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Whole Food, Whole Faith – Exploring a Plant-based Lifestyle

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For a while now, I’ve felt like something was missing when it comes to my overall health and nutrition. If you were to ask me if I was a pretty healthy person, I would say, “Sure!” I try to eat really well and watch my portions.

I get good sleep and I exercise consistently. One day a week I do a strength training class at the gym that whips me every time. And I run 2-3 times a week. And walk regularly.

But lately I’ve been taking a hard look at my diet (thus what I’m feeding my family) and I’ve noticed were I really want to see some change and ultimately feel better. Here’s how I’ll sum it up borrowing from the words of popular food writer & UC Berkeley Professor Michael Pollan:

Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Cancer experts agree that adding green and other vibrant colors to your diet in addition to vegetables, fruits, legumes (dried peas & beans), and grains aids in the fight against cancer and other diseases.

We’ve heard it before. Foods so rich in phytochemicals and other fancy words can do nothing but help my diet. But this knowledge has never made a significant impact on my personal health and food choices until now.

Fruits & Veggies As the Foundation

In other words, I’ve never seen fruits and veggies as the foundation of my health. They have been more like a “side” item.

Going green in one form or another has been a trend for a while. Celebrities and politicians like Alicia Silverstone and Bill Clinton are adopting plant-based lifestyles. And movements like Forks Over Knives, Food Inc., Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and the Meatless Monday Campaign are making a big dent in how people view what they consume.

Recently, to my surprise,  I’ve discovered that several of my friends have adopted plant-based lifestyles as well.

From what I’ve read, a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you have to become a vegetarian, it just means that most of the food on your plate should be from plant sources. But with that, many people do choose to go all-out vegan or vegetarian.

Introducing More Color to My Kitchen

For the last four days, I’ve been off meat completely. I’m not sure if this is something I will do long-term but for now I want to see how my body feels and if I notice any differences over a span of several weeks.

This is huge for me because I love meat. Most of my favorite dishes involve chicken and beef. But for now, I’m going to get my “meat” from the protein that exists in plant sources and through dairy. We thrive on yogurt and milk around here.

Practically for us this week, my fridge and pantry is filled with foods like raw spinach (for eggs or smoothies), orange, red, and green peppers, hummus, tomatoes, celery, carrotts, whole grain bread, kale, organic yogurt, oranges, grapes, apples, satian (a wheat gluten), quinoa flakes, nuts, and more. I’ve decided to budget out organic crackers, fruit snacks and cereal for the kids.

Here’s our meal schedule until Thursday:

Monday- Chickpea Burgers w/ corn and brocolli - it turned our really well. Very different than what we are used to but we didn’t go to bed hungry. Not sure if I’ll make it again.

Tuesday- Black bean & Zucchini Tortilla Casserole - delicious! a little weird without meat but the whole family enjoyed it.

Wednesday- Tortellini in Sweet Potato Sauce

Thursday- Vegeterian Greek Meatballs in Tomato Sauce w/ Feta Cheese

I’m on the hunt for good recipes that I’ll reuse and I know there are better ones out there. The main thing I’m remembering as we look into the plant-based lifestyle is that it’s a lifestyle.

If we have a party, are eating out, traveling, or at a friend’s for dinner, there is room to flex a little. I don’t want to be obsessed about it, but aware and conscious of my food choices with moderation and balance.

Whole Faith

So why am I going into detail about all of this health stuff on a blog that is primarily about faith and life? I guess first, I love sharing with you about what I’m learning, especially when I feel like it could encourage you.

Obviously I’m not a health expert or nutritionist- I’m a writer and stay-at-home mom. My husband is an amazing RN so I’ve heard a lot of health-related stories. My sister is a gifted Registered Dietitian and has taught me a lot about health and wellness.

But the truth is that we don’t have to be experts to understand that our health greatly impacts our spiritual life, and vice-versa.

Here’s what I’ve experienced:

  1. When I have more energy, I’m highly productive during the day.
  2. When I get sufficient sleep, I’m quicker to go for decaf coffee than caffeinated.
  3. When I feel good about my body, I often treat others better.
  4. When I’m properly fueled, I have energy to carry a conversation and share my faith with someone.
  5. When I’m renewed in God’s Word and prayer, it changes the attitudes and choices I make.
  6. When I see my body as the temple of the Holy Spirit, it changes how I steward my body for God’s glory.
  7. When I pray, anxiety and stress is lifted as I give my burdens to God.
  8. When I exercise, I release endorphins that give me a “high,” making me feel better than I did before while decreasing depression, moodiness, or irritability.
  9. When I serve others as the hands and feet of Christ, it gets the focus off of me and my problems and onto helping people.
  10. When my overall health is well-balanced, I’m inspired to keep at it and persevere in my faith.

Well I’m not exactly sure what my diet will look like months from now, but I do know that I’m going to make better choices. I know that this lifestyle will require sacrifice and hard work, no doubt. I know it’s a road less traveled in our American, fast-food culture. But I’m excited to start this journey and see where it will take me and my family and my faith.

I’d love to hear from you- Did any of the 10 points jump out to you when it comes to your health and faith? What would you add? Do tell!
If you’re interested in more resources regarding the plant-based lifestyle, these have been helpful for me:
5.) Vibrant Life Magazine- faith & health

What are your goals for 2010?

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On Wednesday, I’m taking a 12 day Christmas vacation to visit Jeremiah’s family in Michigan. We have a lot planned and I’m really excited to get away, reflect, and think about some goals for 2010. Then before the ball drops in Times Square, I plan to write them down and Commit.

I have a history of setting goals that are tangible and realistic and some that are vague and unrealistic. Regardless, I love to set goals because it gives me something to aim for. Goals help keep me from being mediocre. And I always love a good challenge.

It’s not even Christmas yet so I haven’t thought really hard on my goals, but here are a few I have in mind:

  • Run a race in the Spring. 15k or more.
  • Utilize the margins in my new Bible (the ESV that Santa’s bringing me) to take notes and write prayer requests.
  • Pray for my husband and son daily.
  • Start a book proposal (start typing it in Microsoft Word)
  • Work hard with my husband to be debt-free by December (one car payment to go)
  • Try harder to have more common sense in the simple things

Since I’m not committing until the ball drops, I’d love to hear from you. Do you have any goals (silly or serious) brewing in your mind for 2010?

There’s a chance I might have to borrow what you’re thinking about committing to.

If you don’t have any yet, don’t feel bad.

Prayer for Matt Chandler

My heart broke today in hearing the news about Matt Chandler’s health via The Village Church blog. Matt has a wonderful ministry partnership and friendship with my work. He just spoke at our conference in November. And just in the last year, I’ve listened to a lot of his podcasts. He’s my favorite pastor (or should I say “podcast preacher.”)

God has used Matt to rekindle a passion in my heart for the gospel and God’s glory. A lot of the writing on this blog has been inspired by a mix of Matt Chandler sermons and God’s word.

I’ve asked God a lot today: Why Matt Chandler? Of all people, why him? And God continues to whisper: This is my calling right now for him to take on brain cancer. I’m sovereign. Will you trust me?

And all I can do is trust.

The hospital where Matt is getting rehab is a block from our apartment and I can see parts of it from my window on the 9th floor. This evening while in my son’s bedroom, I saw the sun setting over the hospital. Bursts of magenta, orange, pink, and navy blue filled the sky.

The sun set reminded me that God is sovereign and is in total control of Matt’s life. And I loved the tweet that Matt wrote today:

Path report is 2ndary at best…good report doesn’t mean much, bad report doesn’t mean anything…my days r numbered and nt by ths report

It is God alone who determines our days. I pray that Matt and his precious family will endure well and experience God’s strength and love in the days ahead.

We love you Matt, Lauren, Audrey, Norah, and Reid.

Why I need to simplify my life

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simplifyThis past week I spent time in VA Beach visiting my sister and nephew. I came away from my trip with a lot of unexpected thoughts, refreshment, and a confession that  flying with a one-year-old is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

Probably because I’m often impatient and struggle with people pleasing at times. Therefore I was constantly giving John toys or feeding him gold fish and pretzels to keep him from screaming the passengers’ ears off. I can still feel the frustration.

Anyhow, the one unexpected thought I came home with was to simplify.

Simplify in the sense of what I allow into my life. And it all started with a conversation my sister, mom, and I had about email and facebook. I think lately, a lot of my personal time has been dedicated to answering email and facebook comments. I don’t think I’d ever go as far as to say it’s an addiction, but maybe something I do a lot? I don’t know.

I know email and facebook are not bad things. The majority of us use them. But for me, too much of a good thing is a bad thing and I need to chill out for a bit. The world doesn’t need me. It will still go on. I don’t have to get back to people the moment they ask for something. It’s really okay. We’re all friends anyway.

So the last several days, I’ve checked my blog, email, or facebook about once or twice a day for a few minutes. It’s been so freeing to be detached. I’m excited to use the extra time to be intentional about playing with my son, spending time with my husband, hanging out with friends, enjoying God’s beauty, and soaking up what life is all about- real-life relationships.

My desire is that in the next few months I will accomplish things I never thought possible by living a more simple life when it comes to online habits. So please… check up on me and ask how I’m doing.

Are there any areas in your life where you’re learning to simplify, or at least would like to?

Savoring Solitude

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1150829_algarrobo_beach_2Before we left on Friday for a Labor Day weekend getaway, the one thing I needed more than anything else was rest and solitude time away from the busyness and baseline stress that comes with living in a big city… and that comes from life in general.

As we drove into the wide open spaces, I felt my burdens lifted away. Jeremiah blasted the radio and rolled the windows down. John loved the breeze against his face. We sang, laughed, and talked. It was just the beginning of our journey to getting refreshed and encouraged again.

All throughout the gospels Jesus withdrew in solitude away from the crowds and the disciples to be renewed in his relationship with God:

“At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them” (Lk. 4:42).

“Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him” (Mk. 4:36).

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Lk. 5:16)

Knowing that Jesus did this often, speaks volumes to me. How can I expect to live life apart from being alone with God- just me and him? How can I expect to love others well if I don’t separate myself from people from time to time? How can I expect to be renewed by staying in the same place day in and day out without ever getting away? A few things I’ve noticed when I choose not to withdraw to my “lonely place” is:

1.) I worry, worry, worry

2.) I’m not sensitive to God’s leading in my life

3.) I carry stress and don’t easily serve others

4.) I don’t share the gospel and what God is doing in my life

5.) I am mean and sin more

It’s crazy to think that choosing not to withdraw has led to those things in my life, but it makes total sense. Solitude time is examining life, confessing sin, being refueled in God’s word, and most of all resting in Christ for his strength. Life is just too hard not to make room for his presence in my life.

While I’m far from being perfect, a few practical things have helped me when it comes to making solitude time:

1.) I write it on my to-do list. Since most of the time, I get done what’s on that list, my quiet time is non-negotiable as well.

2.) I pretend like there are no dishes to be done, laundry to be folded, voicemails to return, and that not one person needs me.

3.) I leave my phone off, shut down my Mac (no emails, facebook, etc.)

4.) I go somewhere quiet with my journal, Bible, and pen and most of the time, I do this when John is asleep.

5.) I try to be still and pray in the car on the days I commute to work.

Well, I’m sitting on the couch in my pajamas listening to the sound of waterfalls trickling into the pool. The morning breeze is so refreshing and the birds love it too. The past few days I’ve been renewed in God’s word and renewed physically and emotionally. I’m sad we’re at the end of our journey at my parents because the time away has been so sweet.

But I can say I’m ready to travel back to Dallas and face the realities of life again with a better perspective than when I left.

You might not finish this blog post

Do you have days where you forget that your life is a vapor and you’ve been put on this earth for just a short time compared to eternity? You’re a mist. Here one day and gone the next. You aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. At any time, any moment your life could be taken from you.

This intro isn’t meant to sound morbid, but to show reality as it is. Because too often, we forget that life is a vapor. Too often, I forget that I’m not invincible afterall.

My friend Whitney and I started going through the book Crazy Love two weeks ago. I shared about Chapter 1 a few weeks ago. Last night, our friend Jen joined us in the discussion. While indulging in the Hollywood-famous Sprinkles cupcakes that Whitney brought us, we had a great time sharing thoughts on chapters 2 and 3.

Chapter 2 is called You Might Not Finish This Chapter. And rightly so. The chapter deals with the reality that we all have an appointment with death and that God determines whether we live through each day. The main takeaway that I got is what do I want to remembered for? Can I actually live my life each day remembering that life is precious? What kind of legacy do I want to leave for friends, family, and my children one day? Am I becoming the person I want to be?

Chapter 3 switches gears and talks about God as our Father. Sometimes our thoughts about God have been influenced by the kind of relationship we have with our earthly Father. Francis’ view of God used to be full of intense fear because his father was that way towards him. He walked on eggshells a lot and rarely heard “I love you.” His view began to change when he had his own kids- he saw that the overwhelming love he had for his children was the kind of love God had for him. He was a God who just wanted his children to crawl up in his lap and enjoy His presence.

The former also isn’t to say we shouldn’t fear God. We should always have a reverent intimacy towards God, but He never intends for us to hide from him because we’re afraid of him. I think the truths in this chapter are huge. A lot of us see God this way. We have an unhealthy fear that he’s casting down lighting bolts when we sin. I’ve had that view at times in my life.

Some of us see him in a light of a performance based acceptance where we feel God loves us by what we “do.” If I could just pray more, read my Bible more, cuss less, go to church more, give more… These are all burdens we were never meant to carry! Those are burdens of “religion.” God never asks for religion but for a relationship where we focus on loving him first- not “doing” all these things. Those things will naturally flow from that love relationship.

This is a lot of stuff to unpack in a blog post, but I hope you’ve been encouraged.

Questions: Do you see God as Love- so much that he sent his son to die in your place? Are you carrying heavy burdens around your neck you were never meant to carry?

Rest in the fact today that the greatest commandment God calls you to is to Love the Lord Your God with all your Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength (Luke 10:27).


Orange Air & Anxious Thoughts

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APW_orangeA lot of mornings in Dallas, there are what you call “orange air pollution” watches. I saw one on the marquees driving down the interstate this morning. I was also notified via radio. I can’t quite figure out what action they want me to take when they tell me about this orange air. Do they want me to turn around and carpool with someone last minute? Am I supposed to hide inside all day, in hopes that my respiratory system won’t be exposed? Do I need to text all my friends and tell them to stay inside? If anything, all these watches do is make me worry instead of take caution.

I got an email from a friend yesterday. She shared some of her struggles with having a “controlling, anxious personality.” I struck a chord with that. I battle anxious thoughts every day: Will I get sleep tonight? Will my brother in law be okay when he deploys to Afghanistan in a few months? Am I communicating well in my marriage? Is America going to recover from the current condition we’re in and are we really protecting ourselves well from terrorism?  And then it’s the more simple things like What will I eat next? Am I staying healthy? Will I survive my 15k tomorrow? Will I make it to that appointment on time?

God knew that we would be people of worry and he knew it would be one of my main struggles. He knew that I would have to refer back to this verse 10,000 times to remind myself: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-8).

So what’s the solution to worry and anxious thoughts? PRAY. Petition. Be thankful. Present all your concerns to God- yes that means your laundry list. But make sure you LISTEN. Complain to him. Talk to him. Believe in him. Depend on him. Have faith that he will answer. Rely on truth that he deeply cares about what you think. Stand firm in his power to give you strength to endure this life. SURRENDER.

Then what? His peace will consume you and guard your life. You won’t be able to explain it because it transcends human comprehension. Your anxious thoughts will be turned into thoughts of trusting in someone Greater.

So, what do you need to give Him today? Do you trust that he will carry whatever burdens you have?

Well I guess the next time I see “Air Pollution: Orange” I’ll be reminded that God is in control, even when we do stupid things to our environment.

Give me Prudence

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1199870_old_style_doryJeremiah and I are facing some pretty important decisions that could impact us financially, relationally, spiritually, and our overall sanity. We were encouraged this morning to hear a leadership podcast from Andy Stanley on decisions and being men and women who are prudent.

We were reflecting on the last three years of marriage and the choices we’ve made that have gotten us where we are today. Some good and some bad. Now, we’ve reached a point where we see potential dangers.  These “dangers” might not necessarily be what you’d think as serious but in the long run, they could very well be. They have to do with allowing margin into our life, making wise financial decisions, putting family time as priority, and choosing to deal with some of our hurts, habits, and hangups that could eventually snowball in the future.

Andy makes the point that many people say, “Oh yeah I need to do that or I should do that.” But when it comes to action, stepping out of the boat never happens. So 10 years later, they can’t believe how they got to where they are. This could involve not getting into God’s word, an unhealthy relationship, a negative habit/pattern, an affair, addiction, our health and well being, entertaining sinful thoughts. The list goes on.

Well, back to this word PRUDENCE. Proverbs, the book in the Bible drenched with wisdom and brutal honesty, says: A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it (Prov. 22:3). Prudence is exercising sound judgment in practical affairs. It’s the ability to have wisdom looking into the future so you can make a good choice for today. It can also involve caution and not taking too huge of a risk. I love the word refuge– it’s an umbrella of protection. Someone, however, who is “simple” and makes rash decisions without counting the cost, could end up in a bed of suffering without even realizing it. And the consequences could be overwhelming. That’s why God has given us prudence to protect us and because he loves us.

I really want to become a woman who’s prudent. Sometimes it’s so difficult when I’m in the midst of a situation to see the future implications.  I often wait for a sign or prodding from God, which could definitely happen, but more often that not God gives me principles to help me make a wise decision. And it’s often that I forget that wisdom is in my pocket, waiting for me to dig her out.

Well, hopefully by the end of this week we’ll be able to say that we counted the cost and will have made a choice we won’t regret!

Running for Sunrise

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Part of the White Rock Trail

Part of the White Rock Trail

On Sunday morning, John was up and ready at 4:30 AM so I decided to do my long run of 7 miles for the day. I started at 5:00AM. Since it was still dark out, Jeremiah followed close behind me in our SUV. Running that early just isn’t fun to me. Everything is closed. No one is around. And I longed for sunlight.

No matter how far I run, I always run on Swiss Avenue, a well-known street in Dallas lined with historic mansions. I pictured everyone snug in their beds. Past Swiss Avenue, I jogged on the sidewalks of Lakewood, a charming area where my final destination would be. On the left in the distance, I saw a few workers at Whole Foods getting their day started. I smelled doughnuts from a local shop, reminding me of my intense hunger pains. Past the neighborhoods, I reached White Rock Lake where I had around 3 miles left.

At last, the sun  pierced through the clouds- bursts of bright pink and orange. Fishermen were out for their morning catch. Cyclers, walkers, and runners breezed by- sweaty and short of breath just like me. The light I had longed to see had finally arrived and it was beautiful. It gave me a new burst of energy to finish what I’d started.

There are days where I sense darkness, that I’m in a valley and I just long to be with Jesus and to be at home in heaven. This is not at all to say I don’t love life. I absolutely do. God has given me fullness of joy in His presence. I love my husband, my son, family, and friends. I’m overwhelmed all the time by God’s grace and goodness in my life. And it’s depressing to think about dying one day. But I still have days where my heart longs for my eternal home in heaven- where I’ll be healed from the brokenness of sin within me and restored to God’s perfect image.

At the end of 7 miles and wanting to eat a dozen doughnuts, I was encouraged that in Christ, there is no darkness at all. He is the light and gives light to everything. He alone is what our hearts are chasing after.

No, Mr. President: John Piper’s Response to Obama on Abortion

I don’t need to write anything here just check out the video for yourself.

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