Filling up on Cotton Candy

Last week we went on the mother of all road trips. We were away from home for six days, and four of those days we spent driving at least 11 hours per day. The other two days we spent on a college visit and playing tourist in Seattle. It was exhausting, and I still feel off my schedule and behind on everything after four days back at home.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I’ve been revamping my eating and exercise habits lately. But eating healthy and getting enough exercise when you’re sitting in the car all day, feasting on gas station snacks and fast food meals, is nearly impossible. One thing I noticed during this trip is that the more junk food was available to me, the less and less it satisfied me. At home, eating a clean diet and getting regular exercise, a rest day feels restful, and a treat is, well, a real treat. But a steady supply of laziness and junk stops satisfying.

On the way home I found myself standing in a truck stop in Montana, looking for a snack to tide me over so we could keep moving without a lunch break. I looked at the candy and chips, but nothing appealed to me. I looked at the beverages, but I just didn’t want another soda (or the ensuing potty break it would necessitate). I could have anything I wanted, and I just didn’t want any of it.

Since we’ve gotten home I have felt the same way about my behavior. I have so much that I need to do to get caught up – laundry, grocery shopping, getting back to the gym, etc., but as soon as I get a spare minute, I waste it playing games on my phone, drawing/coloring, or reading. The whole thing came to a head yesterday when I was praying about what to post this week. I confessed to the Lord that I just felt sluggish and out of touch with writing and with His heart. As soon as I confessed that, I began thinking of the ways I’ve wasted time lately. No wonder I’m unsatisfied, I’ve been filling up on cotton candy.

I’m not saying that you should strictly schedule every second of your day full of practical and efficient busyness. Down time and rest are imperative, and hobbies are wonderful and fulfilling. But it’s just like the treats I ate on the road. When it’s truly a treat, it’s fun and special. When you fill your life with fluff and junk, it stops satisfying.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Rest when you need rest. Engage in hobbies that allow you to have a creative outlet, physical exercise, or just a good laugh. But don’t fill up on the cotton candy. Fill your days with things that bring glory to God and bless others so your treats can be a treat.

Inspiration Profile: Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity

Yesterday was International Women’s Day. I can’t think of a better way to honor women than to share with you one of the women who inspires me.

I may not be Catholic, but we love and serve the same God, and I appreciate some of Catholicism’s people and practices. Mother Teresa is one of those people.

Here’s the basic biographical info:
Mother Teresa was born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu (don’t ask me how to pronounce that. I’ve heard it on documentaries, but it’s been a while. The English equivalent is Agnes.) She was born in 1910, in an area that is now part of Macedonia. At age 18, Agnes left her family to become a nun and study to become a missionary. Within about a year, she found herself doing missionary work in India, a land that would become her home and mission field for the rest of her life.

Sister Teresa was in India for seventeen years when she felt a strong call to do something new. She felt that God wanted her to live and work among the poorest in Indian slums. She adopted a simple white sari with blue trim as her uniform, and soon had a group of similarly-clad nuns working beside her. In 1950, the Vatican recognized their organization as the Missionaries of Charity.

Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity operated schools, leper houses, orphanages, clinics, and hospice care for the dying. Because of the caste system in India, these poorest of the poor had no hope. They had no resources, and their only opportunity was begging. The Missionaries of Charity brought them dignity and care that they had never dreamed possible.

Many people of all faiths and no faith at all were inspired by Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity. Volunteers from all over the world would show up in Calcutta asking her to teach them, and she would put them to work.

Mother Teresa became an international “celebrity” for her work. Books and documentary films were created about her life. Interviews with Mother Teresa scored audiences around the world. World leaders wanted to know her. She was infinitely quotable, putting her matter-of-fact style into short quotes that encourage us all to love and care for others.

Here are a few of my favorites:
“We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.”
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Mother Teresa served the people of India for nearly 50 years, and died in Calcutta in 1997. The Missionaries of Charity continue to serve the poor around the world.

In 2016, Mother Teresa was canonized as St. Teresa of Calcutta by Pope Francis.

What women inspire you to love and serve others? Leave a comment and share!

 

Forget the Frock

Ugh. I prepared this post for you a week ago, and then didn’t post it on Friday. I’m blaming the cold medicine…

Easter is coming up in just a couple weeks. Have you shopped for fancy new dresses and ties for your family? Would you like to save some money and make a lasting difference instead? Forget the Frock is a national movement to trade in those one-time holiday purchases for tee shirts that make a difference in the world.

Forget the Frock and our Preferred Partner, Feeding the Orphans from Forget the Frock on Vimeo.

 

This will be my family’s first time participating in Forget the Frock. I ordered this year’s “Preferred Partner” shirt from Feeding the Orphans. They came really quick, in less than a week, and they’re taking orders until the week before Easter, so there is still time to order.

The shirts are made of American-made fabric, and are fair trade produced by men and women who aged out of orphanages in Haiti and were taught garment-making skills. The money I spent on the shirts will provide education, healthcare, and opportunities for orphans in Western Africa. So from seed to Easter Sunday, this shirt provided fair-paying, meaningful employment for American farmers, American fabric producers, Haitian garment workers, the artist who designed the logo, and the staff at Feed the Orphans, plus the proceeds provide for African orphans. That’s a lot of good for just $23 per shirt!

There are other shirts from other partner organizations. Check them all out on the Forget the Frock website. Or pick up a shirt from one of your favorite non-profits!

Have you participated in Forget the Frock? What organization(s) have you supported with this initiative? Comment below to share your story!

(re)defining need

“But mom, I need new shoes!”

“I can’t afford to buy fair trade. Sometimes you just need some new earrings, and I can’t afford to drop that kind of money every time.”

“The miles are really adding up on my car; I need to get a new one soon.”

Need. Four little letters. A simple concept, but one that is so misunderstood.

The simple and straightforward dictionary definition of the verb “need” is “to require.” Synonyms include “necessitate,” and “emergency.” Neither the definition nor the synonyms include “latest fashion,” “entertainment,” or even “comfort.”

One of God’s great promises, shared all throughout the Bible, is that he will provide for all our needs. Consider Philippians 4:19, “for God will supply all your needs, according to His riches in glory.”

Another example is found in the Old Testament. When the children of Israel were wandering in the dessert for 40 years, they couldn’t grow crops (although the way they wandered you kind of wonder if they could have planted fields and harvested them on the next loop, because they undoubtedly crossed the same territory over and over in their wanderings. But, you know, dessert isn’t really self-sustaining anyway. I digress…). A whole nation of people on the move for 40 years go through a lot of food, and I don’t think they wandered past a Wal-Mart. Their only hope was God’s miraculous provision.

Exodus 16:16-29
This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer (one day’s supply) for each person you have in your tent.’ ” The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.

Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. He said to them, “This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’ ” 

So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a sabbath to the LORD. You will not find any of it on the ground today. Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.” 

Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. Then the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.”

Sitting here in 21st Century America, with a kitchen full of food, clean water on tap, and even a bit of savings for retirement, it’s easy to shake our heads and even facepalm at the Israelites. What part of ONE OMER don’t you understand!?! You wake up every single morning to a miracle you can see with your own eyes. How can you have so little faith!?!

I know how. Every morning I wake up to the miracle of another sunrise, the blessing of a job, good health, and a loving family. Yet I, like most of you, try to control the future. I hoard and save, I withhold when I should give. I buy until I get used to so much stuff that I think I can’t make do with less. I pay so little for all my crap that I don’t bother maintaining or repairing things when I can more easily toss things out and buy new stuff.

In her book, Made to Crave, Lysa TerKeurst argues that we were created to rely on God, made to live in a constant state of reliance. But the easier life has gotten, the further we have pulled away from faith in the God who promises to never leave us nor forsake us.

As a Midwestern ENTJ of German and Scandinavian descent, I am so all about responsibility and control. The idea that I was made to live in a constant state of reliance on God stresses me out. I wanna drive, here! It’s not that I think I know better than God. It’s not that I think He can’t provide for me. I think my fear, my scarcity mentality, comes from the belief that I am capable of so much that I just want to save God the bother, let Him spend his time on things we humans can’t control while I handle my own credit card debt, heating bills, and retirement planning. I just don’t want to be a burden.

You see? I’m just like the Israelites. God says “live within your means” (Proverbs 22:7), and I say “put it on my Visa!” God says “don’t be a glutton” (Proverbs 23:21), I say “let’s get a pizza!” God says “give and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38), and I say, “I can’t because then I couldn’t do this other thing that makes me happy.”

Around and around the Israelites and I go, hearing the commands, observing the miracles, and then trying to do things our own way. It makes me wonder how much time we spend wandering in the wilderness instead of enjoying the Promised Land that God has for us!

 

Indecision Kills…

Happy Sunday! Why am I coming to you two days late this week? Did I not have anything to say? Oh no, I had too much to say. Then I stalled out trying to decide what to share with you.

It’s an important week. Lent started this last Wednesday, and #EndIt Day 2018 is coming up this Thursday. Both are topics I have covered before (the hyperlinks will take you to those past articles), and both are things I want to talk about again. But since I’ve already covered them, do I have new things to say? So back and forth I went all week, and I ended up writing nothing.

But I don’t want to miss my chance to share these important things with you, so I’m going to hit on both of them briefly and let you all get back to watching the Olympics…

OK, so Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the official first day of the 2018 Lenten season. As of Wednesday, I didn’t have a clear plan for how I would participate in Lent this year (More indecision! What is with me this week??). One of my friends shared on social media that one of the things she’s doing for Lent this year is giving up her snooze button. That one hit me hard! I’m a hardcore night owl. Given the freedom to set my own schedule, I would probably get my eight hours between 2:00 am and 10:00 am. For as long as I can remember, I have fought to fall asleep every night and fought to get out of bed every morning. I have two alarms set every morning (I occasionally sleep right through the first one), and it’s not unusual for me to hit snooze once or twice, and then to sit in bed and goof around on my phone when I should be getting up and starting my day. I can feel some of you rolling your eyes. I’m pitiful, I know. But it’s cold here, and it’s hard to leave my cozy nest! Clearly this is an area of my life where I can work on self-discipline!

So I borrowed my friend’s genius plan, and I’m giving up my snooze button for Lent. When the alarm goes off, I have to leave my bed. I’m using this “extra” time to spend more time reading the Bible. When my alarm goes off and I feel like growling about it, I stop instead and thank Jesus for his incredible sacrifice, and I offer him my small sacrifice. I’m hoping that this will help me have better sleep habits, sure, but I think the real reward will be the extra time in the word and the increased awareness of what Jesus has done for me.

As usual, I’m participating in the practice of not eating meat on Fridays as well. This isn’t terribly difficult to do, but I enjoy the feeling of being part of this global exercise. I take time on Fridays to pray for the Church around the world – for Christians who are persecuted, for ministers and missionaries, and for aid workers who have given their lives to helping others in the name of Jesus.

Are you participating in Lent? Pop over to the Food Shelf Friday Facebook page and share your Lenten plan. My friend’s idea sparked my plan for this year; your plan could do the same for someone!

 

The second thing I want to mention this week is the approach of #EndIt Day 2018. The idea behind this day is to raise awareness of the crisis of modern day slavery. As an historian I know all about pre-1860s slavery, and I know we tend to talk about slavery in the past tense. But there are more people living in slavery around the world today than at any time in history. And there are people living in slavery right here in the United States.

The “how” of #EndIt day is to put a big, red X on your hand on Thursday, February 22. When someone asks you about your X, you have the opportunity to let them know about modern slavery, and about the non-profit organizations working to fight this travesty. There are also social media images and banners that you can share to start the conversation with your online friends. Visit the End It Movement website for all the information, links to participating organizations, and social media images to help you spread awareness in your circle. The first step in ending this crisis is to stop the denial with awareness, education, and resources. I’ll be sporting my red X on Thursday, and I hope you do, too!

There you go! I got over the indecision hurdle and gave you information on two important things going on right now! I hope you learned something that will empower you this season!