Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Holiday Hodgepodge

It should not come as a surprise to anyone I know well that I've been in a little bit of a funk off and on since I had our baby girl in May. Things have gotten better, but it has been a struggle, for my mental, emotional and spiritual strength.

With Valentine's Day coming this weekend, Lent starting today and a genuine desire and need to reconnect with Jesus, I write to you this holiday hodgepodge that God inspired in me this morning.

My family of origin did not "do Lent" (or Advent, for that matter). We grew up with faith in God and attending church as important parts in our family and lives, but these more formal traditions were not part of my faith practice. I don't know if I've ever "successfully" given anything up for Lent. This morning as I loaded my car with all of our stuff, to get the kids to daycare and myself to work, I saw the most beautiful sunrise happening!

As I got Zachary out to the vehicle, I stopped, pointed and said, "Look at the pink and purple sky! It's so pretty - and God painted it just for us, it's an early valentine! YAY JESUS!" (he's really into saying "yay" for anything he likes) I smiled huge, he smiled huge and I loaded up Sophia and we were on our way. After dropping off the kids, I was thinking about today being the start of Lent and that I just can't imagine giving anything up right now... Not when life has so often felt like survival mode and filled with sacrifices the last 8 months.

Here's where the holiday hodgepodge comes in. God seemed to stir in me this thought: What if instead of giving something up, I look for a valentine from Him every day. A valentine is a gesture, gift or words shared to let someone know you care about them and love them. It is not given with the expectation of return. Sounds a lot like grace to me! Then I thought about how I really like scavenger hunts. If Lent leads up to Easter, maybe this could be a giant Easter egg hunt. I could be on the look out for God's reminders of love for the next 40 days.

As I listened to the radio and prayed on my way to work, they talked about how the sacrifice offered during Lent can help us reflect on the sacrifice God gave for us through Jesus. That is very true. For me though, I already feel so connected with sacrifice and struggle, it's not really the component of my faith that seems to be lacking. It's my genuine response to God's love daily, sometimes moment by moment. I feel like I have lost touch with some of the things I love so much about who God has made me to be and that makes me sad and frustrated.

God nudged me to please look for His gestures of love, His valentines every day of lent this year. When Easter comes, my heart will hopefully be as equally connected to the love that the sacrifice was given out of (as it is to the sacrifice itself).

So there you have it, Valentine's Day, Lent and Easter egg hunts all come together here! May the next 40 days prepare your heart to connect to the God who loves you so much, just as you are, that He was willing to offer His son Jesus in your place. Since we can't earn our way to heaven, He became The Way for us. I'd love to talk with you or write to you more about this, if you're interested, please let me know!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Vegan Rainbow Roast Recipe

Fall is all about the changing colors, and for me, it's all about using root vegetables in creative and fun ways, too!

Here's a recipe that is family-friendly and pretty easy to put together. If you have other root vegetables you want to swap out or add in, it's a very gracious recipe and I think pretty much any combination would deliver deliciousness to you and yours.

Here's what I did, follow along if you'd like!

Cube all of the following root veggies:
4 small red potatoes - washed, not peeled
3-4 peeled carrots with ends cut off
3-4 peeled parsnips with ends cut off (these are the long white carrot-looking things you find at farmer's markets)
1 onion
3-4 small beets, peeled with ends cut off

Put together in your favorite Pyrex dish (I think I used the 1.5 Quart size), stir together with enough extra virgin olive oil to lightly coat the veggies. Season with a sprinkle of Kosher salt, stir again.

Put it in the oven at 375, with the glass lid on for 30 minutes. Stir and top with a sprig of rosemary, putting the lid back on and baking for another 30 minutes (or until vegetables are fork tender).

That's it! It's savory, with a little sweet from the beets, and tastes of everything fall!

And your kids don't need to know it's vegetables, just call it Rainbow Roast! Enjoy!
I had the wonderful opportunity to guest post a few weeks ago on The Ruth Experience again. I wrote about: 

"WHY IT'S IMPORTANT THAT YOU KNOW YOU'RE A GREAT MOM "



Enjoy!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Should I be a First-Responder?

When I think of a First Responder, I think of the Police and Fire Departments, Nurses, Doctors, Paramedics and so on. This morning, I was thinking about another perspective to consider that I wanted to share. Have you ever thought of this applying to whether or not you respond outwardly to your first emotional response to something?

I was thinking about that this morning. As women, especially, we've heard talks at retreats and possibly read blogs, articles or even books about keeping our emotions in check and not allowing them to be in control. As an extremely expressive emotional person, I understand the concept and have read and heard messages about this, but I'm only starting to really understand the application and what it means for me recently. I am realizing that it's okay to have really big emotions about things, and also that I don't need to be a "first responder" and share my full emotions or respond with equal volume to the degree of which I'm feeling whatever it is that I'm feeling. For example, if my reaction is stress or frustration and I'm feeling nearly run over internally by the intensity of that feeling, I do not need to express that externally right away (bombarding those around me with hearing about my unprocessed/unfiltered stress or frustration).

My goal for this year is to become a healthier person, especially regarding having a healthier balance emotionally and learning to bring my first reactions into perspective under God's control and truth. I am not considering this a New Year's Resolution, because those generally rely on oneself to make said changes, and this does not fall into that category in my mind.  I do want to be intentional, though, to work with God on this area of my life and see fewer instances where I'm a "first responder." I'd also like to have more instances where I ask questions for clarification to check with myself to consider if my reaction or response matches the situation and to pray about my emotional "first response" and ask God to help me process and share what is appropriate for the situation.

This will be my prayer, "Take control of what I say, O LORD, and guard my lips."(Psalm 141:3) I'm praying for God to refine me in this area of my life, not to remove the expressive person I was created to be, but to learn how to bring it under control of the Holy Spirit and express the fullness within and consider what to share outward more carefully as the new person I am in Him.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Deliver

 Earlier this week, the Lord brought a very clear, succinct thought to my mind while I was getting ready for the day. It was this:

"Babies can't deliver, but moms can. Try to deliver patience when your baby doesn't deliver on your expectations. They can't intentionally deliver one way or the other."

I am one of the few women you may ever meet who actually enjoyed being in labor and delivering my child. I look back at that approximately 8 hours of active labor and 25 minutes of pushing as a very peaceful, wonderful, beautiful time and have fond memories of it. I know this sounds crazy, but that was my birth experience with my son. I'm not into eastern religion, but if I've ever had anything close to "Zen," I think it was during labor.

However, delivering emotionally can sometimes be quite challenging for me, right along with keeping everything in perspective. Especially patience, when I'm tired. Not a great track record on that one. But I've been working on this with the Lord over the last year especially, and God has been actively working in my heart and mind to grow me.

This little lesson would have come in handy the other night when I was tired and things weren't really going my way. My little boy fell asleep before having dinner and then woke up 3 hours later and was up until nearly midnight. I had tried to fall asleep when he did, but couldn't unwind and wasn't able to. And my husband was gone at school for the night. I totally forgot about this quote, literally written on the bathroom mirror, until I saw it the following morning. I felt so badly that I hadn't relied on this simple truth that I believe was a little lesson from the Lord, and I certainly did not respond with patience nor grace, unfortunately. I literally cried while feeding my son his late night dinner and hanging out with him (off and on) while I waited for help to arrive (my husband)... all because my little guy who is not even 2 was having an "off night" with regard to sleep, which is completely out of his and my control.

I'm thankful that His mercies are new every morning and that I can start over, so I will. And I'll keep in mind that when things aren't going my way, it's ok to acknowledge that I'm frustrated about the situation, but I don't need to come so unglued when it's completely out of my control (except for my response).

Guest Blog Post on The Ruth Experience

At the end of September, I was honored to be a guest blog contributor on a friend from college's blog with some of her family.

The post is called, "Where is everything going and who am I without it?" And it talks about some challenges I had a few months ago with my identity regarding my changing responsibilities at work.

Check it out: http://theruthexperience.blogspot.com/2013/09/guest-post-where-is-everything-going.html

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Softened Heart in the Making


When I sit down to write, or even think about it sometimes, it's almost like falling in love, because I get swept up in the process of getting my thoughts out on paper, it's sort of a romance at times. It fills me up, while allowing me to empty the things that have weighed me down, and it's quite spiritual, even when the contents aren't particularly so (because my faith is very integral to the way I try to process things). It's pretty great. But I don't do it enough, if I'm honest.

Here's something that's been on my mind lately about our parenting journey so far (which you can probably gather from prior posts has been uniquely challenging). When I fearfully, but honestly shared with my husband several years ago, early in our marriage, that God had given me a special spot in my heart for people who have special needs or are "different," I also shared that I'd be open to parenting someone like that, if God called us to that.

It was scary, because I had never said anything like that out loud, and most people can't even imagine that reality, unless it becomes a reality that they have to learn to navigate. The special place in my heart is something that God planted in me at some point during high school or college, I think. I've seen such beauty in the uniqueness of those who are visibly or otherwise different, that points to how uniquely beautiful it is to be created by God, and I've seen such joy radiate from those individuals who have come to learn (as I strive to learn) that their value is in belonging to the Lord and having been created by Him. It often, in fact, brings me to tears with the worshipful response my heart has to God, when I get the joy of interacting with someone. They delight in what they are able to do, even when the list of things that they cannot do in the traditional way may be a long (or short) list. The world focuses on what that person may be missing due to their differences, and often responds with pity and/or ignorance, but I see the beauty of not being distracted by trying to keep up with the world, and walking in step with the leading of the Lord (whether walking itself is literal or only spiritual).

Fast-forward to the journey that we've been on these last 19 months or so, and over the last few weeks, through a couple of God-lead conversations, He reminded me of that conversation with my husband those years ago. He also revealed to me that the special place in my heart for the beauty of being "different" or having "special needs" was in fact Him preparing me to parent our sweet little guy. While there are no diagnoses at this point, beyond some (non-life-threatening) food allergies, his small stature and developmental delays remain a cause of concern and the need for regular therapy from occupational, physical and other therapists (who focus on sensory, gross and fine motors, and cognitive play) and some on going tests and follow up with a handful of specialists to see if a diagnosis can be found. His small stature has always been a topic of conversation, but if you met our respective families and looked at the size of our extended families' statures, you would not be surprised that he is small. However, he is now so small that he is no longer on the graph paper that the growth curve is on, so they are quite concerned at that. Their concern is fine, but can be exhausting, expensive and time-consuming at times to cross those things off the list of things to do.

When I thought about people who have special needs and those who parent them, I thought of beautiful communities of support and guidance from other parents who were navigating similar, related courses, even though none are identical from what I understand. Because we don't have a diagnosis, we don't really fit into one of those communities that I once imagined. God has been reminding me over the last few weeks that He wants to be in communion with me, with us, as we journey together to learn how to parent and care for our son. Perhaps the community that I imagined would have kept me from running to the Lord in our times of frustration, confusion and times that we wanted to quit this stuff of "eliminating major concerns," perhaps it wouldn't have. I don't know. What I do desire is to walk closely with God through this journey and to remember that we aren't supposed to have the strength, perseverance, unity in our marriage without His power, His Spirit at work in us, His leading.

Now what? I've scheduled the skin-testing for allergies and will be calling to schedule an MRI of his brain and a visit with the pediatric nutritionist at Children's. Sometime before the end of the year, we will likely meet with the geneticists at the U of M. The list goes on, but that's not the point. God's reminding me and teaching me to delight in my son and the joy that he brings to our lives. The other things are details that God has entrusted to my husband and I to do, as we're able. I'm also learning it's ok to take breaks from the testing and doctor visits, as long as we get to them within a reasonable period of time. It's ok to be done for a while, as long as I'm resting in the One who created all of us. And as long as I do get up and keep going after I've had a bit of rest.

The Lord has been teaching me a lot the last few weeks, but these are just a few of the things that He has been teaching me and He has really been softening my heart again towards all of the challenges we face, so that I'm able to enjoy the non-challenges so much more.

He is faithful. He has never left me to fend for myself. He has never left me unequipped to do what He has called me to do. Why should I think any of those things would be different now? I shouldn't, but sometimes in the middle of the most tiring days or scary tests, I forget for a moment. God has been so kind and consistent in reminding me of who He has created me to be and what He has equipped me to do (and will continue doing so). I also know it probably pales in comparison with the challenges and frustrations of families who parent or care for children with known diagnoses, because a diagnosis doesn't put an end to the doctors visits, medical bills, or pure exhaustion beyond "the norm" of parenting in general. My prayers have been increasing for those families I know who have challenges so much more extreme than ours, some even life-threatening, as God has brought this reality to me as well.

This has been a very refreshing couple of days indeed, and I needed it very much. On to the next adventures, appointments and beyond that - enjoying my family and giving them my full attention, love and joy that is from walking with the Lord. And I want to figure out how to better love and support people who are parenting kids who are "different," whether diagnosed with something, or still journeying to discovering if there's even a diagnosis to be found. And I hope that what God is teaching me might be an encouragement to them as well.