Monday, April 30, 2012

Foiled Again

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed yesterday. We were house/puppy/teenager sitting and the needy puppy, late nights, and ridiculous number of allergens in that house were wreaking havoc on my sleep and my mood. I actually held it together pretty well until Sunday morning when I didn't get cancelled from work and instead of going to some special babies' birthday party, I had to go to work and get my assignment back for the third day in a row.

I read Ephesians 4:26 when I woke up yesterday. "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." I grumped, "hmmm that's nice. We'll see." Well, I didn't let the sun go down while I was angry, but I spent the majority of the daylight hours angry and impatient.

You guys, I love babies as much as the next NICU nurse, so it's seriously humbling to get so easily frustrated with a writing, screeching, sweating baby who pulls out his own IVs and only sleeps about 45 minutes total during my entire 12-hour shift. His behavior escalated over the weekend and I was not proud of how I handled it. Every time I went into his room, I wanted to scream:

Have you heard of this book? It's not meant for children. I think I've earned a copy.
This morning in the silence of my bedroom, I read all of Ephesians 4:
-be made new in the attitude of your minds
-in your anger, do not sin
-don't let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up others according to their needs
-get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger
-be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you

And just like that, it goes full-circle. Extent kindness forward because of the kindness you've been given from God when you least deserved it. While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me. You'd think I would make a little more effort to live my life in thanksgiving of that fact. Or pray for patience all the livelong day since I don't have much of it to go around.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Idols and Idleness

I'm embarrassed. After writing such a fervent post the other night, I didn't open my Bible for a few days. It's no coincidence that my mood started to tank, my thoughts become disordered, and my unhealthy coping mechanisms overwhelmed me by the time I crawled into bed last night. Nobody said it was easy {and no one ever said it would be this hard} <--such a good song, and so applicable to me right now.

Anyway, today started in the best possible way: I woke up slightly before my alarm and I spent an hour in Bible study. I don't expect it to be this way every day, and it's much harder if you have kids, pets, or work that demands your attention ASAP upon waking. But today I had the day off with minimal plans and starting my day this way was a luxury. It's teaching me slowly, painfully, that I can find comfort in healthy places. I can prioritize my day. Because God's graces are new every morning, not because I claim to be any sort of wonder woman (ha!).

This morning I was reading a Fred Stoeker book called Tactics (yes, it's written for men but it's also a wonderful, practical guide to securing victory in everyday life) and it led me to 1 Thessalonians 4. I looked it up and read, "it is God's will that you should be sanctified... learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable... God called us to live a holy life."

Now, sanctified is one of those words I know is meaningful, but I always forget what it's supposed to mean. Thankfully, I got my my brand new study Bible (!) yesterday and it spelled it out for me.
Sanctification, or being made holy, is the process of living the Christian life. The Holy Spirit works in us conforming us into the image of Christ. 
So this is the word I've been looking for to describe this threshold that I seem to be on the cusp of: it's sanctification.

I continued reading to chapter 5 and it literally spelled out the answer to what I've been asking: what does responding to and relating with God look like on a day to day basis? Paul says, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-23:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you... hold on to what is good... and may God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through... the one who calls you is faithful!
How refreshing. These three tenets are not necessarily easy to uphold, but when we make a conscious decision to do so, God promises that our perspective will change and our life will change.

Rejoice always
When I do His will, I will find it easier to be joyful and thankful.
"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." {CS Lewis}
Pray continually
Of course I can't be on my knees all day, but it's possible to have a prayerful attitude at all times. This kind of attitude is built upon acknowledging my dependence on God, realizing His presence within and around me, and determining over and over again to obey Him fully. This will lead to a prayerful attitude, which is a natural outgrowth of regular times of morning and evening prayer (see Psalms 4 and 5).
"To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing." {Martin Luther King, Jr}
Give thanks in all circumstances
My Bible commentary points out that this doesn't mean that I should thank God for everything that happens to me, but in everything. Evil doesn't come from God; I don't have to thank Him for it. But when evil strikes, I can be thankful for God's presence and for the good that he will accomplish through my distress.
"No Christian can be a pessimist, for Christianity is a system of radical optimism." {WR Inge}

My study notes mentioned that some Thessalonian Christians had adopted a life of idleness and it's mentioned several times throughout these chapters: do not be idle. Christianity is a verb, much like you always hear that love is a verb. Paul reminds them that Christian living is more than loving others Christians; it means being responsible in all areas of life and working hard at it!

Then it hit me: I'm guilty of worshiping idols and being idle. No wonder my outlook has been so skewed. The New Testament urges diligence (1 Peter 5:8-10) and fervency (Romans 12:11) for a reason! I have been skating along, assuming that since I don't kill or steal or tell big lies that I'm a Christian. But I wasn't growing!

1 Peter 2:1 says, "rid yourselves of all malice and deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind." Deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander? I'm guilty of these things on a daily basis! Verses 2-3 go on to say, "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk. So that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good."

Once I saw God's hand in my life (tasted that the Lord is good), I wanted more but I didn't know what of or how to get it. I mentioned the other day that I want a mentor. I crave a small group of women who would hold me accountable in my daily walk. Christian music is on my radio 95% of the time. I find myself searching for blogs written by good Christian writers and listening to online sermons. These things are all good. Wonderful, even, but they won't satisfy my craving. Why get secondhand water when you could drink living water form the source?
"Thirsty hearts are those whose longings have been wakened by the touch of God within them." {AW Tozer}

"The danger is that the soul should persuade itself that it is not hungry." {Simone Weil}
Only God will satisfy my cravings and to allow Him to do that, I have to drink in His Word. Right now I find myself gulping it in (in case you couldn't tell by the fact that I have way too many scripture references crammed into one post)! My spirit is so parched. I'm in an inferno and I need to escape under a waterfall of mercy. It is so refreshing! But the real challenge will be learning to savor the Word as time goes on. To find deeper meaning in smaller portions of scripture. To find a constant stream of cool water to stifle the steady burn of sin that exists in our daily lives.

If I uphold my end of a relationship with God (and even though I will lapse, because I'm human), I can cling to the promise that "the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, he will restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast" (1 Peter 5:10).

What do you do to walk in the Word every day?

P.S. Don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end of Tuesday's post!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Surround Yourself

In case you couldn't tell from my... deep... posts lately, life is not rosy right now. Well, circumstances are not rosy, but my outlook is surprisingly okay most of the time.

With God's grace this pessimist has been given new eyes: the only thing that matters is God's glory. Sometimes he lets me screw up in my life to glorify His. To remind me of my complete and utter dependance. To teach me that if anything is true, it's that people will always, always let me down.  But God won't!

Right now I'm in a place where God has taken away everything that comforted me: relationships, church (okay, that's due to a bad choice on my part but weekend premium ends in June and then my bank account will shrink but my spirit will grow), prestige, performance, plans. He has knocked down every single idol I had and lovingly forced me to look upon Him for the first time in a long time. Possibly for the first time ever, short of a tiny glimpse last summer.

For a few weeks this spring, I felt like a rat in a maze. I didn't know where I was going (still don't), didn't know how to get there, and didn't know how to find out how to get there. I'd turn one way and God would graciously but firmly slam the door in my face. Turn another way... slam. Let's try this way... nope. Right now, I'm hedged in. And there's nowhere to turn and nothing to do but turn to Him. God's grabbing my be the shoulders and saying, look at me! Psalm 139 agrees:

 5 You hem me in behind and before,
   and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
   too lofty for me to attain.

It's beautiful in its simplicity, really. Stunning. And I'm still wrestling with it. My heart wants to harden. To be stubborn. Sometimes I think that if I can't go in the direction I think I want to go, I'll just plop down like a toddler throwing a tantrum, and I'll sit in this sh*t because I'm so silly and I still feel like I still need to show myself that I'm in control. And God shakes His head and laughs at me. How could I possibly know what's best for me?! If I'm walking in His will, my life will glorify God. What could be more fulfilling than that?

All that to say, I'm struggling. I would love to come out on the other side of this a new person. I'm so tired of my life, and God is willing to offer me the bread of life and living water! He makes everything new. Not just better, but brand new! He makes beautiful things out of the dust. If I may be so bold as to say this, I think I have a taste of what it felt like for Jacob to wrestle with the spirit on the shores of the river (Genesis 32:24-30). When he won, he was a new man and he earned a new name and a new hope of the promised land. I want to come to the other side of this storm and be able to say, wow, I gave it all I had, and God gave the rest.

I digress. My thoughts are going in 1,000 different directions, but my point is this: the Bible is not a great book filled with inspirational quotes. Its motivation goes far below the surface if you let it in. Mark Driscoll says, "Until information is practiced as faith, you lack transformation. God's truth hasn't changed you." I see that's where I am now. I started to let God in last summer, but ambition and busyness and external contentment won out. I didn't feel like I needed God. So He orchestrated things in such a way that life brought me to my knees. And, while I'm there, He's put it on my heart to pray about it. The beautiful thing is, God is most glorified in us when we are most dependent on Him. When I feel my heart hardening because I think I can't bear the pain, I have to let God bear it for me, because He's willing: He says, "your burden is heavy and my yoke is light. Let me trade you."

Psalm 40:1-3 gives me hope:

1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
   he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
   out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
   and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
   a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD
   and put their trust in him.


The Word of God is a living and breathing thing. There's a life force in those pages. And I'm completely guilty of ignoring that promise, or even scoffing at the fact that it exists: People who quote the Bible left and right and only do things 'through Christ who strengthens them' are weak. Sound familiar? It's what Satan wants us to believe, that's for sure.

I have a friend who has lost 60 pounds this spring through hard work and dedication. She posted a picture on Facebook and someone commented, "How'd you do it? Don't say healthy food and exercise!" But of course, that was the answer. It hit me that in the same way, I've been looking for an easy way to live the hard Christian life. It doesn't make sense. The answer is right in front of me, but it's not a painless path!

I've been asking my pastor, my friends, my counselor: What do I do? I hear God asking for my heart, I see Him moving in my life, but I don't know how to answer. I don't know what he wants me to do. I don't know how to live in His will day in and day out. I still don't, but I do know this: it starts with the Bible. And it starts in conversation with God.

I have been desperately wanting a Christian mentor to tell me what to do and let me lean on them, but God has provided three false leads that have ended in disappointment. He says, lean on me instead. I can't go to church on Sundays right now, and in a way I think it's been good that God has taken away this 'easy' form of worship. No great band is going to sing for me and no tidy little sermon is handed to me. He's saying, a true relationship goes both ways. It takes work to maintain and I have big plans for you if you will turn to me. I have given up on flowery prayers, and sometimes hourly I just say to God, I can't deal with this right now. I can't make this decision. I can't handle this emotion. And I have to hand it to Him. I have no doubt He'll hand it back when I'm a little more prepared and the Way is a little more clear to me.

I bought some printed Bible verses from this Etsy shop last month and I'm so thankful that I did. I need to be surrounded by God's word and almost every wall in my apartment has something beautiful on it now. Everywhere I turn, I see His promises! This blog was created as an ongoing scrapbook of my life for better or for worse. For that reason, I've never sought out sponsors or done a giveaway, but these Bible verses on my wall make me so, so happy. I'd like to buy a print for one of you as a voice of encouragement and truth!

To enter this drawing, simply leave a comment sharing your favorite Bible verse. For a second entry, tell us why it's your favorite! Also, some of you have told me it's hard to post comments on Blogger. If you have trouble, just e-mail your favorite verse to me at theresemarie414 (at) gmail (dot) com to enter the drawing. I'll pick a winner at 9pm next Monday, April 30.

My favorite verse? I feel like I'm underlining every single thing I read when I open my Bible, but Psalm 5 has been especially wonderful right now.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spring in my Heart

*Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart.* {Victor Hugo}

My favorite farmer's market had an organic seedling sale on Friday and I was counting down the days until I could fill my balcony containers again.  I planted some garlic last spring and I was shocked when the green sprouts started to poke out of the dirt last month, but the other containers were quite barren in comparison.

No longer! Friday afternoon, I bought and planted lettuce, kale, and rosemary.

red romaine- so pretty!
baby kale

baby rosemary
Of course, it frosted last night but I was prepared and draped a towel over the containers.  I think everything survived. Which reminds me, I need to repeat that tonight just in case.

The tomato seedlings had only ever been in a greenhouse, though, and they didn't acclimate well yesterday.

lazy tomatos
So guys get to play outside while I'm at work and come in at night until it warms up on Tuesday and I can plant them safely.

I'm so excited, although I feel slightly... mean... encouraging the plants to grow so I can eat them!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tough Enough

I got a new laptop... oh... 15 months ago. I have been listening to the same playlist on my iPod for over a year because I was too afraid to transfer my iTunes library, and I was too cheap to pay the Genius Bar $200 to do it for me. But I finally got desperate, got the external hard-drive out of the closet, and did it myself! When you're married, it's easy to shuffle things like that off to the husband, but why did I wait over a year for him to 'get around' to it? I'm smart enough!

Anyway, I'm psyched to have "new" music to listen to, but I did fold and make one iTunes purchase this week: "I Won't Give Up" by Jason Mraz.

I won't give up on us 
God knows I'm tough enough  
We've got a lot to learn 
 God knows we're worth it 

I won't give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I'm giving you all my love
I'm still looking up 

Saturday, April 14, 2012


I was going to title this post the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad birthday. But it's actually been better than I was anticipating, thanks to two great work friends, some sweet NICU babies, and some girls from small group.

Tell me this turtle isn't too cute for words! And I think we captured the elusive 'poop face' on camera.
Birthday dinner at Spin! Good food, good company, blurry picture.
Thoughtful gifts.
April 2011 through April 2012 has been the worst year of my life and today is... well... whatever the opposite of icing on the cake is.

Betty Crocker gluten-free brownies are delicious, by the way.
I'm 27 years old and my life looks like nothing I imagined. Praise God who knows what he's doing in this mess, because I sure don't.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Saturday Kind of Season

My heart is so tired right now. I have no words of my own to share, but two posts spoke to me tonight. The first says:
Saturday is the "day in between," the day we can celebrate what God has said, that has not yet come to pass.  Saturday, between the crucifixion and the resurrection, is a day to remind us that much of life is lived between the seemingly impossible promises of God, and their final fulfillment.
When hope is completely obliterated and no sign of God’s goodness is visible, Saturday reminds us that the feelings of fear, or hopelessness can be stifling simply because we do not yet see the end of the story.  Saturday reminds us that God comes through, even though today we may feel He has abandoned us.  Saturday reminds us that death has a power of it’s own, and sometimes it’s a necessary step to reach Sunday.
The second post, from a wise woman I grew up with, says:
Consider the Easter Triduum, where the power of love brought both suffering and redemption, brokenness and healing.  Refining fire and perfect holiness.  The crucifixion and resurrection.  Death and life.  We cannot have one without the other. But, today, we live in the in-between; so close, yet so far.  We are stuck in the waiting room of our hearts, and it hurts…a lot! 

And I can’t help but think about how Jesus’s disciples, the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, and all His friends felt on this haunting morning so many years ago.  

Jesus, their son/brother/friend, the Lamb of God who was supposed to redeem the world, was gone. Falsely accused, battered and bruised.  Scourged, crowned with thorns, hung on a cross to die.  Their last hope, wrapped up and laid in a tomb.  Everything they’d sacrificed for, endured persecution for, the one person they trusted and believed in…gone.

Consider the words of Mother Teresa, “Silence.  Be alone with Him in your heart.  Our Lady was silent, even at the Cross.”  Rest in silence.  Rest in His most Sacred Heart.  For “our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” {St. Augustine}

Embrace the tension of the day.  Let the uncomfortable silence bring you comfort and peace.  If you sit in it long enough, it will. 

Amen, friends. In in that "seemingly impossible" place right now. My Easter prayer is that the hope of the Gospel will soften my heart. God is waiting for me, I just need to let him in.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


You've seen Cecil B. DeMille's Ten Commandments, right? That epically long movie that came out in 1956, starring Charlton Heston as Moses and Yul Brynner as the Pharaoh?

Whenever I think of Passover, two memories come to mind. The first memory is from second grade, when we were learning about First Communion. We celebrated the Passover as a class one spring evening at school. Bitter herbs, unleavened bread, the whole bit. It was very simple and somber. The more vivid memory, though, is of watching the Ten Commandments as a child. The fear and sorrow I felt as we watched the firstborn of every household in Egypt face their demise. The relief I felt when the camera came to rest on an Israelite house, saw the blood of the lamb smeared on the doorway, and then passed that house by. Maybe this relief was especially tangible to me since I was the firstborn of my family.

As a child, the lines between good guys and bad guys are very clear. As an adult, those lines are blurred at best. Now I wonder about those Egyptians who were just minding their own business. Maybe they didn't know about the coming plague, didn't have time to prepare. I also wonder if the forgiven Israelites felt guilty for being forgiven while they were still sinners (Romans 5:8) or simply relieved. I mean, just imagine:

that fateful midnight when the Lord's messenger of death passed through Egypt from house to house. Imagine him arriving at the first home, looking through its windows and seeing the idols of Egypt strewn about. Clearly an Egyptian home filled with idols and idolaters, he enters and claims the life of that family's firstborn. He moves on to a second home: more idols, and another firstborn sould is claimed. Then he moves on to a third, and looking through its windows he finds the same Egyptian idols. But then he looks up and find the blood of a lamb on the door. And he passes over. {from Redemption by Mike Wilkerson}

My heart is so dark. I am a Christian and I am a sinner. There's no way around it. Even on my best day, I'm not worthy of being spared. Yet I am. Passover teaches us that we don't, and never could, deserve God's forgiveness. Our debt is too great.

Thankfully, when I say “God, I can’t do it.” Jesus shows up and say, “No problem. I already took care of it.” When I throw my hands in the air and say, “I’m not good enough,” Jesus shows up and says, “No problem. I was perfect in your place." I throw my hands in the air and say, “God. I can’t please you.” And Jesus shows up and says, “Everything I ever said or did pleased the father, I took care of that.” I sigh, “God, I can’t merit salvation” Jesus shows up and says, “No problem. It’s a gift. I give it to people. I love ya. It’s grace. You don’t owe me anything.”

When my heart has been struggling and struggling, and I don't think I have the strength to push on, Jesus shows up and says, “I’ve got it all covered. Stop trusting yourself. Just trust me. Stop trusting in your goodness. Trust in mine. Stop trusting in your life. Start trusting in mine. Stop trusting in your efforts and trust in mine. Stop trusting in your wisdom. Trust in mine. I’ve taken care of everything. I love you. I have accomplished everything that need be done to reconcile you to the Father. All you need to do is trust me. And to do that, you need to stop trusting yourself.”

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sweet and Salty Granola Bars

I tend to be very 'snacky.' I love making healthy cookies and muffins and such things to take to work. Twelve and a half hours is a long time to be at work and I'm not sure how some of my co-workers get away with only eating once during the day!

To that end, I'm always looking for a homemade granola bar that sticks together without using large amounts of sugar and fat. This recipe inspired my latest effort, and it's by far the best I've made to date!

Sweet and Salty Granola Bars
makes 12 bars

2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup puffed rice or puffed millet cereal
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup ground flaxseed

1/3 cup packed with about half unsalted butter and half coconut oil (alternately, you can use a full 1/3 cup of all butter or all coconut oil, but replacing it with canola oil won't work)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt 
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips or chopped chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8×8 or 9x9 inch square pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and grease with butter or coconut oil.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, coconut, ground flaxseed, almond meal, chopped walnuts, and chocolate chips. Mix until combined. 

In a small bowl, combine honey, sugar, and coconut oil/butter combo, microwave for 20-30 seconds, stirring after each 10-second increment until the mixture is smooth. Stir vanilla into the mixture and then the salt, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Pour this entire mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients are wet. 

Press the mixture into the pan with the back of the spoon to smooth the top. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the top turns brown. Allow to cool in the pan for approximately 10 minutes. Then remove the foil or parchment paper carefully to get the bars out of the pan intact. Allow to cool several more minutes and cut into 12 even bars. Place in refrigerator to cool completely.

Enjoy from the fridge or at room temperature. You can store leftovers in the fridge for up to a week, but I doubt they'll last that long!