Happy Saturday, friends. First, I wanted to say thank you for the wonderful conversation on Monday’s post. That is by far my favorite part of blogging. I’d hoped to share more this week, but I was a little under the weather for the last couple of days. I’m doing better now thought, and I’m excited to continue the conversation.
I read this week’s dose of hope in Jesus Calling yesterday. My friend Julie sent me the devotional as a belated Christmas gift, and I can’t get enough of it. Let me just say I truly believe it’s inspired. Every day’s reading speaks to me right where I am. This one in particular. Sometimes I think it’s easy to read verses like this as God supplying everything I want. And then I can be disappointed. But what I love is that it says God will supply everything I need. And that the supply will come from His glorious riches. How cool is that?
It reminds me that His glorious riches are so much more than the physical things in my life. They are spiritual blessings, emotional blessings, friends, community, a wonderful church, faith, hope, and love. We can be rich in Him even when we lose it all, or even as we wait for Him to provide something we desire. I find a lot of hope in this, and I hope you do, too!
Fabulous Sky by Larisa Koshkina. Text added by Kim Fernando.
I’ve shared with you guys about some of the many ways that Jesus has reached into my life and healed me. In the summer of 2009, that reach extended into a serious “stuff” problem that had been accumulating under the surface for some time.
To back up, this stuff problem really started in my early twenties, when I started looking to things, whether it was stylish clothes, a cool music collection, or a well decorated apartment, to make me feel secure. I was out on my own, I was taking charge of my life, and I kind of believed that all the right things could bring me the happiness I was looking for. Until I ran smack dab into an expensive illness just a few years later, and all the pretty things I owned couldn’t change a thing.
So in the tail end of 2008, the church I was attending started a series on financial stewardship. And since my feelings on stuff were beginning to change and my medical bills were piling up, I made a commitment to change some of my ways. I told God that I didn’t want to find security in material things, and that I was willing to give up my stuff if I needed to. Then I set about selling everything I felt I wasn’t using regularly, cancelling my cable, and mentally promising not to purchase another new item of clothing for twelve months.
It felt really good, and I was super proud of myself for breaking my addiction to things. I told God that I’d turned a new corner in my life, and that I no longer cared about material possessions. Then I felt Him nudge me to give up my beautiful apartment. I’m not going to lie… The thought hurt a little. It was a large, newly renovated floor-through just off of one of New York City’s nicest parks. We had a big kitchen, large bedrooms, a backyard, a safe neighborhood, and an exposed brick wall that looked really cool. And we’d just signed a two and a half year lease. But I was on such a roll, that I figured why not, and my roommate and I came up with an ambitious plan to shave a couple hundred dollars a month off of our already “affordable” New York City rent.
We prayed like the dickens, scoured online apartment listings, and jumped up and down because we were doing it – we were really simplifying and changing our lives. Our price limit was ridiculously low, but we were certain that God would provide. And then lo and behold, we found it – a shoebox of an apartment on a main road in Brooklyn’s “hippest” neighborhood. It wasn’t much to look at, but it was owned by a sweet elderly Italian couple who were so excited at the prospect of us moving in that they promised to install new hardwood floors in place of the ratty carpet and folding doors to provide privacy in the sleeping alcoves, two spaces so small that each fit only our mattresses and a small plastic Ikea wardrobe. So we signed the lease, sold even more stuff, and took the plunge.
I have to admit, my roommate was such a good decorator that she made the place look like gold in less than 48 hours. Until things started to go haywire. The building was so small and poorly constructed that every time we cooked, the once sweet Italian couple would bang on our door and complain that they could smell food. A man living in the construction store beneath us fell asleep with his hot plate on and set the place on fire, filling our apartment with smoke that took days to air out. And finally after that the biggest nightmare of all – we discovered the building was infested with bed bugs.
Ok, so this was a common problem in New York City in 2009. Bed bugs tore through the city like a tornado in Kansas with no regard for neighborhood, class, or the cleanliness of the people living in the apartments they infiltrated. They just came, and almost everyone knew someone who was affected. We were two of those someones. And we freaked out.
You can imagine how I felt, spending hundreds to thousands of dollars a month on medical bills for an insect-borne illness, to find out our building had hundreds of equally as gross little bugs crawling around, pretty much invisible to the naked eye, and with the express aim of biting me. After several sleepless nights, arguments with our landlords about the seriousness of the issue, and two consultations with exterminators, it was clear the situation was bad. So bad that we were advised to leave everything we owned and run. The exterminators powdered the apartment with chemicals, lugged our mattresses to the curb as they were required to do, and warned us not to go to a friend’s house lest we bring a few stowaways there.
Cue another issue I used to struggle with: fear that God was allowing bad things to happen to me because I’d knowingly or unknowingly done something wrong. That had been my natural response for most of my life. It was only recently that I’d begun to understand God as the loving Father who wanted to help me through all things and protect me from destruction. However, this would have been the perfect time to revert back to old thought habits. Here I was, dedicating my finances to Him and sacrificing the beautiful apartment I loved, and things were still going about as haywire as they could go.
But as in all things, God used the situation for good and filled me with faith that He’s not out to get us, but He is there to catch us.
In the Bible, Jesus speaks to His disciples about some bad things that happened: a group of Jewish people was murdered by the Roman government while offering sacrifices, and then two towers collapsed, killing the people inside. Jesus’ disciples had the same question: did the towers fall and the people die because they’d done something wrong? They were so used to living under the Law that they couldn’t comprehend God’s grace. Not at all, Jesus responded. The towers fell because they fell. Sometimes in this broken world, bad things happen. What really mattered was whether the people in the towers knew God, because then they could experience eternal life with Him and they would never really perish.
In this case, a bad thing just happened. God wasn’t out to get us. We spent several nights shell shocked and in panic mode wondering how we were going to dig ourselves out of this mess. Not only had we lost several thousand dollars on the security deposit, moving fees, and the extermination bills, but we’d just lost what little furnishings we had left and pretty much everything else that couldn’t be tossed into a dryer on high for 120 minutes. It was at that moment, when we were sleeping on the kitchen floor with bath towels, feeling lowest of the low, and asking God to come in and work a miracle because we needed it, that He reached in and rescued us.
He did it first through the family members who donated money, then through friends who offered a couch to crash on, even with the risks that an invisible bug would catch a ride on our overnight bags. Then we found a beautiful Victorian apartment in our dream neighborhood, back by the park and down the street from several organic grocery stores and restaurants. It was not only within our price range but was probably three times as large as the tiny shoebox we were in, had a laundry room, was surrounded by beautiful tall trees, and had a backyard full of tomato, basil, blueberries, and pumpkins.
We moved in with only our clothes, dishes, and a few random items we’d salvaged, all stored in black plastic trash bags. Our landlord generously donated a nice couch and a microwave, even with no knowledge of our situation. Our pastor and his family shared furniture from their own apartment and Ikea gift cards to fill in the gaps. Our friends passed on curtains, a table, and other items to help us build a home (and additionally kept us well dressed with nice hand me downs for years to come). The CEO of my company, learning that we didn’t have an air conditioner in the height of summer, sent a top of the line window AC. And finally, after months of sleeping on the couch, another friend reached out and passed on a brand new pillow top Queen size bed.
I’m not going to say the situation wasn’t traumatic. Being assaulted by evil bugs and losing nearly everything I owned while going through a major illness was not something I would have signed up for. And it took me a while to recover. But something else happened through that experience as well. Jesus reached in and touched the wounds. He held me close, and He set me free of my need to find security in stuff. Suddenly all the things I’d been carrying around for so many years – literally and figuratively – were gone. As I lost all the things that I said I could never live without, I realized that all I really needed to live was God. It sounds hyper-spiritual, but it’s true. He provided everything we needed, and He did it through the amazing people in our lives.
Losing everything then also made it easier to give up my job later, even though for years I’d put my entire self worth into the position I held. It made it easier for me to reassess other parts of my life and to ask what I needed in my life and what I didn’t. And once the dust settled and the panic subsided, I was able to look back and see that my life wasn’t what I could build up around me but what I could give away, just as others had given to me. I was free.
Sometimes in life we’ll lose everything simply because bad things happen. Other times, we might lose things because we’re being pruned – cutting off the branches that aren’t bearing fruit to make way for new ones that will – and pruning involves severing, and severing hurts. But when we keep our eyes on Jesus, we can trust in Him even if we don’t understand at the time. We can trust that He’ll reach into our hard situations, that He’ll be there to rescue us, and that He can use even the hardest things for good.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 (NIV)
Original photo of Woman On Coronado Beach by Bill Kuffrey. All text and embellishments added by us.
Linking up with Emily Wierenga’s Imperfect Prose on Thursdays
I shared with you guys last week that the Psalms have been speaking to me like woah, and this week’s dose of hope comes from another Psalm that I love, which is just incredible from beginning to end. Usually when I think of the opening lines of the Psalm (“I lift my eyes up to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord…”) I sing it to the tune of Casting Crown’s “Praise You in This Storm,” which quotes the verse toward the end. I don’t know about you guys, but whenever I hear Scripture set to music I’m ten times more likely to remember the verse.
I hope you’re all having a good weekend. It’s rainy in New York City, but at least the rain is bringing warmer temperatures. God bless!
p.s. you can find all of our doses of hope on Pinterest!
Picture of Burning Candles In The Dark by Petr Kratochvil
I’ve been sharing with all of you how Jesus carved a path to health in my life. And I think if I was reading that, I’d want to ask “what does a path to health look like?” In my case, that path included two years of medical treatment and lots and lots of lifestyle changes that I made over the course of several years (with just a little bit of kicking and screaming on my part), but Jesus wasn’t stopping there. It also looked like emotional, mental, and spiritual healing. He touched every area of my life and healed me in ways I never imagined possible.
So while my health is not perfect now, I am blessed beyond measure. And because I get all excited about it (and because just maybe it might help someone else), I’m going to share with all of you the lifestyle changes I was asked to make to take care of myself and live a healthier life. And since I already told you guys that I consider a vitamin and supplement routine to be an act of worship I’ll start there.
I’m not a medical professional, so this is just me talking with you about some vitamins that I really like. Definitely talk to someone with an actual medical degree before making any lifestyle changes. And I’m linking to some of my favorite brands, because I can’t resist telling you about my favorites. There’s no affiliate commission, though. This is just me and you sharing life.
So without further ado… below is a list of vitamins I take everyday to feel my best.
Daily Vitamin – I can be a little obsessive when it comes to finding the right vitamins, and let’s just say I shopped around for this one. When deciding on a treatment plan, my specialist didn’t actually prescribe a daily vitamin, but after learning more about nutrition I decided to add one to my routine to cover my bases. Rainbow Light Women’s One a Day is my favorite because it’s food based, is a blend of vitamins, minerals, herbs, superfoods, and enzymes, and doesn’t contain any additives, which means in a nutshell that our bodies are more likely to put the good stuff to use and less likely to pee a whole bunch of nonessential fillers out. On top of that, a lot of stores price it at $35.00 for 150 tablets which means it comes out to $7.00 a month, and I’m nothing if not budget minded.
Vitamin C – Vitamin C, along with vitamins A and E, selenium, and zinc, is an antioxidant. It helps protect and repair cells from damage caused by toxins in our environment or toxins that are produced by our own bodies when we break down food or exercise. My doctor prescribed 2,000 mg a day broken up into two doses to help my body get rid of the bad stuff. I still take this dose as 1,000 mg of vitamin C powder with breakfast and a packet of Emergen-C (also 1,000 mg vitamin C + a whole bunch of B-vitamins) with dinner.
Omega Fatty Acids (Fish Oil) – My doctor prescribed 1,000 mg of fish oil twice a day, which contains essential fatty acids that reduce inflammation and promote better brain and heart health. After taking a more expensive supplement, I researched brands and switched to Nordic Naturals Complete Omega 3,6,9 product, and I’ve noticed that this product has no aftertaste unlike some cheaper brands. Carlson is also a brand that comes highly recommended by doctors.
Digestive Enzymes – I read about these in 90 Day Immune System Makeover and after talking to my specialist about it, I decided to take Digest Gold by Enzymedica. Basically digestive enzymes are produced by our pancreas to break down the food we eat into molecules our bodies can actually use. A lot of times when our bodies are stressed by illness, we’re not able to absorb nutrients as well as we should. Taking a digestive enzyme supplement really helps the process and takes some of the stress of our bodies. They also really help if you’re lactose intolerant or have a hard time digesting certain foods. I took an enzyme with every meal when I was sick, and now I take one a day at dinnertime.
Quercetin – Quercetin is a natural antihistamine that reduces allergic response when we take it regularly over time. My doctor prescribed it to help reduce inflammation and help my body flush out toxins. I take 500 mg twice a day. I’m not really brand loyal with this one. I just grab whatever’s affordable at a store I trust like Whole Foods or The Vitamin Shoppe.
Milk Thistle – Milk thistle is an herb that helps support liver function. My specialist prescribed this at the beginning of my treatment to help prevent liver damage from all the medication that I was going to be taking. I actually still take at least 175 mg twice a day, because it’s safe for long term use. My favorite brand is Nature’s Way.
B Vitamins – B-vitamins are probably the most important vitamins we can take, because our bodies need them to do pretty much everything our bodies do, including turning food into the energy we need to keep moving and producing neurotransmitters so that our brains can function. Not an overstatement. When I was sick, my doctor asked me to take a broad spectrum B-vitamin, because many times illness causes us to need above and beyond the average daily dose. Now that I’m healthier, I get my B-vitamins through my daily vitamin in the morning and a packet of Emergen-C at night.
Vitamin D - Vitamin D is another super important one, and apparently most of us are deficient now that we live modern lifestyles that reduce our time in the sun. After years of telling everyone that I didn’t need to take a vitamin D supplement, I had a blood test done and found out that I was super deficient. So now I take 4,000 IU a day in the form of a drop on my tongue (it’s best absorbed when mixed with oil, so a lot of brands sell it as a liquid). Vitamin D helps regulate our hormones and support our immune system. My hormones and my immune system are much happier with it.
It seems pretty simple when I type it all up, but adding this routine into my daily life has made a huge impact. And I’m grateful beyond words that God would reach out and teach a willful hardheaded person like me how to take care of myself when it was the absolute furthest thing from my mind and the last thing I was interested in doing when I asked Him to heal me. He is a good Father indeed.
I’m pinning more of my favorite vitamins and supplements on my How I Got Healthier with Vitamins Pinterest board, and I wrote more about my battle plan for health and the nutrition basics of how I got healthier earlier.
With much love (as always),
OK, your turn … do you take vitamins and supplements or do you prefer to just get all the healthy stuff from your food? If you take vitamins, do you have a fave?
Original photo of “Vitamin C” by antpkr from freedigitalphotos.net. All cropping, text, and embellishments added by us.
I’m not sure who officially came up with the term “God-sized dream,” but Holley Gerth and Stephanie Bryant sure have done a lot to put it on the tips of the tongues of people all over. They describe a God-sized dream as…
.. Tenaciously believing you’re made for more…. More of Jesus, more of what he’s created you to be, more of what he’s called you to do. Less of you, actually, and more of all he is and all he has for you—which is beyond what you can even imagine. – Squee Inc.
Here’s the thing about the Bible. It’s full of awesomeness. And I mean that quite literally, as in the truly awesome power of God. Last week the Bible taught me about the real size of God-sized dreams.
I was reading Jesus Is ____ by Judah Smith for our small group, and something stuck out to me in the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus. Jesus visited Jericho, a popular town in His day, and was walking through the streets. A crowd of people was gathering around Him, because they’d heard of the great things He was doing in other towns and they wanted to see Him for themselves. Zacchaues, who was the chief tax collector in Jericho, also wanted to get a good look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he climbed a tree down the road. To his surprise as Jesus walked by He stopped under the tree and called up to Zacchaeus by name.
“Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” – Luke 19:5b (NLT)
The account continues that Zacchaeus, who was shocked that Jesus knew him by name, climbed down and “took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy.” The rest of the crowd was upset. As the chief tax collector, Zacchaeus would have been an employee of the Roman empire, which was oppressing the Jewish people, and Zacchaeus would have made his living by squeezing every last penny out of his own people. He was not the kind of person that the Jewish people expected their Savior to hang out with.
But while they were complaining, Jesus and Zacchaeus were having a conversation back at Zacchaeus’ place. And this is what happened…
Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”
Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” – Luke 19:8-10 (NLT)
When I read the story this time, something stood out to me: Jesus traded the opportunity to reach tons for the opportunity to reach one.
The other day I was thinking about how so many of us have dreams, and we often feel like we have to do something big for it to really matter. At least that’s something I struggle with when it comes to my own God-sized dream to help hurting people overcome the obstacles to wellness in their life, whether those obstacles are physical, mental, emotional, financial, environmental, or a combination of all of the above.
In trying to make a difference and live out more of what Jesus has called us to do, we can easily overlook the small things that we’re already doing or the small opportunities He places in front of us to love another. Zacchaeus was a small man, quite literally. It would have been easy for any of us to overlook him in a crowd. Add to that the fact that he was a traitor to his own people. Someone Judah Smith describes as likely more concerned with status and wealth than with whether or not his actions honored God. But Jesus saw him, picked him out, and spent time showing him that he mattered.
And in spending time with that one person, Jesus changed a life.
Isn’t that awesome?
God has put dreams in our hearts to make us more like Him and to lead us into the life He imagined for us. But He’s not using a measuring stick to assess how well we’re measuring up to that dream. Instead, I’m starting to see that the dreams He’s given us are invitations to join Him in something He’s already up to… something He’s already at work bringing to life inside of us and around us. And it might not unfold how we imagined. It might be a series of small windows or stepping stones or loving on one person at a time. Or it might look like bigger things than we ever imagined. And it’ll likely be a combination of both. What really matters though is that when we’re sticking with Him, He’s at work, and every little piece of love that we give or receive has a power to change a life – both ours and someone else’s.
What about you? Do you have a G0d-sized dream (big or small) and do you ever feel like you’re not doing enough?
More good stuff here…
Tanya at Truth in Weakness talks about the hidden blessings when we feel stuck.
Emily Freeman on what a hundred lifeguards taught her about her calling.
Lisa-Jo Baker on the mightiness of motherhood.
Original photo of “Small and big tree” by Just2shutter from freedigitalphotos.net. All text and embellishments added by us. Booyah.
The Psalms are speaking to me like woah these days. This one is a verse that was included in a devotional I read several weeks ago. In the past, the part about getting our hearts’ desires is what stood out, but lately the first part about taking delight in the Lord is taking center stage.
So how do we take delight in the Lord, seek first His kingdom, and keep our eyes on the prize? My church did an excellent message a few weeks ago on hearing and responding to God’s voice in the sea of other voices we hear in the course of a day. This is something I can struggle with when the people-pleaser in me rears its head, so I loved this message combined with the reminder that when we take delight in the Lord (seek His voice first), He will care for us and give us our hearts’ desires.
Here’s the message if you’d like to watch it yourself.
Original picture of Cabins by Petr Kratochvil. Text added by us!