a cleanse/detox/elimination diet would be good for our systems, just to see what foods "mess with us" and cause us to perform at less than our best. I've been really, really tired all the time and D has a lovely GI system... so why not give it a try?

I had heard lots of good things about Whole30, so after months of mental preparation we finally started the 30-day journey. And let me tell you... it brought out a range of emotions.

The Good
Whole30 is a good 30-day elimination diet for cleansing your body of any possible irritants. The constant bloating in my stomach (that I never realized was constant) went away, my face cleared up, and I had SO much more energy. Like SO much. I bounced out of bed every morning without even hitting snooze (and I'm usually a "hit the snooze 5 times" kind of person), and didn't need to crash until bedtime. D found that his reflux went away and lost a lot of weight.

The Bad
It's expensive to eat healthfully, y'all. We bumped our grocery budget up by $80 for the month and still found that we were scratching for every last penny. Also, our town is not exactly Whole30-friendly, so I did have to take a few trips out of town to get valuable items like grass-fed butter, sugar-free bacon and salsa (why is sugar in EVERYTHING?!?!), soy-free tuna, phosphate-free shrimp, and canola-free cashews at the beautiful Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. But those trips were like going to Disney World; strolling the aisles full of compliant food was like a dream. So it wasn't terrible, but a teensy inconvenience.

The Very, Very Ugly
On Whole30, you eliminate anything that could irritate your gut or your body as a whole-- which includes just about anything you've ever considered "comfort" food or a "reward." No dairy, no grains, no legumes, no sugar of any kind, no processed foods. So guess what happened when Friday night movie night came around? We wanted to call Papa Johns and cry. The struggle was real and our cravings were intense (especially that one time when D's professor brought pizza in for the whole class... poor guy...). It was ugly, but y'all-- it's only 30 days. And we survived without rewarding ourselves with food, like a dog. It was so, so ugly, but in the end we are so, so proud of ourselves.

We couldn't have gotten through the 30 days without some awesome recipes to make us feel like eating clean is not actually a chore. We loved some of these meals, and I will continue to make them!

Spiced Pork Tenderloin
Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fingers with homemade ranch and celery & carrot sticks
Frittatas for breakfast like this one (to make breakfast not so boring... eggs all the time!!)
Slow Cooker Paleo Pot Roast with carrots and mashed rutabaga

And of course I became Suzie Homemaker this month by making our own staple foods... it took some time at the beginning of the week but it was so so worth it!
-clarified butter/ghee
-tuna salad (with canned tuna from TJ's)

Other than that, we kept our sanity by eating a "treat" every now & then of berries with coconut milk or Caveman Custard. And I ate sweet potatoes with everything (esp. melted ghee... yummmmm).

So what now?

We've scarfed down 2 pints of ice cream (each), mini donuts/honeybun, and an XL pizza from Papa John's since Tuesday. And truthfully, while it was amazing to be able to take those first bites, we left the table feeling kinda gross and unsatisfied. Our bellies bloated and D's head nearly exploded. Was it really worth it?

I'm finding that, now that I have true freedom to eat whatever I want and go out to eat at any restaurant without worrying about hidden ingredients or their choice cooking oils, I'm actually longing to go back to those rules that once seemed so confining. I miss the food that gave us sustenance, energy, and life. And also, I don't really enjoy going to the gym simply because of the motivation to "work off" all that junk I just consumed, as if I'm paying back a debt; it's a lot more fun to exercise just to stay active and get stronger.

We didn't do this thing officially for Lent or for any spiritual reason, but Whole30 has quickly become a Jesus experience for me. He taught me self-control and His sufficiency, but He is also teaching me that this whole experience is a whole lot like the freedom that He has given me out of sin & death.
"If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed." -John 8:36
A relationship with Jesus is far from imprisonment. Rather, He broke me free from the prison that I was once (oddly) delighted to be a part of, where I could delight in myself and please my own flesh. And I never realized what a Hell I was actually living in. But on that Good, Good Friday, He spoke not a word as men nailed Him to the Cross and placed Him in that prison so that I could be set free. And just 3 days later, He was risen and broke the chains that once held me and Him inside and walked triumphantly out of the prison to be King over everything-- even sin & death. In Him, I no longer have to be chained to any of the selfish sin that once consumed me; He has set me free.

I am free from worry, free from fear; I am free to live a life of contentedness, freedom, and trust. I am FREE to do those things because He has done it for me. I don't have to fear tomorrow or worry that my needs will not be provided for-- He has taken that on for me. Break my chains, set me free, let me run rampant because the chains of fear are gone forever!

I am not free from pain, but I am free from hopelessness. I am not free from sorrow, but I am free to be comforted. I am not free from danger, but I am free from destruction. My soul is free and free forever-- thank you Jesus!

Just as I long to go back to the meals and food that gave me fuel to live energetically and fully, I long to dwell in Christ as a radical follower. No longer do I want to go back to those foods that gave me a false sense of freedom; nor do I want to ever go back to a deceitful life of sin that lies to me and tells me that it will satisfy. And it will.not.satisfy.

Tomorrow, Easter Sunday, I will probably eat a jellybean or two (or maybe 10, because Starburst Jellybeans are sweet nectar), but I'm thankful that I have freedom to eat what I want and live more fully. And I'll do that while praising the risen King who allows me to live freely with hope, grace, and joy in Him.

Now if someone can just help me find where the best deals are on coconut oil...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Just Step.

It's been made pretty clear on this little blog of mine that I am in love with Jim & Elisabeth Elliot, and when a friend posted this quote by E from A Chance to Die last week I couldn't help but love it:
"The preoccupations of young women - their looks, their clothes, their social life - don't seem to change much from generation to generation. But in every generation there are a few who make other choices."
I've been mulling over this quote and reading Scripture that pushes me over the edge almost daily for a week, thinking about how my life would truly look if I adhered to the path of "other choices." What if I didn't spend my days preoccupied with the clothes I wear, the nowhere-near-perfect way my hair lies on my head, the friends I have (or don't have)? What if my work days did not consist of my preoccupation with people pleasing, self-pleasing, and selfish motives? What if?

Jesus has reminded me in these past few weeks that He does not ask for crazy amazing acts; He doesn't even ask for me to do something remarkable. He simply asks me to step forward.

To lose my life of selfishness, I must step forward with one decision after another, saying "Lord You are worth more than my comfort ever will be."

To lose my life of people-pleasing, I must step forward with one decision after another, whispering "Lord You are the only One I live for, so I live to please You."

To lose my life of preoccupations, I must step forward and pray in each moment that He will be my only treasure.

The steps are sometimes so difficult that it feels as if I'm carrying 50 lbs of weights along with me, enough to make me ball my hands into a fist and grit my teeth at the temptation to give in yet again to that super-convincing flesh of mine. It. Is. So. Hard. to be Jesus to others around me when I just want to do things that will bring me comfort. I want to rip the selfish longings out of my chest, but I know the only way I can make them go away is by reminding myself that Jesus conquered them when He was nailed to the cross... and THAT is the Gospel.

"Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life." -John 12:25

I'm thankful that, even in my worst moments when I'm struggling to follow in obedience and I don't feel encouraged by other believers and I want to give in to temptations to love myself so badly, He picks me up and brushes me off and releases me from the tension by saying "I have overcome the world-- and that includes every single one of the things you've done or will do to disappoint me today."

I don't always make the choice to stay away from "preoccupations" and worldly beauties, but when I do make the small steps and move forward a teensy bit, my love for the world decreases. Truly, hating the world and my comfort has caused me to want to live and long for Jesus, and I'm thankful for every single struggle that has brought me to it.

So listen to this beautiful, perfect, truth-filled song by Ellie Holcomb and make "other choices."

Monday, March 3, 2014


I've been quiet.

My life has been nothing but change for the past two years, and now that I've stopped kicking my heels into the ground, the dusts of change are finally beginning to settle.  I can see what's in front of me. Our life has been finally, wonderfully, consistently the same for just a few months, and now my soul can breathe.

I feel my heart unfolding. It was clammed up for so long, bracing against the new and unknown and unexpected, longing for safety. I never thought that I would be one to resist newness, but somehow my heart grew crippled under all the things that I just didn't expect to happen. The control that I once (thought that I) held in my hands slipped through my fingers and left me for good.

And through it all, I clung onto His giant finger as if it was the only thing keeping me from falling-- with my eyes clenched shut and my my face hidden from everything around me, my arms and legs wrapped around his finger as if I was glued to it-- I didn't speak to Him for fear that I would lose my focus and fall into the pit beneath me. I was scared.

And now, in these days that remain the same, I find myself longing for so much more purpose and something to kick up the dust of change once again... don't I remember how lost I felt when I could not predict tomorrow?

It has been in these quiet days that remain the same that I have begun to listen to the sweet, soft, gentle whisper of I AM; the all-encompassing I WILL BE. He tells me that He has assigned my portion and my cup; He has made my lot secure (Psalm 16:5). He whispers that I cannot find fulfillment from change or lively days or loads of new friends or unpredictability. Quietly and lovingly, He slips a note in the middle of my lists and complaints that says "rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away."

He has taught me that I cannot find my joy and fulfillment in pursuing a great marriage, successful career, or meaningful friendships. They will.not.satisfy. Only by seeking His glorification and His gain will I truly be set free to live a purposeful and peaceful life. The dust is settling, and I can see clearly.

Bring glory to Yourself, Father, just as you did so many years ago in the Israelites' painful exodus. You are the glory in the change. You are the purpose in the changeless days. You are the fighter when my boxing gloves are worn. "You will fight for me-- I need only be still." (Ex. 14:14)

This is what I have been learning in the quiet.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve.

It's Christmastime, and teaching my new ESL littles all about the holiday has given me new eyes to see what my own framework for Christmas is truly held upon. They sit themselves down on my little thrifted rug, eyes eager and hoping for an explanation of the magical decorations that are filling their classrooms... and I am supposed to share with those eager, brown eyes, which belong to young hearts from Hindi, Muslim, and Atheist backgrounds, what America sees as the Christmas Season.

It's really hard for me to lie to them about the whole concept of Santa-- that he comes to their home and gives them presents and eats their cookies then flies away with his reindeer-- especially when, more than likely, there will be no Christmas tree or stockings adorning their little homes this Christmas. But I want them to understand who he is so that, when their classroom teachers ask them to write a letter to "Santa," they will understand just what is going on.

And I haven't even touched on the heart of it all, the reason Christmas is so much more meaningful to me. As we flip through our Christmas vocabulary books, M finds a picture of a nativity scene. Curious, I ask "What do you think this is?" And in broken English, without hesitation, he says "Baby... here... kings... bring gold." And I smile.

This is where my heart lies: in telling my students about the things that make my heart leap. And it's why I'm on Earth, too.

Today, this Christmas Eve, my heart waits in anticipation for celebrating Jesus' birth once again. I anticipate the coming of the newborn King once again-- but this time with my eyes drawn toward the sky, admiring Him coming down on the clouds, undoubtedly as King of All. He's our Thrill of Hope, the New and Glorious One for a weary, weary world.

I'll probably sing "Here comes Santa Claus" a time or two tonight, and I'll be thinking about my sweet littles, but I pray my heart will dwell on richer Christmas words such as these:

"Oh, Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
til He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
Oh night divine, the night when Christ was born."

Monday, October 28, 2013

Worship (Days 27 & 28): Expectations

If you're reading my 31-day series on Worship for the first time, consider clicking over here to my Day 1 post to see the introduction and to find the rest of the posts in the series!

This is days 27 & 28 of my series on Worship. I could break it up and create two separate posts, but something that The Nester said recently keeps bugging me in the back of my mind:

"I hope if nothing else, we’ve all learned to be a little easier on ourselves. Stop with all the high and mighty expectations that exhaust us and steal the joy from the very thing we were working so hard to create. We make it so difficult."

 D and I went on a drive last night, just to see where a road ends. There was no destination-- only the journey and an eventual "well, I guess we should turn around now." I got to see things that I usually wouldn't notice if we were in a hurry or if I really cared about getting somewhere. And as I drooled at the charming old homes and rolling fields along the way, my mind leaned back and pondered where I'm at right now.

I'm so so thankful for where I am. Really, I am. I have a wonderful job and my husband is truly thriving in school-- the things that happened two years ago are beginning to make sense and everything seems to be falling into place. And yet.

Yet despite the beautiful things we've been handed, I always feel so tired and defeated and helpless. Where does this even come from?! I think the quote above answers much of it: my expectations suck myself dry and exhaust me of any joy that I had in the first place. In my occupation, I become drained when my students are not excelling. In my ministry, my joy vanishes when I do not see results. In my pursuit of friendships in this new town, my heart threatens to go into hiding and never come out. My expectations hold back a rain of joy from this parched heart.

So today, as my eyelids droop and I grimace against my tasks, here is where I will worship:

"When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay."