Sunday, February 24, 2013

Simply Blessed

I celebrated my birthday last week with the simple sweet blessings of family, friends, worshipping and serving God, times of rest and time to reflect. I am grateful for where I’ve been, for how the Lord has led me into the unknown and shown me how He is my Healer and Provider. I am thankful for times of correction, restoration, redemption, renewal and refreshing. For every good and perfect gift that has come down from the Father of Heavenly lights:

·         my parents

·         my brother and sister-in-law

·         my nephew and nieces

·         my Chloe Maltese

·         my church family and Life Group

·         my job and co-workers

·         my home and material possessions

·         nutritious and delicious foods

·         people who know and share wisdom with regards to spiritual and physical health

·         hope, faith, trust for the future

·         peace for today

·         the assurance that God is with me

·         sun and rain

·         physical activity and physical rest

·         music that awakens my soul and nourishes the spirit within me

·         reasons to celebrate, pure joy


You make known to me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. – Psalm 16:11

Birthday Highlights:

Raw Chocolate Cupcake with Raspberry Frosting...nothing artificial here! And Oh, so delicious...definitely a sweet blessing!

From me, to sheets for my bed. A great way to freshen up for spring which is just around the corner!

Chocolate Decadence with fresh berries...another sweet blessing.

My brother's wife is incredibly creative! She made this super cute file for my race bibs.

Fun new clothes from my mom and dad...

Simple, sweet blessings...a card and coloring pages from my nephew and niece.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Turning to Love

You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey and go… - Deuteronomy 1:6-7

As I began reading and studying Deuteronomy, the verses above jumped off the pages at me. I asked God to show me from what “mountain” I needed to turn; to what or who did I need to fix my gaze upon, and where I was to “take my journey and go”.

The One who is always faithful revealed that the mountain I faced was a mountain called unbelief. Although I had believed God for big things like eternal salvation and healing my body when I was unwell, I faltered in my belief, not so much that He is able, because I do believe that:

He is able to do far more abundantly all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us – Ephesians 3:20

but, rather that He was perhaps too busy or maybe even unwilling to see to the “little” things that concern me. Over time, praying and waiting to see how He would work in certain circumstances, I became distracted and began to look outward for signs of His activity, rather than keeping my eyes fixed on Him, rather than listening for His still small voice to lead. I admit that I have seen little glimpses of a direction and run ahead thinking that this surely was the way, forgetting to keep my gaze set on Him with a heart of discernment. Looking outward and running ahead only caused me to feel anxious and as though I were wandering through the wilderness on my own with no GPS. I lacked joy and I didn’t know how to get to a place of peace and rest.

In 2012, I studied the Book of James thoroughly, three separate times. My first study was a group study using a workbook and DVDs. In the first DVD, we were encouraged that after spending several weeks in James, we would get our joy back. I was thrilled at the prospect of having that deep sense of joy I had lost. After completing the study, I was encouraged, but still lacked the joy I so desperately wanted to feel. A couple of months later I felt a strong desire to study James again, this time with only my Bible and a good commentary. As I worked through the book, from beginning to end, I began to memorize each verse. The words of James would fill my thoughts throughout the day and began to take hold as I applied them to situations and events in my life. Yet, I got to the end of the book and still did not have a joy surpassing all understanding. Towards the end of 2012, I studied James for the third time with my small group at church. For several weeks we took small portions and discussed how we could apply the truths to our lives. We wrapped up our study of James around the same time I began reading in Deuteronomy. I heard the voice of the Lord awakening my spirit to see that I had wandered to a mountain He never intended for me to climb. I simply needed to make a complete turn to Him and I would see all that He has led me through and taught me, but most importantly how He has loved me with an everlasting love, how He has carried me and has provided for me – spiritually, physically and emotionally. I sensed Him calling me to turn from the “mountain of unbelief” and fix my gaze upon Him, taking my journey wherever He leads.  

From there you will seek the Lord Your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul…you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice. For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you… - Deuteronomy 4:29-31

I am so thankful that He has a plan and purpose for my good and that He has continually wooed me, drawing me in to His word and restored my joy, not by changing circumstances, but by changing me.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you and you shall be rebuilt. Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers. – Jeremiah 31:3-4
Now that sounds like a reason to celebrate! And since it is Valentine's Day, what better way to celebrate than with some chocolatey goodness?
Flourless Chocolate Cake
1 Cup Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
1 Cup Coconut Oil
1 1/4 Cups Coconut Sugar
6 Eggs
1 Cup Cocoa Powder
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch glass pie dish with parchment paper and oil the sides with coconut oil.
Combine chocolate chips and coconut oil in a pan over medium low heat. Stir occassionally until melted and well combined. Remove from heat and add sugar, mixing well. Add eggs, mixing well. Add cocoa and stir until just blended, smoothing out any lumps.
Pour into pie dish and bake 20-25 minutes. Be careful not to overbake, cake should be just firm in the center. Let cool for 10 minutes, then turn out on a cake plate to cool completely.
Chocolate Glaze
1/2 Cup Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
3 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1 Tbsp Coconut Milk
1 Tbsp Honey
1/4 tsp Vanilla
While cake is cooling, melt chocolate chips and coconut oil over medium low heat, stirring until well combined. Remove from heat and stir in coconut milk, honey and vanilla. Pour over cake, smoothing along top and sides.
Chill cake in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Then slice and serve with fresh raspberries for a truly decadent dessert!

Sunday, February 3, 2013


I’m thankful that my birthday is in February, the 20th to be exact, because quite often I find that I have a slow start to the New Calendar Year in terms of making much needed changes and resolutions. But, even if I have a difficult time making changes on January 1, I have a fresh start by February, because for me, it’s a celebration of another year on this earth and hope in a new year just beginning. So here is to fresh beginnings! It's been far too long since my last blog post and the Lord has been so gracious to speak to me in so many ways, I have much on my heart to share.

On January 21st I began a “sugar detox” eating only berries, lemons, vegetables, wild caught fish, organic chicken and grass-fed beef, nuts, seeds, apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, herbs and spices. Although I only use honey, coconut sugar, coconut nectar, dates and real maple syrup as sweeteners, those are still sugar and the body just needs a break from that in order to reset the digestive system and cleanse away anything that is not beneficial. And, truth be told, more than I’d like to admit, I will skip a meal and just have dessert, so I knew my body needed a reset. The plan was to stay on the detox until after the 15k Double Bridge Run on February 2nd.

The day before my sugar detox was to begin, I came down with the flu. This turned out to be such a blessing because it forced me to eat really healthy and kept any cravings for sugary foods at bay. I also received a timely word of encouragement from a good friend:

…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith… - Hebrews 12:1-2

This was just the word I needed to encourage me in “throwing off” things that were hindering my hearing from God and running the race (of life) that He has marked out for me; in doing the work that He has prepared in advance for me to do (Ephesians 2:10). I was spurred on to stick with my detox to clear my mind and cleanse my body, while the flu was enabling me to throw off/sweat out other impurities through the fever. It also gave me an opportunity to just simply rest and when I felt able, to fix my eyes on Jesus by looking to God’s word. Because, really, there is just not much good on TV when you are homebound for 3 days straight and syndicated episodes of Reba (I greatly enjoy that show!) are only on for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening.

As I looked to God’s word, fixing my eyes on Jesus, I was reminded that we endure cycles of suffering and restoration. I knew that the flu was a time of temporary suffering and that God would restore. As the pounding headache faded and my body began to feel strong, I had the Double Bridge Run in view. After spending nearly two weeks on the sugar detox, I felt strong and able for the run even though I had not spent time training. The day before the run, these words leapt off the pages of Deuteronomy:

…you have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey and go… - Deuteronomy 1:6-7

I asked God to help me daily, hourly, moment by moment turn and fix my eyes on Jesus. Little did I know that the very next day, during the run, I would have a perfect picture of what it is to fix your eyes on the sun (Son). The morning of the run, the temperature was 39 degrees...brrr, that is COLD! With a gunshot start, I began to make my way through downtown Pensacola towards the 3 mile bridge to Gulf Breeze. Running across the bridge, I felt strong and the clear blue sky allowed the sun to shine brilliantly, sparkling on the water. One thing I noticed as I faced the first mountainous hill was that if I looked ahead at the incline I became focused on what it would require of me to overcome it, yet when I looked towards the sun, I was so taken with its beauty that I didn’t even notice when I began the ascent up the hill. There were times when the sun was so bright that I had to close my eyes and just put one foot in front of the other, continuing in faith that as I ran towards the sun I would persevere. The encouragement of friends in the race and bystanders along the way helped spur me on to keep a steady pace to the end. Then, the next big hurdle came and it seemed more steep than the previous, but just as with other matters of life, God is faithful to His word:

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. – John 14:26

I was reminded of the last hurdle and how I was given the power to overcome it, my faith was renewed to believe that this too could and would be overcome. I just needed to press in to the journey, the race, God had marked out for me and know and believe that it was for my good. The momentary pain of conquering the obstacle was only slight compared to the glory of crossing the finish line in 80 minutes and 25 seconds.

As I waited with the crowd for other friends among the 4,000 runners to cross the finish line, I thought of Hebrews 12:1 and the “great crowd of witnesses” cheering us on. The excitement in the crowd as runner after runner made their way to the end of the race was contagious. There is nothing more exciting than watching someone endure and receive the prize….in a race and in life.
To celebrate, I had a chocolate shake with a grass-fed beef burger and baked sweet potato fries.

Chocolate Shake

3/4 cup coconut milk
2 frozen bananas
cinnamon, to taste
cocoa to desired chocolateyness
1 Tbsp honey
ice cubes, to meet desired amount of thickness

Combine all ingredients in a Vitamix or high-powered blender. Blend until well combined. Pour into glasses and enjoy! Serves 2.