Life

Waiting Well

Since the start of the year, I have been reading through the Bible chronologically each morning and I have to say, I have truly been loving it. Sure, wading through the Old Testament can be daunting and overwhelming but the timing of what I have been reading lately and the pull to read through the entire Bible this year in particular are surely all connected.

Currently, I am in the middle of Deuteronomy as Moses is preparing the Israelites to enter the Promised Land.

I can’t help but feel that it’s not a coincidence that I have been reading through this particular part of the Old Testament at this moment of my life. It’s not a coincidence that I would be reading of Moses leading the Israelites into the wilderness for a 40 year journey to the land that was promised to them by God while they were enslaved in Egypt.

40 years!

While this journey of mine has (thankfully) not lasted 40 years, it was not without great hardship and struggles along the way. What probably kept those people going throughout the 40 years was a great sense of hope that God would do what He said He would do. Was it a perfect 40 years? Of course not. The Israelites lost sight of the vision multiple times and they wavered. They doubted and they rebelled but guess what? God was still there, ready to fulfill His promise to them at the perfect and appointed time.

Waiting
Photo by Matthew Sleeper on Unsplash

Part of what makes their journey and this story resonate so deeply within me is the use of the word “wilderness.” Throughout these past four years, that has been the word that came to mind most often when describing the state of my life and the state of my heart. So much of who I was and what I knew about life was falling away with each new hardship that came my way and wilderness was just the best word to describe it. Just this week, in Shelly Miller’s Sabbath newsletter, she wrote, “Life is a continual paradox of joy and suffering. We tend to avoid the suffering at all costs, but the wilderness is our Harvard and Yale on the true meaning and purpose of life. Without wandering in the desert seasons, the Promised Land is an idealism.”

Yes and Amen.

The promise found in Isaiah 43:19 that God would make “a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” has been a promise that I have clung to for nearly three years. It’s a promise that I heard God himself whisper to me in the midst of the deepest pain that I have known in my 26 years – the moments after hearing that my Aunt Shelia had gone to be with Jesus less than 48 hours after her mother/my grandmother had. You see, the promise of freedom and restoration was what kept the Israelites moving forward and it was this same promise of restoration that nudged me forward as well. The promise whispered at 1:45am that said that He had been with me through all of this and that He was doing something good with this pain – just wait and see. It was more than enough for me to stand, with a broken heart and shaky hands, and do whatever was needed to move towards this vision of hope and restoration.

And so, now I wait.

The immediate aftermath of that promise was a two year season of preparation and of action. I withdrew from a school and master’s program that no longer held any passion in favor of plans and preparations for a new passion and pursuit – becoming a child life specialist. This two year season held more online courses and assignments and it held countless checklists making sure that I had everything needed to submit my applications this year – both to grad school in Illinois and six children’s hospitals across the East Coast and Midwest. But as of March 2, that season of preparation has given way to what I am sitting in now. A season of waiting.

There are no more applications to write. No more resumes to edit and no more transcripts to copy. The work has been done and I’ve begun to realize this past week just how hard waiting is when you’re not the one holding the timeline.

Sitting in this state of just simply waiting and not doing is incredibly difficult since it’s not really in my nature to rest – at least not this much. But there’s truly nothing more that I can do to affect any part of this next season. The work has been done and while it definitely feels strange, it also feels a little unnerving in some ways and I’m finding that I am having to make sure that I am always conscious of the state of my heart in this time.

You see, it’s in these times of waiting that I feel like I can’t hear God as clearly anymore but that’s just what the enemy wants so that he can worm his way in. I can see in some ways how he has already done that – using the stillness and expectancy of this time to try and get my guard down – getting me to think that the longer it takes for me to hear back from any of these places that God really isn’t working in this. And I know He is, friends, even if it’s not visible right at this moment.

In Habakkuk 2:3 (CEV), we read, “At the time I have decided, my words will come true. You can trust what I say
about the future. It may take a long time, but keep on waiting—it will happen!” and it is exactly the burst of fire that my heart needs right now.

I don’t know when I will hear anything about the next steps in this journey and while just simply typing that sends me teetering on the edge of panic and worry, the next thought in my mind is always of Jesus. It’s a gentle reminder to myself that this God I love and serve has a firm grip on me and will, in fact, fulfill each and every promise He ever makes to me. We don’t have to know the timeline to know this heart that wants nothing but the best for us. And that my friends is good news in this season of no news.

Homegoing

On Saturday, my family and I got to go “home” and by home, I mean to the part of North Carolina that my extended family has called home since arriving in this country in the 1600/1700s. Homegoing, indeed.

Caswell County in North Carolina is a rural place. It is place where it isn’t so hard for me to picture what it must have looked like back before the roads had asphalt and the homes had electricity. It’s a place where time seems to slow and a special sort of peace sets in, far away from the distractions that more urban environments harbor.

Back in the Spring, a distant cousin invited our whole family (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc) out to the home in which my great-grandfather Joseph Ezra built with his own two hands. The home has fallen into disrepair and will be demolished soon, but he wanted to invite all of his descendants out to see it before that happens. There is an inherent tie that I feel to this area of North Carolina anyway since it is where half of my family has lived for so long, but to stand on this piece of land, looking at a home that one of my relatives actually built – that was truly special.

Homegoing

This is the home that my great-grandfather brought his new wife home to after their wedding in February 1907. More than 100 years ago. They would go on to be married for 70 years until my great-grandmother’s death in 1977. In every picture I’ve seen and every story I’ve heard about them, they were the cutest little couple around and I am so grateful that I am their great-granddaughter.

Around the back of the house is a fig bush that is actually the same fig bush that my great-grandmother would pick from when making her fig preserves.

Homegoing

This walk down memory lane and through my family’s history meant the world to me and I am so happy to be able to soak up as many experiences like this as I possibly can!

Fall Update

Well hello, friends!

It’s been way too long since I have posted anything here, which seems a little crazy to me! Once upon a time I was a semi-regularly posting blogger and now I’m lucky if I find the time to even think about writing.

The first official day of Fall is this Friday and I could not be happier, even though my house has looked like Fall since the first week of September. Fall is truly my favorite season and I am just ecstatic to have football on TV, leaves falling down, and temperatures (slowly) beginning to drop.

Something I’m super excited about this Fall is the start of community groups at my church! Since I first started attending this particular church in January of this year, I really haven’t been able to devote a ton of time to cultivating a sense of community there. Each and every Sunday I just feel at home and so grateful that God brought me there so when they announced new groups were starting this Fall, I jumped right in! And guys, God has been everywhere in this group…and it was only the first official week!

Truth be told, I’m usually somewhat hesitant to be in a position where I might need to share some of my personal journey of faith. It’s not the neatest of stories and is filled with loss and grief but also grace upon grace upon grace poured out from Jesus. This past week, our first official meeting together, I found myself sharing a snapshot of my story – the two losses that I experienced two years ago this week. Soon after I spoke about it, I found myself sitting there in my chair overthinking all of what I had just shared and began criticizing myself for speaking up. I think I have the fear/worry that others might think I share my story to get pity or to have others feel sorry for me which couldn’t be further from the truth – but there I was thinking it.

A few minutes later towards the end of group, we were asked to reflect on what we thought God was saying to us and showing us through the week’s sermon and our reflection of it. One of the other women in the group spoke up and shared how she enjoyed hearing the stories of the other group members and how it was encouragement to her given that she and her husband were in the midst of a very difficult year. In this year alone they had lost three close relatives and I was just momentarily awe-struck by God’s work in that moment. It was then that I realized that it was things like this that make it so important for us to share our testimonies and our journeys with those around us, especially when they are so full of God’s grace and love.

There I was second guessing myself for sharing some of my story and experiences when what I shared was actually having an impact on someone else going through something very similar. She spoke of how encouraging it is to hear from someone on the “other side” of this when she clearly is still in the deep throes of grief. I nearly teared up right there and the entire time that we prayed together as a group to close out our time together I just found myself thinking, “Thank you God, thank you God, thank you God for bring all of us together in this group.”

And so today, on what is actually Gratitude Day (Sept. 21) I just felt like I needed to share that experience with you all. In Colossians 2:6-7 we read, “So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.” (CSB)

That couldn’t be more descriptive of me lately – “overflowing with gratitude.”

God is able to produce the most amazing stories and testimonies out of some of the messiest of circumstances and that is something always worth praising and rejoicing over. I can’t look back at the 2 years of losses and hardships any other way but through joy-filled eyes because I know exactly where Jesus was in every moment of those experiences.

Amazing grace, indeed.

What Matters Most | Whole30 Recap

Whole30 Recap

Here I am, sitting at my computer on Day 30, sipping my cup of Whole30-compliant coffee.

To be here, having completed my first Whole30 feels like a gift, you guys. And I know that probably sounds way too sappy and I get it. I mean I’m just one person out of the millions, probably, who have already done a first, second, and maybe third Whole30. But for me, I am just grateful to be here, in this moment.

I had an inkling when I first decided to do Whole30 back around Memorial Day that my life was going to change. That was probably because I bought/read every book on the subject and everywhere in them was talk about food freedom and how this was going to change my life. It was never really a secret to me that the root of my food issues and my biggest roadblock with living well and eating healthy was me. I knew that stress eating was a real issue in my life (teaching is stressful, you guys) and even though I knew ways to counteract that and knew that I needed to get more active, I just simply didn’t do it. I made excuses that my schedule was too busy and that I just simply wasn’t strong enough.

Dear Whole30, thank you for shutting me up about that last part.

My parents and I decided to do Whole30 together for several reasons. For starters, I live at home and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do Whole30 on my own without huge amounts of temptation. For my Dad, it was a chance to see how a Whole30 way of eating could affect his high blood pressure and kidney function (he has chronic kidney disease due to a rare autoimmune disease). My mom was a little reluctant (and shell-shocked at every turn when I told her all the things we wouldn’t be able to have), but jumped in with us too. She also has high blood pressure and she actually ended up experiencing the most profound changes.

So how did we do?

For my Dad, he lost over ten pounds and has had lowered blood pressure of the past month. This past week, though, his doctor told him that his potassium numbers were a little high so we have now had to shift him to a low-potassium renal diet. My “pet peeve” with this is that there aren’t that many low-potassium recipes that are also Whole30/Paleo approved but we are trying to find a balance between getting his potassium back in check while also following what we now know and believe about nutrition (So many gluten/grain ingredients…*shudder*).

Like I said above, my mom probably had the most substantial changes of the three of us. Her blood pressure has been significantly lower, guys. Like, down to only taking one medication instead of two. Around the second week, she was experiencing very low blood pressure and her doctor began tweaking her medicines a bit. The fact that she has been able to completely stop taking one of her medications is pretty amazing to me! At first, my mom wasn’t sure how much of Whole30 we would carry over into “post-Whole30 life” but now that she has seen these changes, I think she is open to transitioning to a Paleo diet with me.

As for me, my biggest transformation has been my mindset and my outlook on wellness and nutrition as a whole. Like I shared in my halfway recap, I began doing yoga this month and joined a gym about halfway through. In fact, sometimes I found myself forgetting that Whole30 was wrapping up because I truly went into this not as a 30 day thing, but as a springboard for a total lifelong change. I knew that I wanted to try and follow a Paleo diet after Whole30 and that sentiment still holds true. With all that I have learned about food and nutrition through the Whole30 books and in Practical Paleo, how could I go back to the way things were?

I truly feel excited and hopeful for what the future holds! July was a great month!

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