Sunday, January 17, 2016

I'll Thank Me for this Later...

With this most recent flare-up with UC, I have tried to come up with ways to help ease at least some of the burden of maintaining the healthiest diet I can on a regular basis.

I think one of the things that contributed to my backslide and eventual downfall was organic corn chips. Of all things. But, I found a brand I really love and they're just light and crispy and oh, so good with organic salsa.
However, becoming so tired of cooking that I could literally cry at the mere thought of it, they had become a regular meal for me. Just something I could sit down with, not have to prepare and something that would sustain me til the next meal.

Now I'm paying for all those lazy nights. Dearly. Ugh. Oh, so dearly.

So - I am trying to make cooking meals throughout the week a little easier on myself. 

For starters, I am going to try to do more meal prepping on Sundays. Dice veggies. Shred cheese. That sort of thing. I think that'll help quite a bit in and of itself. Already got a jump on this week. Two bowls full of shredded cheese, sliced tomatoes, squash and zucchini and diced onion. I even tried throwing the onion into a chopper, but I don't think I'll continue that 'cheat'. The onion just releases too much juice that way and it wasn't but a few more chops on the board by hand. I think just not having to chop every time I'm making something will be a big help.

And if I could knock out a big helping of a vegetable, that will help. Today, I cooked up a big pot of green beans. So, those should get me through most of the week, right there. (Thankfully, I don't mind eating the same thing several days in a row.) That just leaves a meat and maybe a sweet potato (that I can just literally poke a couple times and throw into the oven for 40 min's) each day. 

And... after nearly 15 years... I finally caved and bought a dang microwave. 

much prefer leftovers either pan-heated or broiled. But, if it's another way of keeping me from dirtying the same pan one. more. time and standing over that darned stove one. more. time... I might just be willing to sacrifice the full potential of my leftovers in order to maintain some measure of sanity.

At least right now. After hitting a major wall with this whole 'eat whole foods for the rest of my living days' thing. 

But, for now, it's time to decide what for dinner tonight...


Captive in Iran

Funny that Pastor Saeed Abedini was released from an Iranian prison this weekend, as I had just finished reading the story of Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh in 'Captive in Iran' on Friday night.

This truly is a remarkable story. These girls were captured and imprisoned by the Iranian regime, charged with apostasy. Having come to Christ, they held secret church in their home and distributed New Testament bibles strategically throughout their community. 

I would never attempt to put into my own words what they experienced while in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison. But, it is abundantly clear that what the Enemy meant for evil was used for good. Even under such brutality and despicable conditions. They remained faithful; as did He.

Maryam says it well when she shares "What looked like failure by worldly standards was a great victory for Christ: His message proclaimed under the very noses of a regime desperate to stop it."

Marziyeh adds "The very prison system that tried to silence us was now our megaphone."

On the outside, they had to be careful, quiet, calculated, fearful of being caught.
Once imprisoned, they had a captive crowd, who needed desparately to hear of grace, forgiveness, peace, and hope.
On the outside, they would pray and worship as they could.
On the inside, they prayed endlessly and worshipped shamelessly.

When challenged by a fellow prisoner why they would not simply renounce their faith and just walk out of such a terrible place, Marziyeh countered:

"Our insistence on our faith is not out of stubbornness. You may not be able to understand, because you haven't been through what we have. I have lived with God for many years, during some lonely and difficult times. He is the only support I have. He is my all. We are inseparable. My life has no value without Him. I love God so much that denying Him would be denying my own existence. How could I ever deny something that is in every cell of my body? I would rather spend the rest of my life in prison if that's what it takes to stay close to Him. I would rather be killed than kill the spirit of Christ within me."

Powerful. And not just cheap talk. Had it not been for international coverage, they would have likely been executed for their faith. But, they were prepared to suffer as Christ had.

They now both live in the States, their imprisonment behind them. But, their story will undoubtedly inspire generations to come.

Behold the Power... of a To-Do List

As I mentioned before, my New Year's Resolution is quite lofty this year - to keep a running To-Do List. 

I really know how to shoot for those stars, don't I?

But, I decided, if I could just keep a running To-Do List, this would keep me more on track. And on task. And before I know it, all sorts of things would get prioritized that would otherwise be forgotten or just procrastinated away.

I've not been real stringent with it. Just so long as I knock one or two things off the list a week, I'll be happy.

And it's funny what happens. You set out to do one thing on there, you end up doing 5 things that weren't on there. 

And there really is something gratifying about crossing something off that list. No matter how small. Funny really. But, it's true. And it really makes you want to do more, to cross more off the list.

Who knew, that putting some pen to a little piece of paper could be so powerful.

I might even stick to this resolution!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Bible Journaling

I'll be honest.
I hadn't drawn in a bible since I (for some unknown reason) drew a quarter in my beginner's bible back in my days of Confirmation classes in the basement of Fox River Lutheran Chuch.

But, after seeing a friend of mine post her artistic embellishments in her bible, with a new thing called Bible Journaling, I was intrigued. And though I missed the day they were handing out artistic abilities, I thought I would just give it a try.

Some may still view it as defacing, but I have found it to be a way of forcing me to pause and reflect more on a section of scripture. And not only that, help me to remember better.

I started back in September and did several right away, just to try my hand in it. Then, of course, I took a hiatus over the holidays. But, just picked it back up again this weekend. And hope to make a point to add something each week; maybe whatever section of scripture I am lead to that particular week.

Here's what I've accomplished so far! (Any images are traced. I could never do any of that freehand.)

I love the Psalms. They're my go-to when I don't know where else to turn. So, I started there just to get my feet wet.

Then, I wanted to see how stickers did in there and found these beautiful butterflies which made me think of how we are a new creation in Christ.

Okay- so I was way more impressed with this one before I 'fixed it'. But, the thumbprint is to reflect how Jesus was the exact imprint of God. I should have left it just in pencil, because when I went over it in ink, it was real gloppy and made kind of a mess. Then, when I wrote the scripture out, I didn't allow enough room to write it in its entirety. Rookie mistakes. But, it's a work in progress - much like me.

This one was fun to do. Continuing on through a study on the book of Hebrews, I was struck with the passage: "but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope."
Christ is faithful over God's house.
We are his house.
Therefore, Christ is faithful over us! (If we hold fast our confidence in hope.)
I loved that. So, I decided to use brickwork to represent the foundation of the house.

I so relate to Paul and his thorn. So, this was another practice page. I like how the thorny branch turned out. And always good to remember that "His grace is sufficient", in my weakness, thorns and all.

Another favorite of mine. SUCH a powerful passage of scripture! Such power and authority! I pray this over all the 'dry bones' I see around me. I pray that one day, they would know that He is the Lord, have new life breathed into them and form an exceedingly great army! Whew! I can't read this scripture aloud without getting a little Pentacostal!  :)  And I can't listen to Lecrae speak it at the Passion conference without getting chills and doing a fist pump. Good stuff!

And... today's. This week, it was impressed upon me: "Return to Me and I will return to you." I may flounder, but He is faithful. I'm so grateful.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Life Lessons from My Journey with Food

For those of you who may not already know, I began, about 2 years ago, to treat my ongoing battle with Ulcerative Colitis with food. And it has really been amazing to see how well it has worked. Better than I ever could have imagined. Funny - how the body responds in kind, when you treat it the way it was intended to be treated.
But, it requires great discipline. Sacrifice. Obedience. Especially in this day and age.

I can see why fasting is used in the bible. There are so many spiritual lessons and parallels found in the discipline of diet; especially when you'd been accustomed to the Standard American Diet.

I always thought that fasting was solely self deprivation, as a means to focus more clearly on God. Which it certainly is. But, I've realized much more than that in these past couple of years of my dietary changes; even though I wasn't technically 'fasting'. 

(Savannah on her first trip to Dismeyworld, blessing her breakfast before heading out for the day.)


I have come to better appreciate meal blessings, in a purer sense.

Famed Christian comedian, Tim Hawkins has a bit where he talks about how comical it is to ask the Lord to bless our American diet. 'Sometimes we pray over food and ask God to make up for the bad choices we make when we eat. No matter what it is. 'Lord, bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies. - Lord, bless this bag of Cheetos and this jumbo Dr. Pepper, Lord. Somehow let this nourish us in some way. I don't know how you're gonna do it, Father, but we just trust in You now. Father, change the molecular structure of this food, this complete trash we're about to shove in our gullet; change the Cheeto into a carrot stick on the way down. Spirit of Low Carb rain down on me now! I pray a hedge of protection around my pancreas right now! Intervene!' "

Funny, not funny, right?  :)

Now, when I sit down to my meals, I can honestly ask the Lord for His blessing over what I'm about to eat. Knowing that I have done my best in the choices I've made.

Which leads us to...


In the same way that I can more fully ask God's blessing over my food, when I make the right choices, the same applies to all of life. If you continue to live in blatant sin, knowing you're making the wrong choices, can you honestly ask God to bless you in that? 


Lest I come off self-righteous, I have a confession to make.
After a full 13 months of being able to live completely med-free (after 10 years of treating my UC with drugs), I had to get a prescription for Prednisone yesterday. {boo}
I knew that lately I had been much more lax with my diet than I ought to be. I had done okay with my favorite corn chips from time to time, so naturally, those began to work their way into my diet more and more over time. (Even though I'm not supposed to have corn.) As well as dark chocolate and wine. And processed glazes and sour cream... Slippery slope, isn't it?
Same with lilfe. 
Like Casting Crowns sings "It's a slow fade." Different folks have asked me over the years, "Yeah, but do you have to be that strict?" This is why my answer is an emphatic "Yes." Because oftentimes, even mild infractions or disobediences lead to others. And before you know it... you're spiraling out of control.
We are prone to self-depravity. 

Confession #2: When I got that Prednisone in hand last night, my first thought was "Hmmm... I wonder what I could get away with eating, at least while on this?" 
Geez! Never believe for one second that this thing is easy for me. Or that I judge anyone for their choices. If I ever seem irritated, I'm more than likely just jealous that you don't have the negative ramifications that I have, in eating whatever the heck you want.  :)


But, thankfully, He knows our sinful nature and extends us grace. In the case of this flare-up, I have a doctor named Socoloff (that I love) and an awesome nurse, Cindy who are there to catch me when I fail.
And in life, I have a loving Father, Who is prepared to catch me as well.
Even in my own poor choices.


In this day and age, it's hard to know who to trust. Same applies to foods and their distributors. 
Is that produce truly organic? Can I trust that those eggs are actually pastured?...
I don't know. 
But, I have come to trust. And not in the distributors, but in God. In asking His blessing over my meals, I am in a sense saying to Him "Lord, You know that I have made the best decisions I can make. I have bought what I understand to be the best for me. Please honor this and bless it to my body." I truly believe that when you make the best decisons you can, based on what you've been given, He will honor that.
Same goes in life.


Yes, in this fine country of ours, we have, as a whole, gone way off-track from the intended way of eating. We were intended to eat to live; we have become much more prone to live to eat. A gluttonous way of life, full of empty fillers, sweeteners and manufactured components - Oh, my word. If that's not applicable to life!

BUT - we also have a large number of folks out there who are doing their best to provide better options. Organic products, farmers markets, roadside stands, water purifiers... Some countries are lucky to have a water source at all. We are abundantly blessed. 

My food blessing over these last couple of years has been:

He has provided us with what we need. We, as a culture, have just distorted what He developed and saw fit for us. We, in turn, have taken what has been given to us and added to it, taken from it, manipulated it and then mass produced it.
That is far from what He originally saw and deemed as "good". 
Again. Same goes for life.

It's funny, as much as I still crave things like Chick-fil-A breakfast and Pizza Hut personal pan pizza from Target, I have come to truly appreciate the basics that we were originally given. Fruits. Vegetables. Meats. And even having grown my own tomatoes, basil and strawberries this year, I was just reminded of life's simple blessings. 

And how truly 'good' they really are.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Good Intentions...

Well. With the new year, comes all that renewed optimism of 'doing better this year!'

I've never been a huge resolution maker. At least, not one with lots of grand plans and endeavors. But, I do tend to try for a fresh start at least. And have good intentions like most everyone else.

This year, I'm keeping it simple.

I'm not sure what made me really think of it and not really sure why I've not done this before. But, I've decided to be a more avid list maker. To-Do Lists, in particular.

Like I said: simple.

Certainly nothing profound, but I just feel like if I could keep a manageable To-Do List going throughout the year, it could improve lots of areas of my life. Keep me more organized. Lessen some stress. Keep me on task. Feel accomplished. Give me more incentive. I really don't know why it hasn't occured to me before now.

So far, I'm on already on my 2nd draft list (having crossed off most everything on the 1st one) and have crossed off 2 items on this one! 

I'm on a roll.

As I said, I do like a good fresh start, too. So, I used this last holiday weekend to clean and purge. And I finally made the desk (that's been a catch-all for 13 years or more) a practical, inviting space. I am so prone to just plop down on the couch after work each evening and once I do, tend to lose any resolve of doing anything productive - even if it's to read. 

So, I'm hoping with my renewed desk space, that I'll be encouraged to be more productive. Read. Study. Write. Mark off my check list.  :)

So, keeping it simple and managable this year. 

So far, so good.   :)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2015 in Highlights

It really is true, the older you get, the more quickly time passes by.
Here we are; yet another year behind us. 
And so little to show for it on my blog, once again.

I plan to try harder, once again, to post more frequently and consistently this year. I've even cleaned up my desk and all around it, to make it a more practical, inviting spot to actually be more productive. Revisit some old bible studies (some I may never have completed). Write some more personal hand-written notes to those on my heart and mind (remember those?) And blog.

So, let me just kick it off by wrapping up my last year - or at least since my post about our trip back in February (seems like last week - sheesh).

Zip-lining at Banning Mills

Dad and I have been itching to go zip-lining again since our taste of it in the N Ga mountains several years ago. So, Mom got us each ticket to go zipping through Banning Mills, just on the other side of Atlanta.
We had a GORGEOUS day for it! The trees were still pretty bare, but we couldn't have asked for better weather.

We also had a good group of people to zip with. Quite a diverse crowd, but all grew rather close after having to huddle around a huge tree at each of our stopping points. Ha.
It was fun. We can't wait to go again.  :)

Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Mom has been wanting to take us up to one of her favorite getaway spots in North Carolina. I already love the Asheville area, so I suggested we just take off up there for our birthday weekend. It was just Mom, Dad and myself and it was yet another gorgeous weekend. The weather was absolutely perfect. 
On our way up, I insisted we had to at least drive through Billy Graham's Cove. They obliged and it was such a blessing!
The gentleman at the front gate directed us to their sweet little chapel for a tour. The lady at the chapel who greeted us said that a little family group had just started their tour, so we could join in with them or just wait for our own. We saw no reason not to join them, so we sat through the remainder of the video with them and then headed upstairs for the actual tour of the chapel.
I. love. that. chapel. There's just something about it. There's a holy presence throughout the entire property, but the chapel especially just resonates with it. So simple. So sweet. 
There is one event I have been wanting to attend at the Cove; Fernando Ortega, playing the piano, with the amazing backdrop out the window behind him. Uh! Glimpe of heaven itself right there.
Well, anyway, after sitting through a little history of the place from our guide, she warmly welcomed us to come up to the front and just take a look around from up there. As we began to get up, a young gentleman in the group we had joined up with, headed straight for the piano on the side. The guide sweetly said "Yes, feel free to knock about on the piano, too." He then sat down, got poised and proceded to pour out a medley of traditional hymns that left us all speechless. It was beautiful. And such a sweet gift. Here I'd been dying to hear Fernando in concert up there and instead, we were given our own private concert that was just as beautiful as Fernando could have done, yet in the sweet little chapel (as opposed to the training center)! Beautiful. I think Beth Moore calls those God Winks. So special.
We were also afforded the opportunity to walk through the Training Center as well. I had wondered if we'd be able to, as we weren't there for an event. Apparently, it's not normally open to the general public, but we happened to be there at a time when they didn't have an event, so were able to ramble freely. We got to sit on their amazing porch with that unmistaking view, walk through all the history that lines the walls on the bottom floor and even glance through the gift shop.

From there, we headed on up to Gideon Ridge Inn.
Mom had offered to get me my own room there, so I countered: For the same amount of money, if we just bunk together in one suite, we could stay an extra night!  :)  She was game and I'm so glad we did! We checked in that evening, settled in a little and then went to town for some dinner. We stayed in the Grandfather Suite, which was hard to picture from the pictures on their website, but it was a pretty cool room. I had a sofa bed and my own half bath. My favorite part was the European-looking little stoop that you access through the big picture window. There were a couple little bistro chairs out there and was just kinda cool to sit out there. Our hostess was sweet and reminded me of Rory Gilmore (which is funny, as her mom runs the Dragonfly Inn). 

The next day, we were able to just kick around and check the place out. The Inn is just down the road from the actual Blowing Rock. So, we went up there and looked around. Again - the weather could not have been any more beautiful. Such a nice place. With amazing views. We were also able to head to town and ramble there a bit. The highlight of that would probably have to be that I was carded for a wine tasting and t we were there celebrating my 41st birthday. Haha.

The next day, we came home by way of the Blue Ridge Parkway and it was just as picturesque as I'd always heard.

Simons Reunion / Tennessee

I'm so glad to I had the chance to join Mom and Dad again on a trip up to Tennessee to catch up with Uncle Curt and all his crew. They are a lively bunch!  :)  And it had been so long since we'd seen a lot of them (probably not since Grandma Mary's funeral in 2004). It was great fun. We got our own cabin, which we shared with Nancy and Dave, but we were just around the bend (or two) from where the rest of them were staying. They were both nice places. And both on the lake, though from theirs, you could actually see and access the water. Ha. I'm not sure who won the Lip Sync Contest, but it'd sure be hard to choose! Hahaha

Fervent Tour (Anthony Evans/Priscilla Shirer)

In August, the next Kendrick move finally made it to theaters! And it was so worth the wait! Everything those guys do is covered in prayer and blesses anyone prepared to receive it! This one was 'War Room' and its message is solely on prayer. The importance of it. The power of it. And how to utilize it. Such a powerful movie. (If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. It is now available on demand as well as DVD. If you happen to watch it on DVD, don't miss the bonus features! They're worth the price of admission just on their own!)  :)
Anyway - after only seeing 'War Room' on the big screen 3 times, I couldn't wait to catch Priscilla along with her brother Anthony Evans in Atlanta for their Fervent Tour! (I love Priscilla from several bible studies and knew she was a dynamic speaker. But, I had also come to love Anthony as well. He had performed on The Voice and I was hooked. He gets me through most work days. He is a very gifted singer/songwriter.
And they did not disappoint! It was a very powerful evening! Again - the primary focus was on prayer and fighting the right battles and obedience.
AND, since I went with Missy, self proclaimed stalker, we spung for the meet & greet tickets! Woo Hoo!
Not the most flattering picture of any of us, but they were super kind and incredibly gracious and it all just made for a great night!

Emery (football)

We also got to catch some of Emery's football games. I know his Daddy would love nothing more than for him to be a big bruiser out there, kicking butt and taking names later, but it warmed Aunt Jess's heart to see what a natural encourager he is. Slapping guys on the backs, excitedly telling them 'Great job!' - no matter whose team they were on. Just glad to be out there. It was fun to watch.
Though I will admit that Savannah and I may have zoned out a time or two...

1 year Meds-Free!

Okay. So, I don't guess I really have a picture for this, but it is pretty news worthy.
It was last November, when I went up to the Cove with Sally to see Lisa Harper, that I stopped taking my Mercaptapurine altogether. 
This was the drug that I was having to have to replace with something stronger because it just couldn't help keep my gut under control any longer. Having fought back Ulcerative Colitis for over 10 years, all the standard drugs had ceased to work any longer, leaving me looking toward using the much stronger biologics. As a last ditch effort, I drastically adjusted my diet to a cross between Specific Carb and Paleo and a year after deciding to go that route, with a little bit of rocky start, I was able to make it one year meds-free! Maintaining on diet alone. That's huge, considering that I wasn't even able to maintain while ON the meds.
Yay, me!  :)

Fall Family (Thanksgiving) Getaway / Cleveland, GA

This year, we decided to do our annual Fall Family Getaway over Thanksgiving and that worked really well. We stayed at a really nice cabin with a beautiful view of the mountains, just outside of Cleveland, GA. Emery couldn't get enough Pool and both he and Savannah had gotten quite good at it by the time we left. We were able to enjoy the hot tub a time or two and a good little hike up and down the road. It was so nice, Mom has already booked us again for next Thanksgiving. And, at least we know that if we lock ourselves out again, we can always just break in with a credit card!  :)

Tacky Holiday Sweater Contest 

I don't normally participate in dress-up days at work. But, I happened to stumble across a whole display of Christmas sweaters at Wal*Mart one day, so thought 'Why not!'  :)
I'm glad it wasn't 80 that day, like it ended up being on the actual day of Christmas this year.
We had a good turn-out and it was fun! Even  though I wasn't voted tackiest. (Leah, on the far left won that honor.)  ;)