Friday, October 23, 2015

Have Hope

Some where, far, far away, on top of a distant mountain, buried back in the woods in a perfect cabin, or in some perfect house unlike the one you live in now, is complete happiness. 

Have you ever felt like that? Like if you could just tweak one thing, if you could just move somewhere else, if you could just find peace on the top of a mountain, life would be always happy and always perfect. I know I have felt a semblance of this before. A feeling that if I could just escape, just fly away, all would be well. All fear would vanish and all peace would come in.

This evening, after getting home from work, I helped my mom put together some enchiladas. Since I was home alone for a while, I put on some Disney princess songs to listen to (yes, I secretly enjoy listening and watching a good number of the Disney princess movies....) Eventually, after my mom arrived home from her shopping, we ended up listening to Frozen's soundtrack...again. 

This movie is fascinating because it delivers a powerful message of what true love can look like and also shows that love releases the spell of fear. In the movie's top song, "Let It Go," Elsa sings:

"It's funny how some distance,
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can't get to me at all!"

The words are rather ironic because we soon see that while Elsa believes that she has escaped her fears by fleeing, she is still stuck in an out of control cycle. She is still controlled by her fears.

I have often struggled with fear- even fears of completely unrealistic situations occurring. I think I have sometimes felt that peace lies far away- almost as if it is a destination instead of a truth which can exist no matter where you are. My fears have often controlled me - like a powerful whirlwind, confusing, smashing, taunting, never ending. But recently, I have begun to feel them less strongly. Some days I feel myself becoming re-shackled, the chains tighten about my wrists. I trade freedom for believing that I can control a situation by my obsessing and worrying. When you wear your fears, you cannot escape them.

But slowly, slowly, it begins to feel as though they are loosing their power. And suddenly, I feel as if I can be alive. I can live. I can breathe. I can rest. I know there will be set backs, I know I will cringe, believing my bonds to hold me once again; shamefully bowing my head under the weight of imaginary oppression. 

And yet... And yet, my King is the King of love. My Savior loved me so much that He gave up His life for me. No matter what, I am His. And He possesses perfect love. His love is so very perfect, He suffered for me. Because He cared about me coming to Him. And as it is said, "Perfect love casts out fear." There is no reason to have fear when you know that you are perfectly- incredibly- loved by God. And as you slowly begin to have a fraction of the ability to comprehend this, fear slowly begins to slip away. Powerless. For fear leads to death and death has no power over those who belong to Jesus, because He has conquered death. 

In the end of Frozen, Elsa comes to the realization of love. And is she does so, her terrible storm, created by the terror which had power over her, completely vanishes. And she is back home. Not on some far off mountain. The process may seem slow, but it can be the same for you- only twice as beautiful. In the presence of true love and true hope (the truest of these leading to eternity with Jesus), fears slowly become dispelled. So have heart and take courage, because if I, a slight version of Much-Afraid, can begin to feel the hope of what is just beyond the horizon and the joy of living in His presence, then be assured, He can work in you too. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Who Made Heaven and Earth -And The Mountains

Like so many of my other drifting trains of thought and wondering ideas up there inside my brain, let me start with a conversation a few days back. Mom and I were running. I've been slowly getting back into running after a couple weeks off due to my surgery. I was telling her all about a movie a good friend of mine and I had been to see on Sunday. (Some days its just nice to be distracted when running...)
And since this movie was based on a true story, I was also filling her in on some of the facts which the movie didn't reveal. The movie was Everest, an awe inspiring and heart wrenching film which dealt with a two day blizzard which occurred right when a larger group of aspiring climbers were attempting to summit Mount Everest. I do not exactly remember what part of our conversation we were at, but my mom quoted to me a version of a verse found in Proverbs 25:

Gorgeous mountains in Alaska
"It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter." 

I think our conversation might have had something to do with the splendor of the mountain. It is truly dumb founding. Incredible. Powerful. Stunning. And dangerous- deadly. One take away from this story is the fact that as much as one may plan and prepare for a journey, such as the one to the top of the mountain, all that has to change is just one flickering of the weather. Mount Everest is untamable and shrouded from perhaps being completely understood by men. Yet it is held in the hollow of God's hand. This mountain, with all its majestic and thrilling beauties is merely a creation of God. I absolutely love that God has given us such gorgeous creation to wake up and marvel at everyday. I think it gives us a tiny fraction of a glimpse of His glory- though His glory is something which I can not even begin to comprehend.

As human beings, we are always trying to find out how things work. Always looking for a way to explain something. Always looking to conquer an obstacle. And though we often make excellent head way, in the end, there are so many things that are impossible for us to fully grasp. As if they were shrouded. It makes for even more wondering at God's perfect control. He understands  all things. He is completely in control. 

I have no desire to climb Mount Everest in the future (are you kidding me, it has to be freezing there! And I have a space heater in my bedroom while my parents have the Air Conditioner on!). But I have my own mountains to climb- with clouded over paths and directions which I cannot quiet discern. When things go awry on my little personal climbs, I may search for a reason- may even insist that I must know. May fight the fact that God is holding me now and forever more. But He knows all things. And perhaps He conceals many things from us. The truth is, if we knew all things, if everything was easy to explain, why would we need to rely on our all powerful God? The mystery matters, be it an almost six mile high mountain, a flaming sky, or the purpose and plot of struggles and quiet times in our lives, only add to the amazement we can feel when we muse over our God. 

So friend, if you are in His arms, rest. Take a deep breath. Look up to the mountains. They are wild, untamable, unpredictable, and He holds them in His hands. If God has such perfect control over these awful, thrilling, gorgeous mountains, if He so holds them and the whole world in His hand, then rest assured He holds you too. And if you are His, He will never, ever let go. 

And to sum it all up, I end with a verse which comes in part from Psalms 121 and from one of my more favorite Christian songs- 

"I look up to the mountains, Does my help come from the mountains? No, my help comes from God who made heaven and earth and the mountains." 
~"Shoulders" For King and Country

P.S. - if you have not got any mountains upon which to gaze, take a moment to look at the sky, the ocean, a lake, a flower. They are all His creations!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Fix My Eyes"

Photo Credit

When I was younger, I had a handful of ear infections and once upon a time, mono. That was about my only doctor-hospital experience... Enter appendicitis!

On Friday morning I woke up with the plan to go running, go to work, and, I believe, have a rather profitable day. Instead, I ended up spending the morning in bed, alternating between a very uncomfortable abdomen and vomiting. Sometime in the morning, my mom decided to try some essential oils and shortly after I was feeling a good deal better. I had had something almost exactly like this episode about ten months ago and it ended up going away but in the end we decided to take a trip to the Urgent Care. From there we were forwarded to the Emergency Room, and from there, after a series of exciting experiences that were all my first, I went into to surgery for an appendectomy. I learned two VERY important things in the operating room. 1) some doctors play music (pop, metal, country) before (and during) operations;  2) oxygen coming through a mask feels deliciously cool and has a rather water-like quality. I also have decided that anesthesia is incredibly wonderful. I was able to go home that night/morning at around 2 AM and have spent the last few days slowly getting back into routine and enjoying relaxing.

And now that I have set the stage, allow me to begin to come to the point of this ramble- or at least to come close. The first thing I would like to point out is that there are a lot of beautiful, amazing people out there. It's truly lovely to feel loved by people and to know that people were and are praying for me. I am delighted by the little, and yet humongous, gestures of care and love that I have been shown over the last few days- flowers, notes, prayers, ice cream, smoothies. It has to be one of the most lovely things in the world to feel like other people truly care about you.

But let us go back to Friday night. I think what I read that night, a bit before the surgery, was Luke 1:26-38. A few rather important little things stuck out to me. Allow me to set the stage again: this scene takes place when an angel is sent to tell Mary about Jesus.

"And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!"

Mary was chosen to bring the very most precious Gift into the world. She had this favor bestowed upon her. And know what else, we also have had a favor we are not worthy to receive bestowed upon us. We have been given the gift of salvation. And the gift of a relationship with Jesus- a gift which makes life livable and makes hope something which I can chose to clasp onto, come what may! Take a few moments to let that soak in. Go outside and look at the night sky. View that awesome dome and find wonder in the fact that God, the very God who died for us, fashioned the night sky. He fashioned the world and He fashioned me. He is in perfect control. He is loving. He is all powerful. And when you realize you cannot fully absorb all of these incredible facts, take a moment to realize that He is so much bigger then all of us, that He cannot possibly fit inside our tiny boxes. 

Another verse which stuck out was Mary's response to all this information (a tad overwhelming don't you think?!)

"Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her."

The maidservant of the Lord. I struggle. No need to lie about that. I struggle with saying "I am your maidservant." I sometimes (maybe most times) would rather have things my way. In Hinds' Feet on High Places, a book which was maybe was a bit dull until it found meaning with me, Much-Afraid says, "Behold, thy handmaiden. Acceptance with joy." Sometimes I do not even dare to look for a plan. Getting over emotional and spiritual lumps and bumps and hills in my life sometimes just seems too hard. And that is when it is time to just fix my eyes on You.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Take Time to Truly Be in the Moment

It's summer. Probably there is a breeze. I'm sure the sun is shining brightly. I am sure the gravel is slick and that it makes a familiar crunch when it is walked upon. I probably say the words good girl, tighten the cinch. Across the street, I'm sure the familiar smell of pine trees drifts across from the dry, over eaten llama farm. But it is just a picture and the exact moment escapes my memory. 
It's funny, isn't it, how everyday memories slip by and things change, oh ever so slowly, until you suddenly realize there is a gully between how things once used to be and how they are now. 

I payed a visit to my old blog, one I had started when I lived up in the mountains well over four years ago. I clicked around and found myself looking at a picture of my horse. A beautiful bay, with a rather short tail due to another one of our animals having chewed it off. I rarely think about that horse, the one I cried so much about selling. I moved on. I had new occupations, new experiences. And slowly, ever so slowly those memories drift away into the past. And there is a cavity. 

What is more, I find that other things have changed. Not that all change is bad. Not that most change is bad. I would have to say that many changes have produced results which are far from bad. But I have been thinking about siblings lately and how things change there. 

My brothers and I did pretty much everything together growing up. When their friends were over, I played with them. And when my friends were over, I would often be joined by one or both of my brothers. Somewhere back in the distance, our van was a space vehicle. We operated high speed pursuits on our bicycles around our small concrete patio. We were dogs and horses. Royalty and homesteaders. My sister and I shared a room for probably ten years. We attended plays, drove together, talked late at night. In due timing, my siblings and I slowly began to drift to other pursuits. Military auxiliary, sports, a wedding, and our own hobbies began to lead us slowly, ever so slowly further away from each other as we each began to pick and choose the direction which we wanted our life to go. I believe this is all good but what I have realized recently is that while one drifts away in their occupations, one can also drifts away in different, more serious ways. 

No. I am not estranged from any of my three siblings. I talk to all of them almost daily, including my sister who lives in Virginia. But I have come to almost take them for granted. Instead of seeking out or just enjoying time with my siblings, other things come in the way- homework, time to self, friends. My point is not that we should all continue living as little children. No. It is good to grow up. To expand your horizons. To make new friends. And yes, even one day to move away and have different experiences from your immediate family. My point is merely that the time we have right now with our families is important. It doesn't mean you spend all of your time invested solely in your family. It simply means that we should make the most of and treasure the moments which we have right now- whether that is a 5 minute chat with your sibling or a long vacation as a family. It means truly investing in every moment which you have contact with those in your life- be it your friends or your family. 

My challenges is to you, take time to truly be in the moment with those who you are with. With school coming up and work on going, there will be a time to say, "I'm sorry. I need to get this done." But in the time which you find that you are or can spend with family or friends, really truly invest in them. Put aside for a while the pile of dishes, the homework, the worries, the next item on your to-do list. All those things can be done when you go to do them. Instead, focus, listen, enjoy, invest.

My awesome siblings, I love you all so much and hope I will better be able to truly invest my time which I spend with you. You guys are incredible and I cannot imagine life without you. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

I used to be from...

Have you ever just had one of those thoughts. 

And you think about that thought- over and over again- until you are not even sure what originally made you have that thought but somehow that thought continues to persist... 

This morning, I was right there. And having the type of brain I have, I began to quietly compose a blog post long before I actually started to write. What was this thought? 

I used to be from the country. 

Or something like that. Profound isn't it? Perhaps not. But it had me thinking about insecurity and identity and what we identify with. 

Way Back Then (Okay... Maybe not WAY)

I live in a city. I really truly do and I am very happy with where I live. We have a spacious lot in a lovely neighborhood 3 minutes from a grocery store. My neighborhood has convenience, space, and as much quiet as is possible when you live 5 minutes from the Interstate. The funny part of this is, I used to hate this city. I disliked being in it, I disliked traveling to and from it, and I even disliked the face of my now-favorite mountain because it was only visible from the city. You see, I "grew up" in the country. (Or the mountains, if you will). And once upon a time, I was always going to be a country girl. I was never going to be a city girl. NEVER. 

But, as will happen, life changes. And when I was fourteen, my family relocated right smack dab in the middle of the city in which I would never live. We sold our property and not-so-city friendly animals and I found myself in a true neighborhood with only my dogs and no ability to prove I was from the country. 

When you find yourself suddenly removed from everything with which you identify is when you discover where some of your insecurities lie. And I think some of my identity lay within being from the country. As if this was enough to simply make me better than anyone else. In reality, it was probably simply just my insecurity speaking up. I no longer had a horse, and other girls did. I no long lived miles away from the closest grocery store or could brag about the intense silence of where I lived, but other girls did. My identity consisting partially of just being from the country probably helped to make me rather insecure. The type of insecurity that brags the ability to horseback ride and the standard of only country music. And you know what? I really do not think anyone cared whether I could ride a horse, what animals I had owned, what music I listened to, or even where I was "from." 

And now... well now, I'm not really from the country or from the city. I like where I live and I would really like to live on a ranch or farm one day. But this doesn't mean that the battle of insecurity doesn't still tumble about my boat from time to time. And this leads me to where I have been trying to get all along...

Who, What, or Where Do We Identify With?

And does it matter? If the question pertains to whether someone spent most of their life in the country or spent most of their life in the city, I will go out on a limb and say, no, it does not really matter. Yes, it is important because those are experiences which you had. And that does matter. As far as being better than another person because one is simply born or raised somewhere or because one says y'all versus you all, that does not determine one's worth. 

But there is one Person I think it is good to identify with and to have your security in. When I go somewhere, when I say something, when I do something, I want to show that I am Christ's. His. I know I fail terribly at this but I also know that while I still feel insecure from time to time, I can be secure in the fact that I will ALWAYS, always be His. It isn't even telling people face up I am a Christian. Because it is not something I did of myself. It was all Jesus. He called me and He forgave me. And I want to show people that no matter what, I am loved so much by my Savior. By my King. By my Heavenly Father. I don't want to argue about where I am from and how I am better because of that, because I am not better. I am just as nasty as ever other person. We are all on the same level as far as being sinful and helpless goes. I am just SO glad that I have been forgiven by my wonderful Savior. I am so glad I am a child of the one true King. 

And so, while I still struggle with being insecure, while I still struggle with feeling like I have to be better, I am hoping I am learning to rest in the one thing that matters: I am a sinner. Jesus died for me and rose again. He has called me to repentance and has forgiven me. And I am His. 

(Yes, I did add some photos from where I used to live... and it was a pretty awesome place.)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Protein Bars

It is definitely a sign that finals for the semester are over when you 1) have way more time and 2) get to blog again!

I recently came across a recipe for protein bars, that was originally from the “Heal Your Gut” cookbook, which is yummy and actually works! (Yay for the last one). This recipe is pretty easy and tasty- though it is best straight out of the freezer. The ingredients are all pretty good for you and there is no baking- so the benefit of raw ingredients is not lost.

Prep Time: 10 minutes       Ready: 1 to 2 hours

Dry Ingredients:

2-2 ½ cups of almonds and pecans
1-1   ½ cups of flax, sunflower and pumpkin seeds
1 cup of shredded coconut
½ teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients:

½ cup coconut oil
1-2   teaspoons vanilla
¼ cup honey

Put the dry ingredients in your blender. (We have a Vitamix and it does a wonderful job blending up everything. The blender will turn the dry ingredients into almost a flour, so if you prefer more chunks in your bars, you may want to stop blending while there are still chunks of nuts.) Blend until fine – you may have to turn off the blender and stir the ingredients around a couple times as the nuts are pretty oily and tend to cake up at the bottom. Transfer the ingredients to a mixing bowl.

Melt the coconut oil over a low heat and turn off. Add ¼ cup honey and vanilla. Then pour into the mixing bowl. Mix together the dry and wet ingredients (since the coconut oil is in liquid form, the mixture will probably look a little wet).  

Grease an 8x8 pan thoroughly. Transfer the mixture into the pan and smooth. Place in the freezer until almost completely solid.

Meanwhile, you can mix up a yummy chocolate spread made out of 1 to 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, several tablespoons cocoa powder and honey until you reach desired sweetness.

After the bars have set up for a while, spread the chocolate across the bars and return to the freezer. Allow the bars to set for another hour or so- then remove, cut up, place in a container and put back in the freezer.