Jesus is Enough

This has been an unsettling week for me. A week where God confronted me about my online content: this is not pleasing, uplifting, edifying nor is it drawing you closer to God. Uggh. But it’s fun and entertaining. Everyone else does it. And a whole list of excuses, and this time I felt like God was just looking at me with a raised eyebrow. It’s your choice, are you going to listen to me? And so grumpily I walked away, looking over my shoulder with a bit of longing. I walked away because I know it doesn’t have to do with following a set of rules, it has to do with drawing closer to God, and I knew that my online activity was setting up a barrier between me and God that was getting harder and harder to climb over.

There was also the evening when my children’s bad behavior just felt overwhelmingly like me failing as a parent. I ended up sobbing on my husband’s chest, feeling like my kids were all going to hell in a handbasket and were probably going to end up homeless on the streets because I haven’t made Bible Time enough of a priority… And how on earth do I give ten kids the one-on-one time that they need to be well-adjusted citizens??

Then I got in a discussion about church practices with a blogger online. I didn’t agree with his position, but at the same time I didn’t feel like I had an answer to the fundamental question he was trying to address…How do we show Jesus to the lost?

Then I started thinking about politics and church and race and economic differences in the world and I felt like I just had this giant question mark floating around my head. No concrete answers. No concrete conclusions. Everything felt like a foggy haze.

It didn’t help that this past week I’ve undertaken a diet that consists of only fruits, vegetables and nuts. It’s an attempt to deal with several health issues, weight actually being at the bottom of that list. My body has been in shock. WHAT’S GOING ON??? WHERE’S THE BREAD?? WHERE’S THE MEAT??? More brain fog as I try to adjust to this very different routine.

In the midst of all this haze, I started a new book, “Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church” by Rachel Held Evans. She’s a blogger. I don’t read her blog. I’m pretty sure it’s a lot more liberal than I am comfortable with. I don’t unreservedly recommend her as a theologian or someone to model your life after, but there is something in her writing that feeds a hungry place in me. I think what draws me to her is that she is honest about her life. She is honest about her doubts and failures. She asks questions that I tend to skirt around. In the book it feels like she is rediscovering her walk with God, rediscovering Jesus.

As I’ve been reading her book I have felt something relax inside of me. I have been reminded that this walk with Jesus, this life we’ve been given is not a three step process. Our Christian walk isn’t about walking in absolute perfection every single day, and if we mess up, then it’s all over. It isn’t about having the answer to every single difficult question. It’s a lot more about stumbling along in all our imperfections and ignorance and continually turning back to Jesus, asking for help, asking for forgiveness, asking for strength to get up and try again. Asking for wisdom when we don’t know what to do. Seeking God’s face on Sunday, messing up on Monday, and then Tuesday, seeking God’s face again. A little bit wiser, a little bit stronger, hopeful that this time we won’t stumble into the same pit.

And through all our floundering around, Jesus is enough. His Word is enough. His Grace is Enough. His Love is enough. I long for solid answers, concrete paths, rigid systems to follow. A certain future that is all laid out for me. That’s not what this life is about. In fact, the only solid thing I have to hang on to is Jesus. He knows everything, but he only likes to tell me what I need to know on a moment by moment basis.

The fog clears a bit and one thing comes into sharp clear focus. I’ve got Jesus, he’s got me. It’s enough.

 

Fat Fridays: Week 12 I’ve Survived the First Week!

Well, this has been an interesting week. Today completes day 7 of only eating fruits, vegetables and nuts. First, I have to say that in some ways, it was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. I pictured myself watching my family eat meat and bread and me standing off to the side munching on a leaf of lettuce, disgruntled and fighting overwhelming cravings. It didn’t work out that way.

So, I’m going to break this down into Failures, Successes, and Challenges.

Failures

My first attempt at cooking vegan and grain free was a bit of a flop. I was trying to make some vegetable soup and I was kind of just tossing in whatever leftover vegetables I had in my fridge. I found a big bag of broccoli that was on it’s last leg and needed to be eaten immediately, so I chopped it up and threw it in the soup. Bad idea. The soup ended up tasting like slightly-off broccoli. My desire to not be wasteful had me eating it anyway. Not so fun. My other recipe fail was when I tried to cook a spaghetti sauce with chunks of butternut squash in it, but the butternut squash remained grainy and wouldn’t completely soften up no matter how long I cooked it (another situation where I had bought pre-cut butternut squash and I left it a bit too long in the fridge).

Also, not necessarily a failure, but I had a couple days where I was just in a really bad, spaced-out mood. Not a bad mood about the food, but just about life in general. It made me a not-nice person to be around. Sigh.

Successes

I  took a trip to Walmart and explored their frozen vegetable section. I found some pretty nice things. Like pasta made out of lentils and zuchinni and “riced” cauliflower with sweet potatoes which cooks up a lot like rice, and also frozen carrot spirals and frozen zuchinni spirals. Great finds.

My one recipe super-success that I plan to repeat was this. I fried (just a little coconut oil) some onions, garlic and fresh ginger. Then I added a bag of the riced cauliflower/sweet potatoes. When that looked like it was mostly cooked I added in a bag of pre-made coleslaw mix and some soy sauce. I mixed it up and then covered it and let it steam till the cabbage was soft. Then the final touch was to open up a can of black beans and pour it over the top. It was good, hearty, filling, and easy. I’ll probably make it more often.

I’m also trying to eat a handful of nuts every day. After multiple trips to the store where I kept forgetting to buy nuts, I finally bought four little bags of raw pecans and dumped them into a large bowl and covered them with salt water. The next day I drained the nuts, rinsed them a little bit and then laid them out on a cookie sheet. I put them in the oven on the lowest setting (my oven only goes down to 170 degrees) and left them overnight, about 12 hours. Voila, amazing nuts that don’t have any bitterness in them. (The person who taught me this also told me about all kinds of health benefits to this process, but I’ve forgotten those.) They’re very addicting. It’s a challenge to only eat a handful a day. When the pecans run out I’ll do walnuts.

pecans

My other success was that I didn’t cheat. And the biggest success was that I didn’t really feel like cheating (except when I was really hungry, then it was a bit tempting).

Challenges

I’ve started taking a bunch of supplements again: Vit B complex, Chlorella, probiotic, magnesium. I am always easily swayed by people’s varying reports on which supplements are necessary and which ones aren’t. Who to trust? Which ones to try?

I stopped exercising this week. I feel kind of like a juggler trying to keep a bunch of balls in the air. When I started this diet it was like my brain overloaded. WHOA! Way too many balls keep up in the air. I need to set one down. So, now I’ve got to get exercise going again.

Also, eating this way is all about being prepared. It’s not like you can stop at McDonalds and find a sugar-free, dairy-free, meat-free, grain-free meal. And there’s not too many restaurants where that will be easy either. Since the only time I contemplate cheating even a little is when I’m really hungry, being prepared is going to be important.

I haven’t noticed any weight loss so I hope that starts happening soon. If it doesn’t, I’m probably going to get discouraged. Also waiting for my moods to even out, that needs to happen soon too!

So, the plan is to continue with the diet this week and try to get exercising every day again.

See you all later!

Kitchen Pianos and How to Degaje

kitchenpiano

(edit: I forgot to post the picture! Here it is!)

When I was a kid growing up in Haiti, there was a word that I heard a lot. Degaje. Which means, essentially, make do with what you have. If you have ever repaired anything with duct tape, then you are Degaje-ing. My dad had Degaje down to a science. “Well, the car broke down, and I couldn’t find a part for it, so I took this scrap metal I had and welded my own part..” or “You need bookshelves? Ok, here’s a big stack of milk crates, have fun…” or maybe, my mom, “I made bacon for breakfast…ok, it’s not really bacon, it’s fried spam, but it’s close!” You get the idea.

I have carried the spirit of Degaje into my marriage and family life. It sometimes gets on my husband’s nerves. His motto being, “If you’re going to do a job, do it right”. My motto goes more like, “Do whatever you can with whatever you have and as long as it works, everything is fine.” I will tell my kids that we are going to Degaje and they look at me blankly. What? Speak English mom. I still haven’t got it into their vocabulary.

That brings us to my kitchen piano. My husband knows how to tune and repair pianos. Shhh. It’s a secret. He’s not out for hire. He doesn’t mind keeping our family pianos going, but it’s not his favorite work. No, he really doesn’t want to come tune your piano for you. So, years ago he brought home an old broken down piano. I think someone was giving it away and it was either he take it or it was going to the dump. He took it. I think the idea was that he would fix it up and let it be a piano for the kids. Shortly after that though, he bought me a nice upright piano and of course the kids wanted to play my nice piano instead of the old beat up one that hadn’t been tuned yet. The old piano got relegated to our back room.

The back room is an addition on the back of our house that is very pleasant, full of windows. It has been a multi-functional room since we moved in 12 years ago. It has been a children’s bedroom, a sickroom, a family room, a junk room, a school room, a guest room, and finally it became the parental bedroom. Throughout all these transitions, the piano has remained. When it became my bedroom we used the piano as a kind of bookshelf and shoe rack. It looked ok, but it took up a lot of room. Then, for my 40th birthday, my husband remodeled our bedroom. We got carpet on the floor, fresh peachy paint on the walls, new curtains, new closet system. It’s beautiful, I love it.

When Andy started the bedroom remodel, he moved everything out of the room so he could lay the carpet. I suggested this would be a wonderful time to haul the piano away since we had no use for it. He seemed to agree with me and I was excited. Hurray, the unused, old, forgotten piano will finally go away! He rolled the piano out of our room, down a short hall and into the kitchen. He was focused on our bedroom and he said he would take care of the piano a bit later. The piano was in the middle of my kitchen and getting in the way, so we pushed it against the wall where there was plenty of room.

Now, I have to explain a bit more about our house and kitchen, because I’m sure you’re wondering why my kitchen had plenty of room for a piano…Our house was built in 1909. It is a “project” house. We are in the middle of remodeling it. We’ve been in the middle of remodeling it for 12 years. We have done all the major work like replacing plumbing and wiring and drywall, new bathrooms, new roof, that kind of stuff, but we’ve never quite got to finishing all the trim and painting and maybe fixing the floors…or finishing the kitchen.

My kitchen right now has very little counter space. A round table in the middle of the room, a countertop that holds all the cereal/fruit/bread/vegetables, and a little bit of counter on either side of the sink. That’s it. So, suddenly, I had a piano in my kitchen. I started setting things down on it while I was cooking. Other people started setting things down on it. Slowly the piano began to disappear under a pile of spices, and cooking supplies, and tea pots, and cast iron skillets. My husband raised an eyebrow when he saw the accumulation. “How am I going to get rid of the piano with all this stuff on it?” I assured him that as soon as he was ready to move the piano, I would move the stuff out of the way. Then logic kicked in. Why move the piano when it makes such a great counter space? Degaje at it’s best. And that, my friends, is why I have a piano in my kitchen. In case you were wondering.

Generation to Generation

I was in the kitchen this evening cooking supper. My phone chimed, I checked and my Mom had just texted me. I quickly responded and told her that I had received the “Happy Light” that she had sent me in the mail (since she knew I had been struggling with depression)  and I had used it. It had seemed to help me with my bad mood. She quickly texted me back to give me some quick tips on how to use it. I smiled to myself. Yes Mom. You already told me this. 🙂 Then my phone chimed, my daughter who is off at college was texting me. I had texted her about some mail she had received at our house, asking her whether she needed it or not. And suddenly I felt like I was in a time loop. My mom was texting me because she wanted to help me out, I was texting my daughter because I wanted to help her out, and I suddenly had this Great Understanding. Oh. I get it Mom. This is why you still try to give me advice. This is why you buy special little things for me. In your mind, I’m still your little girl.

I have this overwhelming desire to help my own grown-up daughter in whatever way I can and I am trying to learn as fast as I can how to give her the space she needs to be a grown-up and be her own person and learn how to be independent, but that desire to Mother her is always there. Sometimes I step over the line and I can tell by the tenseness in her face that I need to back down and shut up. But that desire never goes away. I still want her to be well-fed, well-rested, have enough clean clothes to wear, have some good Real friends, be getting satisfaction from her work, know that she is walking after God. I don’t think that desire ever goes away. She’s my little girl, even if she’s 18 years old. And I’m still my Mom’s little girl. Even if I’m 40.

Later this evening I was tucking my four year old son into bed. He was laying on his bunk bed, smiling at me in the lamplight, laughing and telling me a funny story. And I thought about generations again. This particular child looks uncannily like his father’s childhood photos. And I suddenly wondered, is this what my husband was like when he was little? That adorable face and shining eyes and mischievous smile? Was I getting a glimpse into the past? Is this what my mother-in-law saw every evening when she put my child-aged husband to bed every night? I suddenly felt like a door had swung open and given me a peek at my husband’s childhood.

It’s interesting that God created us in this way. Each generation raising up the next. It’s a strange cycle. As a child I remember the urgency, the longing to be a grownup. Why? So that I could marry and have kids of my own, and those kids have a longing to grow up and have kids of their own, and so we perpetuate the human race. Each generation doing whatever they can to help the next generation along.

I am thankful for my parents. Thankful that I still have them close by. Thankful that they still care about me and want to know that everything is going well for me. I am also thankful that I have children that I can carry on the tradition with. Children who I can text on the phone, You doing ok? Want to come home for the weekend? And I am hopeful, so hopeful that one day my children will have children of their own who they will be checking up on even when they are all grown.

This whole generations thing…It feels like the goodness of God. As I sit in my chair, late at night, writing on my computer, all my children are upstairs in their bedrooms, the younger ones fast asleep, the older ones puttering around, trying to not give in to sleepiness till the last moment possible. Soon I will go climb into bed, snuggled warm against my husband. This is life. The life God created and gave to us. A gift.

Psalm 145 vs 4 says,

“One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”

So, I declare to my children who read this, to the younger generations that have come up after me… God is good. This life he has given us is good. Marrying, having children, raising families, it is good. Maybe this is why:

“For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 100 vs 5

Fat Fridays: Week 11 The Semi-Reluctant Vegan

Last week I said that if I could find a diet that would help with depression I would go on it. Well, two days after I wrote that, I received an email from a health network I subscribe to whose subject line was “Depressed or Anxious?” Inside the email was a link to a guy who has done extensive study on depression, anxiety, and dementia. I went and checked it out. A couple hours later I received another email from the other health network I subscribe to. The subject line of the email was, “Natural Remedies for Depression and Anxiety.” I opened that email. It had a link to the exact same doctor. I went and checked out the link.

http://masteringdiabetes.acemlnb.com/lt.php?s=ad5907f39a14b9a2c2601e7db4c5f57c&i=2074A2087A2A37606

They are having free online video sessions this next week, but they also offered links to two free ebooks that explained the premise of their study. The final conclusion was to adopt a plant-based diet. The challenge they gave was to try and just eat Fruits, Vegetables, and Nuts and then later reintroduce some healthy whole grains.

 

I am not unfamiliar with plant-based diets. Years ago my inlaws read Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live and adopted his diet plan. They had amazing results. They shared their journey with all their kids and I got the book and read it and even tried it for a while. But I was not sold enough to maintain it for very long. Then about a year ago my own father was struggling with Type 2 diabetes. I had read a study by a Dr. Neal Barnard that talked about reversing Type 2 diabetes by eating a low-fat, plant-based diet. My parents got his book, tried the diet and had amazing results, lowering my dad’s A1C from 6.4 to 5.7 in two months. I again half-heartedly tried the diet since I myself am prediabetic, but I wasn’t very dedicated and didn’t stick to it for very long.

Here’s the thing. I don’t want to be vegan. I want to eat meat. I want to enjoy cheese. Vanity, wanting to lose weight, was not a good enough incentive for me to totally change my lifestyle. But, if you are telling me that perhaps I can come out from under this persistent depression, well, that seems like a good enough incentive. If I lower my A1C and lose weight, that would be great too.

I am actually feeling hopeful. I feel like I’ve been being nudged towards this diet for several years now and I’ve just been dragging my feet. So, I’m going to try it. I’m thinking I’m going to probably need to give it a couple months before I can give an honest assessment as to how it’s going. I’ll keep you all updated.

Here’s the game plan. I’m going to make myself a giant pot of vegetable soup so I have something easy on hand.  I put in a good supply of fruit and vegetables today. The only thing I forgot to buy was nuts. I’ll have to pick those up later. Wish me luck!

 

Can I have a Time Out?

Today is one of those days where I feel like I have no right to be writing a blog. I contemplated just posting one sentence. “Esther is too grumpy to write today, come back next week.” One of the main reasons I started writing this blog was to set up an accountability that forced me to write regularly. I knew that I enjoyed writing, but I didn’t do it often, and I was looking for an outlet where I not only would have a place to share my writing, but also a bit of pressure to keep writing. Which leads me to today where I would much rather hide under the covers of my bed with a book than attempt to write down my thoughts on anything. But, it’s blog-writing day.  I also wanted this blog to be a place where people could see someone being real. So. I guess I should write.

Have you ever had one of those days where you just needed a good Time Out? Like, listen, honey, you are not playing well, your attitude stinks, and I think you should go to your room for the rest of the day and think about it. How come grownups don’t get Time Outs? Probably cause we would take advantage of it. ME! ME! ME! I need a Time Out! Please, can I have a Time Out???? Maybe that’s one of the worst things about adulthood. There is no Time Out. You have to show up every day or face harsh consequences.

Days like today are the days where I feel like I really don’t deserve the title of Mom. Or wife. Or Christian. Or friend. I am not living up to my own expectations for these roles at all.

Life is also not living up to my expectations. As a teenager, dreaming about my future grown-up-ness, I imagined adventure, romance, excitement, doing things that helped save the world. And here I am. My adventure now entails trying to keep my family warm on a cold day with my little wood stove cause the heater broke down and we can’t get someone to look at it till tomorrow. Romance involves playing Yahtzee together in bed, late at night, and texting silly things to each other during the day. (Ok, I have no problems with the romance in my life, it has evolved from young passion into a solid love and enjoyment of each other, but it doesn’t look anything like the romance books talk about.) Excitement is calling 911 in the middle of the night because someone is shooting off a gun in my neighborhood. Saving the World? Well, I kind of hope that my kids are going to grow up to be solid citizens who will make a difference in the lives around them. And I guess I’m playing a part in that by doing my best to raise them right. But it’s kind of a nebulous achievement. No hard numbers or statistics to point at and say, Look, I have taught 20 illiterate adults to read! Look, I fed 100 orphans today! Look, I just spent a lot of time lobbying and I managed to get this bill passed that is going to help my community! Nope. I can say, hey, I signed my kids homework folder! Everyone in my house ate three meals today! My husband has clean socks in his drawer! All necessary things, but doesn’t feel much like saving the world.

My husband and I both grew up as missionary kids, and as adults we had a hard time settling down. We moved back to Tennessee fifteen years ago and I consider it something of a miracle that we have managed to stay. At least once a year one or both of us get the urge to move. Let’s just sell the house and go overseas. Let’s just move out of the city and find a nice little town to live in. Let’s move out West. Or up North. We call it being “restless”. Really though, it’s probably a good dose of “The grass looks greener over there.” As someone who moved about every two years my whole growing up life, I can tell you that for me, staying in one place is a million times harder than moving around. Staying in one place means you have to go through boring times where everything feels the same every day. Staying in one place means that you have to repair friendships and relationships when they unravel instead of just moving on to a new set of relationships. Staying in one place means you have to constantly adjust your expectations to fit the reality you are living in instead of just not dealing with it and moving on to something better over the horizon. (I am not trying to criticize people who move around a lot. It has its own set of pitfalls and downers and I know people aren’t moving around a lot just so they can avoid permanence. I’m just saying that for me, comparing both, I find permanence a lot harder.)

I am pretty sure that my mood today is a product of discontentment. The grass does look greener in the next yard. I feel like moving. I’m tired of housework. Everything feels blah.

So, I will adopt the cure I always give my children when they are particularly whiny and complaining. Be thankful.

Ok, here goes. I am thankful for my husband. I am thankful for my crazy kids. I am thankful for this old, beat-up house that shelters my children so perfectly. I am thankful for food on the table, a car out in the driveway, my husband’s job. I am thankful for this blog that gives me an outlet for all my personal angst. I’m thankful God still loves me. I’m thankful tomorrow is a new day.

See you all next time. Hopefully I’ll be a in a better mood by then. 🙂  

Unexpected Pets

We had a really strange thing happen Friday night. My son was walking past our back door and saw a white cat sitting outside the door meowing. He opened the door and the cat walked right in and started nudging him to be petted. My son was bewildered and started petting the cat who acted like it was the most normal thing to be in our house. The cat was white with a bobbed tail and little chunks missing from his ears. It was a bit dirty and had what looked like a flea collar around its neck. Here’s the weird part. The cat looked exactly like our old cat Jasmine. We got Jasmine 10 years ago for our first daughter’s 8th birthday. Jasmine did not do well in our home. She didn’t like all the kids running around, being rowdy, bothering her. She eventually became pretty mean, scratching and biting whenever she got near to us. Or, even worse, she would come up to us like she wanted to be pet, we would hesitantly pet her and she would act like she enjoyed it, and then all of a sudden she would turn around and bite your hand really hard and then run away. Charming. It got to the point that my kids didn’t want to go into a room if she was sitting there. Three and half years ago we finally decided that it was not good to have a pet in our home who was terrorizing the kids, and the poor cat seemed to be suffering from PTSD. We found a home for her in another town with an older lady, no children in sight. We heard that she had adjusted well and was happy. End of story.

So, suddenly Jasmine’s twin shows up on our door. Was it Jasmine? I came out and saw the cat and it looked exactly like her. The cat was walking around our house like it was familiar with it and then it went and settled in the laundry room where we used to keep Jasmine’s litter box and food and water. Jasmine? Well. The thought that our old cat might have traveled over long distances and time to find us about broke my heart. I sent my son out to buy some cat litter and some food. If this was Jasmine there was no way I would turn her away. The only hesitation I had was that this cat was super-friendly. It wanted to be petted and didn’t scratch or bite once. Had Jasmine had a turn of heart?

My son got the litter box set up and the cat showed that it knew what to do with a litter box. It was late at night so we went to bed and decided to figure out what to do in the morning.

In the morning we were talking about the cat who was happily being stroked and petted by all the children and who didn’t seem to mind the kids at all. I told my son to cut off the flea collar it was wearing as it was old and ratty. I held the cat while he cut it off and then we discovered that it wasn’t a flea collar but was actually a collar from the Young Williams Animal Center. The collar had an I.D. number and a phone number. So I called the animal center and told them about the cat. They looked up the I.D. number and said that this cat was part of their Trap Neuter Release program and had just been a stray that they picked up. He had been fixed and had all his shots and I was welcome to keep the cat. He. A boy. Not Jasmine. I double checked, just to make sure. Yep. A boy.

So. A cat that looks exactly like our old cat shows up at our door. The only reason we opened the door to this cat was because he looked like our old cat. We have a lot of feral cats that wander our back alley and are used to ignoring random cats that walk around our yard. Then, this cat walks into our house, obviously house trained, and acts like he’s the prodigal son returned home.

I would like to add that I have been wanting a pet for myself for some time, but wasn’t quite ready to take the plunge. I wanted a cat that would sit in my lap while I was reading a book, or a small gentle lap dog. But, remembering our last experience with a cat, I was wary of trying again. What if the cat I got ended up not fitting in well with our chaos? Or if I got a puppy I would have to house train it and deal with all the puppy shenanigans. I’ve already got two small children. I didn’t need another child to take care of. So. I have put off getting myself a pet. Well, apparently, I am now the new owner of a very friendly, sweet cat. I am even now heading off to the store to get cat paraphernalia. It’s all so odd. I am sure there is a divine hand in all of this. My husband says he’s probably one of our guardian angels in disguise. All that to say. I am happy. I have a cat!  

meandcat