Monday, January 21, 2019

Girl, Jesus is Enough

This post has been a long time coming. Frankly, I'm thankful for a little meme going around social media right now, because it speaks so much truth. You know, this one?

It sums up conversations with girlfriends and my own thoughts on this subject. By subject, I mean self-help, personal development, self-improvement, New Year/New Me, this constant hum to be more...the labels go on. In the words of James Brown, "Papa's got a brand new bag". Why not leave it at the meme if it sums everything up? Oh, you know I can't do that. You're funny. I'm an explainer. I can't help it.

So let's unpack. My husband and I are not trendy people. If you know us, this is fairly obvious. I was eating kale in the professional world of alternative healthcare and nutrition many moons ago, way before kale was cool and people wore shirts saying "kale yeah". I've read stacks of personal development books for work and enjoyed many of them. We Marie Kondo'd our house three years ago before Facebook and Netflix introduced Marie to the masses. Now, we're plant-based for health reasons and I'm reading that 2019 has been dubbed by some as "The Year of the Vegan". Ha!

Many of these things have been awesome changes for our family, namely simplifying our possessions/life (hats off to Hurricane Harvey for speeding the process up) and going whole food plant-based. Kale is now practically a celebrated member of the family. I am also a goal-setter and can be be fairly driven when I've got my eye on a goal. This is part personality, but also part of the learning process brought to me by personal development books on setting goals and going after them. In fact, this blog was the result of a goal I pursued ten years ago.

All of these things can be awesome!

However, every one of these endeavors provide only temporal relief if you're trying to fill the gaping hole that can only be filled by Jesus. Over the years I've read books, articles and blog posts by thought leaders in each of these areas and learned much from them, but so often they fell flat. Why? Because most were missing the only thing that matters: Jesus.

Our hope can be placed in so many other places.

The guy or girl you're hoping to date. For that matter, your spouse. The house that has the perfect square footage, amount of possessions, all in beautiful order. The body and makeup that's magazine perfect. The ride or die friends and tribe. The successes of your children (ouch). The big career that you've been dreaming of, if you can only just get up one more rung on the ladder. Esteem and a reputation. Enough money to be comfortable, to take this or that vacation and provide a certain lifestyle for our kids. And then a little more just to be safe. Security. I can list a million different things that we interchangeably chase after depending on the season. Putting my hope in each one a little at a time. Gaining a little short-term happiness boost and then as it wanes, moving on to the next thing.

It seems like the current message when life gets hard is "Well you're just doing it wrong, try my way." or "try harder". Yet when it comes to the only thing that matters, it's not about working harder. Can we all just breathe with this? You're enough, because He is enough. Can I get a Braveheart cry of "Freedom!

I'll say it again, these can all be awesome endeavors! When they're used to know and serve Jesus. If they help you do the assignment that God has given you more wholeheartedly and effectively? Go for it! Does better nutrition and exercise make you more capable of being a better mom or dad and increase your ability to pour more energy out and into others? It's worth a little time! Does order and simplifying your life make you more efficient and less distracted? Free some time up to pour into Scripture? Yes? Marie Kondo it up, my friend.

But put your hope and trust in Jesus. Marie has a few great answers for tidying up your sock drawer, which trust me, is a beautiful thing. But Jesus? He has answers that bring you abundant LIFE. (see the Bible)

It's not about controlling our environment to the nth degree so that everything is perfect.With Jesus, we can have everlasting joy, no matter the circumstance. When our health is failing. When our people are being people and failing us. When we forget to drink 8 glasses of water because we were busy trying to clean up the 10 glasses our toddler spilled that morning. When we make mistakes. When we fail. When our efforts aren't noticed. When our efforts aren't working.

It's about being at peace in the chaos and disorder, not necessarily about removing the chaos and disorder. You might as well say being at peace in life. Life is the mess because it includes the world. "But take heart, I have overcome the world."

We can do all the right things, the good things...yet miss the only thing that matters. Jesus is enough.

And it's ok if you don't like kale. Girl, just wash the spinach.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Home for Christmas

It felt right to be in our little home for Christmas. Kids waking up to presents under the tree in the dining room. Reading the Luke account of Jesus' birth in the living room. Christmas breakfast and dinner around our table. Playing with new toys and games and reading books on the rug together.

Claire has always been a Santa Skeptic. In fact, last year she tricked us. She declared that she didn't believe in Santa and we thought, well there you go. No need to worry about Santa. Then on Christmas Eve at about 11 PM on the drive back to Houston from Louisiana she woke up briefly in the carseat and said something like "I can't wait to see what Santa brings tomorrow." Joey and I both looked at each other in a panic. I think I found some random items at the rent house at midnight that qualified as potential Santa gifts the next morning. This year she goes back and forth. Doesn't really think he's real and then goes through all the logical reasons why he doesn't exist while giving us the side eye.

Keats believes with all his little heart. He defends Santa vehemently against his sister's anti-Santa points.

His strong belief is precious. And also funny, because we really don't "do" the Santa thing. What they know about Santa comes from Christmas movies like the Santa Clause, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and snippets of Elf. Oh and the big one. He saw him in the flesh at the Mall. Joey told me that Keats tugged on his arm and said "Dad, look! It's Santa!" He was in complete awe. So for this reason, we followed Keats' lead on Christmas Eve night because he was so excited about it. He insisted we put out milk and cookies for Santa. Did you know that Santa likes vegan sugar cookies? He doesn't like almond milk though. He may have poured that one down the sink just to be kind.

We also made a Happy Birthday Jesus cake vegan style. Was it healthy? Nope, just no animal products. I used vegan butter for the first time. Did you know that that's a thing? Yup. Vegan butter, it exists. More real than Santa. We talked about the meaning of Christmas and and the kids and I ate cake. I'm pretty sure I ate half the cake one fork sized centimeter sliver at a time over the holiday.

The next morning, two unwrapped gifts were in bags with their names on it and both kids were Santa fans for at least an hour or so before Claire started to question the Santa fundamentals again. Keats asked me if we could ask Santa to come back again that night.


On the plant based eating front, holidays have been interesting. Joey is now finished with his raw vegan 28 day cleanse. He finished it a week or two after Thanksgiving. I'll share more about this at some point, but in summation...he rocked it. Didn't cheat once, not even on Thanksgiving and it is one of the strictest eating plans I've ever seen. For holidays we have decided that it is worth a "cheat day", but cheating looks really different. For us, it may mean that a little oil is in some of the dishes as we do not cook with oil at home. Or it may mean whole wheat flour or sugar may be in the food. But it's all still vegan even if it's a cheat.

Since we were going to be in our home for Christmas, I wanted to try a few plant based holiday dishes. Was it good? Yup, pretty good for the most part! Was I exhausted and did I cook all day? Also, a big fat yes.

For breakfast I made chocolate chip pancakes. Had to meet the following standards: high quality whole grain flour and no eggs, oil or butter. I know, it sounds like a sad pancake but truly they were a great treat. This was Joey's first baked good since October.

Christmas lunch turned into Christmas dinner. It became quite the undertaking. Between four burners, two oven racks, a blender, food processor and an Instant Pot, I still had trouble juggling all the cooking times. We had lentils, quinoa, Mac and "cheese", green bean casserole and sweet potato casserole. We were supposed to have a green salad, but I was done. Plant based cooking isn't necessarily hard, it's just different and standard cooking techniques don't always apply. Instead of using an egg, you may need to make a "flax egg" which means that once again I have to Google "how to make a flax egg". Google and I are close friends and we have 100 conversations going on at a time (which is probably killing my battery life, but ironically could be extending my real life....hmm).

By the time dinner was on the table I looked and felt like the crew from Apollo 13 following re-entry. However the ground crew wasn't quite getting the message. Someone get this lady a chair. And some water.

But it was finished and on the table.

The biggest hit was the sweet potato casserole. My kids are still asking for it. It had maple sugar in it, so not surprising! The only outlier was the Mac and cheese. I used chickpea flour noodles and I'm not a huge fan of their flavor.

Our first Christmas back home in our newly rebuilt home post flood. Our first Christmas after going plant based and gut punching heart disease. So thankful for God's continued provision for our family in all seasons. Hello 2019!