Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sugar Detox: Week 5 Complete

Week 5 had us cutting out quick breads (pancakes, waffles, fruit-breads, etc.). I have to say, this has gone remarkably well. Of course, over the past 2 weeks we have been very focused on packing and moving and 2 out of our 3 children have been at Camp Grandma & Grandpa as well.

I can't say that we will permanently remove these products from our lives. We have switched to whole-grain waffles from Trader Joe's and I will be exploring using coconut and almond flour to replace the AP flour I currently use for pancakes. It's pretty rare for us to make pancakes and waffles, so I don't have a problem allowing them in our diets as an occasional treat.

This week we are limiting natural sugars. These sugars have slowly been replacing the more processed and refined sugars in our diet, but it is important to limit even the amount of the "good" sugars.

These "good" sugars include:
honey
maple syrup
organic pure cane sugar
muscovado sugar
coconut or palm sugar
molasses
sorghum
stevia

The funny thing is, I am finding that the better I feel and the less sugar I consume, the less I want the sugary sweet things I used to crave. I think sugar, like many things, has "addictive" properties that make our bodies crave it more as we consume it more.

Sugar cravings can also indicate underlying medical issues like hormone imbalances, adrenal fatigue, and yeast overgrowth. I find my overall mood has improved, my moods are more steady and predictable, and I am sleeping better and waking earlier (because I want to, not from pain).

I am excited to continue on this journey to reclaiming my health and teaching my children healthy habits as well. This area has always been a challenge to me, but this has been worth the effort!

Blessings,
Meri

Generosity

God has been working on my heart lately in regards to generosity.

This has always been an area of struggle for me. We have never had a significant amount of "discretionary income", so I have applied the standard logic of "when we have more, we will give more". But over the past few weeks, God has made it clear that this is not His picture of generosity.

"And He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And He called His disciples to Him and said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."
-Mark 12:41-44

My parents have, as far back as I can remember, been very good with managing their money. Although money was not something we talked about much while I was growing up, it was evident in the way they lived their lives that they placed high importance on the stewardship of their wealth.
Apparently that gene skips a generation.

As an adult, I have rarely (if ever) felt that we have had an abundance of wealth. Most months our, we zero out our bank account paying bills and raising 3 children. For a long time, I reasoned that I would give more when I had more to give-I mean God doesn't want me to skip out on my bills or not put food on the table, right?

But Mark 12:44 makes it clear that this is flawed logic in light of Christ's view of generosity.

Jesus was not impressed by the large and showy gifts of the wealthy. But when the widow gave all she had to live on. All of it. Everything. He was so moved that He called his disciples to Him and used this as a teaching moment to show them what generosity really means.

So lesson 1 for me on generosity is: Don't give out of your abundance, just give.

If we view our wealth (including, but not limited to financial wealth) as a gift from God, then all of what we have is actually His, so it is more a matter of stewardship than "losing" what we have. See, generosity does not result in a loss (although that is what many people believe), but rather generosity results in an increase to the giver. An increase of joy and faith, hope and love.

Lesson 2 for me in regards to generosity is: It really is better to give than receive. We are simply stewards of God's gifts.

In 2 Corinthians 8:16-24, Paul addresses giving in the church. This is a man who knew about giving. This is a man that, quite literally, poured his life into the people of the world in a tireless effort to bring the gospel to anyone and everyone he encountered. He did this with a joyful heart, even thought in frequently resulted in hardship for him. To me, one of the key verses in this passage is 2 Corinthians 8:24:

"Therefore show to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love and of our boasting on your behalf."

"Proof of your love". Those 4 words sum up, to me, the entire doctrine of giving. Generosity is the proof of our love-for God, for others, for the church and community. We pour out our love, God's love, on others by our generosity. Giving from any place other than from love is fruitless. Generosity is not borne of obligation or a spirit of competitiveness with fellow givers. Generosity, true generosity, can only come from a place of love and joy.

So the 3rd and final lesson I have learned on generosity is: Give with a joyful heart, or don't give at all.

Blessings y'all,
Meri
 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Valuable

Recently, I had a sweet friend reach out to me. She was concerned that I was being too hard on myself (based on a series of posts I have done related to brokenness). I was challenged to really look at my life and my faith and clearly explain where my value lies and why brokenness is not necessarily a negative experience.


I came up with two major points:


1) I do not equate brokenness with worthlessness.

I am still working on this process, but I am learning that my value is not linked to my circumstances. I don't believe material things, salary, family size, living arrangements, etc. have the power to give or take away any of my value. Sometimes periods of brokenness are exactly what is necessary to reveal the beauty and value from within.



2) My self-worth is inextricably linked to my value in Christ.
I watched a video yesterday where a pastor illustrates this concept with a pizza box. The pizza box is only worth about $0.40, but it's true value is linked to the product that it carries and that dwells within it, the pizza. I am the pizza box, and my value is entirely tied up in the product that dwells within, Christ Jesus. Without Him, I am simply an empty cardboard box.
Don't misunderstand-I know I am not a worthless cardboard box. God tells me so in Matthew 13:45-46:
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it."

Sweet sisters-you are that pearl of great value and your Heavenly Father sacrificed His son for you. Just you. Only you.  


I am so glad that I have dear friends that care about me, challenge me, and hear me-even if we don't always share the same opinion.  It is so important to me to have all of these ladies in my life.








Blessings y'all,
Meri



Women Betrayed

When I was a young woman, I was fully pro-choice. (I will pause here and let that sink in).

I was pro-choice.

I believed that a woman's "right" to choose was more valuable than a life God created.

But, as I grew older (and hopefully wiser), I began to understand that not only was what I called a "choice" actually the murder of an innocent child, but also that this "right to choose" is simply a myth being perpetuated to distract women from the truth about their health and God's plan for them.

With the release of some terrible and heartbreaking videos, you would think that this myth would be shattered. Women should be rallying against the perpetrators of this massive deception-and while many are, many are still drinking the proverbial "kool-aid" of Planned Parenthood.

If you still believe that Planned Parenthood is an organization that stands for women's health and "choices", read some of the quotes from it's founder, Margaret Sanger...

"The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it." (Women and the New Race, ch. 6)

[We should] apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring."
(Plan for Peace, from Birth Control Review-April 1932)

"Birth control must lead ultimately to a cleaner race."
(Women, Morality and Birth Control, 1922)

Article 1. The purpose of the American Baby Code shall be to provide for a better distribution of babies… and to protect society against the propagation and increase of the unfit.
Article 4. No woman shall have the legal right to bear a child, and no man shall have the right to become a father, without a permit…
Article 6. No permit for parenthood shall be valid for more than one birth.
 (America Needs a Code for Babies, March 27, 1934)

These are not the words of a woman who desires better health care for women. These are the words of a woman prescribed to the idea of eugenics.

eugenics

[yoo-jen-iks]
noun, ( used with a singular verb)
1.
the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population, especially by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics)
 
Eugenics is what drove Hitler to try to "cleanse" the Jews from society. Eugenics is what led to the sterilization of thousands of mentally disabled Americans without their understanding or permission. Eugenics is what drives jihadist groups in Islamic parts of the world to murder and maim young women in the name of "ethnic cleansing".  And it was the concept on which the founder of Planned Parenthood based her entire doctrine of birth control and women's rights.
 
From the beginning, it was never about a woman's right to choose and access to healthcare. It was about racism, money, greed and politics. Those of the fundamentals on which the entire Planned Parenthood foundation is based. 
 
We, my fellow women, have been betrayed by this organization. But we also have to take on some responsibility-did we look deep enough? Ask enough questions? Did we ever attempt to peel back the layers to reveal the cesspool that lay beneath the surface? Some of you may have done these things...I did not, at least not until I was much older.  
 
The thin film has been pulled back for us now. The truth behind this organization has been revealed-so the question is, what do you do with that truth? Planned Parenthood must be defunded. It is salt in the wounds of women everywhere to not only propagate the lies as truth, but to also use our tax dollars to fund this killing machine.
 
I am pro-life. I am pro-woman. I am pro-child. I am pro-family.
 
Defund Planned Parenthood. 
 
 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Too Broken?

It has been a tough couple of days. I will spare you the gory details, but our 13 year old son just returned from a week-long Grandma vacation where he spent virtually every day either at an amusement park, water park, or on the water in their sailboat. And now he is home. And we are moving on Saturday. We have teen angst in spades. He is not a happy camper. And he is letting us know-in all his teen angst-y ways.

Ugh.

Today, I got frustrated. He got frustrated. There was yelling, there were tears, there was drama.

The truth is that I know him better than he would like me to and it's my job to help him learn to know himself. So after the hours of drama and angst, I sat down with him. No TV, no phone, no computer-just me and him (and the dog). We talked. We discussed. We walked through scenarios and discussed how we both could have handled things differently. We were accountable. We prayed. But we did not yell. We did not say mean and hateful things to one another.

I revealed to him, during this "non-yelling" time, that we are a broken family. I am a broken person and I know I cannot have anything but a broken family-no matter how hard I try. I make mistakes. I yell, I sometimes swear (gasp!), I get angry and place the blame where it doesn't belong, I get frustrated and take it out on my family. I am broken.

But my God is a God of redemption.

He takes the broken pieces of me and my family and He mends them back together and creates something new and more beautiful than I could ever have imagined. I am weary and broken under my burdens and He invites me to rest.
We will never be a "perfect family" because that is really just an illusion. Real life is messy and loud. There will be arguing and yelling (hopefully less as time goes on-it's something I am working on). There will be hurt feelings and anger.

But there is always God. Always there, inviting us to rest and lay down our burdens. Put down the anger and tears and let him mend our hearts. There is no one, no family, that is too broken for God.

And with his help, there is joy and laughter in our family. There are good times. There are happy times.

And God is always there, enjoying our joy.

Blessings,
Meri

Study of Job: Good Men vs. Evil Men

In chapter 4, we see Eliphaz's response to Job's speech (ch. 3) and his current situation. Eliphaz is of the belief, as many people are today, that good and godly men should be happy and should be protected from harm by God. Unfortunately, this belief does not fit with his understanding of Job and the recent tragedies that have touched Job's life.

While many of us may see Eliphaz's ideas as rudimentary and even foolish, I believe that we all subscribe to the belief of good reaps reward and evil reaps punishment to some extent in our lives. Our basic knowledge of good and evil pushes us in this direction. But, God does not always work that way.

Wait, what?!

You mean that our good and gracious Heavenly Father does not always reward the good and punish the evil?

In an eternal sense, yes, He does work that way. And this is why it is important to have an eternal perspective on our lives.  However, He does not always reward the good and faithful in this lifetime. In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus uses the story of servants who faithfully serve their master to illustrate how God rewards His good and faithful followers. Their reward came when they returned to their master, and God also rewards His faithful followers when they return to Him-forever.

So what does this mean for Eliphaz and Job? Job's suffering has rocked Eliphaz's world. It is not in his ability to comprehend that a good and godly man should be suffering in the manner Job is, and then Job's speech in chapter 3-a speech of sorrow and frustration-further upsets Eliphaz's worldview. To Eliphaz, a man like Job should be protected and should be joyful; but, what he finds is a broken and bereaved man who is crying out to God.

Eliphaz spends the first 13 verses of chapter 4 seemingly arguing with his own perceptions of good and evil and how God works into all of this. Job 4:6 says:

"Is not your reverence your confidence? And the integrity of your ways your hope?"

I find this verse particularly poignant.  It seems to sum up Eliphaz's ideas about good and evil and how these forces work in the world. He is asking Job, "Shouldn't you be happy? You have done good deeds in your life and lived uprightly so you should have hope and confidence?". But Job is broken and weary. He is not confident and hopeful as Eliphaz believes a man of God should be-even in the most troubling of circumstances.

Don't we do this? When brothers and sisters in Christ are struggling and suffering we offer tidbits of "Biblical wisdom". 

  • "God will never give you more than you can handle"
  • "If God brought you to it, He'll bring you through it"
  • "God's got this!"
  • "God will use this for good, He has a purpose in what you are going through"
While these are lovely sentiments and some of them may even have scripture-based truths contained within, they don't allow much room for human brokenness. Sometimes we just "fix our make-up and hide our crazy" (although, I think this process has been ingrained in Southern women for generations!). God encourages us to surround ourselves with fellow believers so that we can find support amongst them when we are suffering. It's okay to be broken sometimes. It's necessary to be broken sometimes.

I prefer the following tidbit of "Biblical wisdom":


Show your crazy. Be transparent. Be vulnerable. Be Job.

Blessings,
Meri




Friday, July 24, 2015

Contentment



Recently, I have been studying along with our sermon series at church in Philippians. The sermon last week focused on Philippians 4:10-13 and on the subject of contentment.

I have always struggled with contentment. Not so much that I have been unhappy with my circumstances, but more that I am always looking forward to the "next big thing". I also tend be dependent upon my circumstances for my happiness and joy. So I gleaned two very important lessons from last week's sermon:

 1) I must be dependent on God for my joy and not pin my happiness on the circumstances of my life. 
2) I must adopt an eternal perspective on life. 


We are moving. Again. It's a long story, but the down and dirty truth is that I failed to submit to my husband's leadership and guidance and, as a result, we ended up in a less-than-desirable rental situation.

So, while I do not relish the actual physical act of moving all of our stuff (again), I am very excited to be exchanging our current living arrangement for a new and better one. It is good to be excited and this is definitely a positive move. But I have to be careful not to pin all of my happiness and joy on this move.

Usually when we think of Paul's message on contentment, we think of it through the lens of remaining content in difficult situations. Paul wrote this letter from prison, so it is natural to apply his admonishment in this way. However, it is equally important to view this idea of not allowing our circumstances to determine our contentment from the other direction. 

If all of my happiness in life is tethered to this move, what happens if it doesn't work out the way I planned or imagined? What if it is more difficult than I thought it would be? What if there are challenges (as there inevitably will be) that I didn't foresee? Would I be happy if we weren't able to get out of our current rental situation?

To get off the roller-coaster ride of depending on circumstances for happiness, we have to find our joy in Christ alone.


By being completely dependent upon God for my joy, I can work towards adopting a more eternal perspective. When I view my circumstances through the lens of eternity, specifically and eternity with my Heavenly Father, it removes all of their power to impact my happiness!

This does not mean that we will not and should not experience human emotional reactions to certain situations. We will feel grief, sadness, happiness, excitement and all of the other emotions God gave us as we experience the changing circumstances of this life. But, what God promises us is that we do not have to be slaves to these emotions-we have His promise of a future with no pain, no suffering, no tears....for all eternity!



Blessings,
Meri


 




Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sugar Detox: Week 4

We have had a lot going on in our lives lately, so it seems we have gotten a little off-track on the sugar detox. I can't really call week 4 (phasing out all refined white sugar) complete, but it is definitely in progress and moving in the right direction.

Between health issues, carting kids to and from Virginia to visit with grandparents, and our upcoming move, I believe some of these detox challenges are going to be a progressive work over time. So here is the current status:

  1. We no longer have ANY high fructose corn syrup in our house! 
  2. We are only purchasing whole grains, except for pasta. We are still searching for a pasta alternative that we all like.
  3. We have cut out MOST sweets and desserts. I doubt we will ever completely cut out all sweets and desserts-this is a lifestyle change for us, not a short-term "diet plan". We have cut back significantly and are more selective about what is in the sweet treats we allow into our home.
  4. I have personally cut out all soda. We no longer keep soda in the house, but on the rare occasion we go out to eat, we do allow soda with the meal. 
  5. We are in the process of replacing products in our home that contain sugar with alternatives that only contain "good sugars". This will continue to be a work in progress for a couple of months, I am sure.
One of the great things I have found through this process, is that the less sugar I consume, the less I crave. I have begun drinking my coffee with coconut oil and butter, rather than artificial sweetener and half-and-half. I no longer enjoy soda (full-sugar or diet) and even find my favorite Starbucks beverages too sweet for my taste any longer.

So as we continue on this journey, our next step is to cut down on our consumption of "quick" breads (pancakes, waffles, muffins, bagels, etc.). Again, we will not be cutting this out of our lives completely, but will be consuming fewer of them and replacing them with healthier options. I have already started doing this personally, mostly at breakfast. 

Breakfast in our house is usually very random and uncoordinated, especially in the summer. So usually the kids resort to some sort of convenience food, typically a bagel, frozen waffle, muffin, etc. But lately, I have started having a smoothie for breakfast (my favorite lately has been spinach, avocado, rolled oats, blueberries, almond milk, and cinnamon). Other good alternatives we have tried include egg scrambles (with ingredients like cheese, onions, spinach, etc.), oatmeal, yogurt-based smoothies, and omelets with custom ingredients.

Food plays so much more of a role in our health than I ever gave it credit for and I am looking forward to a future that includes a much healthier lifestyle.

Blessings,
Meri


Monday, July 20, 2015

Tenez Bon

My mom has a small, hand-stitched saying framed at her house. It says "Tenez Bon". Roughly translated this means "hold on" or "prevail". A dear friend gave it to her as encouragement when she was going through her first battle with cancer.

The story behind it is that this friend, French Canadian by birth, had a mother who would accept no complaints until her children could tell her at least one good thing that happened that day. The children would come home from school, ready to complain about how their day went or how much homework or chores they had; but, their mother would say to them "Tenez bon! Tell me one good thing that happened today!". 

As a family, we have had some challenging months recently. And I have shared our challenges as well as some of our good times. But as I look back, I noticed that I am not nearly as grateful for the every day graces God gives me. I have allowed myself to be worn down and have lost sight of the good moments that are part of each day.

So here it goes, these are the wonderful things that have happened to us in the midst of our tough times:
  • I have developed a more personal, deeper, stronger relationship with God. I have learned how to allow Him into the gaps in my life and to just be still and wait for Him.
  • My husband and I have drawn nearer to God and, in turn, nearer to each other. Our marriage has thrived during this time and we have reached levels of commitment and closeness that we could not have under any other circumstances.
  • I have witnessed the redeeming grace of God in a deeply personal way.
  • I have realized a lifelong dream of being able to stay home with and homeschool my children.
  • We have reconnected with old friends, both local and long distance. God has rebuilt connections and used these relationships to support us and walk with us down this difficult part of our path.
  • We have discovered that there is more to a job than the salary. There is so much value in the relationships Rick is building and has built at PIU. His co-workers friends work family has prayed over us, come alongside us in hard times and celebrated with us in good times. 
  • I have reached out to and been met by my "mommy-friends" in my most desperate hours of need and in my times of great rejoicing. God has placed beautiful, godly women in my path to pray with me and for me, give me godly advice, and share all of the messy beautiful moments along the way.
  • Our family is growing closer and stronger. We are still messy and loud, but we are fiercely loyal to one another and committed to being better for each other and for God.
  • I have fallen more deeply in love with my husband than I ever thought possible.
  • God provides. In big ways. In tangible ways. Every single day.

Blessings,
Meri


Study of Job: Eternal Perspective

In chapter 3 of the Book of Job, the man himself finally speaks.  Until this point, through all of the adversity and tragedy that has befallen him, Job has remained mostly silent. This silence is something we can learn from.

I am not good at silence. I know. Stunning.

I like talking. I like action. I want to speak out about things right away. I want to comment, post, talk, and share immediately.

But, I am learning there is much value in silence-maybe more than there is in speaking. I am also learning to truly consider what I am saying (or typing) before I actually let it loose. My words are becoming more and more thoughtful and in that process, they are becoming fewer.

So when Job speaks, we should listen. He has carefully considered his words and held them for all this time, waiting for the right time and right way to let them loose.

Years ago, when I wrote my paper on Job for my English class in high school, chapter 3 seemed to be further evidence that we (humans) are simply playthings for a master puppeteer rather than cherished children of a Holy God. In this chapter, Job curses the day he was born and I interpreted that as a desire to never have lived.

But, as I study this chapter more, I see that Job is saying he would rather be with God in heaven rather than suffering on this earth. It's not that he wishes he had never existed, he just would rather be able to put the suffering and heartache of this world behind him.

"For now I would have lain still and been quiet, I would have been asleep; then I would have been at rest." -Job 3:13

Job is longing for a place of peace and rest. He has struggled through tragedy after tragedy and is ready to find peaceful rest, and he knows that eternal peace is not something we can find on this earth.
"The small and great are there, and the servant is free from his master." -Job 3:19

In verse 3:19, I believe Job is not only stating that there is rest and peace in heaven, but he is recognizing that the things of this world-material possessions, social standing, financial gain-are truly meaningless when you have an eternal perspective.

The sermon at church this week was on finding contentment regardless of our circumstances. One of the most significant truths I took away from the sermon is that if our joy and happiness is tied to our circumstances, we will continually ride a roller-coaster of joyous "highs" and devastating "lows". But, if we bind our joy up in the truth of Jesus Christ and the promises our Heavenly Father, we are no longer slaves to the roller-coaster ride of our circumstances. We are all dependent on something, it's the "something" we are dependent upon that matters, and I choose to be dependent on God. 

Job had an eternal perspective. His joy was not dependent on his circumstances, but rather on the covenant promises of God. In spite of that, Job still experienced the human emotions that accompany such tragic losses. He felt grief, pain, and sadness; however, he kept his eyes on the Lord. He remained focused on the end game, eternal rest in heaven with the Lord.







"I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, for trouble comes." -Job 3:26




Blessings,
Meri





Friday, July 17, 2015

Study of Job: Just Show Up

I have learned the value of good friends, near and far, over my lifetime (aged and wise as I am). In more recent history, I have been blessed to have God reveal to me how important true friends are when you are struggling and how, within a circle of friends, each one brings something unique and special to the table.

Sometimes we need a friend to talk to and listen to us. Sometimes we need to listen for godly wisdom from our friends. And sometimes we just need silence.

First and foremost, I love how Job's friends respond to the tragedies in his life.

"Now when Job's three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each on came from his own place." -Job 2:11a

Now, in the days before social media and cell phones, people were not nearly as "connected" as we are today. But, Job's friends knew he needed them, and they came. Sometimes, even in our overly-connected society today, we need friends to show up. Don't call, don't worry about whether or not it's the perfect timing, just show up...bringing ice cream is always a good idea, too.
In verse 12 we see that Job is so disfigured by boils and grief, that his friends do not even recognize him at first, but when they did, they immediately wept. 

"And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven." 
-Job 2:12

They not only wept, they grieved for Job and his unimaginable losses. But what they did next is what we often overlook in friendship. They didn't give him advice, tell him to seek God's wisdom, tell him to curse God. They were silent.  They were silent for seven days and seven nights and did not leave his side.

Now, I don't know about you, but I usually can't be silent for 7 minutes, much less 7 days (those of you who knew me as a child are nodding right now).  Job clearly has some remarkable friends. I also have remarkable friends (although I am not sure any of them could be silent for 7 days and 7 nights, either). 

One of the best ways to be a good friend is to just show up. Job's friends did just that. Any of my friends that are reading this-showing up with treats is always a good idea as well....

Blessings,
Meri


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Not Ever Again

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post entitled "Not Yet" about our struggle with secondary infertility and trying to understand God's plan for our family.

Well, it seems, His answer is actually "not ever again".

I won't go into the specifics, but God has made it clear that I will not have any more children that come from my own womb.

It's a fresh and raw pain right now and I am not sure how I feel about it yet. Well, that's not entirely true-I feel peaceful and grateful. Peaceful because I know we are making the right decision and grateful that this condition is not more serious and can be solved with a simple surgery.

I don't know if I will still feel this way after the surgery is done, but I do know one thing: God will love me and walk with me through this journey no matter how I feel. And He has blessed me greatly with a husband who will do the same.

I know that this is the end of a chapter in our lives, but not the closing of the whole book. I know that ending one chapter is necessary to begin a new one, a potentially better one. But I think all endings come with some feelings of grief and loss.

I also know that there are other ways to grow our family. My husband and I both come from families deeply ingrained in the miracle of adoption-me being adopted myself and Rick having an adopted brother. This has given us both a heart for adoption as well as a clear understanding of the challenges it entails.

We don't have the answers as to what this will look like for our family, but we do know that God's plan and His timing are perfect and we are willing. Right now we are just following His lead, one step at a time.


I love the psalmist's word choice here.."a lamp". I envision a lantern or maybe even something like a candle, lighting just the next step on the path. It is such a beautiful illustration of how our Heavenly Father works-we need not worry about what is 10 yards or 10 miles down the road for us, because He has already been there. Our future is a memory for Him. All we need to do is trust and keep our eyes fixed on Him.








Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Study of Job: An Excellent Wife, or Maybe Not

It's interesting that this month I am doing a series on the wisdom of Proverbs on Instagram and Facebook, posting a verse (or a few) from each chapter in Proverbs for the 31 days of July.

There is so much in Proverbs focused on wisdom and how it applies to marriage. One of the verses I posted a few days ago was Proverbs 12:4.






I don't know about you, but I would much rather be a crown of my husband than bring hi shame and be like rottenness in his bones! (Don't worry, this will all tie in by the end of the post, just file this away in your mental memory for now).

In the first part of Chapter 2, we see Satan gathered again with God. Again, Satan is attempting to provoke God by upping the ante on Job's righteousness. The enemy says to God, "Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But, stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" (Job 2:4b-5).

Again, I am going to compare this to a parent-child relationship (I really have to stop using my children as an analogy for Satan).

I think it is important to note that in both Job 1:11 and Job 2:5 Satan challenges God to reach out and cause destruction and devastation in Job's life and both times God gives him just enough rope to hang himself. God is not driving the devastation in Job's life, Satan is. God simply let Satan have his way, like an unruly child, knowing all along what the outcome would be. I believe it was God's way of showing Satan just how limited his knowledge and powers are and how great and mighty are the powers of the Lord.

So Job is now afflicted with boils from the "sole of his foot to the crown of his head" (Job 2:7b).

Medicine.net defines boils as "deep, localized skin infections that begin as reddened sore areas". Sounds fun, right? (I thought about including a picture here, but figure that might cause digestive issues for some of you).

Having dealt with a chronic illness for several years now, I understand the high value of good health. I have cried out to God to take away the pain, exhaustion, and other issues related to my illness. I have questioned Him, the Great Physician, as to why He won't heal me when I know He can. "Why me, Lord?" is the cry of my heart.

But Job did something different.

"And he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes." Job 2:8

While I have not tried this particular treatment-I have, recently, determined that my life with chronic illness is never going to be the same as my life before chronic illness. I can, however, choose to control the things in my life that are still within my grasp, namely my faith and trust in Jehoveh Rapha, the Lord who Heals. I can also treat the body that He has granted me with more respect and fill it full of His good things both physically and mentally.
One thing that I see in this chapter that was not revealed to me in my youth is the role of Job's wife. Once her husband is physically afflicted, her sage and loving advice is to "curse God and die" (Job 2:9b).

Now, I am sure Mrs. Job is a lovely lady and is likely just frustrated by the sudden paradigm shift in her formerly stable and comfortable life. But Job does not cut her any slack, "You speak as one of the foolish women speak. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" (Job 2:10b).

Well. There ya have it.

He made it clear that she was, as we say in the South, "showing out" and she needed to "put her big girl panties on a deal with it." So now, refer back to the beginning of the post (feel free to scroll up if this has already fallen out of your memory as frequently happens to me). Mrs. Job was not a crown to her husband here! On top of losing all of his material possessions and children and now covered with boils, he is afflicted by a wife who brings him shame. I am pretty sure Satan saw this as an added bonus to his devious tricks.

The last sentence of verse 10 proves, once again, that Satan's power is all smoke and mirrors. The enemy has no real power over us, only what God allows. God is power. He doesn't have power, He flows with it, produces it, burns with it.

"In all this, Job did not sin with his lips."
-Job 2:10b-

I don't know about you, but when I am in pain or stressed, I sin with my lips. I am short-tempered, I am snarky, and I lash out at those closest to me. I am not Job. But God loves me, just as He loved Job. His grace is sufficient to cover the sin of my lips. His grace repairs the damage and heals the wounds (not always completely as there are consequences to my actions). His grace restores me. His grace is power.
Blessings,
Meri


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Study of Job: Blessed Be the Name of the Lord

In the past year, we have lost our jobs, our home, one car, and most of all our sense of security (namely because that sense of security was misplaced in the things of this world).  I have, throughout this journey and time of loss, tried to keep my eyes fixed on the Lord and recognize that He is simply pruning the vine to reveal new and healthy growth.

But there have been times I have failed. Miserably.

I wanted my home back. I wanted a second car (not the infamous white mini-van, though...but that's another story). I wanted the sense of security (false as it was) that having a comfortable, steady, reliable income brought. There were times I was angry with God. There were times I felt He had abandoned me. I acted out like a child.

By the end of Chapter 1 in Job, this man, this "blameless and upright man" (Job 1:8b), had lost just about everything. His children, his livelihood, part of his home. And he was devastated. He "tore his robe, and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped" (Job 1:20).

What, what?!  He did what?!

He worshiped.

He worshiped his Heavenly Father. He worshiped the One Who Sees, El Roi. He worshiped his Lord Provider, Jehoveh Jireh.


Now many of us are familiar with the last part of this scripture "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21b).

But there is so much more to be had from these two simple verses.

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there." (Job 1:21a). This is a man who recognizes his true status in life. This is a man who understands who he really is and what defines him-and it is NOT his possessions. We live in a society that defines value by numbers-salary, credit score, square feet in your house, how many cars, weight, BMI. But God tells us, through Job's story, that these things mean absolutely nothing. We did not come into this world with anything and we cannot take anything with us when we are done with this world.

The familiar words following these (Job 1:21b) remind us where all that we have comes from. Again, we live in a society that prides itself on great gain and the ability to "make our dreams come true". The American Dream is a large, spacious home, several cars, at least a 6-figure salary, etc. and we can attain this if we just work hard enough.

 But that is an illusion. All of these things are nothing compared to God and none of these things are ours to enjoy save for His grace-including, as Job sadly found out, our children.  One of God's greatest gifts is barely a blip on society's radar anymore. Material possessions are far more prized than children and family....but I digress (stay tuned...you will probably see more about this in an upcoming post).

"Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God." (Job 1:22). The despair I felt at our losses over the past year was, in my book at least, epic. I have never felt so empty and afraid, lost and lonely. I zeroed in on the "and the Lord has taken away" part of these verses and totally disregarded the "the Lord gave" and "blessed be the name of the Lord" parts.

I was an angry little girl whose Daddy had taken away her toys. I was certain God was punishing me for something.  But wait...Job was "blameless and upright" and he had it far worse than me. Suddenly my entire understanding of who God is and how He relates to and loves me changed. That confused, hurt, angry teenage girl that was convinced we were all just God's puppets was starting to see that He wanted me-broken, hurting, outcast, me.

I was wanted. Job was wanted. You are wanted.

Sometimes to understand that concept, God has to strip every distracting thing away so that all that we have left is Him. And once we have Him, we will never want anything else.

Blessings,
Meri

Monday, July 13, 2015

Study of Job: In the Beginning

When I was a senior in high school, I had to write a persuasive paper for my AP English class (please note I included the "AP" to show you what a smarty I was). I was at a place in my life where I was questioning the faith I had grown up with, so I chose the book of Job to write on. Specifically, to show how this book reveals God's true nature as a puppet-master and we are just His playthings. (I got an A+ on the paper, by the way....see, Smarty McSmarterson right here).

I was in a place of insecurity of not only who God was but who I was to Him and who He was in me. I had a boring testimony-still do, for the most part. Raised in a Southern Baptist church, sang in children's choir, went to VBS, saved at age 10, participated in youth group, sang in youth choir....you get the point. But I had never known hunger for the Lord. I had never known need, I was blessed and hedged in by my Heavenly Father. I was Job.

Now reading this book again, after discovering my faith on a whole new level and experiencing that hunger, that longing, that need for God because I have absolutely nothing else to cling to, I am seeing Job in a whole new way, through the lens of my ever-growing faith.

The first thing I notice about this book is that Satan asks an awful lot of questions. You know that saying "It's rude to answer a question with another question?"--apparently Satan missed that memo. Also note that the entire fall of man in the Garden started with a question from Satan:

"And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said,'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"

Remember how that turned out? Not good.
In this case, God is pointing out to Satan how faithful His servant Job is, He says "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" (Job 1:8a). Satan responds, "Does Job fear God for nothing?".  There we go, answering a question with a question, Emily Post would have a fit (not in public, of course).

I think this is revealing, not only of Satan's nature, but of sinful nature in general. 

It's like trying to teach our 13 year old son how to behave in his changing mind and body. We welcome questions, but expect respect. Our Heavenly Father welcomes our questions, because it means we are communicating with Him which He wholly desires and encourages. But He expects respect at the same time. There is a time and place for questioning our Lord God and a proper way to respond to His answers.  Satan lacks this basic understanding and respect (as we often do as well) like an unruly 13 year old child. (Okay, I think I may have just compared my son to Satan, which was NOT my intention. Hopefully you get that).

The next verse in Job 1 that catches my attention is God's response to Satan's snarky question. He doesn't lose His temper and send Satan back to hell to think about what he did wrong. He didn't take away Satan's toys or put him in time out. He engaged. 

Satan says to our Lord "But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" (Job 1:11). I think the punctuation here is very important. This is an exclamation, Satan is yelling at God. Are you kidding me? Yelling? At God? I.can't.even. (Oh wait-maybe I have done that a time or two myself.). But God replies in His calm, quiet way "Behold that all he has is in your (Satan's) power; only do not lay a hand on his person" (Job 1:12a).

When I wrote that paper all those years ago (we won't talk about how many), I missed this. I missed that God did nothing to Job. Job was not God's puppet with strings being pulled by His holy hands. God simply allowed Satan to throw his tantrum, to try to prove his point, knowing all along what the outcome would be, that He would be victorious through Job's faithfulness.

I have struggled with understanding this concept for the better part of my adult life. So many of us (believers and non-believers) "Why do good things happen to the faithful if God is in complete control?". I still do not understand all of it completely and may not until I meet my Father in heaven and then it probably will be moot. The answer I have for now is that not all things on this earth and in this life are of God. There is evil at work and it's name is Satan. God does not want puppets, He wants His children to choose to follow Him because they desire a close, personal relationship. 

The best illustration I have come across regarding this relationship with our Heavenly Father is the image of a father walking with his young child who is just learning to walk. The child stumbles and falls and the father immediately scoops them up in his arms to comfort them. The father did not cause the child to stumble and fall, there was an obstacle, perhaps a rock or stick, that brought that child to their knees. But, the father was right there to pick the child up. Always there. Always waiting. That is our Heavenly Father.

Blessings,
Meri

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sugar Detox Week 3: Complete (Sort Of)

I could give you a list of excuses as to why this week didn't go so well on the Sugar Detox:
  • 2 ER visits
  • 3 doctor appointments
  • Dinner date night with my hubs (very rare-so we splurged)
  • Eating out more because of our abnormally hectic schedule
But the truth is, that life happens. If we are going to make these changes and stick with this plan to improve our overall health, I have to be able to maintain my balance even in the rough waters of life. Next week could have just as many unexpected things in store, but I am finding that when I do "cheat" and drink or eat something full of refined sugars, I feel sick and tired (even more than I already do) afterward.

So while this week's specific goal is.......wait for it.......NO MORE REFINED WHITE SUGAR (wait, what?!!!), we will still be working on cutting out refined white flour as well.


This week we will also be giving up soda completely...dining out, dining in, at homes of friends-completely. (My family may commit mutiny, so if you don't hear from me for a few weeks, you may want to have the police do a wellness check to make sure they haven't tied me up and force fed me sugar-laden deliciousness).


We have significantly reduced our "sweets" intake. While the detox calls to cut out all desserts and sweets, I am not a proponent of completely denying all of a particular food group, especially one as yummy as dessert. I feel this will lead to more "cheat" days which, in too much abundance, defeat the purpose of this lifestyle change. So we will be limiting desserts and making them only "good" sugars, but will not be eliminating them completely.

I wouldn't call this past week an epic fail, but it was not the best week we have had so far.  The one victory I am clinging to is that I have not run to food to heal my hurts (emotional or physical). I have turned to my husband, my friends, and most importantly my God to help me through these struggles this week and I pray I continue to do so as it is so much more effective than trying to make the pain stop with junky foods.

Stay tuned....
Meri

Diversion Tactics



Confederate flags pulled from official buildings in South Carolina.

Bakers fined for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.

FB pictures, the White House, and other places turned into colors of the rainbow.

Did Hilary Clinton pose in a picture with the Confederate flag in the background?

Comedians asked to change their show because it may be "offensive" (have you heard some of these people...offensive doesn't even begin to describe their sets, but that is another topic)

I have struggled to filter these issues through the gospel and have yet to find the answer. But then I realized...maybe these are not the real issues and that is why there are no real answers.

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;  because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
Romans 8:19-22

Y'all. The whole of creation does not groan because of flags and cakes and photos taken in a different time. These are not the issues, but the enemy would like us to believe they are.

While we are taking a stand on whether or not the Confederate flag should continue to be flown-9 families in Charleston are mourning the loss of a loved one in a violent attack. Do you know their names, who they were? That is the real issue, not a piece of cloth that represents different thins to different people.
Clementa Pinckney, 41  
Tywanza Sanders, 26
Cynthia Hurd, 54
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45
Mary Thompson, 59
Ethel Lee Lance, 70
Daniel Simmons, 74
DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49
Susie Jackson, 87

These are the names of the people that lost their lives. In a church. Worshiping a Mighty God. Not because of a piece of cloth, not because of what the Confederate flag represents; but, because a young man allowed himself to be used as a tool of the enemy. Satan used this young man not just to end those 9 lives and cause grief in he lives of their friends and family, but to divide a nation and to distract us from what is really happening in our nation, and in our world.

Bigotry is defined by Dictionary.com as "stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief or opinion that differs from one's own." (emphasis added).

I am going to try not to get personal here, but it is my blog so.....

I am of the opinion that same-sex marriage and homosexuality is sinful. I also believe abortion is wrong, and murder. To many, this makes me a bigot. If you are one of those people...feel free to stop reading my blogs and if we are friends on FB, click that "unfriend" button with all the righteous indignation you can muster into one finger.

I am not a bigot. I do not judge those whose opinion differs from mine. I welcome differing opinions and the respectful discussion of said opinions. I am not intolerant of your belief if it differs from mine...it is just not my belief.



Be cautious, my friends, we are being distracted by small and insignificant molehills that are being into mountains to prevent us from seeing what is really happening to this country.

But that is simply my opinion...

Blessings,
Meri




Friday, July 10, 2015

Holding onto Hope and Finding Rest

Give me the faith to believe You
When I'm stuck here in my fear
Give me the strength to trust You
When my vision's blurred by tears
Give me a hope for tomorrow
Cause today has gone so wrong
I'm on my knees
Give me the faith to believe

Even when I cannot see You
You're still shining, You're still shining
Even when I cannot hear You
You're still calling out my name
Even when I cannot feel You
Your arms are open
Always holding on to me
Give me the faith to believe

You say You'll never leave me
That Your love will conquer fear
You say Your day is coming
When You'll wipe away my tears
Give me a hope for tomorrow
Cause today has gone so wrong
I'm on my knees
Give me the faith to believe

Even when I cannot see You
You're still shining, You're still shining
Even when I cannot hear You
You're still calling out my name
Even when I cannot feel You
Your arms are open
Always holding on to me

Won't You give me the faith to see the invisible
Give me the faith to believe the impossible
Give me the faith to receive the incredible
Oh give me the faith to believe it
Oh give me the faith to believe it

Even when I cannot see You
You're still shining, You're still shining
Even when I cannot hear You
You're still calling out my name
Even when I cannot feel You
Your arms are open
Always holding on to me

-"Faith to Believe" (Shane & Shane) 

I don't have many of my own words to share today. The past 10 days have been a blur of ER visits and tests, doctor's consults and exams all culminating in a lack of answers and feelings of discouragement and fear of what may be lurking hidden in my body, undetected by everything we have tried so far.
So today I just can share the words of "Faith to Believe" by Shane & Shane. I am discouraged, but I am clinging to hope-because I cannot let go of hope no matter what. 



My mind and heart and body are tired and broken today. So today I am resting in my Heavenly Father's arms. Clinging to the neck of my Jesus. 

Blessings,
Meri


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Happy Birthday, Baby Girl Sophie!



Today you would have been 4 years old.

I imagine you would have been a strawberry-blond, freckle-faced girl like your big sister, Emma.

You probably would have been cute and silly and precocious by your other sister, Kenzie.

You most certainly would have been the apple of your big brother's eye and would have him wrapped around your little finger.

Time passes and the pain is less sharp each day. But it is always there, in the background of life as our family moves forward missing a very important and very big piece of our hearts.

But on days like today, when we should be celebrating another year in this world with you, the pain is especially sharp. It is eased by the knowledge that you are celebrating another year with Jesus, and in a way...I envy you-spending your days in the presence of your Heavenly Father.

But I miss you. We miss you. Daddy misses you. Your brother and sisters miss you.

I am learning to live with an eternal perspective. God is refining my heart and teaching my soul to not see this place as my home, but to keep my eyes fixed on His face and my home in heaven with Him...and you.

So, I am working hard to stop mourning your loss, sweet girl. I am no longer trying to see the terrible events of November 2010 as a tragic goodbye.

So, instead of goodbye, I will say, until we meet again.

I love you, my sweet baby girl. I love you my Sophie. You were not just mine for a moment because you will live my entire earthly life in my human heart and then we will live together forever in Glory!

Love,
Your Momma

Monday, July 6, 2015

Sugar Detox Week 3: Day 1

I won't bore you with posting everything I eat every day, but this week of the sugar detox is particularly challenging as it involves fasting from sweets and desserts...ALL sweets and desserts (pay no attention to the Trader Joe's Fireworks Chocolate Bar next to me-I haven't actually eaten it. Yet.)



So I will have to admit that the reason this week is so very challenging is that I am an emotional eater. (I will pause here for your shocked reaction).

If I am in pain...I want to eat.
If my heart hurts...I want to eat.
If I have something to celebrate...I want to eat.
If I am sad...I want to eat.
If I am angry...I want to eat.

You get the picture. Food for me is not just love-it is all the emotions. It is comfort.

So today (so far...it is only 1:30 pm) is a success story.

First and foremost, I have become obsessed with natural flavor-infused water. Lemon, cucumber, lime, mint. I love it all. Today I am enjoying lemon/basil/cucumber infused water...deliciousness!





For breakfast, I enjoyed a smoothie made in my super-handy NutriBullet: avocado, spinach, peaches, and banana.




Lunch was a bit of a splurge at Zoe's Kitchen, but it wasn't terribly bad...chicken roll ups with potato salad (no mayo) and fresh-squeezed limeade.

While I am still struggling with some fibromyalgia pain and other health issues that came on suddenly at the end of last week, in general, my body feels better and my energy has increased exponentially.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Sugar Detox: Week Two Complete


Goals for week two of our 8-week Sugar Detox:
  • Consume only whole grains-eliminate refined white flour
  • Limit soda consumption to 12 oz. per day and only soda with real sugar (no HFCS)
  • Eliminate all high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and artificial sweeteners



So how did we do?

While white flours still live in my home (because the budget-conscious mom in me just can't throw away all that food), we have only cooked once with refined white flour. To be more specific, we made pancakes with Southern Biscuit Mix Formula L which makes the most delicious pancakes on earth and best southern-style biscuits as well. Since we only indulge in this treat once every couple o months, the biscuit mix is staying.

We did most of our grocery shopping at Trader Joe's and Aldi this week and picked up some delicious refined white flour alternatives. I even found crumpets made with whole grain flour!

We have eliminated all soda from our home. On the rare occasion that we eat out, we will allow the children (and adults!) to order 1 (no refills) soda. Our next big challenge is going to be getting rid of sweet tea (which we make with refined white sugar)...but thankfully we have a week or so before we have to face that challenge.

There has been some general groaning and mild complaining that there is "nothing to drink but water or milk", but I have tried to offset some of the "losses" but letting the kids choose some healthy snack foods from TJs when we shop. They have been surprised at how good the healthier choices taste, but there have been some misses (puffed cheese bean curds...'nuff said).

We are working to get rid of artificial sweeteners. Typically I use them in packet form to sweeten my coffee and hot tea, so I am just finishing up the last of the Splenda before replacing with stevia packets.

Each week we are finding there are many benefits to this lifestyle change:
  • Less wasted food
  • Less snacking, especially late at night
  • Our fridge and counters are full of produce rather than chips and processed foods
  • I have more energy and less pain (still struggling to get the blood sugar under control, but getting there).
  • The kids have more energy and are sleeping better.
  • The girls are willing to try more new foods (namely because they don't want to go hungry). Logan has always been pretty adventurous with his palate.
Personally, I am still facing some health challenges. I spent Thursday night at the ER after going to my primary care physician on Wednesday. After both visits, we still have more questions than answers and lots of referrals for specialist appointments coming up. I am hopeful that the more changes I make and the longer I maintain them, the better my health will be, though.

This coming week will be a bigger challenge than we have ever faced:
  1. No desserts for 1 whole week (this is not something that we will cut out forever, but for this coming week, we will fast from all desserts. Once we do re-introduce them, we will make them with healthier ingredients).
  2. No soda. At all. Period. (Again, not forever, but fasting for this week and will not ever be bringing it back into our home).
  3. Avoid HFCS.
  4. Eat only whole grains.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Pain in the Midst of Joy

God has shown us great mercy in recent weeks. He has answered prayers in ways I could not have even imagined. I am daily reminded of one of my favorite verses:
But tonight, I sit here in pain. I feel overwhelmed with the ache of my heart and the physical pain of my broken body.

I feel frustration at the fact that my body is so broken at what seems to be too soon in my life. I still have children to raise. I still desire to bear another child. But my body aches. It hurts to breathe tonight. It hurts to type this. It hurts to lay down or sit up or walk.

God has greatly blessed so many of our dear friends lately. I see pictures and hear joyous birth stories.

Yet my womb is empty and my heart feels that way tonight as well.

I want to share these feelings with those around me, specifically my husband. But all I can seem to do is cry and lash out. I feel lonely and misunderstood. I feel alone in this place of conflict and pain.

I don't feel like I even have the right to feel this pain. I am disappointed in myself for being a whiner...a complainer. I recognize that, in the scheme of things, I have much to be grateful for...perhaps too much. But in this moment, the tears course down my cheeks and my heart is shattered by loss and grief, by fear, by loneliness, by feelings of inadequacy and failure.

It is not just my struggle with secondary infertility. It is not simply our financial concerns. It is not only my health concerns and the fact that I left my doctor's office with more questions than answers today.

It is the cumulative effect of all of these things. It is the constant buzzing in the background of my life that prevents me from fully focusing on God's grace and glory.

Tonight I hurt. And I know others hurt. And we should all know that we are not alone.

-Meri