Gift

It was just last year when I read the book that changed my heart and mind toward noticing the beauty of the wonder in the mundane.

Oh how it has changed me.

One by one they come alive. Lovely , remarkable joy through the lens  of a new prescription.

Gifts, that’s what they are called. When Jesus took the bread and gave thanks for something as hard as death, murdered for doing nothing, these are the things I’ve learned.

So how do I miss it so often. How do my little vices, the problems which cause me to be anxiety prone or to lose my temper, how do they happen so fast? When none are my death. When none are my cross.

I lose sight of the precious and I bask in the misunderstandings and I forget what it means to be grateful.

And then the husband of mine holds me, and he sets my mind and my perceptions straight from the knots they were entangled. And so grace becomes real again and I remember what it all means and I pray that I don’t forget so quickly the next time. Because gratefulness gives Him glory and that’s what my life is meant to do. To see the gifts is to recognize that He is sovereign even when I don’t understand. And there is so much joy from a life lived this way. And oh what a beautiful dance that turns out to be.

 

The book I am referring to is One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp…

Today is Five Minute Friday, where I love to stop, drop and write for 5 minutes with The Gypsy Mama

 

 

Loving more…

Some days bring peace and some days bring crazy, and what can you do but just live? And the days that are free, that burn with a passion, of a new experience, of a light lit up, they are the days that fall hard. When hopes and expectations collide and run into the ground of what could’ve been. When I know I’ve started something I don’t want to finish and we both say things we don’t mean. When frustration pounds the earth and hurts are exposed and the heaviness of this marriage thing feels like more than I wanted to carry. Because I don’t like having to care all of the time and I wish that it didn’t take all this work to feel understood.

But, you see, after the loud crashes of the day seemed overwhelming and words have calmed, I have found that the redemption of all of it is beautiful. The walking and holding hands and talking again. And remembering why I love him. All can seem fleeting and lost in the moments of chaos, but grace finds us right where we are. And that grace hit me hard yesterday, and I looked at him. My love has grown. I know this is true. The heart wrenching parts of me that didn’t know how, or hadn’t gotten it yet, or those walls that hadn’t come down, they are falling and I am rubble. And for the first time I want to be this way so that my heart is exposed to what I truly feel, so that I can show him the depth of my being, where I hold his.

This is the truth of it. That marriage gives you a mirror and a shovel and you have to dig down deep to see who you really are. It’s not for the faint of heart and no wonder its easier to choose a different way. But he knows, and I know, that we’d rather do hard and have each other, then live a life of not knowing how to love. Because hard isn’t always and there are joys that fill the days, and we teach each other of a redemption story each time we choose to forgive. And in the moments when we lose ourselves to the enemy of lies and we tell each other them as truths, we will learn to hold our tongue, to find our Maker first, and learn to say the real words that matter. Isn’t this the beauty of a refining marriage? It teaches us that this thing that we are living is not for us, ourselves, but for a God who desires glory and there are many days when we miss the point. But grace is sufficient, so we can give it to each other, and what a beautiful dance that brings. Because I’m learning to know Him now, by learning to love better the man I was created for. And it’s true what they say: Compared to yesterday or last year, I do love him more.

Brave

It’s Friday again, the day I like to stop drop and write with The Gypsy Mama. No editing, over thinking, or back tracking.

 

 

Sometimes I feel like a glass all shattered. One that broke open unexpectedly. Spill the contents of the expected and let it fall to the floor. Sometimes I feel like that glass held an ocean, and now I’m swimming in the reality of who I thought I was compared to who I am deep in the tide pools of myself. Sometimes  I feel like that ocean that has spilled out, has waves and current that come as unexpected as tsunami and, you know, sometimes, I just can’t contain it all.

Because sometimes the shattered comes out beautiful, a mosaic of pieces strewn together as art. That tie in the beauty and call it something new all-together. And what else do I have to count on, but the brave redemption that makes this human holy? You see, that’s the gift of the broken pieces. He doesn’t want our perfect pretending, He just wants us, rough edges and all. And sometimes those edges are sharp and they make this hard life harder and people will think that the talk doesn’t match. But I believe in the sincerity that comes with rebel hearts on sleeves that have learned the God-love that changes lives, and that makes these sinners holy. So I will live with my broken glass heart, aching to become a whole of new types of pieces.

 

Empty

So today is Friday, when I choose to stop, drop and write with other beautiful people at The Gypsy Mama, without over editing or over thinking.

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kylebatson/3308520041/

 

I am learning to find fulfillment in the empty: to breach the chasms of my soul and find the grace contentment of less of me,  to rid myself of the barren places that I name Discontentment and find solace in the beauty of my small self in the light of Him. Because many days I feel the broken kind of empty that the deceiver brings that labels itself worthless and unimportant, and I forget the worth of the empty in the hands of my Maker.

So I continue to tear the walls down, the dams that stop the river from flowing, and I let the waterfalls come. They pour into the places of who I want to be, until nothing is left but who He is. And I’m trying to fill the caverns of brokenness with the space and glory of Him, and redefine the emptiness into peace and grace and not needing to understand. Because empty is good when its filled with His fullness, the same way the black of the night feels so empty until the beauty of the stars and the moon awaken themselves to our eyes.

And that’s the hope of it all. Because in Him deserts become an oasis, and dry souls become overflowing graces, and to see ourselves in the light of emptiness is not something we like to do. But more of Him and less of me is the soul cry that we show when our emptiness becomes profound and we awaken to the need of glorious galaxies in our life. I want to look up and see the light, when my heart beats in the dark.

Discovering Simplicity: Sustainable Living

So, after the month of February, Dan and I tried to decide what the month of March was going to look like for us. We were wary of another challenge, simply because one couple can only handle so many self-control-habit-changes for so long.

Enter 7. Again.

Jen Hatmaker is giving us lots to think about and talk about and pray about, and everything she says is not only logical, but biblical, and it just drives me crazy that we haven’t spent a lot of time processing this stuff before. Really, not many people have, which is why Jen’s book is so necessary. So please, pick up a copy, and try to take at least one challenge. You won’t be sorry.

Anyway, so this month we decided that we wanted to jump into a different realm. A world that we haven’t done much research on, and honestly we have kind’ve written off as hippie, or tree-hugger-ish (yes this is a word.).

So before you go jumping to conclusions, I want you to know that I’ve already been there. I have the stereotypes myself. And I am coming to realize how very wrong I was because of it. I wrote off people’s efforts because I disagreed with their motives and didn’t understand that what they are doing is good.

You might ask, “Why even try?” I think a quote from Jen Hatmaker’s book does it far more justice than I ever could.

If God is really at the center of things and God’s good future is the most certain reality, then the truly realistic course of action is to buck the dominant consequentialist ethic of our age– which says that we should act only if our action will most likely bring about good consequences– and simply, because we are people who embody the virtue of hope, do the right thing. If we believe it is part of our task as earthkeepers to recycle, then we ought to recycle, whether or not it will change the world. Do the right thing. If we think it part and parcel of our ecological obedience to drive less and walk more, then that is what we ought to do. Do the right thing. We should fulfill our calling to be caretakers of the earth regardless of whether global warming is real or there are holes in the ozone layer or three nonhuman species become extinct each day. Our vocation is not contingent on results or the state of the planet. Our calling simply depends on our identity as God’s response-able human image-bearers.

So with that caveat, I will begin to tell what Dan and I have been learning…

We are learning that God loves His earth. He made it. He wants it to be fruitful for us and beautiful to our eyes and He wants it to be kept beautiful for years to come.

God desires us to be intentional people. I always thought I was intentional, but really I am very careless with much that I have been given.

We are called to be stewards. Almost every Christian I know believes this to be true, mainly in the area of finances. This is absolutely true in that area, but it also relates to everything we have been given, including this earth, and including our bodies. We spend so much of our day carelessly filling our bodies with food that hurts more than it helps and damaging the earth without even being aware of it.

Every purchase we make effects something. We tell the sellers what we want by buying it, not the other way around. If we make more informed, controlled purchasing decisions, the sellers would start listening and those other products would not find success anymore (i.e. happy meals, clothing made by slaves, food with harmful ingredients, etc). This also relates to the idea that there is enough to go around, in terms of food and water, and if we consciously made an effort to reduce the waste and share that tangible wealth for all of God’s creation, we could begin to see starvation and water-borne illnesses go away.

We make a ton of waste, even just for 2 people. Especially with the advent of prepackaged items and most people not knowing what can be recycling or just not taking the time, there has been a huge proportional increase in general waste. This stuff doesn’t go anywhere and just sits around, harming our air, and our earth in many, many ways.

 

Now I know this stuff isn’t new to anyone, but when Dan and I started analyzing it all, we realized this is a big spiritual problem. We as humans desire to be consumers and we as Christians are called to be generous servers. Somewhere along the way, we’ve allowed ourselves to believe that those people should be left to making the earth better and we will just love people. We miss huge parts of what intentional, generous, believers are called to.

So Dan and I are spending this month becoming more educated. We are implementing simple ways we can be more intentional and conscientious ways we can live more sustainably and responsibly. Some of this is really fun and some of it takes some serious mindset changing. We are a work in progress and we are enjoying where this is leading us. At the end of the month I will let you know what resources I find, but for now I will go make some homemade laundry detergent, take out the recycling, and walk to the market.

 

Discovering Simplicity: Part 2

photo credit: http://www.gardenguides.com/vegetables/

 

 

As you probably know, over the past few months God has been tuning my heart to hear what He has to say about excess and waste and greed and my role in all of it. I typically never thought of myself as greedy, but after analyzing my life, I realize that my actions have a tendency to show more self indulgence than they do generosity, more carelessness than intentionality. This stuff is counter-cultural to Jesus. He came and did everything with intention. He gave freely. He moved people. He changed lives. So we wanted to see if we could remove some of the dependence we have on food, on things that are unhealthy, and on cooking well (aka: spending money), and replace it with self-control and gratefulness for what we’ve been given. This is a huge lesson in stewardship and it was hard, but guess what??

WE DID IT!!!

We intentionally spent only $100 dollars on groceries for our home (actually it was $97, but who’s counting??), and it really, really worked. We didn’t go hungry, we didn’t lose weight, we just limited and cut back and had self control at the grocery store. It’s really amazing what can happen when we plan ahead, only go to the store for certain things, and cook creatively.

One caveat would be to say that we did eat out the same amount as we normally do (in April, this will be our target item to cut back on) and if we were in a hurry (meaning not if we ran out of food) we sometimes bought food/coffee at work. Mostly though, we tried to pack as much as we could, which meant that packing lunches was a part of the $100 goal.

This was an incredible month. We both stopped snacking, and we ate smaller portions, and we thought about and prayed for those who are hungry way more. We were grateful for every meal and it was amazing to find things to make for dinner even though we had “nothing to eat”… God wrecked me once again and I am so grateful that He did. This fast was incredibly successful and it’s my hope that He was glorified.

We would encourage as many people as we can to take a look at their lives and find one area where cutting back could be more helpful than harmful and challenge yourself and your family. Whatever your motivation: financial, awareness, simplicity– you will change through it for the better. I promise.

Some of our friends/family asked specifically how we made this work. Remember that we chose to only live off of 30% of our typical food budget, so creativity did occur, which made it a very fun project for me. So here are some tips on cutting back that really helped our success in this endeavor:

1) Pick 7 guideline foods. For us, we’ve used more than 7 in the end, but starting there gave us a foundation that was very helpful when shopping. None of these food were processed and many had “superfood” qualities. We got most of these foods from the book “7” which was the inspiration to the whole month. Our 7 foods were: chicken, avocado, apples, wheat bread, spinach, rice, and sweet potatoes. We added foods like cereal/oatmeal, grapefruit, and peanut butter/jelly, tuna, eggs, and yogurt, in order to accent the other items and to have more variety when it came to packing lunches/eating breakfast.

2) Eat smaller portions. We started using our salad plates as dinner plates and we filled them to create the illusion that we were eating more. This part is a mind game and it works. We ate the first plate of food as slowly as we could and had a rule that we could only go up for seconds (and the portions the second time around had to be smaller than the first– this worked most times because the portions I cooked were less too) and not thirds. We realized that sometimes going for seconds is about hunger and sometimes its about desire (and we still wanted to enjoy the food we cooked).

3) Eat less meat. We chose to make our food go further by cutting up chicken instead of eating it in whole breasts. Therefore 3 fresh chicken (skinless, boneless) tenders was enough to feed both of us when mixed with veggies and rice. This made the meat last longer in our freezer/refrigerator and we didn’t have to buy it each week which is a huge money saver.

4) Shop local. As much as we could, we used Central Market as our fruit and vegetable go-to place. Dan and I really like fruits and veggies, and we tend to spend a lot of our budget on this stuff at the grocery store. At market, we spent a total of 25$ there for the whole month and ate veggies every night and fruit daily. This called for extra planning since market is only open 3 days a week from morning to early afternoon, and my work schedule didn’t always comply.

5) Be on the same team. For most of this we were completely in unity. Dan was really on board with saving money and I was excited about living simply. This helped, because I can’t imagine trying to do this without him being into it. It also helped when one of us was really craving our favorite snack, or just really wanted to spend money and cook a nice meal, and we could remind each other what our goal was. For the most part, we had a lot of fun doing it together too!

Thank you to all of you who supported us through this. While we will not be holding strict to the $100 budget anymore, we do know that our goal is to maintain self control and learn from what we’ve been taught. This month we are going to be working on stewardship, and I will tell you a little more tomorrow about what that entails for us! We are excited to see what God will continually be doing in our lives!

Ache

Coming back from my two week writing hiatus because of exhaustion and busyness, and today happens to be Friday. On Fridays I like to stop, drop, and write for 5 minutes with no editing, back-tracking, and over-thinking. I’m doing it with the lovely ladies over at The Gypsy Mama.

 

There is an ache inside me and I’m not sure what it means. I’ve had it for as long as I can remember and I wish I could just figure it out. Sometimes I perceive it as a discontentment, sometimes a calling. Sometimes its just a yearning for more, for change, and sometimes I understand it as a simple need to roll down the windows and drive.

This ache moves me, and there is so much I just can’t figure out about it, that I hope I’m moving in the right direction. It’s the desire that spurs me to more– to be more, to do more, to love more, and to hear more. This ache can be so good, so well-used, and it can be so hard and so misunderstood.

It leads me to my passions and it determines what steps I take and I think that I misunderstand it because sometimes I say that it tells me things that I know it wouldn’t.

You see, this is a holy sort of thing, and sometimes I lay it on the dirt of my own desires and call it by names it would never answer to. And the aching is there and it wants to be used right.

I heard once that the place we are called is the place where our deepest longings and God’s holy desires are combined and in that we will be most satisfied.

And I search for that. For the finding of the fulfillment of  my ache within. And I know it will change, and I know it will grow, and that ache might never leave until we are fully dwelling in Him. So I ache for the day. And I’m learning to find it.