Category Archives: Faith

Suffering and a James Patterson Book

I traveled to NJ/NYC a few weeks ago for my day job, and, as per usual, went to pick up a new library book for the trip. It’s a gorgeous 4-5 hour train ride, mostly along the Hudson River. It’s calm. It’s quiet. Perfect for an afternoon for reading.

When I stopped in the library, the book I had on hold wasn’t there. The weird thing is that according to the library records it WAS still on the “holds” shelf… only it wasn’t. So the lovely librarian (no really, I have the best library and librarians!) went to try to find my book.  While I was waiting… this book jumped at me. Like I couldn’t stop staring at it, my eyes kept coming back to it.

I’m sure it was the title in combination with the author.  James Patterson wrote a book titled, “A Woman of God”? I flipped open the cover to read the summary – and I hardly read it, honestly. I can’t explain it.  Just knew I had to read this book.  You can check the book out here: http://amzn.to/2p1FP9N

After the first few chapters, a thought occurs to me: will the author answer the question, “Why does a benevolent God allow so much pain and terror?” (Or at least attempt to answer it.)

Fast-forward 100 pages and a couple hundred miles down the Hudson, and I’m stifling a sob. It wasn’t easy reading. My heart was broken… the main character, Brigid, had suffered. Greatly. Sometimes, saying life “sucks” is an understatement.  It just plain rips you up.

I took an emotional break – watched a comedy on my phone – and eventually came back to it over the course of my trip. I’m a sucker for a plot – no really, I am.  If the story hooks me – I can’t unhook. Even if it’s awful writing.  Even if I hate the characters. (This was not true for this book… I’m just saying that if a plot hooks me, I’m done.) I just HAVE to know how it ends.  Such is the case for “Woman of God.”

I got to the end and was disappointed. No, I was disappointed in the writing or the way the plot shaped out. God didn’t answer me.


Isn’t this how it goes…. well, frequently? We’re faced with something new… a life event, an opportunity, a move, a promotion, a new relationship… and in this case a book… and we think… “Ah-ha! This is it! This is that way! This is how God’s going to finally answer me!”

Not that God doesn’t boom down an answer.  Sometimes, I think He does. But I think He’s much more likely to use moment like Elijah had, desperate and depressed, alone and hungry… when God whispered in the silence. Not the activity. Not the move. Not the book. The silence.

Did I really think that reading a novel was going to answer my deep-seated questions on suffering? I mean, isn’t that laughable? (Maybe, maybe not. Literature IS an art form that can force us into introspection. However, I think if I was honest with myself, I really didn’t think this book was going to answer it.)

However… I’ll tell you, what I did find… encouragement.

Pain sucks. People leave us, people die.  People lie to each other and kill each other… literally.  It’s a graphic, awful world we live in sometimes.  And what I encountered was this lovely woman that honestly fought with God over the issue. Don’t we all? Don’t we all get to this line where we go… “That’s enough, God. SERIOUSLY. I’ve had enough of _______.  I’m walking away for now.”  I think if we all have these kinds of conversations, regardless on faith or level of it. The thing that differs amongst us all is how long we keep away.  Sometimes it’s a few minutes, a day… or decades.

Suffering - Foodies Gone Real

This is my Nana. She’s been gone for nearly six years.

This is often my reality. I have struggled with Him a great deal over the issue of suffering. Aside from physical pain, there seems to be no break to the emotional upheaval. I have beat against heaven and asked, “How much more?”

While I have plenty of theological arguments with the book’s definition on sin, the permanency of God’s presence or denominations, it didn’t change the fact that God relentlessly pursued her. When she’d encountered tragedy, she’d would walk away for a period of time, and God wooed her back. God does that with all of us. All the time. He’s begging for our attention and our hearts.

What I found is that the question on suffering was never answered.  Why did Brigid go through all that she did? At the end of the book… the actual terms of the suffering mattered little, but her obedience to what God had told her to do.  Her long-term response to her pain and her choice to still live a life in pursuit of God is what mattered.

Let that sink in for a minute.

The age-old question, “How does a benevolent God allow pain and terror?” is answered in more questions/issues – God isn’t just benevolent. He’s also just. He’s jealous. And gracious and merciful. Benevolence as a character attribute does not adequately describe God.

Not sure how the arms of justice and mercy can reach around and touch in one entity? Meet Jesus. He’s the answer to the question, the balm for the pain, the substitute for eternal suffering, and the perfect example on how love justice and mercy (Micah 6:8). Jesus is always the answer.

In my own suffering and doubt and teeny-tiny faith I am faced with the issue… I need more Jesus.  My issue with His “benevolence” is because I’m not rubbing shoulders enough with the Living Proof of justice and mercy.

I often find that the verse I choose for the year ends up defining a core value or reminder I need. It usually pops out at me and I don’t necessarily see the “why” for a few months in to the calendar year.  The verse(s) for 2017 – Hebrews 12:1a-2:

[L]et us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

He knows suffering. If there’s anyone I should fix my eyes on, anything I need more of while walking in the junk of life, it’s Jesus.  He may not necessarily  answer the WHY, but I do think He’ll make it more bearable, be the balm, be the substitute, and be my example on how to walk in pain while still exuding grace.  Instead of beating my hands against his chest demanding an answer, I think I’ll look Him in the eye and keep running “for the joy” even as I endure.

 

 

 

 

DISCLOSURE: There may be affiliate links within this post. I never recommend anything arbitrarily and receive small financial benefit. If I choose to recommend something, it’s of my own free will and volition and MORE because I think you’ll benefit from hearing about it more than me gaining the $$. 

Advertisements

Christmas on the Homesteadish

Christmas on the homestead. Ish.

img_0452

Am I allowed to call what we do a homestead?  I’m not sure.  Right now I don’t feel like we’re doing anything active.  And what defines a homestead anyway?  Alas, I digress.

I attempted a cleaned-up version of fudge today.  It was ok.  Honestly, we all will enjoy it, and my fellow real-foodies will, too, but for those not accustomed to coconut oil and its flavor… it’ll overwhelm.  I’ll still gift it as planned… but more likely to people who are used to that kind of thing.  I’m going to keep trying this week.  Next up is a maple walnut and a chocolate peppermint.  I have hope. ;-)

There are no presents under the Christmas tree.  20161220_064213

Fear not, I haven’t turned into a grinch… I just can’t put them there for keeping because my fierce protector Izzie thinks they are toys.  She actually got ahold of one present, completely ripped off the wrapping paper, and buried it in her blankets in her crate.  She’s a smart cookie.

20161129_114906

Needless to say, the tree feels naked and my room doesn’t feel complete.  It’s probably the biggest reason I’m excited… my girls have no idea how much they’re going to have their socks knocked off.

Not that it’s all about presents.  I mean, we all know that.  But y’all, I have no guilt or shame in saying I love giving gifts.  Gift-giving is my love language.  This is my season.  This is my TIME. I wish I could afford or excuse constant shopping for others, but since I can’t, this is it.  I’m going to go big or go home.

We have more surprises in store for them than just presents.  But that’s another post for another time….

We are thinking forward.  We’ve got a bulk of the supplies necessary for doing our own maple syrup.  The little corner of our garage is gathering speed this last month. We did dabble in it last year, but this year we have the pans, the stove… the real deal.  There’s a part of me that feels a little in the twilight zone when we get stuff together like this.  I can’t believe that we’re actually DOING this.  Doing this crazy DIY, make your own/know your food thing.

Which of course brings us to the other burning question… chickens.  No, butchering my own chickens and processing them did not scare me off from doing this again. The bigger concerns are improvements to our current system, the cost of those improvements… and just that the right cash is there when we need it for the annual costs.  I reaaaalllly want to do layers, but that’s even more complicated.  The landscape of our property is tricky and we’re near a major road (while the speed limit is 55, I’m certain most are going 60-70 mph).  I want them to free range, I need to be able to get to them in the winter. I’d like electricity out there for the negative temp days and keeping the waterer thawed.

P1190741

But the other underlying issue with the chickens is that a large part of these projects are MINE.  We’re still in process with diagnosis and how to fix my medical predicament.  And as we weigh what types of lifestyle changes we may have to make in the next year, will we have the upfront costs available? And depending on the treatment and how long it takes me to find a new normal, will I have the time and energy to manage them? I am so vehemently against randomly taking on animals without counting the cost.  I am not going to take them on and then find out I can’t care for them and have to give them away. Or sell them. Or whatever.  I firmly believe God gave us a huge and humbling responsibility when He asked us to care for creation, and not being wise and responsible without having the intent to care for them well is a sin. (#sorrynotsorry  … lack of stewardship is a problem. Knowing the right thing to do and not doing it is just as much a problem as knowing the wrong thing to do and doing it regardless.) (Another parantheses… just to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with knowing when it’s time to rehome an animal.  Sometimes, that’s just as wise and responsible.  But taking them on willy-nilly is not cool.  We’ve been here before, and lots of lessons learned.)

So as it pains me – no really, it does – I am aware there is a strong possibility I may not being doing any chickens this year.  I cannot take care of all of these things and my family if I’m not taking care of me.  Think of that airplane mask thing… put the mask first on yourself.  And that’s for good reason – you can’t care for others if you’re starving for oxygen.  And mama can’t care for chickens and cook dinner and love her children the way they deserve if she’s so pained she can’t move.

These are my Christmas thoughts… because Christmas is going to come steam-rolling in and we’ll be in the new year and thinking and praying and deciding these kinds of heavy things. (By the way, pray for us, ok? We need loads of wisdom!)

It’s like a blank canvas. Christmas speaks hope and joy. A time when God does something new.  It’s appropriate that it falls during our darkest literal days, and right before we begin a new calendar year.

God’s got something new.

img_20150428_083913

(P.S. – obviously taken before the onslaught of snow :) )

 

Ticks are Gross

(*Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, vet, nurse or any type of medical professional. The thoughts expressed here are just my opinion and as a result of months on reading about ticks. And yes. I read an ungodly amount. Keep reading to find out why.)

We have a puppy now.  She’s a big puppy… one-quarter Great Dane, one-quarter (black) Lab, and one-half Blue Heeler.  Her full name is Isabella Cocoa Macri (another story for another time) and we call her Izzie.  Or as I often call her… Izzie Busy.

_1210179

(This is her in September at a mere 9 weeks old. She’s now over 4 months.)

Much like parents of human children, we think our puppy is just the smartest. However… she is still a dog. An animal.  An animal that sniffs and eats disgusting things outside and then walks in our house and wants to french kiss.

Our house had a brief and terrible run-in with ticks.

20161126_123647

It completely grosses me out to even share this pic.

No seriously, it does.  When one appears in our house on the dog or a human, it’s all I can do to not throw up and force dear husband Lance to remove it. (I did have to remove one once from a child when he was out working. It was dreadful. *shiver*)  We live in the country, nearly in the woods… so these suckers are just a fact of life.

Now, rest assured… Izzie has been de-ticked. We’re taking care of her, using our best solutions to deter further ticks. The biggest deterrence nowadays is the snow outside :) And, in case you’re wondering whatever has been going on with my health, please know that in the battery of exams and labs, I have been tested for Lyme’s disease and I’m 100% negative.

I share this picture with you because I just can’t stop thinking about them. They’re little blood-suckers… but what’s the harm? They attach, and then what? Most humans don’t even feel them burrow in. We only tend to notice when running our hands over skin that used to be smooth and now there’s a little tag.

But they don’t. They don’t just attach and then you’re never bothered again.  They transmit diseases, and more than just Lyme’s disease.  They’ll fill up with blood – and eventually get so engorged living off you they’ll fall off. Then go lay some eggs or do some other form of procreating.  And they leave YOU with whatever disease they were carrying.

If there’s any good news here, it’s that a) not all ticks are carrying diseases and b) sometimes your body will fight off whatever invaders on its own without you even knowing. Thank God for your immune system.

This is probably some sort of cathartic post for me. A conquer my fears. I hate these nasties. No really, I do.

Who wants to take the chance by leaving a tick… just there? So it doesn’t feel like it’s causing a problem. Besides… it might itch after you remove it. But does that mean we don’t deal with it?  I think we all know this is a silly rhetorical question because the answer is a resounding, NO.

So here’s the reason I keep thinking about them.

We leave “ticks” attached to our heart and soul. Y’all, we do this all the time.  We have these little things that are literally sucking the life force from us. They don’t itch, they don’t bother us, so we just leave them alone.  And maybe someday they fall off, but what they leave in their wake is worse than a tiny itching wound.

Call it bad habits. Bitterness. Envy. Resentment. Bondage and addiction to something so small there’s no harm and no way anyone will ever be affected. Wrong.

What are these little things leaving behind? A sour relationship can leave you with bitterness. Causing the disease of discord, not trusting others, and refusing to participate in community. (And by the way, if you think God didn’t intend us to be relational… you’ve missed the point of the entire Old Testament, Greatest Commandments from Jesus and the Great Commission. He’s big on intimate relationships. Not fluff and stuff, but hard and real and in your face.)  That one, off-to-the-side relationship that seems off-kilter and no-big-deal can cause long-term issues with your ability to relate and be relatable.

And that’s only one example on a “tick” that attaches and causes problems. Bad habits lead to poor stewardship with your money and time. An unhealthy adoration for food also can drain the bank, but also sucks energy from you and puts you in improper perspective with your body and your obligations to care for it. Envy and jealousy can lead to buying stuff you don’t need (aside from the relational discord).

This is a strong case for pointing one finger out and all the rest of the fingers are pointing back at me. I’m convicted of these tiny things. I’m a notorious user of the phrase, “It’s no big deal.” (You can ask Lance.) The problem is, all those tiny deals equal one big deal. Those tiny decisions to ignore lead to long-term disease and death.  They equal one person who’s distant and angry and unable to relate to the community in which he/she is placed. (By the way, God’s sovereign over that, too, in case you were wondering. Don’t know why you are where you are? Talk to God about it.) Your ticks affect everyone around you.

We are in an open battle where souls are at stake. There is nothing Satan would love more is paralyzed and inefficient Christians because then they aren’t doing their end of the bargain of following Him and the Great Commission. Those ticks on our soul rob us of our ability to be fully functioning committed believers of Jesus and lovers of the people He loved.

When you’re faced with one that’s stealing your life force and leaving behind disease, remove it. Don’t let it sit and continue to do damage.

Eugene Patterson writes his paraphrase on James 1:19-25:

Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.

But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.

Chances are, you already know what’s slowing eating at your soul. Be good to yourself, your relationships, and your God and deal with it. Write them out, pray it out, confess it and ask for help. Figure what’s causing issues and what can be done to move towards healing.

P.S. – Just in case you’re wondering, I let Izzie be the featured image here. Because God knows I don’t want to look at this post in a rolling feed and see those nasty things. So a sweet puppy it is.

Hard Stuff & Freedom

This year was HARD.

We raised meat chickens (butchered them ourselves). Settled into a home. Fundraised and WENT to Haiti for a week. Struggled with high drama in several relationships.  Oh, and at work, I consistently put in 50-60 hours. Per week. For months.

P1190770

So yeah…. hard.

Call it disease, call it stress… it almost doesn’t matter… my body has been on a slow decline for the last year. We’re in the process of figuring out a plan on how to deal with these medical issues, but for now… I’ve had to slow down. Which again… is hard. (Did you read the list of hard stuff? No room for slowin’ down there.)

I went gluten-free to deal with one issue, and in some ways – along with medical intervention – that one specific issue has improved.  But it didn’t eliminate any migraines or any other ailments.  In fact… it all just continued slowly to get worse.

I’m going to be honest, it’s incredibly frustrating.  As someone who doesn’t even let soy come into her home, as someone who has sanitized GMOs from her family’s diet… I feel a wee bit cheated.  I feel like I did the right thing by our diets, and I’ve had new issues creep up instead.

I didn’t want to come here and write about all the success I’ve had in the kitchen.  Well, because I HAVEN’T. Aside from my enthusiasm and proselytizing about healthy food being reduced, I positively didn’t have the energy. My kids have eaten so many sandwiches it’s ridiculous.  I gave up making bread.  I just COULDN’T anymore.  My body didn’t have it in me.  It’s a struggle to muster up the energy to do anything but the bare minimum… and I’m talking also about cleaning toilets and washing clothes. And this isn’t even touching on writing.

I felt as if I couldn’t come here and talk about these things because a) it wasn’t food related and part of the whole “eat-better” message I’ve been so intent on and b) it wasn’t encouraging.  One of my biggest gripes about social internet presence is those that use it just to complain and garner pity. This wasn’t going to be what the blog was about.  So, instead… I just chose not to write.

I miss it, though.  I miss putting all my thoughts together into one space. Woven into all my past posts was my heart.  Things I was enjoying.  Things I was doing.  The problem of course is that I just wasn’t cooking as much in the last several months (almost a year) and I didn’t know how to relate my writing to the mission of encouraging those around me to eat well.

So, this blog is going to change.  I’m not going to delete it and undo anything.  But I feel it needs to be relabeled, and to include a mission and title that’s more about me, my heart, and not so specific on food.  (Don’t worry, as much as the energy level has decreased, I still LOVE to eat!! So food’s still up there.)  I also have other things beating in my heart… I often end up writing tiny blurbs on my personal facebook page, but I think it makes more sense to combine this all in a blog.  And Foodies Gone Real doesn’t necessarily fit.

I want to do what God’s called me to do well.  I have never doubted He’s called me to write encouragement.  Things will change because I want freedom – freedom to write as God calls, and not just bound up on what type of diet encouragement.

And don’t we all want freedom?

P1190779

To return.

I’m back. I’m back in the kitchen, recovered from life, and ready to take this kitchen head-on.

Agrarian - Foodies Gone Real

It was a hard year.  And not that the hardness is over, but I’m moving forward again.  I was pretty stuck.  Financially, emotionally, spiritually. Hardly exercised, barely meal-planned, struggled to spend quiet times in the morning with my God. As with all things, there are lots of components to being stuck in a pit.  And while those things that put me there are still kinda hanging around, God’s gently raised my chin to Him and said, “Enough. I can get you out of this, but staring at the floor of the pit and complaining will do nothing to ease this up.”

I managed to keep the facebook page going in all of this – even if just for myself to remind myself that this was still here.  This thing I was called to was still here.  God didn’t tell me to stop, I just got tired.

I miss cooking.  I cooked a ginormous meal of homemade Korean dumplings with Einkorn Flour (courtesy of the new cookbook from Jovial … it’s really the best).  I cooked the entire thing from scratch. Took me nearly two hours. It was cathartic.  I felt at home again. I need to cook, need to create.

P1090501

So here I come.  I’m sick of this pit.  January – a fresh start reminded me of how much I was sick of sitting like this.  February, the second month, the second chance is here and I mean business. God’s got this.

 

%d bloggers like this: