Diary of an Overconsumer (day 2)

IMG_20150323_095029_001Confession: This is what my fridge looked like three weeks ago. That day, I opened it up and whined, “Why are we always running out of food?”

*Gulp*.

Two unopened gallons of milk. Carrots. Eggs. Bread dough. Black rice. Peach cake. A 48-count package of sliced havarti and gouda cheese. Deli meat. Gorgonzola. A gazillion pound bag of chia seeds.

I was definitely running out of something. How about reason.

Today is day 2 of the 40-day fast, and all day long I’ve been stumbling into this truth:  I have a lot of work to do in changing how I think about food.

An hour after lunch today, my stomach felt empty. Heaven only knows why. Lunch today was a spinach salad with shredded chicken, dried mango slices, peanuts, and watered down mayonnaise as makeshift salad dressing.

I’m hardly starving over here, folks.

I got up, filled a glass full of water, and drank half. I stared out the window, watching the driving sleet, and thought about why I was hungry. Because really. Was I hungry? Or was it something else?

Did I simply need a new flavor in my mouth?

Psalm 19:10 –  God’s Word is better than a diamond, better than a diamond set between emeralds. You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring, better than red, ripe strawberries. (The Message version.)

I love strawberries in spring – the brightness, the tart-sweet juice. Deep breath. (stop drooling.) God’s words are better? Another deep breath. Yes. I believe that. Even today, when all I want is SWEET, RED FRUIT.

Why are God’s words better? Because truth lasts longer than the my ongoing cycle of crave and satiate. Truth teaches me how to live life. And right now, I want my living to get beyond the circle of myself and my family and into the world and it’s places of need.

Oh right. This was a call to action. 

I took a second and prayed for housing for Djeneba and her six week old daughter Nana. Becky and Hedi, the missionaries on the ground in Segou asked me to keep these two at the forefront of my prayers for the next couple of days.

Looking back at this, I see these little blips all over in my day. Moments when I’m hungry, tired, bored. Moments when I want a new taste in my mouth. These are the moments I need to stop and pray. Nothing big, nothing long, nothing flowery. Lord, provide a home for Djeneba and Nana. Give them peace in their day. Help Djeneba not to be overcome with worry. 

It’s going to take a little bit of practice to immediately turn my cravings for food into a prayer for the needs of others, but if that works, this will all be more than worth the effort.

PS – best news of the day? We get to break our fast on Sundays for a day to feast.

And all the people said AMEN. Please pass the ice cream.

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Stepping out of the way (blog hop with the Creative Jayne)

Hey guys, today I’m linking up with Kayla over at The Creative Jayne for her Encouragement Community blog hop. Kayla and I got to spend a day together letting our kids play while we talked about her ideas for starting a mama’s group in our church, and I was so thankful to get to know her better. Her heart is wide open and she’s funny, sweet, and has an amazing eye for design. Please take a few minutes to poke around her beautiful blog, check out the other two lovely writers in the hop here and here, and explore Kayla’s recommended vendors. Then head back here to hear what I learned from *gulp* speaking in front of a group of teenagers this week.

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The room was mostly dark, save for the stage lanterns and a string of blue lights slung across the front. I stood on the corner of the front steps, microphone in hand. The group of high school kids I was speaking to were all on their knees, bending over a giant roll of brown butcher-type paper rolled out across the floor, scrawling down things they were thankful for.

Just moments before, they had been huddled, arms out, everyone finding a shoulder to reach out to. They gathered around one boy in the middle – a boy who came up to me during one of the opening songs and whispered a story that broke my heart. A boy who asked if we could pray for him as a group.

Later in the evening, I looked back and saw every body standing, singing, their voices wide with emotion. For the sake of the world, burn like a fire in me.

And me? I had been preoccupied/worried for days. Reading. Writing down verses. Staring at my computer screen. Not because I was afraid to get up in front of high schoolers to talk about prayer. Not because I dislike public speaking. Not even because I couldn’t figure out anything to wear except a flannel shirt, which has become some sort of uniform for me.

Honestly, I just didn’t want the students to think a praise and worship night was weird.

Here’s the great part of being a mom to children under five. THEY DON’T THINK I’M WEIRD. They don’t judge. They accept me as I am. The greasy hair, the tired eyes, the clothes I may or may not have worn yesterday… none of it matters to them. (And for these things, all mothers of young children say amen.)

But I know they will get older, and inevitably, it’s not going to be cool that mom can talk like a monster with her belly. That beautiful innocence. Gone.

So I want to believe I was maybe a teensy bit justified being worried about standing in front of high schoolers, talking about PRAYER and GOD and singing quiet songs in a dark room.

Except that I shouldn’t have been. The kids I spoke to that night were incredible. They listened. They reached. They cared for another and, according to what I was reading in their scribbles and pictures of gratitude, they cared A LOT about the world around them.

Who was I to *almost* get in the way of something they needed to learn and experience because I was too worried about what they would think? What would have happened if I allowed myself to worry too much about their opinions.

I know it’s cliche to say it, but I had to step out of the way. I had to quit worrying what the students were going to think about a prayer and worship night.

I had just had to talk honestly about the things my heart knew about prayer – how it’s easy and beautiful and real and raw, and how God wouldn’t have it any other way. How communication between our heart and His needs no filter, no formula.

What more can we do in our day to day lives if we take the fear of what others might think about us out of the equation, and simply love them for all they are worth? How would that change the way you interact with the people in your life and around it?

Let’s be a community willing to speak from the realness of our hearts and the blue and broken honesty of our lives.

On asking the Shepherd to #bringbackourgirls

s_500_opednews_com_0_nigeriangirls-jpg_14934_20140502-68It is somewhere after five A.M., and my twin daughters and I lay in a puzzle of arms and legs in the old blue arm-chair. They will not give up this nursing session, and I’m never in the mood to force them. Not yet. Soon enough they won’t tolerate one laying on the other, wrapped in and under the warmth of my arms.

We sit in the chair long after they finish. I drift in between sleep and prayer, rhythmically rocking with one toe. Such movement for so little force. Lift, drop. Lift, drop. God, protect my little ones. Lift, drop. Give us patience with one another. Lift, drop.

My thoughts meander to a recently read article about the state of the missing Nigerian girls. 276 faceless names. Probably more. Girls whose mothers used to mumble the same prayers in the blue state of half-wakefulness.

God, please bring them home.

Lift, drop. Lift, drop.

And the media argues about publishing names and using images for the stolen girls, and leaders in Nigeria can’t seem to find the right words. It’s almost been a month, but no one knows the exact number of the missing and this is a source of contention. Identity and misrepresentation muddy the search waters. Meanwhile, the world looks on with interest as more and more people post #bringbackourgirls into the rippling tide of their social media oceans.

This too becomes controversy, arguing for the sake of arguing. Whether it’s pressure on the government, ransom offers, troops, hashtags, awareness – no one can say what, or who, or how the stolen girls will come running into the shaking arms of their loved ones. What’s important is that they do.

More than likely, the grieving mothers and fathers of the stolen girls know little about the interest the world has taken in their plight. They do not see the maelstrom gathering on our screens. Perhaps they journeyed to the capital to be a part of a protest, fists and arms and voices finally having a place to let out frustration. Anger at the empty bed in their house. A daughter lost in the unknown, a place where possibilities unraveled into tangles of fear.

And then they went home. Waited. Ached. Searched with other parents. Compared notes. Spent long nights by flickering light. Spent longer days wanting every movement, every sound to be a daughter reappeared.

A video surfaced today. It is purported to be a group of the missing girls, now dressed in black hijabs. Everyone wants to talk about how the girls have been forced to become Muslims, but all I want to do is stare at those beautiful faces – faces that are moving, eyes that are alive.

They are not lost. They just haven’t been found.

So I talk to God as I shake out the wrinkles in my laundry, piling shirts and prayer requests in the old blue basket. The girls stay in my thoughts as I feed my own daughters pancakes for lunch. As I sweep the scuffed up kitchen floor. And then God reminds me of something.

He is many things. Creator. Healer. Father. Shepherd.

And I have been that sheep, lost and found, carried and close. I know the reality of still waters. Of being restored.

I know that shepherds always care for their lost.

11 “‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.– Ezekiel 34: 11-16 (emphasis added.)

I know I can trust this Shepherd to be at work, searching out His scattered. I can keep praying, lift and dropping my thoughts with dogged regularity. And if I ever have a chance to be half way presentable after my littles go to bed, I’ll post my own hashtag pic. Until then, these words will do just fine.

#bringbackourgirls

 

Take Care, Make Care – Juliette’s Story

#throwback thursday much?

#Throwback Thursday much?

Today’s Take Care, Make Care post comes from someone I admire, respect, laugh with, cry to, and have shared a ridiculous amount of life experiences with for the past 15 years. Meet my best friend Jules. If ever I need a sounding board, cooking buddy, or walking partner, she’s there. (OK really if I need anything, she’s there.) Hers is a constant faith, well-fed with reading and prayer. That faith saw a huge test this past year for she and her family, and I really wanted her to share the self-care tactics that got her through. She gracefully agreed, so without further ado…

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Hello readers! I’m beyond honored to have the opportunity to write on Rachel’s blog. Rachel and I have been best friends since we met in the hallways at Northwestern College back in 2000. From the early days of freshman year where we thought it might be entertaining to take a Friday night and dine at McDonald’s in our high school prom dresses, to spending all of our flex money on whole pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, to planning our weddings, and finally, starting our families, we’ve gone through most of our big life changes together. She’s loyal to the core, funny, steadfast, encouraging and one of the best people I know.

I’m thankful for her desire to encourage others by sharing her life joys and struggles through her beautiful writing, and am delighted to share my own journey with self-care as a Fellow Passenger.

A little bit about me: I am a stay-at-home-mom of two beautiful children (Jameson-3.5 years and Lila-9 months), I have been married to my dear husband Brad for almost 9 years and live in a quaint riverside town called Marine on St. Croix. We spend our days going on adventures around our village, reading books, and naturally, pretending to be some kind of prehistoric creature.

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Two of my favorites: Jameson and Lila

The past year has been something of a whirlwind for our family. In July 2012, we made a decision to downsize from our house in Roseville, MN, as we were hoping to have more children and my desire to stay at home with them wasn’t financially possible. After 3 1/2 months, we had a purchase agreement on our house and sold it in December of 2012.

We spent most of 2013 paying off debt, looking for homes, and saving money by living with my dear in-laws who housed us for 9 months. We moved into temporary housing for a couple of months starting in September of 2013, and finally closed on our home in November.

Needless to say, 2013 was a tough year; a baby on the way, homeless for nearly 11 months and house hunting. I found out quickly the transient life was not for me. In addition to all of this, I was dealing with anxiety / postpartum depression, and it was in full force about a month after Lila was born. Self care at that time felt difficult to nearly impossible, but it was something I had to start prioritizing or else I was going to sink.

Today, I’ll share on a few different areas that have helped me in balancing my own care routine: Exercise, Counseling /Prayer, Caring for my own Interests and Simplification.

Exercise:

This isn’t new information, but exercising daily is proven to reduce stress levels, boost happy chemicals, help prevent cognitive decline, boost brain power, sharpen memory, tap into creativity, and get more done. My exercise goals right now basically include getting some movement in every day. Baby steps. We have a P.O. box in town since mail doesn’t get delivered to our street address. This offers us one daily errand that requires a short walk of about 8 blocks or so. It’s a small but effective way to get out of the house and move around, especially if I’m pushing a 40 pound toddler in a stroller or hauling a 20 pound infant in my backpack, or both.

Counseling / Prayer:

For the past couple of years, I have been seeking treatment for OCD / Anxiety through a couple of different Christian counselors, as well as a Christian Psychiatrist. Being a believer in Jesus, it was really important to incorporate my faith walk into my mental health. I wholeheartedly believe that mental health and spiritual health are connected. In addition, I have a group of friends/family members who pray for me and who I know will be there to encourage me through the struggle. Having a circle of prayer support is crucial for me as I continue in the battle.

Interests:

Music is a huge love for me and one that’s very important to incorporate into my life as much as possible. A few years ago, my husband and I bought a piano off of Craigslist for $50. Most days, the kiddos and I will sing songs and play around with music for maybe 30-45 minutes. It’s a way for me to do something I love and have an outlet for my own creativity, but it also teaches my kids about the importance of music and helps them learn through song.

Simplification:

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Love these guys – Brad and Juliette

I realized pretty early on after having kids that I wanted to stay home with them. Unfortunately, our mortgage didn’t coincide with that desire. If I was going to give up my job, something else would have to give. We needed less. Less mortgage, less debt, less stress, just less. We sold our home and did what we set out to do, just 12 short months afterward. Today, we are basically debt free and finally settled in a house that we can afford on one salary. By simplifying our financial life, we’ve been able to care for ourselves and also our children more effectively.

It’s easy to see what a strong impact that properly caring for yourself has on those around you. You’ve just got to make the time to do it. My therapist reminded me that our children see us as a reflection of who they are. When I stopped to think about that, it struck me. If I’m not actively working on making the best version of myself that I possibly can, what will I be reflecting to my children? What am I saying about who I am and who they are? Ultimately, I want to exemplify the spirit of someone who can laugh easily, love deeply, and trust the God whom I serve that he made something beautiful when He created me. Only then will I be able to be that reflection of God’s grace and mercy at work.