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Reflections

Three Ways Sappy Stuff Sticks and One Fantastic Challenge

Well, my granddaughter left. Who knew a whirlwind could be such fun? I did very few chores, while she was here, which weren’t related to her care. Since my daughter and grandson are about to arrive for a few days, I decided to tend to my tasks ahead of time.

To that end, I was out sweeping my long driveway early this morning. We’ve had some incredible windstorms as well as the beautiful monsoons. This amazing weather makes a mess of whatever lies below the trees. Pine and oak particles almost completely hid the concrete from view.

About halfway through my job, I noticed that many sticks and leaves were stuck to the cement. I adjusted my sweeping motion to pry them loose, but some just wouldn’t budge. I leaned on my broom for a second and a little voice inside my head said, “the sappy stuff sticks”.

The sappy stuff sticks, while the dry and hard stuff brushes easily aside!

A pine tree with inner trunk and sap exposed
The sap in a pine tree is plenteous and sticky! I suspect our backyard porcupine ate the outer layer off this trunk, exposing the sap inside. Can you see it glistening?

Ah, I see! “The sappy stuff sticks, while the dry and hard stuff brushes easily aside”, I repeated to myself. Suddenly a thought process unfolded and I understood three ways this is true and one fantastic challenge!

Three ways the sticky sap stuff rings relevant:

1. This is why I’ve had a hard time with my devotions lately.

I’ve been reading in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. I’m into Joshua now, but I’m still struggling. There is a lot of repetition, chronology, and law. I know it is important. God put it in His Word intentionally. Some of it is downright fascinating even! But my mind wanders in these passages.

I would rather read about Jesus healing people and loving on the least likely. My thoughts breeze ahead in the pages to valiant heroes and poems of praise. The sappy stuff sticks, while the dry and hard stuff easily brushes aside.

2. This is why so many clamor to this trend of following Jesus while rejecting God.

I’ve noticed that Jesus has become trendy. Have you seen it? He was accepting of everyone, humble, and full of compassion. Pretty much everybody can rally around a deity like that these days! Problem is, it is only half the story. Jesus accepted everyone as they were, but they couldn’t stay as they were. Their encounters with Him changed them. They either bowed in repentance and reverence or they ultimately rejected Him.

“‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

Jesus, Matthew 7:21

Jesus was humble and compassionate in his role as King of Heaven on Earth, but He is also part of the triune God. He was present in Genesis 1:1 and all the way through the Old Testament. We cannot honor Jesus and reject God. Jesus is God. But the sappy stuff sticks, while the dry and hard stuff easily brushes aside.

“I and the Father are one.”

Jesus, John 10:30

3. This is how social media, Hallmark, and advertisements choose their content.

Can you imagine a movie about real daily living? The part where dust accumulates, people battle cravings, and new shoes cause blisters? Or an ad about fainting in line at Disney or falling asleep at the museum?

This is real life! But no, the parts we see on the screen are the minutia – the moments people fall in love, are happily surprised, and overcome with joy. The sappy stuff sticks, while the dry and hard stuff easily brushes aside.

One fantastic challenge:

It was as if Jesus were out there sweeping with me and pointing out all these things. It was incredibly encouraging! You know why? Because, in this context, it was the dry and hard stuff that I appreciated the most. It was the satisfying part of my job. It brushed easily away while the wet and sappy stuff stuck.

I think Jesus wanted to challenge me to give credit where it is due. The dry and hard stuff has its merit. I need it. It provides fantastic balance.

And somehow, being reminded by Jesus to appreciate the dry and hard stuff was a sappy experience. It is just the way my heart feels when I talk to Him. I’m sure the lesson will stick with me for a good long time.

Hopefully this lesson is so sappy it sticks for you too! I know you’re dealing with dry and hard stuff. It is there for a reason. Lean in, my friend. Ask Jesus to meet you in it.

I want to challenge you – if you haven’t already, get to know Him for Who He truly is – Almighty God. It means everything to realize that the God of the Universe, of the Old Testament and New, wants a relationship with you. He desires to know you and be known by you. Please, let that sappy stuff stick!

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Recommendations

Choose Foods That Will Make You Feel Better

Hello, my precious friends! I hope you’re feeling sunny and bright on this wonderful day. But even if not, I’m so glad you’re here!

What I have to share might help with some physical, mental, and emotional angst we’re carrying. Much of it is likely linked to what we’re eating. Why not choose foods that will make us feel better?

I want to choose better foods to address three specific areas of interest

1. Brain Cognition

If you read my last post, you know I have been dealing with brain fog. It has been interesting. You all have been so supportive and kind. I really appreciate your encouragement and prayers! I have been doing some research and reading up on things that can help with clarity of thought. I’ve been specifically focusing on which foods I should choose for better brain cognition.

2. Lower Cholesterol

I conducted a similar study awhile back when I received lab results indicating unexpectedly high cholesterol. I wanted to do better. I discovered that I could choose foods which would lower the numbers.

It was a chaotic time in my life and instead of making the necessary changes, I put my research in a file for a later date. My most recent lab tests revealed that my cholesterol is still a problem. No surprise there since I never really addressed it.

3. Gut Health

Another interest (just pure fascination), which has caused me to study food choice, is gut health. I’m learning about foods in both probiotic and prebiotic categories. By maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, we can counter much of the inflammation from which we suffer. I’m not an expert, by any means. I’ve just done some digging and saved the information I’ve gathered into my growing file of findings.

microbiome: noun / the microorganisms in a particular environment (including the body or a part of the body).

Dictionary.com

An overlap in the research results?

Was there a significant overlap in the suggested diets for these three areas of interest, or was it my imagination? This week, I finally sat down and opened my fat file to pull my research together. I charted it into a concise cheat sheet with the goal of centering my diet on these healing foods. I also wanted to share it with you because life is beautiful, and we enjoy it most when we are feeling our best!

A chart illustrating the overlap of suggested foods to eat for enhancing cholesterol levels, brain cognition, and gut health
Choose foods that will help you feel better! Here is a cheat sheet.

I put the foods which I read could help lower dangerous LDL cholesterol into the blue circle. (Some of them can also boost the helpful HDL cholesterol while they’re at it!) The teal ring encapsulates foods which have been found to assist with brain cognition. The foods in the purple circle are said to improve gut health.

There really is a large overlap! The foods that are known to be good for all three areas of interest are nuts, seeds, whole grains, vegetables, green tea, fruits, and soy products. These are in the center where the circles converge. Choosing these over other things can help you feel relief from several ailments at once!

The graph also logs foods which have been shown to help with one area of concern or overlap on two of them. Around the edges of the illustration, I have listed the specific items I found mentioned under some broader category headings. For instance, “whole grains” are widely touted, but specifically, I saw oats, bran, quinoa, and brown rice repeated in my research.

A few disclosures

I cannot certify that these findings are proven or complete. This is just a compilation of what I read, from sources I consider to be reputable. I plan to use it as a tool for my own meal planning and thought you might be interested as well.

Full disclosure – One of my granddaughters is visiting for a couple weeks and my grandson will arrive just after she leaves. Summers and grandkids pretty much require ice cream dates and other treats which are not on this list. They yield a different kind of wonderful feeling and I’m all here for it while I can be! I will embrace these ingredients completely in my daily menus next month.

But I’m looking forward to mid-July to see if I begin to feel better. I will eat with intention and keep you posted. There, now I’ve said it “out loud” and I welcome the accountability!

Use the cheat sheet in any way that is helpful

How about you? Have you noticed a correlation between your quality of life, sense of wellness, and your diet? Do you choose foods based on what will make you feel better? Are you interested in any of the categories I’ve studied? If so, please feel free to save, print, share, or do whatever you like with this chart I’ve made. Here’s to better health for us all!

One more thing…

P.S. one last thought. I called these foods “healing” because of the benefits they offer to our physical bodies. But they are only so because they were designed and given to us by an All-Powerful God who is Jehovah Rapha, our Great Physician. He is our Creator, Healer, Life Giver, and Sustainer.

Never do I want to elevate the created thing above the Creator. My faith is in God. He is the Good Father who gives good gifts. Healthy food is one of those gifts, given for our enjoyment and benefit. So is the gift of taste. I’m incredibly thankful for the creativity in His provision, aren’t you? All glory to God by Whom we are enabled to live well, eat well, and be well!

Categories
Emotions

Living a Heart-Rock Life in a Proven Hard-Knock World

It’s the hard-knock life! I’m sure you’ve heard the sentiment, made famous by the popular Broadway musical “Annie”. It is relatable as it focuses on the difficulties of living.

Empty belly life

Rotten smelly life

Full of sorrow life

No tomorrow life

Excerpted from the lyrics of “It’s the Hard-Knock Life” by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin

I went to the store last night and found the price of eggs has TRIPLED in the last couple of weeks. So much for inexpensive protein! Empty belly life? Not quite. But I briefly considered a chicken coop in my small space, which could make for a more rotten smelly life for sure!

Jokes aside, this world is full of tribulation, and it is easy to get focused on the hard knocks. But God.

“In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33b

Have you noticed the lens through which you look at life can be changed dramatically by a few hard knocks? I have! My optimistic nature which typically notices blessings and beauty can flip on its pessimistic head and suddenly the struggles loom larger than anything else.

I was out walking a few weeks back and I was burdened by some hard knocks. My fur-baby had died (you can read about that here) and it was lonely to be on a walk without him. I had also received some pressing news about a loved one which weighed on me. I’m sure you know the feeling.

I was in an area where my dog had loved to sniff around. My heart was heavy. My footsteps felt labored. My eyes were downcast.

God knew it and He met me there. We don’t have a God who says, “Eyes up! You know better. When you pull yourself together and look at me, I have something to show you.” No, He gets in our line of sight and attracts our focus to Himself. From there, He lifts our heads.

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts up my head.”

Psalm 3:3

With my head hanging and my gaze downward, I saw this:

A grey heart-shaped rock on a bed of red gravel and pine needles.
Hard-knocks are real, but so are heart-rocks!

I’ve been on the lookout for hearts in creation. It began in January with Valentines from God. I started a photo challenge and boy, have I been feeling the love ever since!

On this day, Jesus reminded me that hard-knocks are real, yes, but so are heart-rocks. In other words, the struggle is great, but He is greater. I feel burdened but He is there, offering encouragement and aid.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

It’s the heart-rock life for us! We walk through the hard knocks with a Savior who loves us. He has promised perfection in Heaven and, if we have accepted it, He is personally escorting us there. He keeps us going; encouraging us when we’re down, giving us strength when we’re weary, and carrying us when we can’t muster another step.

Are your eyes open to the figurative, and maybe even literal, heart rocks our God places around you? He is Love. Any token of Himself to which He draws our attention should remind us of His affection toward us.

When we start to dwell too much on the hard knocks of this broken world, may we refocus on the heart rocks He offers along the way !

Will you be on the watch for hearts from God? When you see one in the clouds, shadows, trees, rocks, or anywhere, snap a quick photo and share it! Be sure to link back to the original Photo Challenge post so we can gather them all in one place.

Be blessed today, my friend. Time has proven there will always be hard-knocks in this world. What kinds of struggles are you facing? It would be my honor to pray for you.

Together, we can give our tribulations to the one who has over come them. Because of Jesus, it’s the heart-rock life for us! May His joy and peace be with you.

Categories
Emotions

A Gift of Love from God’s Heart is Special Anytime!

Hello everyone! I hope you’re feeling loved today! Because, you know what? You are! Think about this for a minute…

Jesus, Creator of the whole universe, loves you so much that even if you were the only person on earth, He would have willingly died on the cross to make a way to spend eternity with you.

“He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed. For ‘you were like sheep going astray,’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

1 Peter 2:24, 25

I really believe that! I don’t understand it… but I believe it! I was telling my husband the other day that it makes no sense to me that God is so enamored with His human creation. We are ridiculous, are we not? And yet, we cannot even fathom the depth of His love for us!

“How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure”

Stuart Townend

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38, 39

At the end of January, I proposed a photo challenge related to Valentines from God. Click here to see that original post. Since then, I’ve been finding hearts in all kinds of places.

Let’s be honest, all of nature is a gift from our Creator. He didn’t have to make it so pleasing to our senses, but He did! It is spectacular in every way. But when it comes shaped like a heart, I can’t help but feel the love. Here’s one of my recent favorites:

A heart shaped tuft of grass
A little “Psst, I love you!” note from God as I walked past the medical office the other day.

It’s just a little tuft of grass, but God designed it, gave it life, made it grow, directed my eyes toward it, and touched my heart with it. I’m hoping He uses it to encourage you today too! Don’t think for a minute that God doesn’t care that much about grass or about you…

“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you – you of little faith!”

Luke 12:27, 28

A gift of love from God’s heart is special anytime, right? Tokens of His affection feel good all year round. So, I decided to gather the hearts I’ve been finding and restart the photo challenge. Stay tuned for more!

In the meantime, don’t forget to keep your eyes open for tokens of affection that God has placed around you. Please share them! Tag this original post, Sunning Valentines from God Photo Challenge, when you do, so we can compile them all in one place. Awesome, thanks! I can’t wait to see what you find!

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Reflections

Out In the Pines, I Understand The Popular Mountain Vibe

“What is the vibe of Northern Arizona?”, our friends asked us. When we first fell in love with the place on our vacation in fall of 2020, people wondered why. I don’t think it was the vibe then, although we definitely noticed there was one.

“Outdoorsy”, was our answer. People ski, play disc golf, raft, climb, bike and hike, just to name a few of the most popular pastimes. Residents of the area work hard and play harder, outside in the fresh mountain air.

In the first week after moving here, I commented to a friend that the whole region smelled like Christmas. The fragrant cover of fresh cold pine reminded me of tree lot excursions and piles of bough wreaths. Being outside and inhaling deeply made my heart happy in an almost giddy way.

“The smell of pine needles, spruce and the smell of a Christmas tree – those to me, are the scents of the holidays.”

Blake Lively

I suddenly wonder whether outdoorsy people are drawn to the mountains or if the mountains draw people outdoors.

Mama Lava
Blooming cactus coming up amidst the pine needles and pine cones.
When you live in the mountains, but it is also the desert, you get pine cones and cactus. This is spring in the mountains of Northern Arizona.

But now that spring has sprung, and the sun has warmed the pine needles, the musky scent is an altogether different kind of wonderful. It smells like camping trips and adventure. I can barely stand to be inside. I suddenly wonder whether outdoorsy people are drawn to the mountains or if the mountains draw people outdoors.

I suspect it is the latter. Out among the pines, I understand the popular mountain vibe. It beckons me to join, and I feel helpless to resist.

“The ground’s soft with pine needles and the occasional crunch of a cone. The air smells like it’s just been born.”

Libba Bray

“To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.”

Helen Keller

“God dwells in His creation and is everywhere indivisibly present in all His works. He is transcendent above all His works even while He is immanent within them.”

A.W. Tozer

“Lord, you have been our dwelling-place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

Psalm 90:1-2
Categories
Emotions

The Amazing News I’m Really Excited to Share – Part 2

We left Arizona with happy hearts. We had finally taken action towards what God had been telling us to do. (Here is a link to Part 1 of the story, in case you missed it.)

Our leap of obedience came in the form of rental applications. And it was slim pickins’! There were only 2 possibilities, so we applied to both. One we never got to see other than the photos online. Have you ever rented a house sight-unseen? The other we got to walk through and even speak to the handyman doing work inside.

Man in the crawl space under a house
Handyman crawling under the house to find answers to some of our questions – God bless him!

We knew there were many applicants for both properties, which meant a lot of competition. And my daughters had been applying for rentals back in California – for months – with no luck at all. Add the fact that many people don’t like to rent to someone who hasn’t yet moved to the area, along with some discrimination against Californians, and maybe you can imagine our nerves.

We were on pins and needles. We watched the market while we waited. There were no new rental listings. We prayed and kept breathing. The only hope we had was in God. If He wanted us to live in one of these houses, He’d have to make it happen. There was nothing else we could do. A few days seemed like forever!

One piece of amazing news I’m really excited to share – God gave us a home!

I cannot tell you how relieved we were when we found out that God had worked it out for us. He gave us the one we’d seen, which I appreciated. It was such a miracle under the circumstances! This was a huge piece of our puzzle that God put into place.

The home has some obvious pros and cons, as all do. I’m thankful to be familiar with some of them from our visit. I have a favorite feature and a most dreaded downside.

My favorite feature – the forest

My favorite feature is the view. The house is situated in such a way that other homes are out of sight. The only thing to be seen is the forest of pine trees. And the property line extends way out into the wooded area, so I fully anticipate walking and talking there with Jesus!

Pine trees and rocks
The pine trees behind the house

The serenity of the forest feels like an extravagant housewarming gift from God. He knows how tumultuously emotional it has been for us to pull away from our kids. I expect Jesus, the clear air, and the tranquil view to be a miraculous salve for my heart. It is also a personal touch because my earliest memories are of living, as a toddler with my parents, in a home on the edge of an evergreen forest. Isn’t that just like God?

My dreaded downside – the door

The most dreaded downside is the back door. It is a wooden door. For the 11+ years since we’ve had our little dog, we’ve had sliding glass doors and doggie door inserts by which he could come and go at will. Now he will need assistance to go outdoors. I expect it will require patience, and possibly a good deal of mopping (if you catch my drift), to teach our old dog new tricks.

my pug sitting on the carpet
My dog

In case you’re wondering, I did inquire about purchasing a new wooden door with a doggie flap installed. Apparently though, pet doors are not a good idea near the forest, as they provide access to, not just dogs, but wild woodland creatures too. Yikes – I definitely don’t want that! Hopefully my dog and I will both take to new leash habits quickly.

Disobedience is costly

Getting either of the homes, for which we applied, meant agreeing to rent immediately, and we hadn’t yet given notice to our CA landlord. My wavering and delayed obedience cost us time and money. We had to pay rent in both states for the month of March. Ouch!

God is faithful

God lets us face our consequences, but He walks through them with us. His miraculous (no, seriously – so amazing!) provision on the financial front will be a post for another time. Wow! I cannot wait to tell you about that!

For now, let me ask, are you facing a choice where neither option is ideal? Are you focusing on the favorite features or the dreaded downsides? Are you willing to follow God into whichever journey awaits?

Maybe He is asking you to notice that an open door is a blessing, and that it’s less about the size or color (sliding glass or wood) of the door and more about the opportunity it represents. When one open door is all you need, it is a huge gift to have only one as it removes the responsibility of decision.

An open door with keys in the lock
Photo by George Becker on Pexels.com
An open door

If, like me, you’ve been characterized by dragging your feet instead of jumping to immediate obedience, you may find yourself in a situation like mine. Are you facing a costly consequence? My friend, I am so sorry. I am living that with you right now!

But God is good! We have a new place to live! My slow obedience, the crazy rental market, and all the other hurdles were no match for God’s plan. And this is just the first miracle that God has done since we took our action step of faith.

There is more amazing news I’m really excited to share. We still had to break the news to the kids, who hadn’t yet found somewhere to move. I hope you’ll join me next time so I can tell you all about it!