More ‘Rona Ramblings

Last night (Good Friday), my Honey, our 3 youngest and I were gathered in front of the big screen watching Gateway’s Good Friday service online.  We had a bottle of sparkling grape juice and a fresh baguette for communion and our 14-month-old grandson, Arlo, was stumbling around the room being silly and spreading joy.  I was reminded of the meaning of “Good” Friday and the sacrifice Our Pappa God made for all of us.  Reminded of how enormous His love is for each and every one of us and what it must have been like for His devastated followers at the time, who didn’t have the luxury of knowing about the empty tomb, like we do.  When I get into that space, worship is so natural.  Adoration is only the beginning of what I am inspired to do for my Lord.

This year was exponentially different than years past, for all believers, I imagine.  I missed my church family immensely.  I look forward to my time with this precious group of sisters and brothers who share in my family’s struggles, joys, and everything in between, as we share in theirs.  I am the crazy lady with shoes off, hands raised singing at the top of my lungs in a dark corner at the back of the auditorium – and they love me just as I am.

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Typical Sunday at South (pre-rona). Photo credit: Ben Petree (thanks, Benny).

I long to empty myself out and fill up with Him during these times of musical worship, and though I’ve had private times of this at home and online times with my church these past weeks, it is a beautiful thing to gather with other followers to sing adoration to Our Father and I am longing for a return to this, knowing it will be something different and better because of the work He is doing during this season.

So, as I looked around at my beautiful husband, children and grandchild last night, I felt such gratefulness for all that I am blessed with.  The realization that we may all very well be back at church next Good Friday (God willing), gathered with our Gateway family, caused a bunch of feelings to well up and swirl around in my head and heart.  I missed our traditional church Good Friday gathering, but my family is typically all playing/singing/both at church – and not all at the same campuses, so I either attend multiple services at different campuses or go to one and feel guilty that I didn’t go to the other.  Most of the time I am sitting alone – or without the people who are related to me by blood because they are leading worship.  Don’t misunderstand, it’s this mama’s answer to prayer that her babies and Honey are serving this way, but I do, occasionally, miss the days of the row being filled with my Honey and our babies.  Last night, I got to sit in the middle of the whole bunch of them, while worshiping with music (pre-video-recorded of them!), taking communion and thanking my Pappa God for this rare moment.  I have no doubt that next year, I will be reminded of His faithfulness as I gather with my church family and be a little sad as I remember how precious Good Friday Rona 2020 was.

This evening we are going to celebrate my Honey – his bday was yesterday, but we decided that today was going to be all about him, sandwiched between Good Friday and Easter.  We’re getting wings from Pluckers and he’s choosing his favorite early release movie to watch at home – Have I mentioned movies are his love language?  I have some yummy hors d’oeuvres and Hannah will make him some popcorn (his favorite, that he only eats on very special  occasions).  Birthdays past were days filled with running to restaurants, movie theatres, and every social event available for my enneagram 7 Honey. This birthday is obviously very different, but he feels incredibly loved by the people he most loves, so last night as I looked over at him and saw tears in his eyes as he watched Caleb & Aaron “wrestling” with a giggling Arlo, I was again reminded that God is in all of this beautiful mess.

Bob Bday 2018

Tomorrow morning I will wake my children by telling them quietly that, “He is Risen,” as I have all of their lives.  (They think it’s cute to say it to me on Christmas, birthdays, etc., but I know deep down they look forward to it and they will do the same with their babies one day.  Okay, I hope they will.)  We will have baskets filled with a little less candy because there is less money to spend, but there will be a new basket because there is Arlo and that’s just more wonderful than just about anything.

 

We will gather together in our living room – with pre-recorded videotape of the 4 of them leading worship and I will be with my family, celebrating Our Risen Lord and all He blesses us with.  I will be reminded of how faithfully He walks through every season with each and every one of us.  I will not pretend that this isn’t a scary time and that we haven’t all suffered various losses through this time in history, but I will rejoice that I have a Pappa who knows what is to come and has never stopped working through all of this to make us more into the image He has for us.  I will never again have this kind of time with my Pappa, my husband, my children and my grandson.  We will all drive each other crazy, here and there, but I refuse to take this time for granted.  I will see it for the gift it is and thank Him for all of it.

Happy Easter!  He is Risen!

 

There’s a Lesson in Here, Somewhere

 

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

For a little bit I was frustrated with people whining about being stuck inside with nothing to do.  REALLY?  If we are the ones fortunate enough to be healthy, then sheltering isn’t a terrible alternative, is it?  There are plenty of things to do…               Write a letter to someone who would love to hear from you.  Call a friend or relative you should check up on or just haven’t had the time to really talk to in a while.  Do yoga – youtube has some great free ones.  Our favorite: https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene .  Read a book or write one.  Cook really good food for yourself and/or your family.  Draw, paint.  If you can afford it, order books, food, paint, paper, whatever supplies you need, online or locally and have it delivered so that you can support someone trying to get through this.  If you are cooped up with family, take advantage of this.  We’ve been making yummy dinners and putting puzzles together and playing board games.  We’ve also binged a couple of shows together, but I can only do so much of that.  We’ve been purposely rotating our activities so that we don’t get bored.  We’ve gone on lots of walks and spent time in our backyard.   My favorite thing is to look online for ways to help others during this time.  There are elderly people who can’t leave their homes and they need food, medicine, books, etc.  You can pick it up and simply leave it at their door with a note of encouragement.

I spent the last several days enlarging my garden and planting all of the seeds I saved from last year.  I’ve deep cleaned a room or two – and still have several to go.  I’ve doubled my kombucha production to keep my family healthier and to share with friends and I’ve been cooking up a storm.  Although, if I’m being completely honest, I’m tired of cooking and cleaning.  It feels endless and futile, at times.

This. is. hard. 

It’s important that we take the time we need to grieve.  We can’t really move forward and do good things with a “pull ourselves up by the bootstraps” mentality.  Our Pappa God wants to walk through our grief with us.  When we are honest about our pain, and we sit with it, offering it to Him, only then can we move ahead and walk in the identity and plan He has for our lives.

 

So, let’s be honest.  THIS. IS. HARD.

But, it’s been revealing to me.  I’ve seen my privilege and it’s time to take a moment – or a couple of months – and really look at how I’ve been spending my time, how I react when things get “limited.”

I did not go crazy for tp, but if I’m straight with you, I already had 12 rolls in my linen closet because I’m blessed to have a Costco membership and I usually have an abundance of tp and papertowel.  There are people who don’t have the money to stock up more than a 4-pack on payday.  We used to be in that boat, I remember.  Now, I did go a little crazy for organic food and food, in general.  My fallback is to find my security in cash and food.  When my kiddos were little, I always had much more peace when the cupboards were full and some cash was in the bank – which, as previously mentioned, happened because I was busy running up our credit cards.  When those ran low, which was more the norm than the exception, you could find my babies parked in front of the television, with me behind a closed door desperately crying out to God to “bless” me with the stuff that made me feel secure.  With that I would frantically spend the next hours trying to figure out how to get out of our financial crisis completely on my own, with no waiting on Jesus to be found.

So, I found out a couple of weeks ago that the tendency to rest a bit in my full cupboards isn’t completely gone, but more than anything I have rested in my Pappa God.  It seems to me that He is telling me to get still with Him.

It feels a little like the church is very busy making sure that no one gets left feeling alone, meanwhile, maybe we could all use a little or a lot more quiet time with Our Pappa.  Perhaps, we could all use this time to get to know Him and our earthly family members in a way that we just couldn’t when the world was spinning as fast as it always does.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m using this time to reach out to my friends and extended family members.  I’m praying for them and talking to them, but I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by the Zoom meetings and the seeming panic about keeping everyone SO connected to other human beings.

I’m incredibly thankful that my church is streaming our services and I get to worship “with” my church family – MY WORD!  I have missed this.  I was in tears almost the entire service this past two Sundays because it filled me up so almost completely.  There are so many blessings in the technology available to us during this time and I appreciate that.  I appreciate all my church leadership is doing to keep us connected to each other.  It just feels like everyone and their sister or brother is doing a Bible study, a daily devo or lesson, etc. during this time and we aren’t leaving any space for The Big Guy to be heard.  I’m not so sure He wants us to keep things “as normal as possible” because I don’t think He was terribly thrilled with our old normal.  I think this may be our chance to create a new normal based on His Word and His leading and we can only do that if we get still before Him and stop all of the busy-ness.  We have to trust that He can care for His children better than any of us can.  He is faithful.  He knew this was coming and He will work through this to make things better, if we will only follow His directions.

Maybe it’s just me, but I am finding joy in this quiet.  I am feeling a shaking out that will bring a new order, closer to what He calls me to.

My husband got his last paycheck (a few days late) – last week because his (very small local) company is struggling.  I lost one of my jobs 2 weeks ago and didn’t get to work at all last week.  We have enough money in the bank for next months rent and some money for food and our next car payment.  Our son, who lives with us and is a dad, lost his job, as well.

I am not worried.  When I look back over my life, He has ALWAYS been faithful.

A L W A Y S.

I’m thankful that He has patiently and generously walked this earthly journey with me, waiting for me to trust His faithfulness.  The gratefulness for this peace I’m experiencing in areas I used to be overwhelmingly enslaved to, is a gift that I cannot fully express in mere words.

I am committed to getting quiet with my Pappa God so that I can hear His still, small voice speak truth over my life.  I so do not want to waste this time He has blessed us with – forced upon us.  I think we would be foolish to not see His hand in all of this and ask Him what He wants us to do when this season is over.

People will come from faraway places to pitch in and rebuild the Temple of God. This will confirm that God-of-the-Angel-Armies did, in fact, send me to you. All this follows as you put your minds to a life of responsive obedience to the voice of your God.  – Zechariah 6:15

 

 

Well, Hello 2020 (a coronavirus rant)

2020.

It’s been a year, hasn’t it?!

As we settle into our new reality, one that the donald gaslights now and again (and again), I find myself trying to absorb it all, not just as my husband, children, grandbaby and I experience this, but from a bigger picture kind of viewpoint.

I have loads of opinions.

How are we (Americans) SO incredibly ignorant that we are blaming Asian individuals for this pandemic?!  I’d like to say that it’s especially stupid because most of the people getting attacked by white Americans are also American, but blaming any one people group for something like this is ludicrous.  Even if an individual from any people group has been proven to intentionally try to infect others with something deadly, why in the world are we aiming hatred toward an entire group?!  Also, these racists are so blinded by ignorant hate, that they are targeting anyone who is Asian, not simply Chinese.  At least during 9/11, Bush advised the country to be better and treat fellow American Muslims with respect, but now we’ve got the donald who continually refers to the Coronavirus as the Chinese virus, spurring on increased hatred toward our fellow Americans of Chinese decent.  We need to do SO MUCH better.

I’m TIRED of peeps in their 20’s, give or take, being reckless because they believe they are untouchable, while (ONE) they aren’t, (TWO) they can harm others, and (THREE) they are just setting a selfish, ridiculous example for other human beings on how we should care for one another.

Money is NEVER more important than human lives, and just because you have buckets full of it and the ability to get the best medical care does not mean you get a pass on insinuating you are some kind of freakish hero because you claim you are willing to risk catching covid-19 so that your heirs can have a wealthier future.  The fact that you have the luxury to be concerned about your “heirs,” while the people you represent aren’t sure if they can pay their mortgage next month is your sign.

This bailout situation is driving me a bit batty.  Why are we more concerned with bailing out big businesses before the average American?  The general attitude seems to be that the average person should be ashamed for not having 6 months of wages saved away, but somehow we are panickedly trying to save big corporations who haven’t put away enough to make it through the month – except their shareholders all seem to be living their best lives, still.

Toilet Paper?  Need I say more?  ALL OF THE FOOD and everything else in EVERY grocery store around the country?  It feels a little bit apocalypse-y, right?  Leave some for your neighbor.  Be kind.  It’s so much better than being greedy.

Homeless people, elderly people, immunocompromised people.

Those babies in cages, still.  The adults in cages, still.

A “president” that holds back help because his ego isn’t stroked enough.

Our exhausted, dedicated healthcare workers.  Pray for them, send them notes of encouragement, support them and be thankful for all they are doing and enduring during this tremendous crisis.

Churches and bars that continue to open their doors and invite people to risk their lives.

Did the owner of HL really treat his thousands of employees like that and try to blame the Holy Spirit?!

It’s been a year.

I pray we get still before Our Pappa God and hear what He is calling us to.  I pray we find a way to be kind to one another, to love one another as He would have us do.  I pray we come out of this so much more faithful, loving and relaxed than we’ve ever been.  Let’s not waste this time we’ve been given.

Moving Past the Shame to You & Your CVs

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I have been searching for a lllllooooonnnnnggggg time for a truly accurate test that determines individual core values.  In my research, I’ve found mostly long lists of phrases or single words (“honesty”, “team building”) that instruct the user to choose the top 10 or whatever, then eliminate the 5 you can live without and then choose the top 2-3 of those that are left.  This works in a perfect world where everyone is painfully humble, confident and honest about themselves.  

Don’t get me wrong, I think these lists are helpful if you are in need of words to describe or remind you of what you live by.  I think this is a great start, but I’m not sure of the accuracy.  I feel like you have to come already pretty self-aware in order for this to work consistently.

For instance, now that I am 50-something, I can clearly see that loyalty is a core value of mine.  I can look over my life and see some big and small events that involved loyalty or a lack thereof, and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that loyalty is at the top of my core values list.

However, as I recently took a new core values elimination “test” that I immediately liked better than many others I had encountered, I overlooked one of the choices.  The reasons for doing that are lengthy and discouraging, but I don’t think this is the only incident of this happening to someone using an elimination list type core values test.  

The people in my life who know me intimately and well, would tell you that one of my top core values is health.  I make my own kombucha, water kefir, deodorant, toothpaste, etc.  I research any ailment that a person I care for is struggling with and find any and all natural, organic aid there is.  It is truly painful for me to watch people I love reject help in the name of only trusting traditional “medicine” when it hasn’t helped them with their condition except to mask pain, etc.   (* Now, before you decide I’m being mean to doctors and nurses, know that I believe there is a place for traditional medicine, but not in the all-powerful, all-costly way that our country has come to embrace.  Also, that is not the point of this post.)

Like too many women in my age group,  I have been struggling with my weight during the past several years in spite of eating a healthier diet than ever before.  I’ve researched magnesium, hormones, diet, sleep deprivation, exercise, and many other topics, just trying to figure out why my body isn’t cooperating with me anymore.  I’ve found myself holding back when people discuss this topic because my confidence has dwindled some as my girth increases…  Truth is, I haven’t had to go to the doctor’s office in over ten years.  I am rarely (like once a decade) sick, in spite of surrounding myself with small children regularly for years and years.  My hair is healthy.  My skin looks pretty darned good.  I am reasonably active.

I could stand to lose about 30 pounds and that is why it never dawned on me that health is a core value of mine.  And, even when it did, because some dear friends mentioned it, I felt embarrassed to claim it because on some level I believed the extra fluff in my middle excluded me from being legitimately knowledgeable and/or claiming health as a core value.  I’m not the super skinny, walking around in yoga pants and a tank top kind of healthy that we see on magazines and books that advertise the latest diet or workout craze.  On paper, I am fit.  I went for a physical 3 years ago because our traditional medical insurance was about to terminate.  The doctor marveled at my vitals.  She couldn’t believe I hadn’t been to see a doctor for anything for over 10 years.  She was impressed that I only take supplements, but no prescription drugs, and actually listened when I explained that Vitamin D is NOT a vitamin, but a hormone that we should NOT take in supplemental form.  When I asked her what she suggested I do for my unexplained weight gain, she replied that this was a normal part of aging for most women and that I wasn’t terribly overweight.  She reluctantly offered some kind of weight loss pill, but knew I wouldn’t accept it.  The thing is, I know that I’m healthy by health standards, but the cultural view on what healthy looks like, almost caused me to miss acknowledging an important part of my self.  

I’m gearing up for a women’s workshop this fall.  I’m working with a truly amazing group of women to introduce several important awareness tools to other women in order to help them become more fully who Our Pappa calls them to be.  We believe Core Values are a vital piece of this puzzle, but we’re still grappling with how to help women see themselves truly and clearly in order to recognize their own core values.

So, here are my questions for you:

How do you think we can best help women to see themselves and recognize their core values?  How do we get the shame, the need to impress, the junk out of the way?

What is your shame thing?  What stands in the way of you embracing who you are?

If you’ve taken any Core Values tests, would you recommend one?

What are your core values and how do you experience them?

 

2, Fix You

I am learning the sweetest lesson that I would almost swear is changing my body chemistry and slowing down the aging process.  I am simultaneously trying not to regret spending so many years not living in this truth.

So much of my struggle comes simply from being a mama, but it seems to be compounded by my 2-ness.  I have always loved to help my husband and our children “figure out” how best to navigate all kinds of difficult situations.  If any one of them is in the midst of a mini crisis, there is nothing this 2-mama loves more than being needed, and if the tangle is between any 2 or more of them, well then I’ve always felt it is my responsibility to get right in the middle and help them to understand the other person’s viewpoint so that peace and love would once again be restored in our family.

ick.

Right?!

Recently, as we have been walking through this trying season in our family, I am seeing so clearly that satan wants division and isolation among us.  In the past, this would’ve panicked me and I would be in full-on mama-2-fixit mode.  I’d convince myself because of other broken relationship history that any conflict between my children could be permanent.  I’d be on high-alert for any harsh word or action, lest left unaddressed, would sever the ties that bind us so that reconciliation was impossible. I’d force myself, my husband and our children into conversations that none of us was anywhere ready to have, thus resulting in deeper wounding all the way around.

Often I would listen to one of my lovie’s  emotional assessments of a situation, all the while getting amped up about the other lovie who was clearly in the wrong!  Then I’d confront this “other” only to find out that I was only getting one side of the story, and in the name of reconciliation, I had jumped the gun, crossing several boundaries and hurting everyone in the process.

Holy Spirit has been unconditionally patient with my insanity.  He has gently and consistently grown me in this area.  Initially, my first milestone, which was more work than I care to admit, was curbing my yelling (screaming) at my immediate family.   This is embarrassing, but the truth is, I lost my temper and turned into an insane banshee with my babies on a somewhat regular basis for more years than I care to admit right now.  This would happen for important and worthy reasons such as forgetting their schoolwork at home, not emptying the dishwasher when I asked them to, and their all time favorite:  when they would leave someone out, especially one another.  The amazing thing is that I can’t even remember the last time I went full-on banshee on anyone.  So, that’s a win.

My next goal was staying out of my grown children’s disagreements with each other and with their dad.  This was SO, SO HARD for me!!!  The interesting thing was that they asked me to do this and we all decided to make it a family rule, but when they would argue, someone would inevitably look at me and say, “Aren’t you going to say something?!  Why are you letting him/her say that without saying anything?!”  I also discovered that my children had become champion busybodies, thanks to my example, and staying out of arguments that didn’t involve them became a family goal.  So, that objective was not obtained as smoothly, but I’m grateful and proud to say that when 2 of us are having a spat and all of us are together, the other 3 stay quiet and refrain from taking sides 95% of the time. 

My latest ambition has been to stop being the fix-it girl. When my children share a challenging situation they’re dealing with, my mind is racing to think of the best solution for them.  Half the time, I’m not truly listening to what they are communicating, because I’m so busy trying to make it all better and be the hero! (insert another “ick”)

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I’m learning I should not attempt to solve the struggles in other people’s, especially my children’s, lives.  It is perfectly acceptable, nay, preferable to stay silent, truly listen and simply ask what they need from me.  I’ve found that in actively staying focused on what is being said to me, I can more easily wade through the emotion and opinions that feel like facts to him/her.  I don’t jump to conclusions or make assumptions as much as I used to and that’s a double win, imo, because people don’t get hurt by possible untruths and satan can’t use this against me like he has so much of my life.

stainless steel close wrench on spanner 

All 5 of us are NFP’s on the Myers-Briggs, so there is no shortage of the feels in our family.  Learning to keep our emotions in check has been such a blessing.  We still have tiffs and we are not terribly calm or logical when things get heated, but we stay in our lanes most all of the time now, we listen to each other in a way we never did before and the banshee is gone.  I’d say we’re winning.

board center chalk chalkboard

Organic Coconut Yogurt – Instant Pot Style

If you want naturally sweet, dairy-free, sugar-free (except for the maple syrup to feed fermentation), organic, super healthy yogurt, I’ve got an amazing recipe for you!  I’ve made this a few times now, choosing bits and pieces from other people’s recipes and suggestions, and found that this is the perfect one for me and my family.  There are only 5 ingredients (RED) and you don’t have to use the gelatin or the probiotics, if you don’t want to.  I tried to highlight (BLUE) the most important details to make this less confusing.  I was a nervous wreck the first time I made this, so I’m hoping this will be easier for you to follow and feel less intimidated than I did.  It’s very difficult to mess this up, so give it a shot!  It’s so quick and easy to prepare.  The long part is waiting for your instant pot (IP) to finish the work for you!  You can do this with a crock pot/slow cooker, a heating pad, with the light in your oven, or any way that you can keep your yogurt at a pretty consistent 100-110 degrees for 8-36 hours so that it can ferment, after you cook it on the stove top to 185 degrees to begin with.  The IP just makes the whole process much simpler:  all of the mess in one pot and no checking the temp or doing much of anything but wait once you set the time and temperature.

You’ll Need:

5 cans of Organic Coconut Milk (FULL FAT, NOT Low!) – I refrigerate (3-4 hours) or freeze (1 hour) 2 cans and drain the coconut water into a jar (to use later for anything I want, smoothies, etc.) and only use the cream from those 2 cans.   I shake the other 3 cans to combine the water and cream and use the entire contents of the 3 cans as they are.  This is important because it helps your yogurt be as smooth and creamy as possible.  

1/4 cup of Maple Syrup (pure, NO additives, and organic, if possible) – If I’m fermenting the yogurt for less than 12 hours, I don’t use the maple syrup because coconut milk has plenty of natural sugar in it and I want as little sugar in my yogurt so that my family gets only good stuff from it.  Fermentation eats the sugars so that the end product has very little to NO sugar in it.  Also, DO NOT substitute honey.  It’s bacteria will fight against the good bacteria in the yogurt and ruin your product.

*Last week I warmed/fermented our yogurt for 29 hours and it was TANGY!  With some berries and grain-free granola I can enjoy this without any sweetener, but I added 1/2 a teaspoon of stevia to my Honey’s to take the edge off.  He doesn’t love tangy like I do!

 Pour only the coconut milk and maple syrup into the IP and whisk until it is smooth.  Then hit “yogurt” until it goes to “boil,” which will heat it to about 185 degrees.  This cycle takes about 15 minutes and you do not need to cover your IP.  Try to whisk once or twice during this cycle.  When you hear the BEEP indicating that the boil cycle is over, immediately whisk in

2-3 teaspoons of UNFLAVORED GRASSFED BEEF GELATIN or 1-2 teaspoons of AGAR AGAR (I’ve never used agar agar, but if you are vegetarian or vegan, this is a great option!)

Be sure to mix this in very well, or you will end up with lumps instead of thickened yogurt.  Also, most recipes I’ve found suggest adding the gelatin after the yogurt cools to 110 degrees (see below), but in my experience the gelatin works better if you add it when the mixture is at a higher temperature.

Let the mixture cool for about an hour with the cover on top, but not locked.  Your IP will slowly lower the temp to about 110 degrees.  (I use a candy thermometer)  When it reaches this temp, take out a scoop (about 1/4 cup or so) and put it in a small bowl.  Then slowly stir in 

3-4 oz. of plain yogurt (you can use coconut, dairy milk, almond, hemp, any kind works).  Once you make your first batch, always keep out 3-4 oz. before you add anything, and you’ll always have a starter for each next batch.  I just put 4 oz. in one of these glass jars:

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When the two are mixed well, pour the combination back into the IP mixture and whisk until completely blended.

The final ingredient I add is:

2-3 probiotic capsules (opened and poured out, DO NOT throw the capsule in there whole!)  It’s important that you use probiotics that are not expired.

I whisk my concoction one last time and then set the timer to 24 hours or more, typically, but you can choose to set it for 8 hours (less will not ferment enough to be yogurt) or as high as 36 hours.  I may stir it once or twice during this time, but more often I just let it be.

When this cycle is finished, don’t expect it to be much thicker than when you started.  The gelatin works by heating and then cooling as does the yogurt itself.  So, it will take time to thicken as it cools and sets.  I whisk it and immediately put it in a 64 oz. glass jar, like this:

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Or 2-32 oz. jars work just as well!

**Don’t forget to put 3-4 ounces in a small glass jar for your next batch!

Now, here’s the trick…  Let it set up in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours if you want thick, rich, creamy yogurt.  If that’s not so important to you, then enjoy your yogurt after 2 or more hours in the fridge. 

Once you get the hang of this, I guarantee you will not want to eat any other yogurt!  You know exactly what is in this!  There is SO much good fat in coconut milk.  You can make yogurt with cow’s milk, as well, but we love that this recipe is completely dairy-free!  Making your own is MUCH cheaper than buying it made at the grocery store.  Last week I bought a 5 oz. container of coconut milk yogurt that is made with organic coconuts, but not completely organic.  The second ingredient was cane sugar, which I prefer not to consume and there were a few other things I wasn’t wild about, although it was pretty yummy!  It cost me $1.59!  If I multiplied that by 12.5 – a little less than how many containers my recipe makes – that would cost just under $20.00 for store bought with ingredients I can’t control.  My ingredients cost me about $12-13.00 per batch and I know exactly what I’m feeding my family!  When it’s time to enjoy this creamy yumminess, we typically add fresh fruit and grain-free granola, but you can add a fruit compote, chocolate shavings, nuts or a few drops of pure vanilla.  When it’s too tart, I just sprinkle a little stevia or monk fruit on it and stir, but any sweetener you enjoy will work.  Please leave questions or comments below.  I would love to hear about your experience with making yogurt!

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Gifts

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gifts

This morning I awoke earlier than usual, which was okay because my Honey is feeling extra yucky and is playing guitar with our son, Aaron, this morning at our Central campus (church) at 7:00 a.m., so I was able to make him a nice cup of chai with coconut milk and a few drops of cinnamon oil.  I’m especially thankful for insulated cups on chilly days like this, knowing it will stay warm for him and he can sip it throughout the morning.

After he was on his way, I began making the sausage and scrambled eggs for our South campus (church) band and production teams to go along with the crockpot oatmeal my Hannah started the night before.  I delivered that and then headed home, fully committed to showering and attending a service at each campus in order to support everyone in my family.

It began to rain harder and the temps dropped about 15 degrees as I was drinking my own cup of chai, curled up in my new-to-me comfy chair, listening to a recently discovered podcast.  I began to think about some of the relationship difficulties I’ve experienced recently and what/who I am thankful for and then I decided to stay home and spend some time with My Pappa and write.  I am fully embracing the freedom in this, only struggling a smidge with the guilt of not supporting my family and playing hooky from church for no really “good” reason.

A few years ago I would’ve beat myself up for not setting a better example for my kids – and then I would’ve gone to church full of resentment, or I would’ve told my family what I was thinking about doing and someone or two would’ve tried to shame me or used it as an excuse to do the same.  I know it sounds silly to say we’ve grown because now I can play hooky from church without the guilt I used to experience, but I am thankful for the growth my family has experienced in this way and for the lessened guilt that comes with that growth.

I’m thankful for a husband and children who work at seeing me, just as I am, with flaws, scars, ugliness and sin, through the eyes of Our Pappa.  I’m more than grateful for the grace I’ve experienced as I’ve stepped out of my Stepford wife persona and revealed that I am more Eve than I allowed anyone to see for the greater portion of my adult life.

In recent years I have experienced great loss in my life, some of the people who have chosen to walk away are the ones who have given me life, known me all of my life or all of theirs.  While I’ve developed a certain peace about this as I’ve turned it over to Pappa, again and again, I still have a day or two every once in a while when I give into the grief of my relationship casualties.  I’ve never doubted, during these times, that Our Pappa is holding each of us and working everything out according to His will, so my sorrow isn’t a result of doubt or hopelessness, it is simply a lament of love and time lost.

There are times when it will sneak up on me and I don’t even realize where the melancholy comes from.  When I first feel the tug of this, I usually shove it down and try to carry on, telling myself I am fine and I don’t have a good enough reason for this drama.  That is when my Hannah almost always will ask me, “What’s wrong, Mama?”  At first my mind will spit out, “Nothing.  I’m okay.”  Almost immediately after telling that lie, I will burst into tears and say, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  I don’t have any good reason.  I am just so very sad.”

And the glorious beauty of my only daughter’s response is that, at no point, does she try to make it all better by minimizing my right to be sad, nor does she attempt to shame me by telling me how blessed I am and therefore not entitled to feel grief.  She almost always says, “Well, that’s okay, Mama.  Sometimes we just feel sad.  No emotion is bad, Jesus gave all of them to us.” And then she’ll ask me what I need – offering to hold me or make me a cup of tea.

Can I explain to you what a truly lovely gift this is to my wounded little girl who grew up in a family of “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and “Stop being so dramatic/emotional?”  (*There is no judgement here, I fully understand my parents believed they were preparing me as best they could for the world).  We live in a culture of positivity and pushing through.  I think we are afraid if we let someone grieve too deeply, they may never come out of it.  A lot of us spend those precious, rare moments when our grieving loved one is expressing their anguish, thinking of the most profound thing to say that will end their suffering and help them to move on – and make us feel a little bit heroic, as well as a lot more comfortable.  Who in the world told us that this was loving?!  Why is it so difficult to just listen with empathy and sit in pain with the person who just handed us their hearts with such beautiful vulnerability and trust?

I think this is our culture.  I grew up seeing 30 minute shows that ended happily and miraculously resolved with someone wisely speaking into another’s situation and then everything was fixed perfectly, cue the upbeat theme song and roll credits.  I don’t recall EVER watching a television show in which one character listened to another’s woes and then simply said, “I’m really sorry you’re going through this.  What do you need from me in this moment?”

When I am given permission to sit in my agony, I find myself able to invite My Pappa in to my pain, move past my reactions, into my true emotions and finally I am able to face where the original trigger came from.  This almost always results in an epiphanal moment that helps me to see why I over-reacted to a more recent event or why I was feeling such intense emotions internally that overwhelmed me or spoke extreme negativity into my heart.  This is growth and it comes by way of pain and struggle.  While, in the moment, it feels like a lot of work, discomfort and inconvenience, the rewards are healing, clarity and progression toward who He always meant for us to be.

I spent decades of my life being told, by myself and others, to push through, to stop feeling sorry for myself, to get over it.  So, I tried, with everything I had I tried to follow this advice because I thought that’s what grown-ups did and I believed I was extra flawed and self-centered for sitting in the pain of offenses or expressing strong emotions.  I did it all with a smile on my face, because that what I was taught a good woman does.  And then I began to notice that too many of the women in the generation before me were miserable, and afflicted with illnesses that I believe were a result of all of the stuffing of emotions they had done most or all of their lives.  They were largely unknown, even by their husbands, children and siblings.  I began to realize I was blindly walking the same path with my children, my husband and my family of origin.  All the while, my life was imploding.  I was imploding.  You can’t stuff sadness, anger and frustration for decades with a smile on your face and believe that it won’t find an outlet.  There’s only so much room in there, after all.  It festers inside and turns into cancer.  It finds a crack in your smile to escape, seeping out as fierce contempt.  It discovers a bitter hole in your integrity which justifies your manipulation of loved ones, which results in a loss of trust and more distance from the people you love and need most in the world.  It is much more work, a constant discomfort and inconvenient in the worst of ways, but still, this is the path I chose to stay on for much of my life, believing it to be the more noble.  This newer path began as much more work, and brought untold loss, but the freedom and reward in walking more in the identity My Pappa has for me far surpasses the struggles along the way.  Continuing on the same path would’ve kept me in “relationship” with many who I’ve lost along the way, but those were relationships that had little or no depth and certainly no grace.  I was not known, nor was I allowed to know them.  The relationships I have been left with are more precious to me than I can put into words.  They are deep and hard.  They are lovely and challenging.  They are safe and encouraging.  They are, each one, a gift to me in my sojourn here.

In this coming year, I want to be a gift to others and their journeys.  I want to listen without trying to fix.  I want to lovingly hold space for others, without pushing for resolution.  I want to try to focus on what is true before jumping to conclusions and choosing a reaction I will most assuredly regret.  And while I strive to make these things a part of who I am becoming, I want to extend grace to myself, knowing I will stumble and trip along the way because growth is worthy, hard work, but the freedom and health that comes as a result of the struggle is SO much better than the alternative.  I can’t live there anymore.

the good stuff

HCA Hula Hut laughing

the good stuff

that rare moment when no one has anything pressing

not an appointment to go to

not an assignment due anytime soon

not a work meeting

not a repair that can’t wait

when the weather is perfect

not too chilly

not too hot

not rainy or snowing

not too windy

when the food is scrumptious

not packaged

not average

not common

when laughter is the result of deep bonds and precious memories

not forced

not fake

not bound

when the people are your tribe

not self-centered

not disengaged

not moody or pouty, no shoulder chips allowed

These are the memories that carry us through the not-nearly-as-perfect moments (nnapm) that are inevitable and sometimes horrific.  These are the moments that all of the Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat posts pretend to be.  These are the glorious memories that we pause to relive, again and again.

In the midst of these moments, I find myself wondering how my life can be this perfect, lovely and surreal, because I know full well that I’ve done nothing to deserve this heaven on earth.  Still I gladly immerse myself in the good stuff, aware that the nnapm are on their way, whether or not I deserve them, savoring each and every smell, sound, sight, taste and feeling that this blessed moment has to offer.  No camera phone needed.  No hesitation to be all in.

This is the good stuff.

Gathering Table 20 seats

Their Discomfort is Not Your Shame

 

shame-652499_640

I have spent a decade recovering from my husband’s betrayal.  I often refer to that event as the beginning of great change in my entire family’s lives.  Betrayals in marriage make others uncomfortable.  Some of our closest family members have created distance between us and them since becoming aware of  this part of our story.  Immediately after discovering his betrayal, one of my oldest and dearest friends promised to fly out to Texas to help me through the time when I was struggling with wanting to commit suicide.  She was the only person I had shared my shame with at that time. The promise of her visit gave me something to hang on to.  We made plans for over a week.  She told me she’d call with specifics about her ticket.  I picked up the next phone call, hoping she was coming soon, when she told me that her husband said they couldn’t afford the trip and that he needed her home during that time.  I was devastated, but told her I understood and wouldn’t want them to struggle financially because of me.  Two days later I was betrayed all over again as I saw her fb pics of the tropical and pricey girl’s trip that she had chosen (and lied to me about) over supporting me.  After ignoring my texts, calls and letters for about two years, she was in Texas for business and asked to stay with us, so during the day I spent with her, I asked why she did that to me and her response was, “I’m just a sh*##@ friend.  There’s not really anything to talk about.  I suck.”

Closure wasn’t to be in that relationship, apparently.

When I talk about my spiritual and emotional health journey, I often refer to and differentiate the years before the betrayal (The Stepford Years) and the years since to mark the beginning of this incredible journey.  My husband, our three youngest children and I have been very intentional about working through our junk with as much transparency as we can muster.  We believe that this is the best way to help others and to remember how far Our Pappa has brought us since we submitted to His leading.  So, I’ve been surprised by the number of Christian friends and family members who have attempted to shut down that part of our story.  Even in my recovery walk I was asked if I realized how often I refer to that time when I worked through my steps… (btw, this is kinda the point of working the steps, right?). Fortunately, because I had another christian friend say something similar previously and had prayed about it, I was prepared with my shameless response this time.  I’m not living in that brokenness or dwelling in victimhood.  I’m testifying that My Pappa can effect a kind of change in people that can’t happen by our own effort, alone.  So, when a friend comes to me and describes a situation that resembles my B.B. marriage (Before Betrayal), I want her/him to know that I can relate and I can share the “brokenness to the point of not wanting to live” chapter of my story that He miraculously loved into the “wanting to live for Him” chapter of my story.  I can also empathize with mourning that the trauma of that betrayal changed who I was and I will live with that forever.  Always trying to remember that I best serve Him by sharing and thus shedding the layers of pain, sin and fear that stand in the way of walking in my FULL identity that He has always held for me.

I often wonder why our church videos typically share the “end” of the story without an occasional “messy in the midst story.”  We like to wrap it all up in a pretty bow after sharing a quick, not too graphic, picture of what the struggle is really like.  I think the people that are still planted in the mud, stuck in the desert, struggling to feel like their story will have a portion of joy in the morning (“For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”        – Psalm 30:5) would love to hear how truly freakin’ hard the days leading up to His miraculous healing  were for a real live person with skin.  Instead, we have stories that skim over the ugliness and then spend 70% or more of the video on how amazing things have been since the ugly ended.  I understand the motive is to give hope to struggling people, but I think we can do better.  We can be more authentic about how hard and lonely and messy our dark chapters are so that when we get to the pretty bow part of the story, we really give Him all of the glory He deserves because we see that it was only by His grace that we can be redeemed.  This is what will give hope to the hopeless, truly seeing His unrelenting, unconditional love fighting for our hearts in spite of the muck and mire.

I could tell you numerous stories of church peeps who attempted to shame us when we shared our betrayal story

– the leaders of our marriage class that stopped talking to us and then “unfriended” us on fb,

– the first Texas friend I shared the truth with after 2 years, who said she understood and would like to talk after she absorbed it all and then told me she wasn’t sure she could forgive me and cut all ties with my family,

– the family member who used to call me weekly and has called me less than five times in the past ten years because it makes her uncomfortable how open we are about it. 

Their discomfort is not my shame.  We need to be uncomfortable in order to grow.  We are called to comfort our sisters and brothers. 

“Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”     – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

There is nothing in the Good Book that tells us that we should shame others if their story makes us uncomfortable or fearful.  There is nothing that tells us we should tone down how messy things are so that the people sitting in the pews or across the table feel more at ease.  The peeps who prioritize their need to feel at ease aren’t leaning into the real story of God’s redemption and the peeps that are leaning in, need us to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, again and again, without shame.

If you are one of those courageous people who is speaking your truth in order to heal and/or to help others heal, just know that He sees you and your heart.  He loves that you are choosing to do the hard and often humiliating work of crawling your way back to health.  The people that try to shame or shun you because you are speaking your painful truth are afraid or lack compassion, but it isn’t a reflection on you or your journey with Jesus.  Keep your eyes on Him and seek His will, even when it’s lonely and doubt rears it’s ugly head because the enemy doesn’t want you to walk in the identity Your Father has for you.  Hold your head up and walk through, knowing He is with you.

“I am your anchor in the wind and the waves. I am your steadfast, so don’t be afraid. Though your heart and flesh may fail you, I’m your faithful strength and I am with you wherever you go.”  

We need to do better.  We need to love better.  We need to open our hearts to His stories of redemption and the beautiful, uncomfortable messiness that comes with it.  

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ says your God.”        – Isaiah 40:1

 

 

 

almost

Image result for broken heart

sometimes the people that were supposed to love you endlessly without condition,  love you as best they can and hurt you deeply because they are only able to operate out of their brokenness and pride.  eventually this feels like they don’t really love you at all.

sometimes when i replay scenarios of lashing out in revenge, my imagination wanders to a place where you realize how excruciating the pain is you inflicted on me and you scoop me up and profess your unconditional love, explaining all of the wounds away.

and then I usually return to my “angry” scenario and realize I’m not really angry at all.

only my heart is broken in a million pieces and I’m trying to reconcile how my people of origin, some of these people I spent most of the first quarter of my life with, could choose to twist the knife and pour the salt,

again, into my deep, gaping wounds.

immediately and/or eventually, because this may take a minute, it’s time to mourn the cruelty and lack of love, time to accept that i cannot and probably will not be able to understand the why nor the how. 

and then it’s almost time to remember and stand confidently in knowing that i am walking in truth and love and that casts out all of that other awful junk, because i am His daughter.

almost.