Friday, April 4, 2014

Sorry It's Been So Long!

Sorry I've not written in so long! But it's not because I've stopped making my house a home. Or because I've stopped cooking and creating. Or because I've stopped working on my holistic health goals. Rather, because I'm so busy focusing on that stuff that brings my life joy outside of work (which I also love), I just haven't had time or energy to write about it.

I've got blog drafts just sitting and waiting for me to finish them up though. I've got a great giveaway planned to celebrate Easter too!

In the meantime, you can keep up with me through social media.





Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Laying Down My Idols

If you stopped by last week you will know that this week I have invited blog followers, friends and family of mine to participate in a week of praying and fasting. The primary focus is on praying for guidance and for God to raise up godly men in our generation.

For me, seeking God's face, His heart and His will during this time of praying and fasting means laying down my idols. I cannot worship Him or truly know Him if I am distracted by worshiping other things.

In my own life marriage and mommyhood have definitely been my idols. "But those are biblical things!" I hear some of you say. "God wants women to be keepers of the home! How dare you call that idolatry". To which I say, yes. But. They are only good things when He gives them in His time and when kept in their proper place - not when they take the place of God. When we seek fulfillment as a good mommy or good wife to be the thing that makes us a good woman, we are making an idol. And when we hold others to whatever our standard of a "proper woman, wife and mommy" looks like then we are doing one worse and turning our idol into a legalistic demand on others. We've often been guilty of creating a false religion of worshiping the Proverbs 31 woman, instead of the God who created her and inspired the Bible in which she appears.

Now don't get me wrong. I want to be a mommy. I want to be a good wife. So badly, it often hurts that these desires remain unfulfilled. I still struggle to hold those desires with an open hand before God - to be fulfilled if and when He wills, rather than to clutch and grasp for them to provide my primary meaning in life. The fact that I'm able to do realize this problem and feel capable of laying them at His feet at all is truly a testament to God's grace - and His strength in my weakness (and I'm sure there are friends who knew me in high school and college who can attest to this).

I recently drew this picture in my journal to visualize the idea of surrendering my idols. The Jews in Exodus were lucky, the idols they were combating were tangible blocks of gold and wood to bow down too. They were obviously pagan. Our idols are much more insidious. Sometimes disguised as things we know to be good, biblical things, which we have taken from their proper place and elevated to gods. I want my identity to be in Christ alone. If I am never a wife. Never a mommy. Christ is enough! And though I still try to grasp for these things, may God continue to soften my heart and my hands so they are open before Him and my idols at His feet.

I leave you with this wonderful message on idolatry from Tim Keller, if you have time to listen to it this week, I'd encourage you to do so. I know it was a message I need to hear, and hear regularly.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

For Such a Time as This - A Season of Prayer and Fasting

2014 is the last full calendar year of my 20s. I turn 30 in just under 15 months' time. In addition to my usual resolutions for the New Year I decided to undertake a 30 Before 30 project. That is, 30 positive actions before my 30th birthday. This includes things like leaving a 100% tip and paying for the order of the person behind me in line to inviting friends over for a game night and reading the Bible cover-to-cover. A common theme of my list is to build community - from intimacy between myself and God to building relationships with fellow believers. One of the items on my list really encompasses both of these aspects of community is to - "Spend a week in prayer and fasting for my future husband."

Prayer and fasting is always an opportunity to grow one's relationship with God and to spend time focusing on Him instead of cooking, eating and cleaning. Here is where the part where building relationships with fellow believers comes in - I'm taking a page out of Esther's book and inviting you to join me! 

"For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have yet come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, "Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish."
-Esther 4:14-16

Now, I'm not asking you to join me just to pray for me to find a spouse. A) That would be selfish and B) I'm still not sure that's the plan God has for me. Rather I'm asking anyone who is interested to join me in praying for two general things . . . 
  • For Guidance - In my life, I'm praying for guidance about marriage. Is it even something God has for me or does He have something different but equally amazing in mind for my life? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say there is probably something in your own life where you are in a similar boat of praying in the hallway, waiting for the next door to open. Be it infertility, adoption, marriage, courtship, a new job, homeschooling, starting a business, going into ministry, becoming a missionary, buying a house, going back to school, etc. I hope this will be an opportunity for all who participate to seek God's will through a time of focus on Him.
  • For Godly Men - I heard a stat in a sermon recently that 60% of the church is women, compared to 40% men, and that men 18-34 hardly ever go to church. This tells me that there are a lot of young women in their 20s and 30s hoping for a godly spouse and finding no one. (My experience with my own friends bears this out). Whether you have found a spouse or not, are single or not, are a mother or not - I'd ask that you join me in prayer that God would raise up godly men to build godly families.
Now I know many people have health conditions which prevent fasting, so that part is optional and flexible. You can choose to not fast at all, to fast from sugar, to fast from meat (a la Daniel), to fast during daylight hours, only have juice or water and fast from solid food. It doesn't even have to be a food related fast - you can fast from the internet, Facebook, TV or spending money for the week. You can fast for one day, every other day, the whole week. It's your call. Just remember that whatever you choose the goal is to allow you to focus on God - not to lose weight and/or look more holy to others - so pick a fast that will be most meaningful for you!

We will start the prayer portion this coming Sunday, February 23. I would ask that you spend 10-15 minutes in prayer for the two topics listed above each day for the whole week, leading through March 1. Do in the shower, first thing in the morning, right before bed, over your lunch break (esp. if you won't be eating) - whenever you can find some time for focused prayer. I will post a conversation topic on this blog's Facebook Page for each day to give everyone a place to post prayer requests and insights from this week of prayer and fasting.

If you are in for this please leave a reply in the comments section!

If you liked this post you can check out many other great bloggers at these blog link ups every week!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Journaling in 2014

When I decided what I wanted my 2014 Resolutions to be, I also got a cute mustard Moleskine journal to keep track of my progress on my Resolutions.

In the front of my fancy new journal I put a check list of my goals. Then challenged myself to journal my daily progress in addition to checking off my to-do list. Here are the questions I try to answer daily.

Daily Journal Questions
  • What did you eat?
    • Because one of my resolutions is to "Get Healthy" I am keeping track of what I eat. I'm not counting calories and only negligibly keeping track of macronutrient ratios. This question is really more about taking the time to log what I ate, make mindful choice and reflect on the quality of food I chose.
  • How did you move?
    • "What did you do for exercise?" sounds scary. It sounds like something you have to do at a gym or maybe as punishment. I prefer to think of the different ways I move. Some days it's just light housework, other days it's jumping jacks during commercials and a couple times a week it may even be a full gym workout. The idea is that I'm getting up and moving around at least a little every day.
  • What did you read?
    • This question is a chance for me to keep track of the reading I'm doing. My fiction, non-fiction and progress on getting through my Bible reading goal.
  • What are your prayers?
    • Since the main point of my Bible reading resolution is to seek greater intimacy with God, a big piece of it is also prayer. Pausing to keep track of what I am praying about and when can also be a great place to go back and see when prayers are answered.
  • What are your thoughts for today?
    • This is a question to tackle everything else during the day. What I'm thankful for. What I've learned. What I am thinking about.
Now this year is a big one for me because it's the last full calendar year of my 20s. So in addition to my Resolutions I also have some 30 Positive Actions Before 30 goals which I'm also journaling.

I've really been enjoying this practice. I think it's something I will continue after this year in my regular journaling, without the focus being so specifically on my resolutions and goals for the last year of my 20s.

Do you journal? What type of journaling do you do? Do you have separate journals for separate topics? Or do you compile everything into one journal or diary per year?

If you liked this post you can check out many other great bloggers at these blog link ups every week!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

FitBit Flex Review

Back in October I spent my monthly "fun money" on a FitBit Flex. I had been wanting a pedometer, but not the clunky kind you clip to your belt that I used to have (back in college) and preferably something that was stylish (so I didn't look like a cyborg or a total nerd wearing it) and synced with my Spark People account.

The FitBit Flex completely fit the bill. Now that I've had to for a few months I feel I can give an accurate review of the device, it's features, durability and practical use.

First off - the features. The FitBit Flex track steps taken, estimates calories burned, distance traveled, active minutes, time asleep and quality of sleep. It can sync wirelessly with your primary computer, with some smartphones and through the USB charging/sync dock. 

The information is displayed partly through the lights on the band, but mostly through the FitBit Dashboard.

Now for the practical. I really like my FitBit I wear it every day. The charge lasts for 5-6 days, so one night a week I will just let it charge while I sleep and then put it back on in the morning. It's great to see how much I'm moving each day and it motivates me to try and find more chances just to get up and walk around for a minute or two. The black band is simple and stylish so it goes well with almost all of my clothes and doesn't stand out. On the rare occasions I really want to wear bracelets and can't wear the FitBit, I've found that it's easy to pop the device out of the wristband and wear it in a pocket or in my bra. It's not as accurate, but at least I'm still getting some credit for moving! I really like that it syncs with my Spark People account as well, so I don't have to log my exercise separately any more and I can see immediately if I should be in a calorie deficit. 

Here are the downsides for me. First off, I rarely use the sleep feature. I used it for the first couple weeks I had the band, but then stopped. For me, it wasn't especially useful and it was hard for me to remember to turn on the sleep feature before crashing. I did not want to do it too soon, and because of that I often fell asleep without turning the sleep mode on. Also, I found that the bracelet bothered me some nights. Though it's very comfortable in the day, I am more sensitive to constricting things at night (it's why I can't get to sleep in PJ pants). That's probably just a me thing though, and not a knock on the FitBit.

The FitBit is water resistant - so you can wear it in the shower or playing with your kids at the pool, but not diving. I don't dive, so that's fine by me. Unfortunately, I realized that after a shower it would take a long time for the water to dry out of the FitBit band and started to irritate the skin on my wrist. I could, I suppose take the time to take out the device, dry out the band and then put it back on every shower - but it's just easier for me to take it off when I'm in the shower.

The only problem with having just one sync dongle is that I set it up on my home computer, so it's hard to tell exactly how many steps I have to go to reach my goal when I'm at work (and do most of my walking). By the time I get home in the evening I'm generally more inclined to just chill out and may only take another few hundred steps. If I had a way to sync at work and not just use the flashing lights to measure my progress, I think I would maybe walk even more - especially on days when I seem especially sedentary. This would be amended easily enough if I had bought the Galaxy when my family last upgraded our phones like I had originally wanted, but alas, the app for my phone does not include the sync feature like it does for the Galaxy. 

The last thing I noticed was that I found myself regularly looking at my wrist to check the time. Though the FitBit Flex does not have a watch, it feels like wearing a watch and I think it's a shame it doesn't have a digital watch face instead of just flashing lights. Of course, just weeks after I bought my FitBit Flex the company came out with their FitBit Force which does have a digital screen that includes a digital watch. Oh well, maybe next year.

If you're looking for a pedometer that's comfortable, stylish and discreet with a long lasting battery and syncs with other fitness software I can definitely recommend the Flex. It was worth the money spent. I only wish I had known the Force was coming out, because then I would have waited and got that instead.

If you liked this post you can check out many other great bloggers at these blog link ups every week!

This is not a paid endorsement. I paid for the Flex myself and am not being compensated for this review by FitBit, nor do I receive commission from the links contained within. Though, of course, if FitBit decided to reward this review after the fact by giving me a Force to replace my Flex, I wouldn't turn them down. ;)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Celebrating American Food Culture

I often hear, usually from Europeans, that America has no food culture, at least not in the way that Italy, France, Germany, etc. do. It's an argument I heartily disagree with! Our food culture is not the same as European countries true. We have a much larger county with diverse regional climates and therefore diverse available foods - on top of that we have much much much more diverse population than the largely homogenous European countries. But to say we have no food culture, just because it doesn't look like France or Italy's is ridiculous. From barbecue and soul food to Cajun, Texmex to New England clam bakes our food culture represents a fusion of cultures and regional ingredients that rivals any European food culture.

Here are just some examples of traditional and very (if not uniquely) American foods . . .

  • Cornbread, creamed corn, spoon bread, popcorn and grilled corn on the cob
  • Whole hog barbecue
  • Fried chicken
  • Crawfish jambalaya
  • Fried bologna
  • Potato salad
  • Baby back ribs
  • Barbecue brisket
  • Strawberry and rhubarb pie
  • Pumpkin pie
  • San Francisco sourdough
  • Pancakes with real maple syrup
  • Chili
  • Key lime pie
  • Thanksgiving dinner
And that list doesn't even include the many ethnic cuisines that have been embraced by Americans of all stripes and often altered with local ingredients - like California roll sushi, TexMex fajitas, Scandanavian smorgasbord with German bratwurst, or even the recent Cronut craze.

A major focus of this blog since the beginning has been celebrating home cooked real and traditional foods. My perspective on what is healthiest for me has changed over time, but real food is still at it's core. Even better when it's real food, cooked with love and made with fresh and seasonal ingredients. To that end I'm embarking on a new recipe series, like the earlier "Eating What My Ancestor's Ate", this time with a focus on celebrating American Food Culture - because we do have one - and it is worth preserving and enjoying!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Craving Community

Community is something we Christians like to talk a lot about. "Doing life together". Casseroles, jello molds and comfort food recall the warmth of church potlucks and family gatherings - the community more satisfying than the meal. We have "community groups" and "fellowship halls". All for good reason - Our trinitarian God is the embodiment of community and in the very beginning the first thing he declared "not good" was for we humans to be alone.

And yet, in my own life, community is something I have been lacking and need.

While wandering through my crisis of faith and legalism in my mid-20s I seriously considered converting to Orthodox Judaism. The single biggest reason for this was because of the strong community ties I saw among the orthodox Jews I had met or whose lives I'd witnessed. The strength and centrality of family. The "Jewish Geography" game, exploring the degrees of separation between community members is not six degrees as in my contemporary Protestant American culture, but usually just one or two. When you live in walking distance to schul there are many neighbors who are part of your faith community just doors away. If there is an illness or financial emergency in the family they know, and charity given in such a way as to help you out and retain your dignity at the same time. When a family member dies you have to have a minyan (10 people) at your house to sit shiva and pray the mourner's kaddish, mourning together is so important it's a requirement of Orthodox Jewish living. Sabbath is set aside for building community - from relationships between spouses, to families and it's a mitzvah to host guests for Sabbath.

Another faith I considered converting to was Mormonism, and for the same reasons. With singles wards, multiple weekly activities with people who share your faith and again, the centrality of family, to an outsider the LDS wards seemed a bastion of the community I crave. Whole days of the week are dedicated to family time, and if you are a grown single it's dedicated to building community with other singles who share your faith. Across the Mormon world Family Home Evening is a time for building relationships.

I want community like that!

I want older women to be "meddlesome" in my life like the Shadchan (a Jewish matchmaker) or a Mormon Sister. I want uninvited guests to show up at my door to share a meal and good conversation out of the blue. I want a neighbor I could borrow a cup of sugar from. I want people, in addition to my own family, that know me well, are on the look out for a suitable lifelong match for me, who are there to help when abdominal pain wakes me from sleep and leaves me in tears afraid I'm dying, who help to hold me accountable in discipleship. I crave that community so much that I was nearly willing to leave the doctrine and faith I hold at the core of my being in order to get it.

I know, having read memoirs of women of various faiths, that the grass is not always greener on the other side. I know that there are dark places in Orthodox and Mormon communities, there are abuses, and alienation, and there are single women, like me, who still crave family. I know that, even worse, their faiths often tell them they are single because they aren't "good enough" for a spouse.

I love Jesus. I love my faith. I love the Word. I love the idea of community that I see so often as an outsider in other faiths and that I see so clearly portrayed in my own scripture.

I do not love that I had to take an ambulance to the emergency room on that cold February night because I had no one else I could call for help. I do not love that I have no home away from home as a single woman living hours from her family. I do not love that I feel I cannot initiate these relationships in many ways because I'm a younger, single woman. I do not love that I feel the many evenings spent alone especially keenly because God made me an extrovert who craves contact and discussion with other people. I do not love the loneliness.

I crave community. It is not good for me to be alone.

Knowing that there are people out there like me who crave community too - what can you and I do in the coming year to make that community a reality?