Where to start if you want to “End It”!

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 11.45.25 AM

 

If you scroll Facebook or any other form of social media today, you’ll see a lot of people sporting a red X on their hands today…and it couldn’t thrill me more! Today is the “End It” Movement’s “Shine a Light on Slavery” Day for the 27 million trapped in human trafficking. I highly recommend that you visit the website for more statistics and ways to be involved.

 

In addition to sharing this movement and this ministry, I’d love to share with you some ways that God is moving in my own life and in Nashville.

 

Over the last 6 months to a year, God has really put a burden for this issue into my family. My husband and I have felt this supernatural, unexplainable call to help in this area, but we truly didn’t have any idea how to start. I feel that many people are in the same boat. How do you even begin to tackle such a huge and extremely sensitive issue?

 

For us, God started introducing us to PEOPLE that were part of the statistic. One was Tajuan McCarty. Around the same time that we were praying for specific ways to help out, I was “randomly” assigned to produce her story.

 

http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/amazing/ASH24_Tajuan_McCarty.aspx

 

I think what I learned most from Tajuan, was that this is more than a number or statistic. These are someone’s sons and daughters. These are VICTIMS, not a lower cache of society that makes the poor choice to work in the sex industry. In fact, I’ve produced somewhere around 40 stories that involve former strippers or prostitutes and almost EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of them were sexually abused at a young age and eventually manipulated or forced into the sex industry.

 

The second big thing that happened for my husband and me was to see what was happening in human trafficking LOCALLY. Through a Nashville-based ministry called Rescue 1 Global, we discovered what human trafficking REALLY looks like and that girls, boys, women were being trafficked RIGHT IN OUR BACKYARD (I mean, literally, there are some hot spots..plural…within a 5 mile radius from our home and we live in a quiet suburban area.) We have fallen in love with this ministry because of their passionate, yet practical approach to ending trafficking here and overseas.

 

So, all this to say…we’ve come a long way in recent months. We have realized that we can’t do everything, but we can do something. If you have a burden to be a modern day abolitionist, here are some places to start that are very realistic and practical:

 

1) EDUCATE YOURSELF ON TRAFFICKING FIRST:

It doesn’t look the way you think it does! You can be much more effective if you can know whats going on in your area, identify what a victim looks like (you should be aware that a trafficked girl or boy could look as normal as you and me), how the world of trafficking operates, how to help someone trapped in trafficking. If you are in Nashville, Rescue 1 Global has some amazing training seminars. If you are not from this area, do some research and try to find one close to you. There are tons of great organizations doing this kind of training. If you can’t find one, reach out to me and I’ll do some leg work for you to get one in your area.

 

***If you are a teacher or law enforcement officer……I can not emphasize enough how effective you could be as front-line abolitionists! Training like this could give you the tools you need to RADICALLY change this industry.

 

2) SUPPORT INTERNATIONAL AND LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS:

Did you know that there is currently NOT ONE safe house in Tennessee for rescued victims? Rescue 1 is very close, I believe. (please check out their Grace Oasis if you’d like to contribute to this awesome opportunity!) But, how about your state, your region? Is there a safe house? We want to “End It” but do we have a place to house and protect these victims? Do some research to see and support those organizations making efforts to start one. If there is a safe house near you, please ask about their current needs. Some need major funding and some need things as simple as toiletries and other small donations to supply the house.

 

In addition to being aware of local trafficking, educate yourself on international trafficking. Sex tourism has become a huge trend and many countries are fueling their tourism economy with trafficking. This has to stop! Ask God for a holy discontent and for ways to support international organizations.

 

3) BE A PART OF LONG-TERM HEALING AND RESTORATION:

There is a huge need to rescue victims from the physical bondage of slavery, but the GREATEST need is the long-term healing. There is much restoration to be done after a victim is rescued. A great place to start would be sponsoring a victim that has been rescued. There is a financial burden to house and restore…and every little bit can help!

 

Are you a counselor, could you help with equestrian therapy, a beautician that could help cut hair for women in a safe house? Could you offer tutoring for those attempting to get their degrees? These victims have been severely abused mentally, physically, and emotionally. Chances are you have SOME talent or skill that could help restore a victim to a life of freedom and joy. Give of your time and love!

 

These are just a few places to start! Please reach out to me if you have more questions!!!

 

GO GET EM MODERN DAY ABOLITIONISTS!!! LET’S END IT!

Consecration, Prayer, and Mr. Bounds

 

Have you ever read a book or particular author…and the outcome is just unabashed LOVE? I’ve read a few great books in the last couple of years, but I must admit–a gentleman from the 1800′s has captured my undivided attention. His name is Mr. E.M. Bounds.

 

If he sounds familiar, it’s because he is probably the most quoted man on the subject of prayer. A couple of years ago, I stumbled across “The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds on Prayer.” It caught my attention initially, because this man wrote EIGHT books on prayer, making my new find a combined total of 600 pages of tiny typing. I had a desire to grow in my prayer life and thought, “Wow…if a man can write 8 books worth of insight and content on prayer….I want to read this!”

 

I would dare to say, that outside of the Bible–this book has been the most life-changing, challenging, convicting, and inspiring book on Christian growth I have EVER (….EVER, EVER…) had in my two hands. It spills over into every aspect of my Christian walk, personal life, and approach to ministry.

 

I’ll also go on to say that Mr. Bounds managed to crank out 600 pages worth of sentences so meaty and eloquent that most require a second read for adequate processing. His passion and conviction about prayer are so powerful that many a times I’ve been in a public place and wanted to stand up in my chair and shout a paragraph from the top of my lungs for all to hear.

 

So, I’m going to do that in a way today…through this blog. (If it helps, imagine me shouting at the top of my lungs, standing in a random airport chair or restaurant bench! That’s certainly how I’m going to picture myself.)

 

I was reading through a chapter last night called, “Prayer and Consecration.” Consecration is a fancy word for “full dedication and surrender of every aspect of our life to God and His purposes.” It hit me so hard that I wanted to share this section of a chapter with you today:

 

“Consecration is much more than a life of so-called service. It is a life of personal holiness, first of all. It is that which brings spiritual power into the heart and enlivens the entire inner man. It is a life which ever recognizes God, and life given up to true prayer…..

 

It is the setting apart of all we are, all we have, all we expect to have or be, to God first of all. It is not so much the giving of ourselves to the church, or the mere engaging in some one line of church work. Almighty God is in view and He is the end of all consecration.

 

Consecration is not so much the setting one’s self apart from sinful things and wicked ends, but rather it is the separation from worldly, secular and even legitimate things, if they come in conflict with God’s plans, to holy uses. It is the devoting of all we have to God, for his own specific use. It involves our whole being, all have and all that we are. Everything is definitely and voluntarily placed in God’s hands for his supreme use.

 

Prayerlessness and consecration have nothing whatever in common. A life of prayer naturally leads up to full consecration. It leads nowhere else. The prayer life and the consecrated life are intimate companions. The are Siamese twins, inseparable. A prayerless life which claims consecration is a misnomer, false, and counterfeit. 

 

Much modern consecration falls far below the scriptural standard. Much passes for consecration in the church which receives praise and plaudits of superficial, formal professors, but which is wide of tf the mark. There is much hurrying to and fro, from here to there, much fuss and feathers, much agoing about and doing many things, and those who busy themselves after this fashion are called consecrated men and women. The central trouble with all this false consecration is that there is NO PRAYER IN IT. This present-day church is filled with machinery, organizations, committees, and societies, so much that the power it has is altogether insufficient to run the machinery, or to furnish life sufficient to do all this external work.

 

People can do many excellent and commendable things in the church and be utter strangers to a life of consecration, just as they can do many things and be prayerless.

 

(PHEW! Church!!!!!!!!)

 

Prayer creates an interest in consecration, then prayer brings one into a state of heart where consecration is a subject of delight, bringing joy of the heart, satisfaction of the soul, contentment of the spirit.

 

Holiness thrives in the place of secret prayer. It takes prayer to bring one into such a consecrated life of holiness to the Lord, and it takes prayer to maintain such a life. WITHOUT MUCH PRAYER, such a life of holiness with break down.”   E.M. Bounds, The Neccessity of Prayer, “Consecration and Prayer”

 

Mr. Bounds lived long before us, but I believe is message is even more important today. Are we are consecrated or prayerless church? Are we in the secret place of prayer or is our service a counterfeit?

 

I PRAY we resolve this issues in our heart and lives quickly so we can start seeing some real spiritual fruit from our ministries, instead of just “busy work.”

 

  “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.”  2nd Chronicles 7:14-15

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 10.40.13 AM

Asking the Wrong Question

Around my senior year in high school and through my early 20s, I had a particular fear. This fear would wake me up in the middle of the night, weigh heavy on me as I walked to class, loom ominously as chose my schedule for each semester. It was there with every “yes” and every “no”…regardless of how big or small the decision. With every passing year, this said fear would have a paralyzing effect on my ability to make confident choices and it often hindered my ability to move forward.

This fear came in the form of a question…a BIG question:

“What if I miss God’s ‘will’ for my life?”

I was reminded of this question (or mindset, rather) a couple of days ago when a Facebook acquaintance messaged me. She was at a crossroads with her career aspirations and she was unsure how to use her gifts and talents. Her message said something to the affect of, “I’ve been following your career. How did you find God’s Will for your life? How do I do the same?”

I must admit…I spent an embarrassing amount of time blinking at the computer in shock. Then, I just had to laugh. Just a week or two earlier, I had been sobbing on my living room couch, pouring out PLENTY of hypothetical life and career questions for my husband–who admittedly had more comfort and encouragement, than solid answers. It seemed a bit absurd, knowing myself the way I do, that this young lady would a) think I had it all together concerning ‘God’s Will’…that I had somehow deciphered a complicated code and solved a cosmic riddle….and b) think I would be able to articulate something that could actually help her in the specifics of her situation.

I felt so unqualified.

But then, I started to reflect upon the last several years of my life and how God has so faithfully directed it.

It seemed that the doors that needed to close…they closed. The doors that need to open…opened. I remembered how, even though I never had the complete blue print for my life plan or a copy of “God’s Will for Dummies,” He always directed me clearly when I was at a crucial point. I reflected upon how he hedged me in at every point with godly counsel, corrective scripture, and faithful friends when I was tempted to make a wrong choice. Those times I made a disobedient choice, the consequences were hard, but he was there to redirect me and redeem that choice when I was repentant and ran home to Him.

It dawned on me that over the years of following God, He had given me total freedom from this fear—simply because, due to His faithfulness, He helped me see: I was asking the wrong question.  

I think the question of “What if I miss God’s Will for my life” is initially birthed from good intentions. We want to serve God, we want our life to count, we want to follow Him, and most of all, we don’t want to mess it up. But, it can be problematic for a few reasons:

1) It keeps us from living in the present and being obedient now.

I know that when I was on the 24/7 search of God’s “allusive” will, I had a hard time enjoying the moments he was blessing me with in the present. It’s hard to invest in the present, because you feel you must always be reaching, hunting, and forcing things in order for your future to work out ‘just right.’ It makes EVERY decision scary, like I mentioned above. You may discount the “little” ways God is using you in the here and now.

Or, maybe you’ve leaned in the other direction. You can’t live in the present and serve God because, you’ve already “messed” it up or “missed” it. We can be so overwhelmed by our failures in the past that we think we are disposable to God and he no longer has a “plan” for us.

I look back and see that each season was a building block to where I am now–all the good and all the bad—little and small. Honestly, I’ve missed some special times in life—reaching and waiting for “more.” And, I’ve failed to move forward with confidence at times, because I was discouraged by failures.

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…” Zach 4:10

 

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matt. 6:34

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

Maybe, in order to live more the present, we should ask—IN WHAT WAYS CAN I BE MORE OBEDIENT TO YOU…TODAY? How can you make a difference for God, right now, where you are?

2) We are looking for a bush, instead of to the Bible.

I think we spend too much time looking for burning bushes, watching for lightning from the sky, and listening for an audible voice…when we have everything we need to know “God’s Will” on our bookshelves—THE BIBLE.

It tells us how to treat our spouses, respect our bosses, love our enemies, raise our children, handle our money—and everything else we need to know about life—MOST IMPORTANTLY—How to follow, reflect, lean on, and please God on a daily basis.

 

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” 2 Tim. 3:16

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  James 1:5

 

Don’t stop reading this book of the Law, but day and night think of what it says, so you can be careful to do everything written in it; then you will prosper and succeed.” Joshua 1:8

Burning bushes and amazing revelations aren’t bad or impossible, but if you won’t crack open your Bible because isn’t “spectacular” or “sensational” enough for you…then I doubt you’ll be equipped enough to handle a “burning bush” moment (and the grueling assignments that are sure to follow.)

Maybe we should ask the question, “GOD, WHAT IS YOUR WORD REVEALING TO ME TODAY AS YOUR ‘WILL’?”

 

3) We focus more on what we can DO for God, than who we can BECOME because of God.

We all want to do something “special” with our life. I honestly used to think that if I would walk a straight and narrow path for so many years and not make any wrong choices or turns, then BOOM—out of the blue, like lightening, God would drop this one specific, gigantic, important assignment in my lap.

But, you see, that’s not the point at all.

GOD’S MAIN WILL FOR YOUR LIFE—IS TO KNOW WHO HE IS AND TO HAVE A LOVE RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM.

I promise you, it’s that simple.

Everything else that needs to “happen,” will be an OVERFLOW. When you love God and receive his love for you, you want to read His Word and spend time talking to Him in prayer. When you love God and receive His love, you love the people around you and have a burning desire to serve. You don’t worry about the future, because you are walking with the creator of the Universe. When you love Him and know Him, you will know when He speaks to say “GO” or “STAY.”

“Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.” Isaiah 30:21

When you know and love God, your grace-given gifts will be employed for His glory so naturally. You’ll get a plethora of important assignments throughout life—not just one! You can be a shining light in your school, a dedicated wife or husband, a parent who raises up Godly offspring, a talented professional, a missionary, a worshipper, a local Bible teacher, an encouraging friend, and much, much more.  When you focus on what you should become BECAUSE OF GOD and His love in your life…the possibilities are endless and they last over a lifetime.

When you love God, and receive His love, your life will bring Him glory!

 “He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us. For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

 In him, according to the purpose of Him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory. “ Eph. 1:5-12

 

As a final word of encouragement, I’ll leave you with this thought:

 

God’s will for your life is *not* a destination to be achieved or a mystery to figure out—but a daily love interaction with him that involves obedience, trust, and staying in the present. It may be hard to comprehend in our human ability, but GOD WANTS YOU TO LIVE IN HIS WILL MORE THAN YOU DO!  How wonderful—I believe with God in our heart, on our side, and working it through us….

 

WE NEVER HAVE TO LIVE WITH A “MISSING IT” MINDSET AGAIN!

 

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Phil 1:6

 

 

 

 

The Weight of Nothing

Before you read the following, I want you to know two things:

 

1) This was written earlier this year….I’m just now ready to share it. I never really knew if I would share it in public, but because I know many women struggling with this currently, I now know it wasn’t meant to sit in my journal.

 

2) This was my way of healing at the time. I know many women who have had a harder path than me, but at the end of the day, despite our degrees of pain…our GOD is the same…and hopefully, no matter your situation…you can know you are not alone and derive hope from this.

 

***********************************************

The Weight of Nothing

I was checking out in the grocery store and noticed that my cashier was sporting a beautiful baby bump. It was obvious that she was pretty far along and I said four brave words (that I only suggest using when you are absolutely CERTAIN a lady is pregnant), “When are you due?”

 

“Two Weeks,” seem beamed.

 

“Congratulations!” I joyfully responded. “You look lovely.”

 

With a slight laugh she mused, “Well, I feel miserable. I’m just ready for this to be over.”

 

My heart sank.

 

It wasn’t because of what she said. I totally get it. She was very far along, it was a blazing hot outside, and this poor girl had probably been on her feet all day. She was young and working hard, while trying to carry and care for her baby. It wasn’t her words, but my own emptiness, that made the moment so painful.

 

You see, in that moment, I would have given ANYTHING to feel my child growing inside of me again…no matter how hard or how painful… because my pregnancy was over—too quickly.

 

Only just an hour before my miscarriage, my husband and I were in a paint store picking out a nursery color. Only just a couple of days before, I had special ordered a book about praying for your child’s development week by week. My husband and I had cleared out the office area the Saturday before to make room for our new addition. I had purchased my husband his first Father’s Day card and I had started a countdown for the moment when I could see my baby for the first time on an ultrasound.

 

In the few weeks that I had my baby, I felt so FULL—full of joy, full of purpose, full of life, full of expectations, full of prayers, and full of dreams. Before my pregnancy, I had always wondered if I would be a good mother, but in just a few short weeks, I could feel my heart filling to the brim, simultaneously with tenderness and courage. I somehow knew, deep within me, that God would give me the strength and wisdom, to be a great mother.

 

But, after one terrifying evening, I could feel that life slipping through my fingers. That night I cried from a sacred place—that spiritual place where we recognize that, while death is the most natural occurrence on earth—it is also the most unnatural; that place where we grieve for Eden.

 

The next morning, the doctor made arrangements for me to have an emergency ultrasound. I had always imagined my first ultrasound…my husband holding my hand, anxious glances at the screen, and a precious little heartbeat. Only two of the three were present. There was no heartbeat, no baby, and no encouraging words from our silent and somber ultrasound tech. That night, tears of sorrow streamed down my cheeks as my heart was crushed by the weight of….nothing.

 

In the following days, I felt like an empty shell.  Instead of purpose and hope, my life was filled with painful reminders of the baby I would never hold. I had to go to the OBGYN’s office every couple of days for blood tests. I sat in the waiting room with life-bearing women and felt empty. When my husband would gently (but unknowingly) touch my abdomen, I felt empty. Several days before my original ultrasound was scheduled, the receptionist called on accident to remind me of my (no longer needed) appointment. Everywhere I looked, women were pregnant. I secretly wondered why I wasn’t able to carry the life of my child to full term.

 

But, through it all, I wasn’t alone. My husband patiently held me through the tears and whispered hopeful words in my ear. It all reminded me of what a great father he would be someday. And, I had so many women friends and mentors praying for me. They say 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage. I reflect and wonder how many women I brushed shoulders with in my lifetime that were, in some season, crushed by this weight of nothing. I guess I will never know, for just as precious life is hidden safely in the womb, the scars of a miscarriage are hidden deep in the heart.

 

One of the women that I do know of is my own mother. She lost two babies before me. The doctor told her to quit trying to have more children…(just weeks before she conceived me and 18 months before my handsome baby brother. Surprise!) God used the pain in her past to walk me through the pain of my present. I couldn’t have done it without her.

 

Before my emergency ultrasound my Daddy sent me this text, “I know God answers prayers, because we had you.” Of all the condolences offered, I held this most dear…because, it is true. He does answer prayers. Had my mother listened to the doctors, I wouldn’t be here. The same is true of my mother-in-law Jan. Had she believed the negative reports after losing two children, my husband wouldn’t be alive either. Their pregnancies, our lives, our marriage… are a miracle…. and I believe that He will continue His miracle of life…with more life.

 

He answered my prayers for strength, even when I had to pray them with every breath, and with every hard day, with every hard second, and every task that seems meaningless or impossible. He is answering my prayer for a trusting heart, even when my pathway seems so dark.

 

And, I believe that He will, in His perfect timing, answer the prayer to grow my family. My prayers for strength and patience will be to endure a life flurrying with sticky fingers, temper tantrums, dirty diapers, and sleepless night. No matter how difficult or how beautiful, I hope to give thanks for everyday I get to be a mom again.

 

Though my heart still breaks, I choose to rejoice. I rejoice in the thought that all our family members in Heaven were there to welcome my child. I like to imagine all the children from our family lost through miscarriage, looking down and admiring the courage of their mamas, who continue to walk out their faith in a scary and broken world. I rejoice that my mother’s father, my mother in law’s father, and my husband’s father–who we lost so young– are happy to be “Papas” in Heaven.

 

I rejoice that for every second they were here…. those children were safe and loved… and now they are in the presence of Christ. I rejoice that the only sound they heard, before their ears resonated with choirs of angels, were the prayers of their mamas and daddies, singing praise and praying prayers.

 

If there is one thing I’ve learned through the miscarriage, and if there is one thing I have come to terms with—it is this: now that I am a mother, for the rest of my life on earth, I will live with a holy ache. I will ache to see my child in Heaven and I will later ache for the children who will have to walk this foreign land…who will have to endure the inevitable pain of this world.

 

But, through the grace of God, I can embrace this ache—for I know that my children do not belong to me. They belong to one much more loving and much more powerful. They belong to One who works ALL things together for our good. They belong to One who will one day wipe away every tear. They belong to Him that gives us eternal life…to Him that restores Eden.

 

They belong to Jesus Christ….and so do I.

 

**********************

HAPPY UPDATE: God has blessed me and my husband with another child. We will be welcoming our baby into the family in April 2014.

Starting at the End

Have you ever succumbed to the enticing urge to flip to the back page of a large novel and peak at the last sentence, paragraph, or even chapter? All of my friends who are literary purists will cringe as I share this, but I have been guilty of this…more than…once or twice. I can especially remember this horrific misuse of the written word rearing its ugly head when I was in elementary school.  Remember the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books? How could one resist the temptation of seeing how it would  all end? Thus, an ugly habit was born. But, to be honest, it has been serving me well lately. Let me explain.

 

One of the most thrilling aspects of my life right now is walking through the book of Revelation with one of the most anointed Bible teachers I’ve ever sat under. (Shout out to Mrs. Regina Gibson!) She has a passion and thrill for God and His perfect Word that is absolutely infectious and I am learning so much. I bring this up to share how starting at the end…and looking at the world through the LAST book in the Bible…is really changing my current walk with Jesus.

 

Revelation can be a bit overwhelming at first glance and there is a lot to take in over its 22 chapter span. But what I want to focus on is what God renewed in my spirit by looking at Chapters 4 and 5.  The disciple John is caught up and taken to Heaven! Ever wondered what Heaven will be like? Read these two chapters to get a glimpse:

 

Revelation 4

Revelation 5

 

I love how God chose John to describe this scene. As Regina points out, while Jesus was on the earth, John had dubbed himself the “Beloved Disciple.” He was on of the three who saw Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. He supped with the Lord, he sat under his teachings daily, and he intimately knew the Christ. But, can you imagine his AWE in seeing this scene unfold? Regina’s study is appropriately named “The Unveiling” and this is exactly what is happening in this scene. Almighty God is unveiling his majesty before man. Take a moment and really think about what it would have been like to witness this kind of worship and honor being presented before a Holy God.

 

This gives John and every believer a whole new frame of reference!  THIS is the Jesus who made himself available to mankind. THIS is the Jesus who entered our messed up world. THIS is the Jesus who chose to be despised and rejected and made himself nothing special to behold on this planet. THIS is the Jesus who was willingly mocked, tortured, and crucified for me. This Jesus, worshipped by all of Heaven and all of creation, longs for intimacy with me? 

 

Ah– and when I think of the throne room—how small my troubles become! How real scriptures truly become:

 

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17

 

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”  James 1:2

 

Oh, how my lifeless idols and silly worries melt in the glory of his presence. (Micah 1:4)  This is the throne room that makes me remember his instructions to make disciples and how urgent his command is in this day and age. (Matthew 28:19).  This throne room makes me stop and think—THIS God is on my side. THIS Jesus is my Savior who said He would never leave or forsake me.  (Hebrews 13:5)

 

 

Have you only been seeing Jesus as the world saw him? Have you forgotten the throne room? Both are vital and yet both are greatly illuminated when we start at the end.  God’s revealed it all to us on purpose so we can wisely choose the ending to our own adventure.

 

“YOU ARE WORTHY, OUR LORD AND GOD, TO RECEIVE GLORY AND HONOR AND POWER,

FOR YOU CREATED ALL THINGS, AND BY YOUR WILL THEY WERE CREATED AND HAVE THEIR BEING.”  -REVELATION 4:11

 

 

 

My Gluten Free World :)

Hey guys,

This is a departure from my regular blog content, but seeing as I’ve been a slacker on my blog lately (so sorry!)…I thought I’d post some helpful advice for those of you looking into a gluten-free lifestyle.

 

After years of gastro problems, a holistic nutritionist suggested I go gluten free. All of my celiac tests came back negative or inconclusive, but I had classic symptoms (anemia, stomach pain, adrenal fatigue, hair loss, and hypro-thyroid issues).  I took the plunge. The first week was the HARDEST. I literally grieved all the things I couldn’t eat again–like homemade chocolate chip cookies, my mom’s cornbread, and my future wedding cake (this one tore me up for awhile….Seriously!)

 

But, that was an eternity ago in the nutrition world. About 4 years ago, Elizabeth Hasslebeck went on television and told the world that she lost weight with a gluten free diet, she sold a cookbook, and talked about it on “The View”…..the heaven’s opened up, the angels sang, and just last week…the FDA issued it’s first standards on gluten free labeling! The new surge of products in the last few years has been amazing. Cookies, Pizza Crusts, Baking Mixes, ect.

 

I too share Elizabeth’s story. After about 6 weeks, my symptoms started to disappear. I noticed that I had more energy, slept better, and didn’t feel so bloated all the time. Oh, and small detail…I lost EIGHT pounds in the first month….eventually lost 15 and returned to my ideal weight, and the weight has never returned.  Also, remember how my tests came back negative? Well, two years ago, after a flairup bc of accidental gluten…my tests showed up positive.

 

I  have unofficially become the gluten free go-to girl for many of my friends who are now seeing the benefits of a gluten free lifestyle.  Below is a cheat sheet I usually send out to my Nashville friends. These are just SUGGESTIONS that work well for me when I need a substitute. Note: If you have a SERIOUS gluten allergy, make sure you don’t eat things that could be cross-contaminated (cooked in kitchens with lots of flour, ect). I don’t struggle with this problem…but you may want to be extra cautious at some restaurants (i.e. Domino’s, ect)

 

This list is not exhaustive. I’ve just tried the good, bad, and ugly….and this is my take :) Hope it helps you guys!

 

Oh, and NOOOO (absolutely NO cheating)! You have to get it OUT of your system and LEAVE it out. Not even a tiny bite.

Trust me, eventually, the cravings will go away and you won’t even miss it.

 

**************************************

 
Kroger
Most of the gluten free products are grouped in the “organic”/super healthy section. However, certain products are sprinkled throughout the store. 
They also label some products with a little orange and red tag, that has a big wheat stalk and red X…but these aren’t the ONLY products in the store, if you are GF savvy, so don’t get discouraged.
 
Publix
I don’t shop here as often, and their selection seems to be smaller. 
However, they do carry the basics and they sprinkled throughout the store. Unlike Kroger, you can usually find the GF products next to the regular product (GF pasta by regular pasta, ect.)
Other than that, they have a “special” side shelf that carries all the other products. You could probably ask an employee.
 

Whole Foods
Well, it’s like a freakin’ gluten free heaven….I rarely go….but well, as you can imagine, it has more than you’ll ever need :D and they have it all in a special section.
 
 
Sneaky Gluten
If you look at the bottom of many products now, they will list wheat as a top allergen, and it will be in bold print…so this helps.
Be careful with these: Soy sauce, canned soup, some catsup (I use “Simply Hienz”), some vanilla extracts, beer, ect…there are GREAT gluten free substitutes for all of these.
When you read the label, these are the things you want to avoid: FLOUR, WHEAT, BARLEY, MALT, SPELTTRITICALE, and KAMUT. Also, OATS are questionable. 
They don’t sit well with me, but there are gluten free brands of Oats. The more you stay away from packaged/processed foods, the better. These usually have gluten. My main rule of thumb is to stay on the outside “rim” of the grocery store…mainly produce, dairy, eggs, meats, ect. If we do eat carbs, it is usually rice or we make GF garlic toast.
 
What you CAN HAVE!
Rice, potatoes, corn, all fruits and veggies, all meat, all dairy (as long as it’s not a product with added gluten), lots of pasta sauces, and lots of other stuff :) 
 
Cookbooks
Because there are so many good substitutes out there now for flour, baking supplies, ect….you can probably modify anything you are already cooking. I use a lot of regular recipes and just replace with GF products.
But, I love these cookbooks specifically : “THE GLUTEN FREE BIBLE”, “MAKE IT FAST, COOK IT SLOW” (GF crockpot recipes), Elizabeth Hasselback has a good new one“DELICIOUSLY G-FREE”, “SIMPLY GLUTEN FREE DESSERTS”
Also, there are lots of good blogs with recipes….(you can just google or find them on Pinterest)
 
Baking Mixes:
Pamela’s Flour Mix, Pamela’s Pancake Mix, GF Bisquick Mix (love this! in baking aisle), Betty Crocker GF Cookie/Cake Mixes (in baking aisle), Glutino Baking mixes
I DONT like Bob’s Red Mill baking mixes–they have a weird tart-like zing to them—and a really thick consistency. You also have to add “Xanthum gum” and it’s expensive.
You can make SOOO many things with the Pamela’s mix, they have great recipes on the back of the packaging, and it is close to a 1:1 ratio with regular flour.
The GF bisquick mix is AMAZING and they have great recipes on the their website. I think you could replace any regular bisquick recipe with this.
Bread/Pasta:
Udi’s Bread, Quinoa Pastas (in a turquoise boxes), DeBoles Lasagna Noodles, Annie’s GF Macaroni and Cheese, brown rice elbow pasta, 
Certain DeBoles pastas have a weird texture. We usually cook our pasta and LEAVE it in the pot and water until we serve…and we drain noodles as we are putting them on the plate. It makes them less sticky.
Quinoa has a better consistency…but really all of the brands are pretty decent if you want to play around with them :)
Also, ANYTHING Udi’s Brand is delicious (except for hot dog buns…they fall apart) COOKIES are my favs.
 
Crackers/Snacks:
I love the brand GLUTINOThey have awesome pretzels (in a red bag! I looove these!), crackers, pizza crusts, breakfast bars, bread crumbs, bagel chips, ect. Most of these are in Kroger and I like some of there products SO much better than non-GF products. 
 
 
Also, NUT THINS are a healthy, great cracker and very addictive :D They are made by Diamond Nuts….and you can find them in any store. They are a good go-to for dips, ect. Also, some rice crackers are GF. We usually eat them with hummus as an appetizer or at-work snacks.

You can also have most 
tortilla chips if they are whole corn, just check label. My family loves Benitos- bean chips. Almost all salsa is GF…THANK GOD in heaven! :)
Soups
Amy’s Brand has some good GF soups, She labels them and Kroger marks them as well in the “healthy section”. Be careful with cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soups, they have wheat. They have GF brands at Kroger.
 
Pizza
Okay, I have to admit…this is the ONE thing I’m not happy with at the grocery store. No GF pizza is a good as the regular…BUT, there are a few options in an emergency. 
Ud’s Pizza Crust, Gluten Free and Fabulous Frozen Pizza, or Glutino Frozen Pizza. I usually add more toppings. 
But, Mellow Mushroom has has an AWESOME GF pizza downtown….so, if you are dying for REAL pizza, this is the place or Domino’s will deliver a GF pizza now. I don’t know how sensitive you are….but you have to be careful about cross-contamination if you are super sensitive. I’m not, only when I eat large amounts (like more than a Tablespoon) so it doesn’t bother me.
 
Cereal
We love Chex, and they have about 4 gluten free versions. (We love the cinnamon, but it has lots of sugar!) or GF oats.
 
Desserts
Udi’s cookies! Betty Crocker Mixes for different desserts (chocolate chip cookies, brownies, cupcakes, ect.) 
 
Restaurants
More restaurants than not have a GF menu now…..which is such a blessing! Just ask them for one. If they don’t have one, usually the chef will know about the allergy and can come out and give you suggestions. (P.F. Chang’s, Chilli’s, Carrabbas, Outback, ect…all of these have special menus!)  Jason’s Deli has WONDERFUL bread and you can get most sandwiches on that.Far East (Vietnamese food) has a really clean Asian menu and a couple of GF options (Pho and Coconut Curry Chicken! YUM!). I also love like Qdoba or Chipotle for lunch and make a burrito bowl.There are so many good choices and there’s really not a place I can think of where I can’t find something to eat.  :D IF you have a place in particular, let me know and I’ll tell you what I normally order.
 
*************************
Okay— that it my list! Please feel free to leave any questions in the comment section and pass it along to a friend.
And, for fun…here is a picture of my eating my DELICIOUS gluten free wedding cake! (Thanks Cedarwood!)
Screen shot 2013-08-08 at 9.56.38 AM

The Birth of a King

I must admit….I have been quite captivated by the arrival of England’s new prince. Perhaps it’s mystic of royalty that is somewhat foreign to Americans. Perhaps it is excitement of a monumentally historic moment. Whatever the case, the anticipation, the pomp, and all the “regal”-ness have “royally” sucked me into the coverage.

 

See the Town Crier Announce His Birth Here

 

But, I cannot help but think of my OWN King (and his arrival to this earth) today. In fact, tears began to fill my eyes as the lyrics from a Mandisa song “God Speaking” soared into my spirit:

 

“His ways are higher
His ways are better
And though sometimes strange…
What could be stranger than God in a manger?

 

The Son of God, the long awaited Messiah, the Price of Peace, the Savior of the World—was born in a barn. Though, I cannot help but smile when I think of the heavenly announcement heard by a few lowly Shepherds (LUKE 2:8-20)……there was no earthly fanfare. There was no palace awaiting him. Throughout his time here, he was a Man of Sorrows.

 

 

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” Isaiah 53:3

 
He did not make himself unobtainable–He made Himself avaliable. He did not come for the privileged or lofty–but for the least of these. He did not come to be served–but to serve. He did not come to live a life of glory—but to die, in order to raise US to glory.

 

Does it mean my God was powerless? No. Does it mean my God was not deserving of the whole world’s celebration? No. It just means He does things differently…and it means that I can live differently too…for I am a child of the Most High King. (Psalm 82:6)

 

Screen shot 2013-07-23 at 2.01.03 PM

 

This why MY King….is the KING OF KINGS.  Thank you FATHER for giving us your son. We know his name…and His name is JESUS.  

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 25 other followers