Tag 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 $$. 

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.

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(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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

 

His Mercies.

Because this blog is (partially) run by me, I can do what I want to, and today it’s write about something not-food-related.  That’s your disclaimer.

I was struck this morning how God, in His great mercy, designed and allowed the earth to fruit, produce, multiply, in such a way that it can be handled from an agricultural point of view.  What do I mean? Well, the squash don’t come as the same time as the strawberries and the carrots and the pumpkins.  They require a very specific combination to do what they do – for example, strawberries start flowering when it’s cold.  Squash don’t.  (In a general sense, friends!) It’s like there is this Master-Weaver, putting all this stuff in order so that we DON’T have to do all this stuff at the same time and kill ourselves in the process.  He gives us this bounty, piece by piece, little by little.  Y’all, that’s mercy.  Because He could have designed it in such a way that we got it all at the same time, but He didn’t.

Every moment of our lives reeks of mercy – and we really just can’t see it.  The driver that wasn’t paying attention, the job we thought we wanted, the home we hoped to have.  These are all things that are orchestrated behind the scenes, and we can’t see from what He saved us.

So, in the meantime, we complain that we may have to wait for the strawberries. In reality, He’s portioning things out so we are not overwhelmed and giving us those good things as He knows for our good.  We suffer through seasons of our lives that are dismal, seemingly crippling, where it feels that He’s holding out on us. He is the Master-Weaver, the Master-Gardener, who knows what and how we should have when.

And He promises that it’s ALWAYS for the good of those who love Him, and for His glory.

The End.

(Now go eat some strawberries!)

His Mercies - Foodies Gone Real

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