Why are you friends?

Can you say that your life is grounded by the rich support of this third type of friendship?? (This is God’s design for us. But it does not come without honesty and vulnerability.):

“According to Aristotle, there are three kinds of friendship: friendships based on usefulness and advantage, those based on pleasure, and those based on goodness and virtue. … The third type of friendship is quite profound. Here, friendships are formed around a common vision of virtue and the good life, and friendship serves to sustain, foster, and strengthen each friend in his or her commitment and progress in a life well-lived.

“Very much like Aristotle’s third type of friendship, New Testament fellowship is a means for developing commitment to and advancing the spread of the kingdom of God and the gospel of Christ. While New Testament fellowship is valuable for its own sake, nevertheless, it must always be a means to these ends as well. When we meet for fellowship, we should have something in mind and ought intentionally to seek to foster our mutual commitment to advancing the cause of Christ and the spread of the gospel.”

~ J. P. Moreland in his book, Love Your God with All Your Mind

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Thankful for thorns that never leave

“Thank you for the thorns that never leave.
-For the thorns that have pushed me to my knees.
-For the thorns that will cling to the worn and the weak.
These thorns do teach me that your grace is all I need.”

2 Corinthians 12:7-10
“So to keep me from becoming arrogant because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.    Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.    But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.    For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, with insults, in neediness, in persecution, and in distress. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

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God has made this passage real and true to me over the past few months. It all started when I found music over christmastime that set 2 Corinthians 12:9 to music. When I started realizing just how broken I was, I sang this verse to myself over and over again for reassurance. (Listen to the song here) God gives us oh so many promises! But it is up to us to be familiar enough with His Word to be able to call them to mind in our moments of need. Well, this promise is one that I just clung to, while searching the Bible for more to hang onto and put hope in.

Empathizing with Paul

Yes, this promise of God was spoken to Paul. However, in reading the whole passage, I found a lot of encouragement in realizing that my situation is not all that different, perhaps, from Paul’s. I do not know what his “thorn in the flesh” was. But, what I was coming to realize through my weakness and need this past season, was that there was a deeper root to my brokenness. –One that will never truly go away either.

As I’ve been reflecting on my painful or hard experiences over the past eight or so years, the pain often stems from disappointed or nonexistent hopes for a need of mine finally being filled. -A need that has not been met for a very long time. Something that God created to be present in His perfectly designed order. Something so many people take for granted.

…Not wanting to be completely vague, I’ll give just a bit more of a glimpse into what God has been leading me through. Like many other people in this broken world, what my family consists of is just a shattered picture of what was God’s plan for His creation. God designed the family structure and relationships for a reason. The stability and security -the unexplainable, often undeserved, innate love and supportive relationships within a family are to mirror and be a tangible example of God the Father’s and Jesus’ love for us.  But when the brokenness of sin’s effects on this world take away even such an important part of life as close family ties, well, that leaves a hole that can never be completely filled.

But I can only imagine how many others have similar holes from what life has dealt them. Even if your family is still outwardly in tact, have sin’s effects –selfishness, addictions, disease, mental illness, abandonment, neglect, etc.– stolen from you the needed love and care and supportive presence that should have been?

Thorns that never leave

For me, I see this hole in life as similar to the “thorn in the flesh” that Paul spoke of. It is a very real neediness and weakness. And in reflection, I’ve seen how it has kept surfacing in different seasons of life, as I’ve caught myself putting hope in different things or relationships to try to fulfill or numb that need. For me, this is a very real “thorn in the flesh” that will be present throughout the rest of my life.

But you know, ALL of us have these unmet needs and unfulfilled desires. And many of them will NEVER find fulfillment on this earth -EVEN in the things that we THINK will satisfy. So I know I am not alone with having these continually surfacing “thorns.”

We have a Father

But, for those who have put their hopeful trust in God, we have the assurance that, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.” (Psalm 103:13) God is the author and designer of all that is good and right in the world. And He knows and sees the holes in His perfect design that this broken world has left us with to endure in this life.

Jesus, himself, even gave us a glimpse of his father’s care for us when he shared: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)

In weakness, He finally gives strength

These passages gave me such comfort and reassurance. So, through my brokenness I began to pray for my Father’s pity, and for Him (who longs for us to be whole and to have our very real physical or emotional needs met, just like any good father would!) to be enough to fill my need each day. In finally realizing and admitting my neediness and weakness, I began to turn my dependence on God in a way I had not quite done before. It was like I was forced to look at my professed faith in God and prove through prayer and praise that I truly believed that He would be enough to satisfy.

And can I just say – HE HAS!!  My last post was only the very beginning of all the ways that God provided — So Very Specifically– to satisfy (at least for this season) the need that I was pouring out to Him. And just as the song above says, I can say I am thankful for the “thorns” that never go away, forcing me to admit my weakness and neediness, and turn my dependence, again, completely back to God. And my Father’s compassion and provision in this season has been more than I ever imagined!

I hope sharing all this will provide hope and encouragement for others who may be in a similar season of brokenness or emptiness. Here are just a few more passages and songs that bring me encouragement and hope. (Can you tell I am really appreciating the music of Forever Be Sure?!)

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Encouragement from scripture:

It really is true, what David points to in all his psalms – that filling our days with praise to God for who He is, all He has done, and all He promises to do is how to find God’s peace. This is reinforced in Phillipians (4:6-7): “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication —with thanksgiving— let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Isaiah 40:28-31
“Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,

But those who wait on 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 faint.”

Encouragement from song:

Such beautifully powerful reassurance:

“I am not alone without a helper. I am not alone while on my knees. For when my feeble prayers fall silent, with groaning deep the Spirit speaks for me. No not alone without a Teacher, no not alone without a guide. I understand what once was mystery. -The spirit gives to me the mind of Christ.

“I am not alone without a promise. Not without a claim on heaven’s prize. Because the spirit dwells within me, now everything in Christ is surely mine. No not alone without a witness. The voice within has testified: “You are a child of God the Father.” How clearly I have heard His silent cry.

“I am not alone without his power. The God who saves will sanctify. The Spirit grieved and I awakened. Now with that very power he purifies. No not alone without a boldness, replacing fear with love and might. Oh what a gift the Spirit gives me -to bravely stand and boast of Jesus Christ!”

“I am not alone without a Comfort. I am not alone to face the storm. The Prince of Peace has sent his Spirit. Oh what is there to calm or comfort more? No not alone without his presence. Though all forsake, He still remains. Who could have known when Christ departed, just how much closer now my God became.”

“This is my father’s world, Oh let me not forget,
That though the wrong seems oh so strong, God is the ruler yet.

Someday all will be right!
Someday the darkness will be shattered by the light!
Someday our Creator will be king forever!
Jesus will reign someday!

This is my father’s world. -Why should my heart be sad?
For He is king! Let the heavens ring, and let the earth be glad.
This is my father’s world, and while on earth I roam,
What’er my lot, it matters not. For God is on throne!”

Amen!

Call it coincidence? (I won’t)

As my life post-WWOOFing unfolds, sometimes I just have to step back and marvel at everything that has come across my path to lead me where I am now. In this post, I’ll share a glimpse into just one aspect of my life that I cannot help seeing God’s plan and direction in.

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Never thought I’d see myself in scrubs!

April 25, 2018

Last spring, I experienced some sores on my face that got me really worried about my health. After getting reasonably stressed from quick internet searches, I eventually stumbled upon some information that suggested a connection to poor digestive health. I then realized, after a little reflection, that there was also this link in my own condition.

Well, this eventually led me to discover the research of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and her gut-healing GAPS nutrition protocol. Not too many days had passed before I was sold on the value of what she was sharing and bought her book “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” to understand her research more thoroughly. Her highly educated background and successful clinical experience helping others in major ways certainly did a lot to establish her credibility. But beyond that, I was most impressed by how her research was all motivated by a mother’s desperate love for her son, who was diagnosed with autism. She is promoting no products or partnering with any industries. Instead, her protocol is simple. It takes major discipline to follow(!) since it is based on a specific carbohydrate diet. But the foods recommended are all the closest things to nature that one can find. -Non-processed foods, animals raised naturally and away from antibiotics, produce grown without harmful pesticides. It seemed that everything Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride was sharing lined up with God’s design and tied together only the true aspects of all the other healthy diets/health ideas I’d heard about in the past. In fact, this woman’s message was so close to nature and something she so freely wanted to share with others that she has her own farm/homestead in England and invites WWOOFers (just like me!) to live with her and learn!!

WWOOFing trip almost called off

After learning about GAPS, I, of course, tried it for myself. But because it was spring, and the first violet flowers were blooming… when I saw the first violet, I just couldn’t keep myself from plopping it in my mouth (though the GAPS protocol calls for no raw food for at least several weeks). Though I stuck with it for only a week, I saw and felt noticeable improvements in my health, and adopted many of Dr. Natasha’s recommendations longer term.

I was so impressed by the healing potential of what she described that I had this desire that all of my friends and acquaintances struggling with the (many) issues linked to digestive health could finally find healing and relief as well. In fact, just over one month from my planned journey, I remember telling friends that I was really considering the possibility that my time might be more worthwhile spent just finding several women who were struggling with their health, who would be willing to let me live with them and cook healing foods for them -but also to teach THEM how to cook for themselves and eat in a way that would allow their body to heal itself. I was on the lookout for willing women, feeling sure that I’d find fulfillment in that mission. I’d continue working as a freelance musician on the side, and spend what extra time I could around the woman, building relationship, trust, and introducing healing practices into her life. The idea excited me. But, time was running out. Though I reached out and even asked a friend to reach out if she knew of anyone that could use the help, it seemed that God did not want that path for me. Doors did not open. And so, instead, I continued preparations for an extended life on the road…

Many farms, home visits, and life experiences later…

May 10, 2019  in Oklahoma

I had just left my last farm in Oklahoma, and was spending several last weeks with a dear family in the same state, to get to know them a little better before heading home to Wisconsin. One morning, Abigail, a girl about my age, was visiting. We all passed the afternoon together weeding some flower beds around the property. As we were working, conversation made its way around to Abigail, and I tried to learn more of her story. After telling how she works at a nursing home, she casually made mention that she had gotten her CNA certification following two weeks of training.

Just Two weeks!?!

I was shocked. Having turned down nursing school to study music in college instead, I was under the impression that anything related to nursing involved intense and prolonged training, with extensive clinical experience. But two weeks? – This seemed like something completely manageable. My thoughts returned to some special people I’d met in a nearby under-staffed, underfunded nursing home in WI. Though it would undoubtedly be difficult, I still thought it would be purposeful to get to work in an environment like that. And to think, I could get a job like that after just two weeks of training!

That evening, I sat in the family living room with my laptop and researched training opportunities in Wisconsin for the month of June when I would be back home. Though there were definitely options, no good fit stuck out at me right away. HOWEVER! My training search somehow led me to a job search website. MyCNAjobs.com had a bunch of ads posted for caregiving jobs, I noticed. And strangely, many of these were saying “no experience necessary” or “no certification required.” Hardly believing that these were real job avaliabilities, I used the website’s one-click apply for caregiving with at least 8 different companies.

Well what do you know, the next morning, I got a call from one of them, and I was able to set up an interview for the day after I was set to return to WI. That all happened quickly!

May 22, 2019

I had hardly gotten used to seeing WI license plates everywhere again before I found myself in an office, going through an interview (that could not have gone better, by the way), and was accepted the next day. Also, right after the interview, I got a surprise call from another company I had applied at in OK. I set up an interview with them for the following day and was also accepted. (Thankfully, because it is the company I ended up with.)

June 5th – July 5th, 2019

From my first day on the job, all I found was fulfillment in the work that I had gotten into. And looking back over my past year, I could see how God had used all of my farm experiences to make caregiving such a natural thing for me.

I had spent a year always showing up on the doorsteps of strangers, learning to be comfortable with the uncomfortableness of entering another person’s home and life and routine. -Learning to find ways to make my presence helpful beyond just the farm work, through cleaning up the house, doing the dishes, or splitting cooking duties. I picked up many interesting cooking and housekeeping tricks, as well as learning how to be at ease with the unfamiliar and to make conversation with just about anybody.

And so, stepping into an elderly person’s life and home to become almost like family to them felt like the most natural thing in the world to me. Aside from the more personal, close-up care involved, I felt completely at ease just jumping right in. And what’s even better – I never dreaded going to work when my 24-,48-or even 72-hour shifts would roll around. I even often would leave work with a deep contentedness and fulfillment. AND, I would find myself thinking over my past shifts throughout the week, with satisfaction and pleasure.

After a trip back to Oklahoma in July and August, I went right back to work with caregiving as soon as I got back to WI.

A rerouted vision

I can’t help going back and marvelling at how God held in check my desire to help women through living with them and sharing the GAPS nutritional protocol way back in April of last year. And now, with much more diverse and rounded experience, He brought me across the right girl in OK to spark a search that led to a wide open door in caregiving –something quite similar to the vision I had earlier of how to help people through close relationship with them. Now, I get to show the elderly care and encourage them towards healthy decisions, and cook nutritious meals for them, if they are willing.

September 21, 2019

…finds me having just begun CNA classes to better know how to care for people in all types of situations. Here is just one more area that I can’t help seeing God’s direction and blessing in. Though training opportunities weren’t available during my short stay in June, I was able to find a great option for fall classes while back in WI that would leave me, still, with enough time to work and visit with family and friends on my days off.

Just two days in, and I have discovered that my instructor is an amazing person! Not only is she a believer, but she also is an RN who believes in a more holistic approach to medicine and health, openly questioning the effectiveness of many established medical practices as well as the motives behind the major health and pharmaceutical industries. In addition, she is just a joyful, interesting, loving, but firm person. I think partially because she is a believer, she’s been flourishing her powerpoint lecture discussions with personal stories and examples of how to go above and beyond the requirements to show patients/residents extra care and help them feel loved. I so appreciate her experienced perspective!

And today, I was so happily assigned to be part of her lab and clinical group in the days to come (rather than being split off with the other half of class to work with someone brand new to teaching). I am really looking forward to everything I will be able to learn from my teacher’s experience these next few months.

Coincidence?

What an interesting and rewarding journey this has been. A year and a half ago, I could not have anticipated what I’d be doing with my life now. In fact, I don’t think I would be nearly as prepared, had God not directed my steps in the way He has. I am thankful for all of the experiences. And, seeing His guidance in the past and present, I am looking forward even more to what is to come!

 

 

 

Why I traveled the country

Hello friends,

Today, I’d like to share a message that I found really valuable. Though I do not agree with one specific reactionary stance Matthew Milioni takes in it, everything else about his grander message is powerful. He is taking a familiar topic in the Christian circles, and forcing one to give it some serious, broad thought.  Here’s just one short clip to give a little glimpse into the message:

“Thinking about caring for God’s creation should be at the heart of our rejection of sin. That’s a very different motivation than trying to stay out of hell or trying to stay on God’s side. Trying not to be His enemy is a very different thing than seeing that He created an order in the world, and me becoming an advocate and a minister of the systems that God created.” [26:00]

 

To understand sin in this way is to see how it affects not only others and ourselves, but the whole trickle affect into the rest of God’s creation.

I particularly appreciate Matthew Milioni’s discussion here because he concisely describes what has given me the motivation to travel to farms and people’s homes around the country for the past year. I don’t think I’ve even been able to communicate my motivations as clearly as what he has just done.

But now, adding to Matthew’s thoughts, I can say that the deepest reason behind why I set off travelling was because of how I was learning more and more about what God’s order and design looks like. And it is a BEAUTIFUL picture! Where His kingdom is established in the hearts of people who are following Jesus looks radically different than what the majority has been led to understand christianity to be.

It seems that the majority of people claiming christianity have never gained an understanding of God’s design and order, and how He wants to heal and bring life and meaning and purpose to every area of our life. And so, a big motivation for my travels was to immerse myself in a few aspects of what I understood to be significant in God’s design – namely, ways of building community through closeness to and stewardship of His creation- so that I can better spread and draw people into the aliveness that God designed for us to experience in obedience to Him.

That’s a mouthful. Anyways, please listen to the message. I think it will both refresh and challenge you to take on a much broader kingdom perspective of what the Christian life is all about. How many areas of your life are furthering God’s healing design and order in the world?

Success!

Over the weekend, I was scheduled to work two 12-hour shifts, Saturday and Sunday, with a new client. Well, two people, really.

It was a sweet older couple, still doing all they could to stay living in their cozy home. The 89-year-old woman could walk, but it was just faster than a snail’s pace. And so, she needed assistance with walking and many other activities of daily living. But her husband, who fought to sustain his own independence in every way he could, needed much less assistance. Though he walked very bent over and sometimes struggled getting up from his chair, he still did everything he could to prepare breakfast for them both and to generally be a help to his wife.

It was a special treat to me that these two people were believers. I saw something different in their lives by the way they lived peaceably, with care and great respect towards each other. And, I also noticed something different in how the woman took an interest in my life. Whenever it was just me and her alone, she kept turning the conversation back around to me and my travels.

There was something special about the way she asked me questions. She was genuinely interested, and not just asking politely to pass the time. With the intent to listen and take advantage of the two days I was to be with her, she really did seem to want to learn about my story. She also commented on how she appreciated my character and personality. “I’ve never met such an interesting person before, I just wish you would be coming back tomorrow,” she said as we were saying our goodbyes. Aww.

I’m not sure how to write the above in a way that doesn’t sound like boasting. But, after a season of discouragement from life’s circumstances, it was just refreshing to get such affirmation and encouragement from someone who has seen more of life than I can imagine. Driving away that last evening, all I felt was pure joy and true success from my time spent with them. I got to show these two people undistracted care, show interest in learning their story, watch a Sunday service on TV and then talk about it with them, and cook them tasty meals that they truly enjoyed. But it was not just me blessing them. Their encouragement and appreciation greatly blessed me.

I do believe I have just about the best job in existence! The only catch is that, by contract, the caring and contact is supposed to stay within the bounds of my work shift. Well, I guess I’ll just have to make the very most of my time in each of these special lives.

To ‘honorarily’ become like family to the elderly. Constantly observing and learning from how they’ve lived and where it has brought them to today. -What a great lesson on life!

The one time

Just on the one day I walk into the woods looking for quick breakfast greens without bags or a knife, all sorts of other tasty things pop out at me.
Stumbling into this chicken of the woods first off just about took my breath away!

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After scouting out the whole park, I ran back to my car for a scissors and paper bag – the best gathering supplies I had on hand. This stand of chicken of the woods is probably the most tender and pristine (and largest!) one I’ve found yet.  I did not harvest from more than a quarter of the log, knowing that they were still growing, and other visitors to the park will probably enjoy the fungi encounter as well. But still, I had enough chicken of the woods mushrooms for multiple meals, and to preserve for later. I’ll revisit this spot later for more, and to see how/if they regrow around where I cut.

At another point in the park, I found just a small cluster of chanterelles. Little as it was, it still brought me great joy. And that’s because this is the park where I found my first chanterelles two years ago and learned to positively identify them.

 

70508056_10206147210637332_55518379355668480_oAnother find along a pond was some large stands of curly dock seed heads, prime for harvesting. I like to grind these up and sub them in for some of the flour in bakery recipes. They are related to buckwheat, and give things a similar flavor (in addition to much extra fiber).

 

Further on in the park, I found multiple substantial stands of wild grapes – with some of the first grapes to ripen!

And just as I was leaving the park, I came across this ornamental quince along the sidewalk in somebody’s yard.  Strange little shrub.

Well, though I was driving, in my head I was skipping all the way home just thinking about how I’d be able to use up this mushroom. This will be a very familiar sight throughout the rest of this week.

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Garlic mustard marinated carrots

It seems that spring’s tender greens and fragrant flowers are coming to an end all too soon. But thankfully, a few hidden spots in the undergrowth of shady woods offer the last tastes of cooler weather for awhile.

IMG_2014Spring has pretty much become my favorite season of the year. I’ve experienced three springs already this year (Texas in February, Oklahoma in April, and Wisconsin in May), but I am still not ready to let it go! And so, my favorite place to walk lately is through the woods where the seasons lag until the rising temperature forces the plants into their natural succession.

My eyes lit up this past week as I spotted the last violets in bloom in their coveted, cool spot under the forest canopy. A stately Jack-in-the-pulpit (not edible!) claimed its post along the trail. And wild onion scapes stood like slender green candlesticks ornamenting the wooded slopes.

One interesting find along Lake Michigan was a city park with Dame’s rocket flowers and seeded garlic mustard plants lining park edge. But just peeking past the shrubs, into the wooded area, I could see endless groundcover of young, tender 1st-year garlic mustard.

Garlic-Mustard

With mostly only violets and nettles available nearby for greens, I jumped on the chance to harvest some of this notorious invasive, picking only the smaller, glossy, more tender leaves from the garlic mustard basal rosettes. The recipe that follows is a result of this edible late spring find (adapted from FOOD52’s Korean carrot salad recipe) . . .

Garlic Mustard Marinated Carrots

2 lbs fresh carrots, coarsely grated

40 young Garlic Mustard leaves (or more!) – chiffonade/finely chop

IMG_20263 cloves garlic, minced

1 inch of ginger, minced

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cayenne

1/4 c. finely chopped cilantro

1/2 Red onion, sliced thinly

1/3 cup olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

  1. Prepare all ingredients, and combine firsts 8 ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Heat a large skillet, and add the olive oil. Drop in onions, and cook for about 3 minutes, or until onions just start to turn translucent.
  3. Allow onions and oil to cool as you juice the lemon.
  4. Pour the fragrant onions and oil over the carrot mixture and toss.
  5. Finish by adding lemon juice, and any other complimentary wild herb or flower you have on hand.

*Dish is best after sitting in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight.