Saturday, January 30, 2010

Back to "Normal" Life

Shortly after my New Year's Res / Menu Planning Post, things went kind of crazy here. DH had to return our rental car down 4 hours south of us where his mother lives, and then was gone for several days helping friends of ours paint their new house and get it ready for their move. Our friends have just moved to Kentucky, so when he helped with the painting he was out of state. I ate meals with other people (who likes cooking for one?) and spent time with friends I don't usually get time for; so there was no menu plan for that week.

The very next week we were out of town on business. I do not like to eat out all the time, and our suite did have a full kitchen, so we ate two or three meals at home, but I felt it was hardly enough to lay out a menu plan. And then this week as we returned from that trip we were so jet lagged and exhausted that we threw together simple meals or ate out.

Finally, we are back home, and getting settled in here, and I have laid out already the menu plan for this week (which I will post tomorrow).

As for the rest of my New Year's Resolutions:
1) I have already lost 3 lbs since the beginning of the new year (about a pound a week). I may post a bit more about how I have been doing that for Real Food Wednesday.
2) I have spent time getting things reorganized in the time Jeff was gone two weeks ago. However, things got a bit disorganized in our packing for / returning from my business trip. I'm hitting things all over again starting tomorrow.

3) and the most important one...

I have been thoroughly enjoying my time in the word, making time for Scripture reading in my daily life. I am currently reading through the One Year Bible, but I am finding that - when I have completed the chapters for the day - I want to read more. That kind of hunger for the Word (instead of internal pressure to do "what I should") is an amazing blessing. God has been teaching me a lot as I have been learning to give Him my time.

The reading, paired with a desire to exercise in the giftings God has given me, led to my creating another blog linked to this one. Ezekiel's Valley is where I am writing about whatever things God lays on my heart, whether from Scripture reading from that day or hearing a sermon, or anything else along those lines. Check in, I will be writing frequently.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Menu Planning in the New Year!

It's Menu Plan Monday, and of course this is rather late in going up, but least it is still Monday :) As noted in previous posts, the closeout of our year was hectic, emotional, crazy busy, frenzied, and bittersweet. But even though all of this newly learned "organization" went out the window, there were definitely good things, too.

Somehow, every single Advent devotional we did tied in directly with what is going on in our hearts and minds as we grapple with grief, feelings, and faith post-miscarriage, post-layoff, and - even more recently - post car accident. That was amazing. To think that devotionals about prophets, shepherds, Mary, Joseph, angels, and the like would all hit some important nerve (and I do mean all) is just astounding. Christians today often talk about how to make the Gospel more accessible, more relevant to people's every day lives, how to tie it all in. Well I can tell you that grieving from the loss of our first child and reeling from an unexpected layoff, something in the Christmas story met me right where I was. Our devotional was not, "Advent Devotions for Recently Bereaved Families," and the writer did not try to manipulate the prayers included to fit our circumstances. But the Word of the Lord did not return void, and even though I cannot tell you what in the story spoke to me, I can tell you that I cried nearly every evening as the Word laid bare the broken pieces of my heart and poured out His grace on it.

I am truly grateful that - even though I could have done so much more to dive into His presence in this time - God took the time to use a familiar (and because of that often discounted) story to minister His grace and mercy to us.

I do have some "resolutions" as I move into the New Year. We'll go from most shallow to least shallow:
1) Lose about 20 lbs (unless, of course, we find ourselves pregnant again, which we hope to)
2) Be more consistent in getting to the gym in the mornings (which of course ties into the first)
3) Be more consistent in meal planning
4) Be more consistent (are we sensing a theme, here?) in housework
5) Be more consistent in daily time with the Lord.

Not so much a resolution, but definitely a goal: With the garden we'll be planting this spring, and opportunities to join in with others for certain other farmed food , I hope that we'll find ourselves GMO free well before 2011

Onto the meal plan:

Monday - Dinner with friends

Tuesday - Rice & Beans, Salad

Wednesday - Lime & Cilantro Chicken, Black Beans, Rice, Guacamole
Dessert: Epiphany cake! I'm going to just have a simple cake. All that makes it an Epiphany cake is a nut or a bean hidden in a piece for the "King for the Day" to find.

Thursday - Crockpot day - Venison Stew

Friday - Night out with my home-group ladies, potluck savory apps and desserts

Saturday - @ Jeff's mom's to pick up our new (to us) car!

Sunday - Chicken, Spinach, and Mushroom Crepes

I have family coming to town this week, so any of these meals are really subject to change if we all head over to my brothers, or all go out, or anything like that. But here is the bare bones plan. I am finding I need that to be able to stick with this more consistently.

Find other great Menu Plans at Org Junkie!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Closure and Moving Forward

I have a confession to make: I let it all slip these last two months. All the careful menu planning I had so diligently been training myself to do, making our bread, keeping the house clean (which I'd finally managed to get into a routine about right when we lost the baby), and caring too much about all of the above.

Between the joy of being pregnant and the grief over the loss of our baby, dh losing his job, and then our car accident 2 weeks ago, I began to feel very battered, emotionally and spiritually speaking. I thought I was processing my grief, frustration, and fear; I thought I was striving to truly TRUST God to provide in the midst of all of this. I thought I was doing okay. But in reality, we were cruising along on autopilot. One look at the way I was keeping (or not keeping) our house, the way I was stuffing my face, and the way I was diving head-first into every diversion that presented itself to me would make pretty evident that what was actually going on was full scale running from our pain and circumstances. I knew that God was in the situation with us. I knew that He wanted to redeem our circumstances for our good, and - more importantly - for His glory. But I could not bring myself to let Him have it. I could feel the grace of God all around us, and I was grateful for that, but I have not been seeking to lean in closer, to rely solely upon that grace. I feel it is almost like I just hoped that grace would apply itself to my life while I ran like crazy from what we were feeling.

Our accident, though, was the straw that broke the camel's back. That, and several sermons on joy that were as infuriating as they were convicting and inspiring. So the accident...

I should start this by saying that I was praying for a new car for Christmas, and God answers prayer. The weekend before Christmas we were down visiting Jeff's mother to do Christmas with the family. We had brought our dog down, as well. We got to the house, unloaded the dog and said hello to everyone. Then we ran out for a last minute trip to Lowe's to pick up a gift card for Jeff's brother. On our way back, a vehicle in front of us played a rousing game of "Let's all stop at the green light," and my husband - excellent driver that he is - stopped and left plenty of room between us and the care in front of us. The 60 year old man driving the huge SUV behind us, though, was looking away from the road trying to dial his cell phone. He did not see us slow down, did not slow down himself, and rammed into the back of our little Sentra full speed. We sustained minimal muscular injuries (and spent our Christmas weekend with Jeff's family on muscle relaxants...a little bit dazed, to be sure).

We knew that we were in no way at fault in the accident, and that knowledge was a blessing, we knew that at some point the other driver's insurance would take care of everything. But, for me, the question was "when?" I was worried about the rental car. We had to head back to our place on Monday since Monday was the only day off I had scheduled and I did not want to use any more of my vacation time, and the cop said we would not be able to get a copy of the accident report until Tuesday. We really didn't have any extra money, and so I was worried about that. My parents and their church back home, though, were specifically praying that we could get the accident report early. Monday morning Jeff was able to obtain a copy, and we went off to secure the rental car knowing that we would not have to pay for it. It was at this point that my parents told me that someone from their church had given them some money, and they had added to it, so they were sending us a check for $150. At that point I felt a little guilty, because it didn't seem like we needed the extra...but we went to the rental place and found that - because we had liability and not collision - the extra insurance on the rental car was our responsibility, and it amounted to about $15/day. So the check from my parents covered 10 days of insurance on the rental car. All I could think about was the fact that God knows our needs before we ask Him, and He had sent that money before we even knew we needed it!

You would think I would have learned to trust God right then and there, but when that 10 days was up and we did not see any other sources of money coming to us, I got frantic and nearly had a meltdown over "How are we going to pay for this? Our budget is pretty much down to the last penny every single week!" I did, however, collect myself. And I called my mom and asked her to pray that God would help me trust Him. Jeff and I prayed, as well. The next day we received - three weeks earlier than expected - a check from Jeff's former employer for all of his stored up vacation pay. Praise the Lord, again. As if that was not good enough, the very next day Jeff got a call from State Farm (the other guy's insurance), and they gave us the settlement figure for my car. We still have to get a few things taken care of and sign over the title to get the check, but it was enough for us to authorize work on the car we will have (Jeff's brother said that if we could replace the clutch on a car he has been working on, he would give us the car), and get plans in place to go down and pick it up. God's timing is better than ours, every single time. Not at all during this time have we gone without something we needed. Not at all have we suffered anything more than sore muscles and the loss of my first car. God did not put circumstances before us that He would not walk us through.

Jeff and I spent a day together in Athens, GA; visiting their urban-esque downtown area. It was nice to walk around and spend the day together in a place that has actual coffee shops and boutiques, hippie stores and restaurants, and where the intended mode of transportation is actually your feet. Some of the things I miss about Boston I was able to find there, so that was really nice. More significant than that, though, was the time I had with Jeff at the Espresso Royale Cafe, where God made some things very clear to me...

As I was walking around and reminiscing about "old times," memories flooded to me about prophetic words spoken over me, the calling I know God has placed on my life, and why some of that had not yet come to be. I began to realize that I keep flipping back and forth in one significant way. I feel leading from the Holy Spirit, and my first move is to try and run ahead and figure out what God is doing. Then, catching myself in that, I retreat into full-scale "I refuse to move until God does the moving for me." Neither of those is really the patient obedience, the soft heart that quickens to the voice of its Master, listening well to discern His voice from the worlds. It is anxious running, or fearful "resting." I was either running ahead to try and figure it out and do it myself, or I was so terrified of that prospect that I refused to do anything until I was more than 1000% sure that it was absolutely God; not out of a realization that He is Sovereign, but out of fear that I would screw it up.

Micah 6:8 says "He has shown thee, o man, what is good and what the Lord requires of thee: but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." In these "still" periods where my heart is really so restless, I talk a lot about waiting until I hear from the Lord, but I do almost nothing to hear from Him, preferring instead that he knock me upside the head with whatever-it-is so there is no mistaking it. But where there is no quieting of the heart, no humble submission, there will be no revelation, and thus there will be no obedience.

I honestly cannot tell you what in our conversation prompted my heart to that revelation. That did hit me like a bolt out of the blue. But between my realization of that truth and my realization that I was not really pressing into God the way I need to be during this difficult season in our lives, I realized that something had to be done immediately.

I need to be spending time daily in the Word, instead of just reflecting on things I know to be true about God. Meditating on God's goodness and on truths about Him is good, but without daily intake of spiritual food (i.e. Scripture) and drink (prayer), those "ideas" are easily shelved when something difficult comes along. I need to be relying on God for the grace to keep my house clean, in the same way that I need to rely on His grace to deal with my grief over losing our baby. I need to hope in Him for the next child, and not just take my Vitex and "hope" with my fingers crossed. I need to make sure I get enough rest every night, so I can wake early to be in the Word. I need to be writing as often as I can, out of whatever I'm drawing from Scripture and whatever else God lays on my heart. Gifts that do not get used will atrophy. I cannot just sit here and hope that God writes a sermon, a blog, or a book with my name on it. I need to be willing to be used and to be in the position to be used.

And so, New Year's Day was spent beginning the long process of getting my house back in order. Just realizing that it was the biggest symptom of how "not okay" I have been, the decision to put my physical house back in order came with a wave of tears. Tears at realizing just what a very difficult two months we had just finished. Tears at realizing that I do still hurt over the loss of our baby, and that I was bewildered at the loss of Jeff's job, and that I was frightened over our accident and the loss of our car. I cannot plunge into this "reformation" of sorts in my own strength. I know anything I try apart from Christ will ultimately fail. And so I refuse to continue playing the part of Icarus, but I will soar in the heights on the wind of God's grace. For they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:31).