Monday, November 10, 2014

Into the Wild.

Hi faithful readers, all 3 of y'all...

Yes, it's been a while since I've laid my life out in print.  This season has been simultaneously abundantly blessed, abundantly full, and abundantly challenging.  To be honest, I haven't written because I simply have not had the words.  I still don't, but in the interest of vulnerability, I am inviting you into a small part of my life right now.

The Bible is pretty clear that God wants to bless us.  Like a father, he delights in His children.  While I don't give much credit to the idea that following God equals a big home, nice car, perfect marriage and easy life, as Christians, I think it is easy for us to fall into the trap of thinking "if the going's good with God, the going's good with me."

Am I making any sense?  Probably not.

Some of you know that there are big things developing on the horizon for us.  Some of you don't.  If you are part of the latter party, don't fret--all will reveal itself in due time.  Let's just say that more than any other time of life, JP and I feel that we are living in the will of God.  That's not to say that we are perfect, that we have audibly heard from God, or that we are not making mistakes along the way.  Simply that we heard a word from the Lord, and in devoting our lives to following it, God has not just opened doors, He has bulldozed entire walls to make openings that we were formerly sure were blocked.

Sounds great, right?  All should be well.  That's what we're told.  That's what we're taught.  One of the dark secrets of the church is that we love to share when we're happy, but we keep to ourselves when the going gets tough.

Well, things are tough.  While we have never been more assured of our purpose in life, we have also never felt more lonely.  Did we hear from God wrong?  Did He forget that He designed us for community?  Did He miss the part in our prayers where we prayed for friendships and support and encouragement?

Or is this part of the journey?  Are we being brought to the wilderness as a test, meant as a roadblock to prevent us from going forward, or is this part of His plan to equip us with exactly what we need?  Is this wilderness journey a detraction from our calling, or confirmation of it?

Over and over and over in the Bible, the Lord leads His followers into the wilderness before BIG things happen.  Moses in the desert with the burning bush.  The Israelites before they inherited the promised land.  Jesus before He began His sermon on the mount.

Stop right there, people.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not much of a wilderness adventurer.  I mean, I own some Chacos, and I've been rock climbing a few times, but I've never spent the night outdoors.  I have literally never been camping.  And I don't feel like I'm missing anything.

I am not enjoying this metaphorical wilderness any more than I enjoy the literal.

Maybe He knows that we need a challenge.  Maybe He allows us to be cut off so that we have no choice but to be dependent on Him.  Regardless, I am choosing to believe this is a blessing and not a curse.

One verse in particular has stood out to me more than any.  After the Israelites were led by Moses out of Egypt, we all know they spent 40 years wandering in the desert.  Sounds mighty depressing.  Sounds like God forgot His roadmap.

But Exodus 13:17 tells us "When Pharoah let the people go, God did not lead them along the road to the land of the Philistines, even though it was nearby; for God said, 'The people will change their minds and return to Egypt if they face war.'"

What did the Israelites gain by journeying into the wild?  They witnessed God as a pillar of clouds during the day and a pillar of fire by night.  They saw God literally part the waters before them.  They filled their bellies with the Lord's provision of manna and quail and drank water from a holy rock.   The 10 Commandments, the law that governed Israel for many generations to come, was given in the desert.  All of these miraculous signs and wonders would never have been revealed if they had simply crossed the border and taken what was promised to them.

So folks, here we are.  We have seen the Promised Land, but we are not there yet.  There is wilderness between us and our future, and while it is dry, and it is desolate, we take comfort in the fact that is also ordained.  Ordained for our benefit, and for God's glory.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I serve a small God.

Wait!  Don't burn me at the stake just yet....

I have been wrestling through a study on the book of Hosea and it has been both painfully and gloriously enlightening.

One of the shocking self discoveries I have uncovered is this: It is so much easier for me to believe in a Big God, than a small one.

Not sure what I mean?

I'm down with the Big God.  You know, the God that parts seas, demolishes whole towns/armies/people; the God that can create an army out of skeletons, that can send a variety of rather horrible plagues; the God that sends bread from heaven just to feed his favorite children; who can both strike the living dead, and raise the dead to life; the God who can both shut a lion's mouth, and open the belly of a whale; a God who literally stood in the fire with 3 of his followers.

This is a BIG GOD.  Surely this is a God that is worthy of worship, am I right?  

This is a God that inspires awe, and maybe a little bit of fear?

At the end of the day, you want to be on this God's team, because surely this Big God can handle whatever your meager problems are, right?

The God that is harder for me to wrap my mind around is the God of small things.  The God that whispers quiet words of encouragement in my ear; the God that knows the hairs on my head; the God that knit me together in the womb; the God who knows all of my deepest, darkest, scary places, but still pursues me anyway.

Sometimes it seems like two different Gods.

When I am faced with an insurmountable task, I want the Big God.

When the world is too big, and I am too small, I think I'll take the Small One.

Are you ready for a little secret?  It may not come as too much of a surprise, but YOU DON'T HAVE TO CHOOSE.  He is a constant presence, both Big and Small, all you have to do is ask for Him.  Whether you are screaming for Him to rescue you, or whispering for Him to dry your tears, He is there.

Rest in that, dear friends.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Top 10 things I love about my hubby.

Hello, readers.  As I'm sure most of you do not know, yesterday was my hubby's birthday.  What better excuse is there besides a birthday to lavish someone with love and kind words, am I right?

Drumroll, please.

10.  He is an all or nothing kind of guy.
If you know JP at all, you know he gets passionate about a few select things.  But these few select things he is REALLY in to.  For instance, anything related to the Arkansas Razorbacks.  If you have a less than favorable opinion, please keep to yourself, unless you want a quick avenue to hubby's bad side.  Likewise, if you have a positive opinion, please share, because you will quickly become one of his favorite people.

9.  His patience.
I have met very few people who are more patient than my hubby.  He is slow to anger, quick to forgive.  It will be great for our kiddos, as they grow up, but it's also really great for me.  I mess up sometimes, if you didn't know.

8.  His IT-minded-ness.
Despite the fact that I hate technology, my husband is a techie-guru-of sorts.  One of the things I hate most about technology is the fact that it is so undependable.  But with a techie in the house, things do not stay broken for long.  He can either magically fix it with his Jedi skills, or use his secret insider knowledge to get it to someone who can.

7.  He does not know a stranger.
I joke that this man could talk to a brick wall, but it's not that much of a stretch.  Many people who did not know me pre-hubby mistakenly think that I am an extrovert.  Not so.  I am a hopeless introvert who just pretends really well.  JP has brought out my inner people person, and I can now function much better socially....kind of.

6.  He encourages my potential.
My hubby is not someone who expects a spotless house and perfectly home cooked meals every night.  He encourages me to pursue my career, my intellect.

5.  He is not afraid to get his hands dirty.
He is honestly so great at helping out around the house.  He frequently helps with sweeping and vacuuming, cleaning the kitchen or bathroom, helping with laundry, in addition to his man chores of taking out the garbage and mowing the lawn.

4.  His sense of humor.
This is truly one of my very favorite things about him.  He will randomly pop into a conversation with the most random and hilarious one-liners that keep you constantly guessing.  Laughter truly is the best medicine.

3.  He is so hands on with Henry.
Part of the deal with my working every other weekend, is that hubby has to take care of Henry in the evenings.  All by himself.  I know a lot of men that would freak out if left to their own devices with a child, but JP loves having that one-on-one time with Henry.

2.  His love for Henry.
People say you never know how much you love your husband until you see them loving your child.  I can personally attest to this fact.  It continually amazes me that somehow, despite our extraordinary differences, and despite our flaws, God used us to create such a beautiful child.  Loving the entirety of your child means loving your spouse, because your child is half of them.

1.  His love for me.
JP is such a steady source of love for me, that never asks me to be anything other than myself.  There is nothing so attractive as someone who knows all of your crap, and loves you anyway.

There you have it, folks.  I bet now you wish you were married to him.  Well, too bad, because he is MINE.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Top 10 things I do not have all together.

To continue my Tuesday top is a list of some of the things in my life that I do not have altogether.  Lest you be confused, let me remind you that today is Wednesday.  Which is appropriate.  Put days of the week on the list of things I don't have together.

1.  My house.
Yikes!  If you have ever been over to my home, just know that probably 5 minutes before you walked through the door, I was frantically sweeping up ALL OF THE DOG HAIR.  It's amazing.  I could literally sweep my floor every day and somehow come up with enough dog hair to clothe an entire person.  So I just don't.  I let the dust bunnies/piles of dog hair accumulate in corners and on the rug and hopelessly try to keep my son from eating them.

2.  My closet (aka my bedroom floor).
This is probably the one thing that drives my husband crazy, but like the patient husband he is, he rarely says anything about it.  If I'm looking for my favorite new top/skirt/pants, etc., chances are, it's on the floor.  Or draped haphazardly over my dresser.  Oops.

3.  My garden.
I fantasize about a perfectly manicured lawn, lovely, fragrant blooms in our flowerbeds, and a garden of home grown herbs.  This just does not happen.  Our back yard is doomed due to two large sized dogs who insist on running the same paths over and over and over.  Everything else requires a lot of work and attention that frankly, sits at the bottom of my to-do list.  We get notices from our Homeowner's Association frequently, asking us to weed our beds.  I keep talking about ripping everything out and planting some fool proof, Houston-worthy, low maintenance plants, but life happens, and this does not.

4.  Mother's Day Out.
Every time I walk through those doors, I am met with a gallery of women who have it all together.  Or at least look like they do.  Matching lunch pails and backpacks that are monogrammed, perfectly groomed children, and all in either pristine work-wear complete with heels, or some fancy, matching Nike workout clothes that miraculously have no sweat on them.  Henry and I are lucky to be there on time.  And by on time, I mean 5 minutes late.

5.  My mind.
I'm gonna come right out and blame the pregnancy for this one.  I admit, I thought pregnancy brain was possibly one of the biggest hoaxes to ever be believed by the human race.  Until I got pregnant.  I am still looking for my mind, so if anyone finds it, let me know.

6. My sleep.
This fabulous little article came out recently that says that women need more sleep than men.  Boo-yah!  I knew it.  Now, I feel only slightly less guilty that my husband gets up approximately 1.5-2 hours earlier than me.

7.  Motherhood.
If you ever think you've got this motherhood thing down pat, just wait for the other shoe to drop.  Babies, infants, toddlers, children...they are a constant surprise.  Mostly good things.  But teething...honestly, I could do without that.

8.  My books.
Laugh all you want, but this is a big one.  Normally, I am simultaneously reading two books: one fiction, and one non fiction.  As of now, I think I am 1/4-1/2 of the way through like 5 books.  It makes it very confusing to keep the plots straight.

9.  My cooking.
Let me be clear: I do not love cooking.  I enjoy it when I can do it MY WAY.  As in, go to the grocery store with a list that has been double and triple checked.  Pick up only the things that we need, and not forget anything.  Come home to a clean and empty fridge and organize it my way.  Then proceed to cook everything on my menu without anything spoiling.  THIS NEVER HAPPENS.  My husband and I are the worst about making a last minute decision to eat our favorite take out/fast food while perfectly good food sits in the fridge.  Oops.

10.  My health.
I have been sick more this year than any year I can remember.  Maybe it's Henry, who brings home all kinds of germs from church, school, etc.  Maybe it's increased exposure working in the emergency room.  Maybe it's working nights and getting less sleep than I used to.  This really should be #1, because it's the thing I desperately need to get under control.

Despite the fact that my life is a mess, and likely always will be, God is still able to use me in His story.  In fact, I think the messier my life is, the more glory He gets.  Be encouraged that you do not have to have your life all together for God to use you.  If you are feeling a tugging on your heart, just say "Yes!"  Don't wait for your life to come together, because it never will.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Was I afraid?

Confession: I actually wrote this post a couple of months ago right after I got back from Guatemala.  At the time, I thought people might be getting overloaded with Guatemala stories, so I decided to wait to post this....and then life happened and I forgot to ever publish it.  Little did I know that this would be a recurring theme for me that I could walk through again and cling to the faithfulness God showed me in this time.

The biggest question I get asked when people ask about my trip to Guatemala is "Was I afraid?"

It comes in different forms, like...

"Were you afraid to leave your son?"

"Are you afraid to travel to a third world country?"

"Are you afraid of getting sick/catching a disease/contracting malaria....?"

My answer: A big, resounding "YES!"

Let me remind you that I had already been to Guatemala twice before I returned this summer.  Twice.  And I have absolutely no memory of being afraid.  Granted, I was 16 and 17 when I traveled the first two times, so perhaps I was still in those teenage years where I was blissfully unaware of danger and my worst nightmare was that I wouldn't get asked to prom or would wake up with a zit.  Those that know me can probably attest to the fact that I was never really one of those kids that just didn't worry, but I digress.

Before traveling back to Guatemala this year, I was plagued by absolutely crippling, paralyzing, heart-squeezing, hope-crushing FEAR.

I think this fear stemmed from two things:

1.  I legitimately like my life.  I have a wonderful, supportive husband, a beautiful, healthy son, a fulfilling career that I happen to love, and a comfortable living.  This comfortable living that was so hard for me to leave is something I wrestled a lot with once I was in Guatemala...but that's a completely different post.

2.  I'm a Mommy.  While the world sees me as just another somebody, to my little guy, I am his only Mommy.  I was terrified that he would miss me too much, but also that he wouldn't miss me at all.  I dreaded the thought of leaving him behind, but I also dreaded the thought of spending the next few years of my life hiding behind my kids.  I was absolutely panicked at the thought of leaving him without a Mommy, but I also panicked at the thought of being a Mommy who is physically present, but spiritually empty.

I finally came to this conclusion, and it's a tough one.

I was having a conversation with my husband about being afraid, and he point-blank asked me, "What are you afraid of?"

I allowed myself to say the words that had absolutely robbed me of any joy and excitement for Guatemala: "What if I die?"

So we walked through the practical aspects.  I'm serious, y'all.  If you don't have kids, maybe you'll think this is morbid, but we legitimately talked about the financial and legal aspects of what would happen if I died.  I wrote down my physical address while in Guatemala, and we talked through the process of reporting me as a missing person if I just never came back.  We talked through my husband's role as a single father to Henry.  We talked through remarriage.

But we ended on this.  JP said, "Imagine the legacy you would leave for Henry if you died on the mission field."  Out of everything else we talked about, this is what brought me comfort.  As a parent, what better example can I leave for Henry than to give my life for Jesus?

Now, obviously, I did not lose my life.  I'm home, safe and sound.

But as we take the beginning steps towards a brand new, big, scary, exciting journey, I again find myself battling fear and insecurity.  And I rest in the fact that God has brought me through that valley of despair, and that He will not fail to do so again.  I take comfort in the fact that my answer to the toughest of questions a Christian will ever face: "Would you give your life for this?" is YES.

Some people, like the Christians dying in the middle East or missionaries on the front lines in hostile environments, are asked to give their lives all at once.  For most of us, we are asked to give our lives away a piece at a time.

If you had asked me what my life would look like 5 years ago, and especially 10 years ago...this life is not what I would have answered.  My spiritual journey and the small sacrifices I have already made have led me to this place, and I can honestly say, I wouldn't have it any other way.  For every sacrifice God asks you to make, He has something infinitely better for you in store.

"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it."  Matthew 16:25

I hope you find this encouraging and I hope more than anything that you would find the courage to step out in faith to a bigger, scarier life, found in the hope of Jesus.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday Top 10.

In honor of my obsession with lists and to force me to blog on a semi-regular basis, I give you...

Tuesday Top 10!

To catch up with my first (and last) Top 10, hop over to Top 10 Ways to Stay Grounded.

For most of Houston, including our little family of 3, yesterday was Back to School Monday!  I could practically hear the Hallelujah chorus singing in the heavens as millions of mamas dropped their little ones in their respective air conditioned hallways of learning.

In addition to the luxury of a child-less grocery store trip, I am looking forward to a little independent down time where I can devote myself, mind, body and soul to my first and longest love affair.  Reading.


So, without further ado, I give you my....Top 10 Books on my Reading List.

1.  The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.  
I may or may not have accidentally/on purpose gotten myself a pity invite to a friend's book club.  I'm really hoping she remembers she invited me.

2.  A History of Modern Israel by Colin Shindler.
Because who really understands the constant crisis going on in Israel? 

3.  The Locust Effect by Gary A. Haugen.
Super pumped about this one!  I plan on pairing it with this Bible study on justice.

4.  Silence by Shusaku Endo.
Set in 16th century Japan, an historical novel about Portuguese missionaries who travel to Japan during a time of Christian persecution by the hands of Japanese feudal lords.

5.  Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
Written by the first married couple to win the Pulitzer Prize for journalism.

6.  Art Briles: Looking Up: My Journey from Tragedy to Triumph by Nick Eatman.  (Foreword by Robert Griffin III).
Because football.  Sic 'em!

7.  Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.
Life, death and hope in a Mumbai Undercity.

8.  Carry on, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle Melton.
This sounds like a pep talk written just for me.

9.  So What's the Difference? by Fritz Ridenour.
A look at 20 worldviews, faiths and religions and how they compare to Christianity.

10.  If I Stay by Gayle Forman.
Ok, technically I have already read this one, and technically it's teen fiction, but this was just an enjoyable book.  A super quick read about a girl trapped between living and dying and her battle to choose between the two.  As a medical professional, I've heard similar stories of experiences from patients in the throes of death and I just find this to be a fascinating subject packaged in a teen romance novel.  

There you have it, folks.  Happy reading!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mommy guilt

I don't know about all of you mommies out there, but I suffer from a major problem that I'll just call "Mommy guilt."

It is a constant black cloud that follows me around, threatening to rain on my parade.

The minute Henry was born, I became afflicted with this disease.  It started when Henry was less than 24 hours old and the lactation consultant was asking me about my nursing plans.  Knowing I was going back to work, and wanting to set a realistic goal, I told her I wanted to commit to breastfeeding for 3 months, and then re-evaluate at that time.  I could see the judgment in her eyes.  The slight pursing of the lips that communicated that she didn't agree with this decision.

It's this same expression that you'll see on every person that has any involvement in your child's life.  The scrunched eyebrows, feigning concern; the slight eye twitch as they force a smile through their condemnation.  Everyone does it.  Fellow mommies, teachers, check out ladies, family, friends.  I've even recognized the expression on my own face when encountering a parenting idea that isn't to my particular liking.
I am plagued with Mommy guilt right now.  Several months ago, I took advantage of the situation when our nanny quit, and decided to rearrange my schedule, go part time and stay home with Henry.  I am with him all day every day Monday through Friday, and half of the weekends.  I roll myself out of bed after 3, 4, maybe 5 hours of sleep so I don't miss out on anything.  Why?  Because of mommy guilt.

We toured a wonderful Christian school in Pearland that has a Mother's Day Out program several weeks ago.  It had everything we wanted.  A Christian education, loving teachers, small classrooms, and it is about 10 minutes from our house.  Winning!

The minute we walked out the door, it started.  That heavy, oppressive feeling that is mommy guilt.

Is it right for me to send my child to Mother's Day Out, so I can have a few hours to myself?

Is it right for me to miss 10 hours of Henry time every week?

What milestones will I miss?  Walking?  Talking?  

Will he know that I've abandoned him?

Y'all these are not rational thoughts.

I can't tell you how to get over these fears and anxieties because I'm not over them myself.  But I know this: we were not created to live this way.  We were made to live a life encouraged, comforted, loved, not judged, guilty and anxious.

So if you are also suffering from Mommy guilt, practice this with me.  Every time those little voices creep in your head, whispering lies to you, practice speaking these small truths to yourself.

"You're a wonderful Mommy."  "You're the exact Mommy he needs."  "He loves you."  "He needs you."  "You were created perfectly to be his Mommy and no one else's."

Take heart, dear friend.  The days are long, the years are short.  Love and be loved.  Don't waste your time on anything else.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fresh food Friday

And now, for your reading is a look into my mind, my grocery cart, and my kitchen.

Confession: I'm not really a fad person.  Add my medical background to that, and I pretty much hate any fad diet right from the get go.  Anytime there is a new eating philosophy that it is supposed to magically fix everything, I mentally (or actually) roll my eyes.  Not to say there's not good intentions behind each and every one.  

All this to say, I'm a little late on the natural foods band wagon.

I've done a lot of (internet) reading, which these days basically qualifies me as an expert, and I've felt a strong urge to start incorporating these concepts.  Let me save you some time, if you're not up to speed.  There's some evidence that processed foods have very negative effects on our bodies: from cancer to heart disease to ADD, there are articles linking artificial everything to each and every physical/mental/emotional/psychological problem.

So, here are the things that we are trying to stick to in the Johnson household:

1.  Try to stay on the outside of the grocery store.
This means mostly fresh produce, meat and dairy.  I do saunter into the scary middle aisles for a few things like all natural peanut butter, rice, etc.

2.  Read the label.
For those things that come out of the middle aisles, if the ingredient list has more than 5 ingredients, it's probably not going in our cart.

3.  No artificial sugars.
I gave up the Diet Dr. Peppers when I was pregnant, but they tempt me every now and again.  Sometimes I just splurge for the actual thing, but this is mostly when I'm needing a caffeine pick me up at work.

4.  Avoid fast food.
Restaurants aren't always much better, but at least you can imagine your food is cooked to order instead of sitting under a heat lamp.

So what does this all look like?

Here's an example of our menu list this week:

Mediterranean Pasta
Cilantro Lime Chicken with Tomato and Avocado Salsa and Cilantro Lime Rice
Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup with Greek Salad (and homemade Greek Dressing)
Oven Roasted Citrus and Herb Chicken with Vegetable Rice and Green Beans
Tuscan Chicken Skillet and Caprese Salad
Greek Chicken with Couscous Tabbouleh and Greek Salad

Yum!  We have been very happy with our food choices and are loving the abundance of fresh food in our fridge.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

I hate change

...and how I threw a huge stinkin' fit over a computer.

I am writing this post from a  I should be happy, right?  I should be drooling over its new features and spending way too much time customizing it to my liking.  Except that I hate it. 

I don't hate the actual computer so much as I hate the concept of a new computer.  My old computer was 6 years old.  Practically Stone Age, huh?  It took me through our first years of marriage, PA school, pregnancy, Henry's birth and four Houston 1:8's.  It had countless pictures, documents, spreadsheets, etc.  (So much, that I was actually close to capacity and didn't know it...who would have thought?)  I could type the first two letters of any of my frequently visited websites and it knew what I wanted.  And now I will take a moment to shed a single tear over its loss.

Picture this: Henry was down for his morning nap, which is my time to watch a Gilmore Girls rerun, check email and spend some time on Good Ol' Faithful.  I was done perusing various blogs and websites and had no email to return, so I casually set my computer on the back of the couch where it meets the wall...I know, I know.  Not the best idea, but this is where it has been for literally months, if not years.  And all of a sudden...WHAM!  It fell to the ground with a sickening crash.  After quickly making sure the baby was still asleep (which is the most important thing after all), I reached down the wall to pick up the computer and prayed a silent prayer. 

All I got was a continuous loading know that blue Windows screen that shows a circle going around and around and around?

So I grabbed my phone and frantically called my technically-minded husband.  I was FREAKING OUT.

"All of Henry's pictures are on there!"

"All of my contacts are on there!"

"All of our Sunblossom documents are on there!"

Despite the fact that he assured me he could recover the data even if the computer wouldn't turn on, I was just beyond consolation.

Henry woke up about this time and I was literally weeping.  I took Henry his milk and my shoulders were silently shaking while he gulped his milk.  He took one look at my crying face and started LAUGHING.  See?  Even my one year old thinks I'm ridiculous!

All this to say, everything is safe and recovered and transferred to a brand new computer.  I know, I bet you were glued to the edge of your seat wondering, right?

So, learn from my mistakes, people.

1.  Back up your dang hard drive! 
2.  Don't perch your computer on the precarious edge of the couch.
3.  Have someone in your life that can fix your technical computer issues.  If it's your husband, good for you, you married up!

So, take note of the fact that this ridiculous post immediately follows a post about staying grounded.  Irony, anyone?

Yes I'm still a human, living in the first world, suffering first world problems.  This is perhaps the hardest lesson of all.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Top 10 ways to stay grounded a culture that is all about selfishness and greed.

1.  Eat only when you're hungry.
It dawned on me last week when I was fasting during lunch, how much I eat when I'm not even hungry.  I'm not naive, readers.  I know that food I don't eat doesn't go directly to starving children.  But we are looking at our grocery budget, and considering donating the money we save.  It's amazing to me that for around $40 per month, you can feed, educate and minister to a child in a 3rd world country through Compassion International.  

2.  Consider passing up the latest and greatest and settling for what you already have.
Do you really NEED the newest edition of everything?  Could you skip this year and wait until the next upgrade?  I am still rocking my iPhone 4S and although I am impatient with it at times, it works just fine and gives me more technology than I can handle, honestly.

3.  If you're a believer, recognize that your stuff isn't really yours.
I keep remembering a missionary we stayed with in Guatemala who kept reminding us while we invaded their home, that nothing we saw belonged to them.  Not only is this a great motto for hospitality, it puts things in eternal perspective.

4.  As much as I love house decorating, it's just eye candy, y'all.
I couldn't say it any better than this article, right here.

5.  Teach your children (and yourself) to wait.
We have been noticing a new quality developing in Henry...a little thing called impatience.  Now that he is able to communicate what he wants, he gets frustrated if he doesn't get it right. that. second.  It's easy to laugh at him and his feeble little infant mind, until you realize that we are programmed exactly the same way.

6.  Clean out your closet.
Needing something new to wear?  Clean something out of your closet first,  One thing in, one thing out.  Are you frustrated with a household appliance and really want an upgrade?  Donate your old one as you purchase a new one.  I know lots of refugee ladies that would love home furnishings or appliances.

7.  Get out of the country.  
Mission trip, vacation, it honestly doesn't matter.  You can't fully appreciate how much luxury we have in the US until you leave.

8.  Stay up to date on current issues.  
I am a fan of the international section in the NYT and follow CNN on my newsfeed.  While there is certainly some fluff to sort through, it might change your perspective on your current meltdown once you realize that there are real problems out there.  This ISIS crisis?  I can't handle it, y'all.  I have no words.  There is no better way to keep life in perspective than reading about children being decapitated.

9.  Understand your purchasing power.
Consider buying things that pay living wages and are purchased through fair trade.  You can find amazing jewelry that supports international artisans here and here.  I'm not much of a coffee or chocolate addict, but these are some of the most exploited goods in the world.  For more info, see  

10.  Last, but not least, you aren't the answer for the all of the world's problems.
Seriously, don't get weighed down over this.  This is meant as encouragement only.  Jesus himself said we would always have the poor among us.  Recognize that you are only one person, and you can't do it all.  You can't care about every issue.  Denying yourself everything won't cure the world's problems.  

That's all I've got, folks.  I don't pretend to be an expert, and I am humbled by my own list, but our family is a work in progress.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Are you in need of a spiritual pep talk?

I loosely follow Beth Moore's blog, so when I found out she was doing a new summer Bible study, I was encouraged to study alongside her.  I reached out to some friends, and a new(ish) friend offered to do it with me and I was so excited!

Beth Moore is not my absolute favorite, but I have enjoyed several of her studies, and I love the camaraderie she promotes among women.  Being a mama has shown me a HUGE need for female companionship that I frankly never knew was there.

So when I saw that her study was on 1 and 2 Thessalonians, I figured this study would be a great one for me to jump in on.  I mean, who really knows anything about 1 and 2 Thessalonians?  Well, now that I am about 3/4 of the way through the study, I can proudly say "This girl!"

Today's study was light and fluffy...which is great because I have been feeling tired and heavy.  There wasn't a lot of word study, examining the original Greek, or deep spiritual concepts to unpack.  The following verses are just a great go-to if you feel stuck in your walk, if you're feeling discouraged, or if you just need a little reminder of why we're all here.

So here goes...

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
"Rejoice always! Pray constantly.  Give thanks in everything, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.  Don't stifle the Spirit.  Don't despise prophecies, but test all things.  Hold on to what is good.  Stay away from any kind of evil."

As a checklist-kind-of-a-woman, these verses just really jive with me.  

Not that any of these exhortations are easy.  If this were translated into Megan-ese, it would read more like, "Rejoice sometimes, pray when you feel like it, give thanks when you remember."


So enjoy some light reading, friend, and I hope that you feel a bit encouraged today.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Why I run.

Confession: I am a runner.
Disclaimer: I am not a fast runner.

I only became interested in running about 6 years ago when we moved to Houston and I needed something to keep me active and in shape.  What is cheaper and easier than running outside?  It doesn't require anything but a pair of running shoes and a good playlist.  No monthly fees.  No expensive equipment.  No teammates.  Just you and the open road.

I started out HATING running.  When I started, I could barely run a mile.  Truthfully.  But I kept going.

Gradually we developed a love/hate relationship.  I hated to start running, but always loved the way it made me feel afterward.

Then I LIKED running.  I was running several times a week and it started getting easier.

Then I became ADDICTED to running.  A runner's high is a real thing.  I actually crave running when it's been several days since my last run.

What started as an easy way to keep active turned into a lifestyle of sorts.  These days, I run for many reasons.

I run because I can, in recognition of all those who can't.

I run because although there is some temporary discomfort, it is also extremely cathartic.

I run because it builds confidence.

I run because it's something I can do uniquely for myself.

I run because I like it.

I run because finishing a goal or setting a personal record makes me feel accomplished.

Finally, I run because I support Sabeena.

I support Sabeena, and I support her family, As Our Own.

I run so that she can LEARN.

I run so that she can BE SAFE.

I run for her EMPOWERMENT.

I run so that she can HAVE A FAMILY.

I run so that she can HAVE A FUTURE.

I run so that she can KNOW LOVE.

Would you be willing to support Sabeena?

Would you be willing to support a young girl who was rescued from a certain life of prostitution or sex trafficking and now dreams of becoming a teacher?

I'm not asking you to support me.  I'm asking you to consider supporting a young girl who was orphaned but now belongs to a family.  I'm asking you to invest in her future, and in the future many other young orphaned girls in India, and for the future of India.

So check it out.  You're not supporting a cause, you are supporting a LIFE.

So, dear friend, join me.  Consider praying for her, supporting her, running for her.

Why do YOU run?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Henry's 1st birthday party!

A few months ago, when we began planning little man's birthday party, we considered staying in Houston to party with friends.  Think about pictures of your first birthday--you were probably surrounded by your extended family, yes?  Well we wanted the same for our little man.

What a whirlwind of a weekend!

We left Thursday afternoon and made the 8 hour drive to Tulsa, making it just before midnight.  Luckily, Henry managed to sleep pretty soundly the last few hours in the car.  Friday we spend the day with various members of our family, and even managed to sneak in a lunch at Charleston's--the place where JP and I met.  Saturday was busy getting ready for the party.  We had decorations and balloons to buy, cupcakes to pick up.  Everyone came over around 4, and we started off with cupcakes.

Henry didn't quite know what to think about the cupcakes.  He started with a bite of icing, and while I'm sure he liked the taste, he wasn't crazy about the icing on his fingers.

We moved on to the vanilla cake, which he had a few bites of before deciding he really wasn't interested.  Granted, there were about 20 people watching every bite and giggling over every facial expression, so I'm sure he was a little bit intimidated.

We gave him a few pieces of chocolate cake, and he seemed to like it better.

After cake, we went for a swim, Henry's favorite pastime these days.  Somehow we managed to not capture this part of the party on film.

After swimming, we opened presents.  What a lucky boy!  Henry scored pretty big this year!  It was hard to keep his attention between presents, because he wanted to play with each toy as he opened them.  He did a great job opening presents that were in bags, but hasn't quite mastered the art of ripping wrapping paper yet. 

By far his favorite present was a bouncy ball from his Gramma and Grampa.  

It's the simple things, really.

The next day, we got up early and hit the road for the 8 hour drive back to Houston.

We arrived home very tired, but so glad that we were able to celebrate Henry's first birthday surrounded by so many loved ones.

How about some cake in your eyebrows, Gramma?

 Thanks everyone for helping to make Henry's day so special!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

1 year.

Whoa, Henry.

1 year.  52 weeks.  365 days.  525,600 minutes.

One year ago today, Mama was in labor, and we were both eagerly anticipating your arrival.

I don't think I will ever be able to fully communicate the feelings and emotions that are jumbling around in my heart right will just have to learn for yourself when you are a Daddy...ok, now the floodgates have opened.

Time has no meaning to me anymore.  How is it possible that this year has both flown by and crept by, simultaneously so joyful, yet painful.

Those first days were a whirlwind of sleep deprived insanity.
Those first days where you slept on my chest, almost incessantly, and I vowed not to even breathe, so as not to disturb you.
Those first weeks of 10 feedings a day averaged 2.5 hours apart and VERY LITTLE sleeping.
Those first sweet smiles on your face that told me you would forever have me wrapped around your finger.
Those first months of fighting your naps, tooth and nail, and me, frantically calling your father to come FIX YOU.
The first time you slept all night in your bed and we finally felt like we had our marriage back.
The first time you grabbed my finger in the palm of your hand.
The first time you smiled at me, on purpose.
The first time you sat, crawled, stood, took tiny baby steps.
The first time I spanked your hand because you stuck your finger in a (baby-proofed) electrical outlet, and you didn't shed a tear, but I cried my eyes out.
Your first Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, 4th of July...countless holidays that meant absolutely nothing to me until I had you.
The first time you said Mama, and meant it.

Sweet baby, I will never be able to tell you how much I love you.

Like so many things in life, often the best things, you will just have to take it on faith.

I know that we have many trials ahead of us.  I know that things won't get easier.  I know that there will be times that we don't like each other.  I know that we will have to take turns being both teacher and student, learning from each other as we go.

But I also know that I couldn't choose a better kiddo to do all of these things with.

So, dear, sweet little one, take your time growing up.  We have much to look forward to.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Our family's foray into homemade baby food.

So I'm just gonna put this out there: I'm not really an all-natural kinda girl.  My groceries are not all organic, I have never been to Trader Joe's, and my guilty pleasure is Ramen know, the block of noodles with the extra salty packet of flavoring?  I may or may not have eaten two today.

It wasn't until we got pregnant that I even put much thought into what I put in my body, because, well, I wasn't just eating for myself anymore.  I did a lot of reading on the do's and don't's of pregnancy diets and came up with a list that I can easily follow.  I tried to avoid nitrates, I tried to eat organic, I definitely avoided lunch meat, etc.

Then Henry was born and everything is just about survival.  Fast food probably makes up at least two meals of our week.  I breastfed for as long as I could, and although I wanted to go longer, there's not much you can do with a biting child armed with teeth.  When we introduced solid foods to Henry, it honestly never occurred to me to make his food at home. I was working full time hours, and my at home time was spent snuggling Henry as close as possible.  I carelessly brushed off the thought with the age-old excuse: "I don't have time."

It hit me one day as I was reading the ingredients on Henry's baby food.  I was originally looking at the ingredients for mixed vegetables, trying to determine if Henry had been introduced to all of the vegetables in the mix--you know, so we can introduce foods only one at a time.  And my curiosity got the best of me and I continued until I had read the ingredients on all of his food.  To my surprise, many of the fruits had citric acid in it.  I understand the reasoning--most of us know that lemon juice keeps food from browning and who wants to buy brown banana puree?  But I was confused--I had read that citrus foods should not be introduced until after one year, but here was citric acid in baby food meant for a 4-6 month old.

And then, I went part time, and let's be honest--I needed something to save me from sitting around doing nothing during Henry's naps.

Another factor was totalling up how much we were spending on Henry's food per month.  Between feeding him 4-5 baby food containers and 4-5 bottles of formula per day, we were spending about $300 per month on baby food.  The formula we can't do anything about other than look for the best deals possible (which happens to be Sam's in case you are wondering), but the baby food we thought we could save on.

That's the extent of the thought process, and BOOM!  We had entered the world of homemade baby food.

I added some websites to my favorites bar, and downloaded a couple of books on the subject, bought our first fruits and veggies, some baby food jars, and we were on our way.

On the first day, I decided to try steamed apples.  I bought a cute little steamer you can slip in the microwave to cut down on steaming time, and in 1 minute, VOILA!  I had steamed apples.  I also steamed the heck out of my thumb when I took said steamer out of the microwave--ouch!  Lesson learned.  I used the accompanying masher (if that's what it's called) and mashed the apples to a nice pulp.  Or so I thought.  When I fed this pulp to Henry at dinner, he promptly spit out every single bite I fed him.  Fail #1.

The next day, I decided to go with avocados.  Henry had never had these before, but everyone says babies love them.  So I mashed them up until it looked like guacamole, and sat down to dinner.  Henry seemed to like the taste fine, but made quite an hysterical face at the texture.  Every other bite seemed to cause a small gagging fit, but I figured he would get used to the texture as we continued.  Wrong.  Not 10 minutes later, after one such gagging fit, he proceeded to projectile vomit his entire dinner.  Fail #2.

Several days later, in an attempt to add some protein to Henry's diet at the urging of his pediatrician, I decided to try scrambled eggs.  She encouraged us to try hard boiled egg yolk mixed in something he enjoys.  So I picked his favorite fruit, pears, and mixed in some hard boiled egg yolk.  It looked awful, smelled awful, and I'm sure it tasted awful.  I was right.  Henry refused to eat it, and the bites I was able to shove in his mouth were promptly spit right back out.  Fail #3.

So I figured it was just the boiling of the egg that was the problem.  The next day I mixed some formula into scrambled egg yolk and served it up.  I don't know if it was the formula, or the fact that it was missing the egg white, but the scrambled eggs that resulted were not the light yellow, fluffy consistency that I am used to seeing.  Instead, it was a gritty, orange mixture that was barely in solid form.  I fed it to Henry anyway, but put it on his tray so he could try to feed himself.  He definitely enjoyed rubbing his hands in it, and definitely enjoyed feeding it to the dogs, but I'm not sure so much as a handful ended up in his mouth.  Fail #4.

This stuff is harder than it looks.

So after months of trying and failing, we have finally come up with things that Henry loves.

We try to keep it simple, mostly just single fruit and vegetable purees.  Sometimes we mix it up and combine some fruits and/or veggies, and that's gone ok too.

We figured out that Henry does not like chicken puree--it doesn't really puree very well and ends up really dry and gritty, but when we mix it with bananas, apples or sweet potatoes, he really likes it.

So, if you are considering making your own food, here are a few tips that we learned the hard way:

1.  The blender seems to puree better than the food processor...give it a try.
2.  Don't be afraid to use a lot of water.  Depending on how big of a batch you're making, I have found you need about 1/2 of a cup of water added to reach the most edible consistency.
3.  Read up on the DIRTY DOZEN.  Buying everything organic can get expensive, so this is a great way to know which you should buy organic, and which you can buy "contaminated."
4.  Go with the multi-portion trays, versus baby food jars.  THESE are our favorites.  It's so much easier to make a big batch and pop out a serving when you need it, versus constantly washing single serve portions.
5.  The longest part is the prep work.  Peeling, chopping, coring.  Give yourself a couple of hours to dice and slice everything and then try to cook everything at once.  Between steaming, boiling, and baking, you can cook multiple things at once.  For instance: you can boil apples directly in a pot, while you bake peaches in the oven, while steaming blueberries in the microwave.  After 20 minutes, you have three fruits ready to go instead of cooking one at a time.

6.  Don't be afraid to enlist the help of your husband.  Making baby food is not hard--it's not even cooking, really.  JP has done a great job in this department.

So there you have it, folks.  I hope this has inspired you (rather than scared you) to give it a go!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Houston 1:8

Brace's a long one.

For the past four years, the week after July 4th has been one of the busiest, most stressful weeks of our year.  But it is also one of the happiest, most fulfilling weeks.

It is the week of Houston Project, now called Houston 1:8.

For those that don't know, Houston 1:8 is our church's mission trip to our city.  There are multiple sites across the city that minister to the many people of Houston.

I'd love to share with y'all a little bit of our personal history with Houston 1:8.

We first heard about Houston 1:8 about 4 years ago.  We heard an announcement in our Life Bible Study about volunteering, but we tuned it out.  We were "too busy."  For the next year, it's important to note that we felt no guilt, we didn't feel anything missing.  We weren't aware that we had missed out on an opportunity.  We opted out of joining forces with our Mighty God to reach our city.  I am certain we opted out of His blessing, because we have seen so many wonderful things happen in the subsequent 3 years.

The next year, we were approached by a couple in our Life Bible Study and asked if we would like to assist them in coordinating a Houston 1:8 site.  They explained that they were pondering moving to another city, and would like to hand over the site in the future, but that they would allow us to partner with them so they could train us for the future.  Ha, what a joke!  Several weeks later, we found out that they had the opportunity to move much sooner than expected, so we were quickly promoted from assistant site leaders to THE site leaders.  We were surprised, we were stressed, but we were also sure it was too late to back out.  That year was a wonderful learning year for us.  We learned many wonderful lessons in servant leadership, and were blessed to work with an inner city church trying to reach its surrounding neighborhood.

2 months after Houston 1:8 ended, we enrolled in Perspectives.  This class forever changed the way that we view the world as Christians, and we became passionate about unreached people.

The next July, we found out that there were two new sites needing leaders, and we were given the opportunity to choose between another inner city church, or an apartment complex comprised of international refugees.  We quickly jumped at the chance to lead the refugee site as soon as we heard the word "international."  We were not familiar with refugee status, and had so much to learn about the particular needs and challenges of what it means to be a refugee.  We were able to partner with a local Bhutanese church, that incurred so much growth that they are able to sustain a church that can reach their own complex.  Amazing!

The next July, there was yet another new site being developed.  This site, Sunblossom Mountain Apartments, housed Bhutanese, Burmese and Nepali refugees and was a huge complex without a flourishing church.  By this time, we felt like we were "pros" at leading Houston 1:8 sites, and felt confident that we were well prepared.  Wrong!  On our first day, we fed 400+ people!  We ran out of food, so that our volunteers didn't even get a chance to eat, poor things.  We could not believe the turnout.  Each night we had 200-250 kids involved in VBS, and many youth and adults in their respective activities.  After the week ended, we felt an enormous burden on our hearts.  How could we leave this many people without a church?  When would they next hear the name of Jesus?

So we prayed.  We brainstormed.  We prayed some more.  And we felt like the Lord was leading us to start a semi-monthly kids' ministry so that we could continue to build relationships with these kids and teach them about Jesus.  Each week, we would spend two hours playing, reading Bible stories, singing songs, coloring, and passing out a lot of snacks and juice boxes.  Each week, we had anywhere from 30-50 kiddos that came out to play and hear about the Bible.

So this year, we were even more excited to get to come back.  Over the last year, Sunblossom has become a habit for us.  I don't mean to say that it is something we do thoughtlessly, but this complex has become a home-away-from-home of sorts.  We have gotten over our culture shock.  Our fear.  Our anxiety.  Our worries.  If there's anything the Lord has taught us these past four years, it is that He is faithful, and that He provides.

This year was no exception.  We had a wonderful turnout of kids, and were able to build on the knowledge they have been learning for the past year.  Kids were poring over the Bibles, learning scripture memory verses, and learning how to read the Bible for themselves.

We had an awesome women's ministry, where each night 25-30 women came to hear about Jesus and make a spiritually relevant craft.

We had an amazing turnout in youth boys, which I'm sure is mostly due to World Cup fever and the soccer that we played with them.

We had a consistent group of youth girls that were hungry for knowledge about Jesus.

We fed everyone, and passed out a. lot. of. sno-cones.

The last night, we had a wonderful speaker who delivered the Gospel message so powerfully.  People were sitting on their apartment balconies, completely engaged in his message.

What an amazing week!  We are physically tired, we are glad for a respite from all of our planning, but more than anything we are encouraged and excited to continue to trust in the Lord for His presence at this apartment complex.

 By far my favorite part of this week is the legacy that we are leaving for our family.  My younger brother, Jordan, has joined us for 3 years for Houston 1:8 and this has become a special time for him.  This was Henry's first official Houston 1:8 out of the womb, and we were so excited to see him smiling and interacting with refugee kids and moms.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What do refugees (in Houston) look like?

Y'all...I am blown away at the imagination of Our Creator.

Spending significant time this past year at an apartment complex in Houston comprised mostly of refugees has shown me the incredible display of God's creation.  As soon as you step in the gates of the complex, you immediately have a sense of being in a foreign country.  Where am I?!  You are surrounded by brightly colored clothing and head wraps.  You are confronted with a people that look quite different than the mostly Caucasian community that surrounds the complex.

We do a lot of talking and teaching about refugees in Houston.  It all sounds SO SCARY.  Genocide?  War?  Persecution?  Refugee camps?  These aren't pretty topics.  It's so much easier to hide behind words like safety and comfort instead of coming face to face with people who have suffered at the hands of their countrymen.  

It only takes half of a second to actually engage with these faces to see that they are beautiful, loveable people.  

Their kids love to play just like our kids.

They love to eat.

They love to be silly.

The only thing that separates us from them is where we were born.  But now, they are here, in our country.  Let's be good hosts and hostesses and welcome them with open arms of love.  I'm so blessed and honored to have worked with such a great group of people to love on these refugees.  I am so excited to see what God has in store for the last night of Houston 1:8!