Friday, October 18, 2013

He Cares for Me

It's fall and looking like we are going to have slightly cooler temperatures in the near future. A welcome respite from the summer heat. This year is flying by and my "word" for the year is "Remember", today I'm remembering my fun summer vacation.

As summer approached, it was brought to my attention that I had some vacation time at work that I needed to use. I began researching where, when and how I might use some of this time and opted for a trip to Nashville, Tennessee for the Fourth of July weekend.

There are many choices to consider when planning a trip: Who will go with me? Where will we stay? What will we do once we get there? When will we come home? As I considered these choices to be made, God seemed to provide every answer. In telling my friend Jennifer about my plans she was excited and offered to go with me. She was even able to get a room for us at a very conveniently located hotel free of charge. Weeks before setting out on our journey, we each spent some time researching what to do, compiling lists of the many options and selected which night we would attend The Grand Ole Opry. With our lists in hand, we made the six-hour drive to Music City.

This was my first trip to Nashville and as the driver, I was heavily relying on my car navigation system, iphone and prayer to get us where we needed to go.

Arriving in Nashville the evening of July 4th, we checked in at the hotel and then set the navigation to take us downtown for the evenings festivities. Approaching Music Row, we began to see parking lots with attendants accepting payments of $10. Unfamiliar with the area, we wanted to drive all the way to our destination before choosing a parking spot. With each block, the rate for parking went up, $20…then $25…then no parking available. Arriving at our destination, we turned on Broadway to then find a suitable parking spot. The navigation system showed us where to go, but then we had choices make: which road to turn on and in which lot to park. Of the ones we passed, some were very near to where we wanted to be, but cost a little more and some would require a longer walk, but cost a little less. We made a turn down a road we had not traveled and immediately saw a sign for free parking!

Yes, just around the corner from our destination, and free. In that moment, I was reminded of how much God cares for me…even in the little things and small choices like searching for a convenient parking spot. He sees the need and goes way beyond.

Now unto him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever, amen. - Ephesians 3:20-12

It was a little rainy that night, but we pulled out our umbrellas and walked to the Wild Horse Saloon for dinner and a little line dancing. You can’t go to Nashville without line dancing, right?

The weekend remained a little rainy (a lot rainy at times) but we were blessed with a fun tour of the Belle Meade Plantation.

After the tour, it became “a lot rainy” so we did what any girl would do on a rainy at The Mall at Green Hills. We shopped up an appetite and made our way to Sunset Grill for what turned out to be our favorite meal of the trip.

I had the kale salad with grilled chicken for dinner…

…and the chocolate sushi for dessert!

Closing out the evening was a show at The Grand Ole Opry…what a fun time! Performances that night included The Band Perry, comedy by Henry Cho and a stunning performance by Carrie Underwood. 

The next day we ate a delicious breakfast at the Pfunky Griddle…in my opinion, this is a must do when in Nashville, but arrive early. We had to wait about an hour for seating, but it was well worth
the wait! They offer gluten-free pancakes and French toast, which was very tempting, and when I go back again I will definitely give one of those options a try. Plus you have a griddle on your table where you cook your own pancakes, toast and eggs...I chose a balanced meal of chicken salad and fruit salad, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint!

After brunch, we toured The Ryman Auditorium. This is also a must do! Simply walking in to the auditorium put chills all over me. There was a sense of power in that place and I enjoyed learning about the history while walking around in the auditorium.

The last thing on the agenda was shopping for boots…

On Saturday evening we drove back as far as Birmingham so that we could get up and attend The Church at Brook Hills on Sunday morning. The service was enlightening, uplifting and thought provoking. After a stop at Whole Foods for lunch and a few groceries, we were on our way home! It was a fun summer getaway filled with choices and blessings. Which brings me back to my word of the year, Remember. Today I am remembering a fun summer vacation and taking time to reflect and remember all the ways God has led me, loved me, taught me, changed me...truly He is my source and my strength, always with me, reassuring me as my source of security and hope.  

I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand....For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand...fear not...I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. - Isaiah 41: 10-14

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fear. Vulnerability.

According to Wikipedia, “fear is an emotion induced by a perceived threat which causes entities to quickly pull far away from it and usually hide. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain…In short, fear is the ability to recognize danger leading to an urge to confront it or flee from it but in extreme cases of fear a freeze or paralysis response is possible.” defines fear as a “distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, pain, etc. whether the threat is real or imagined.”

I’ve been disappointed, hurt, felt abandoned and alone, rejected, felt “not enough” - not pretty enough, not thin enough, not fit enough, not thoughtful enough, not smart enough, not…enough. Though I have drunk from the well and received healing for hurts big and small, there are still moments when thoughts of old wounds give way and fears creep in like thieves in the night. They ransack my mind and steal away precious treasures of joy. Leaving tearstained cheeks and puffy eyes and shattered hopes.

Some fears are founded and some are not. I wish I could say that I always immediately know the difference and react with confidence in my God who is able to do so much more than I can imagine. But I do not. My initial reaction is one of “quickly pulling far away” or pushing the perceived vehicle of pain out of proximity. For when something is not brought near, there is less risk of pain.

Truth is, life is hard and living and relating is hard and to really do life the way we should, for our good and the good of others, we must become vulnerable.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” – C.S. Lewis

I am often tempted to “hide my heart away” and push aside the things I want most when there is a perceived threat of possible pain, to busy myself with hobbies and habits, a full schedule leaves no room for closeness and vulnerability. The reality is, as I distance myself, my heart is not hidden away at all, it is slowly breaking, I’m not hiding it away in a casket as C.S. Lewis says of the hardened heart, I’m becoming more fragile because I know that I was made for community and closeness and vulnerability and the only way to truly become all that I was created to be is to enter in to the unknown, push the fears aside and accept the possibility of pain that comes with embracing the fullness of joy. I know that I have a new heart, a fleshy heart:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. – Ezekiel 36:26

Because I have the spirit of the Lord in me, my heart can never become hardened, it may be broken at times by others or broken by my choice to isolate myself from the community in which I’ve been placed. But my heart will not be hard. I will be drawn in to this life and care deeply for the people placed in my path, I will feel and I will love others, I will dance with them in their joys and cry with them in their hurts.

My prayer is that only one type of fear will impact my interactions. The one Merriam-Webster defines, “to have reverential awe of God”.

Father God, awaken my soul to your presence. Like Jacob, show me your nearness: Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it. – Genesis 28:16

Friday, August 23, 2013

Into the Home Stretch

My mom and I are on Day 18 of the Elimination Diet and folks, we are into the home stretch! The food add ins we decided to test this time around are:

Tree Nuts
Chocolate (praying this is not a problem!)

We began our add ins with one new food over the course of three days to see if there were any changes in digestion or how we felt overall. Lemons were quick and easy to test by adding a little fresh squeezed juice to our smoothies and salads. We even made a tart lemon and lentil soup.

The real treat came on Sunday with the addition of tree nuts. I made a cashew cream pie with a pecan and almond crust. This also had a splash of lemon juice and was a rich, smooth, cool dessert topped with fresh berries.

We do like to complete our meals with a little something sweet. So later in the week I made truffles with walnuts, almond butter, dates, raisins, cinnamon and gave them a little roll in flaked coconut, a perfectly sweet bite to end a meal.

I was perhaps most excited for Tuesday evening when we added in meat for the first time in 15 days! We turned wild caught salmon filets into salmon burgers seasoned with Herbamare, fresh ginger and fresh parsley. I was pleased to find organic cauliflower at the local co-op for us to have mashed cauliflower as a side.

We’ve started nearly every day of the diet with a variation of quinoa and berries. One morning in addition to the cinnamon and flax we added walnuts for a little extra crunch. And yes, there is quinoa under all of those berries!

One of the many benefits of this diet is that we are eating green foods (collards, kale, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy) every day and oftentimes more than once a day.

Greens are the most nutrient dense foods and are cleansing and healing foods for the digestive system and body. They are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium, iron, folic acid and potassium. All of these benefits add up to some serious antioxidant cancer-fighting properties. It's no surprise that one of the first blessings given to us by God was the abundance of green things to eat.

Then God said..."to everything that has the breath of life in it, I give every green plant for food." - Genesis 1:30

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Fresh Start

In September 2010, I embarked on an Elimination Diet to test foods that may be sources of allergy symptoms such as runny nose, inflammation, acne and digestive distress. In order to give a thorough test to many foods, the diet stretched into a 40 day plan and was more than beneficial in resetting my system, refining my sense of taste and identifying foods that were in fact causing some health problems. I chronicled the 40 Day Elimination Diet here. The result was a commitment to keep certain foods out of my diet which has significantly improved my over all health. I feel stronger and more energized.

Fast-forward three years later and after keeping up the dietary changes, I decided it was still a good idea to do a system reset every now and then. Especially because I do tend to indulge in dark chocolate and decadent desserts, even though they are generally made with organic, fresh, whole food ingredients, they still take a toll on the body and it’s just a good idea to fast from those things for a period. This was a good time to make a fresh start.

Already knowing and permanently eliminating certain foods that cause problems for me, there was no need to retest those foods, and so with this time around I am able to zip through it in just 21 days. I’m thankful that my mom is a trooper and is zipping through this with me. Support and a partner to do a fast with is almost essential to sticking with it.

Today is Day 11, the halfway mark and we have been enjoying some of the most satisfying meals. We've also noticed that our sense of taste had grown dull. Clearing out the chocolate, sweeteners like honey and other potential allergy foods have brought back a heightened sense of taste, a renewed energy and clarity of thinking. Here are a few highlights of our Elimination Diet meals over the last 11 days...

Days 1 and 2 kick the diet off with smoothies made with pears, apples, greens (collards, kale, spinach, cabbage) cranberries and flax.

Red cabbage and cranberry smoothie ready to take to work...

Delicious mixture of fresh, lightly cooked veggies that we served over quinoa...

A good go to breakfast of quinoa with cinnamon, flax, fresh berries and pear...

Another breakfast meal of leftover collards, sauerkraut, pumpkin seeds and berries...

Cabbage soup with quinoa, carrots and fresh parsley...

Warm and nourishing lentil and kale dal that we served over germinated brown rice...

Quinoa, berries, bok choy and pumpkin seeds...

In the heat of summer, while feasting on the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables made available to us, feeling revived and renewed, I am encouraged and reminded that He will indeed satisfy and supply all my need. 

The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. - Isaiah 58:11

Friday, April 26, 2013

Waging War in the Storm

Recently a storm arose that was much like those pop up thunderstorms we experience in the heat of summer. You know the kind I’m talking about: you know what conditions trigger it, you sense it coming, and if you get caught out in it, the downpour may just ruin a good pair of shoes?

Well, this storm was like that, only it was spiritual in nature and had the potential to ruin exceedingly more than a pair of shoes. The conditions (stressors, uncertainties, obligations, etc.) were right for a perfect storm and I could sense something, a spirit, was lurking and about to take hold. As the “clouds” rolled in and the “storm” was upon us, I prayed, called for help and began to see the storm blow over and praise God, sooner, rather than later, the sun shone brilliantly.

In those moments when the storm had passed and the sky was still clearing, I had the blessing of some much-needed quiet time alone with my Lord. He’s been telling me to remember where He’s led me and how He’s loved me throughout my life, and in looking back to really remember His activity, I pulled out an old journal and began reading through the pages and remembering the days, weeks, months and years. As my quiet time was ending, I came to an entry from the beginning of 2010. I sensed that there was something more for me in reading through that entry, something new for me to see or hear. The first words I wrote on that particular day were 2 Chronicles 20. I opened my Bible and saw where I had written the words: Battle Plan to Fight Satan. The following verses of scripture were underlined and numbered with the steps in the plan.

I didn’t record who taught this lesson, but I am grateful for the notes I have from it. As a reminder to myself for the next trial and maybe for someone else who is in the midst of a difficult situation, these are some steps from Jehoshaphat’s prayer in 2 Chronicles 20 for waging war in spiritual matters.

1.     Look to God.
                    He set his face to seek the Lord… (vs.3)

2.     Call for help.
                   …and proclaimed a fast …and all the cities came to seek the Lord (vs.4)

3.     Remind God who God is.
Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? (vs.7)

4.     Cry out to God.
We will stand before this house and before you – for your name is in this house – and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save. (vs.9)

5.     Name the promise.
…you have given us to inherit. (vs.11)

6.     Confess our weakness and need for God.
For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. (vs.12)

7.     Listen.
Listen…thus says the Lord to you… (vs.15)

8.     Hold fast to what God says.
Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s…You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf… (vs.15b,17)

9.     Worship God.
Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground…worshipping the Lord…(vs.18)

10. Faith in God establishes you.
Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets and you will succeed. (vs.20)

11. Give thanks to God.
Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever. (vs.21)

vs.22 – And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the enemy.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12

One of my favorite authors has said, “Satan will get others to do to you what he wants to do to you”. In other words, we have a very real enemy who seeks to steal from us using tactics of blame, shame, busyness, failure and deception…he will entice us to heap condemnation on ourselves or on others. But, we have a hope and promise that we can stand firm as Jesus takes back all that satan has stolen from us.

Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent. – Exodus 14:13-14