Too Much Pie

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photo via

Over the winter I noticed that I was avoiding a decent size chunk of my closet. I was selecting the same type of outfit over and over again; leggings, a long sweater or cardigan, and boots. Now, to be fair, I love this kind of outfit. It’s a perfectly acceptable go-to around these parts. But I wasn’t wearing it because it was cute. I was wearing it because most everything else was too tight. And I don’t mean snug. I mean sausage casing tight.

Sigh.

I hadn’t weighed myself in years. For the most part, I have fluctuated in the same + or – ten pound range for years. And I’m on the tall side, which hides a multitude of sins. But it had become unavoidable, finally. I asked my husband where our scale was, if we indeed still owned a scale. Unfortunately, we did.

It was a dark day.

I have two teenage daughters, and they have never seen me on a diet. The last time I tried to take off some weight was for my sister’s wedding, and the girls were too young to remember much. My husband and I endeavor to speak and act in positive ways toward our imperfect, yet healthy and completely functional bodies. We’ve tried to model moderation and stewardship, but never in the context of attractiveness, just overall common sense and good health. In our image- and -sex-obsessed culture, it’s just not very many steps between wanting to be skinny and self-hatred. (BTW, eating disorders are so diabolical that they have the lowest recovery rate; even lower than drug, alcohol, and sex addiction.)

So I found myself in this place where I needed to figure out a way to explain to my older and far more observant girls why there was a change in my eating habits. I wanted to anticipate their questions and have thought through my answers.

Why do I need to lose weight? Am I unhappy or unhealthy?

Who am I losing weight for? Has someone made a comment or have I been embarrassed?

Does my doctor think I need to lose weight?

Do I not feel pretty anymore? 

Are these extra pounds making it more difficult for me to do things I want or need to do?

Needless to say, I did not immediately have the answers to all of those questions, but I thought it was worthwhile to take the time to think it through. I didn’t want to come across as a hypocrite (though sometimes I am) about weight and beauty. I routinely say things to my girls like . . .

Beauty is not a number or a shape. 

There are all kinds of beautiful. Be your own kind.

There are far more beautiful things than appearances. (Kindness, self-sacrifice, intelligence)

Daddy loves my curves! (Ugh, gross Mom.)

My body isn’t perfect but I like it and am thankful for it.

(Confession: Sometimes it’s hard not to let it turn into a skinny shaming session, because while those bodies types are rare, they are out there, and in their natural state, can be beautiful, too!)

Anyway, I thought about it for a few days, talked with my husband, and came up with this:

I am going to try to eat less sugar and processed food so that my clothes will fit again.

Profound, right?

But after much consideration, that was the long and the short of it. I wasn’t unhappy, hadn’t been embarrassed, still felt pretty, and still wanted my curves. I’d just lacked self-control, and over the course of a couple of years, gradually gained my weigh way out of my jeans and into yoga pants. (Scandalous.)

Please don’t not think that I have this figured out. I don’t. I struggle with my culture’s narrow definition of beauty. I like to feel confident and proud when I go out in public. It makes me feel more powerful, like there is more opportunity for me in the world, and that I might just be able to seize it when it presents itself. But it’s just a feeling. I am not any different. I am the same woman who occasionally makes a bra-less gas station run. My steps are just as ordered by my God regardless of what shoes I am in.

I really like shoes.

And to close on a high note, it’s much harder to lose this weight than it was ten years ago. Everything is lower and slower than it used to be. Except my expectations.

AIN’T LIFE GRAND?

Posted in Adversity, Beauty & Fashion, Being a Woman, Culture & Media, Health & Fitness, Parenting, Self Esteem | Leave a comment

Salad with Citrus Almond Butter Dressing

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A salad should never be “just” a salad.  It deserves a little more love than that.

I spotted a dressing online and before I could even try it, my girlfriend made it FOR us while we were visiting.  It was as good as I had hoped.  I’ve been varying a few ingredients, to make my own version.

Making a salad can be so mundane.  You can do it, just to do it.  Or because someone told you “you should.”  So many things in life like this.  Folding laundry.  Doing dishes.  Picking up after kids.  Changing diapers.  But each time is an opportunity to find beauty in the routine.  I’d be lying if I said, it’s easy to be faithful in these rhythm of life tasks, but there’s so much to be said for cheerfulness in the doing.  Life is short, and mostly full of daily usuals.  And so… enjoy, find joy, and wink at that list of things to do.  Most of it is a privilege anyway.

Therefore, I give you the humble salad.  Dressed beautifully, thoughtfully, and tastefully.  This will NOT disappoint.

Salad with Citrus Almond Butter Dressing

Serves 4

Salad:

4-6 cups mixed greens

1 bell pepper, julienned

12 grapes halved

3 tbls crumbed goat cheese

3 tbls roasted pepitas

Salt and pepper

 

Dressing:

3 tbls almond butter

1 tbls olive oil

4 tbls fresh citrus juice (I like half meyer lemon and half orange)

2 tbls water

1 tbls honey Dijon mustard

2 tsp honey

1 clove garlic, fine mince

1/2 tsp salt

For the original recipe with more pictures, detail and assembly, please visit www.thejoyfultable.blogspot.com 

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The Mission Trip Virgin

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This next “trip” I have scheduled is probably long overdue. Growing up, our family did many vacations during the summer months. This oftentimes coincided with my youth group’s short-term mission trips. I remember in middle school our youth pastor would organize several trips called “Destination Unknown” where you would be assigned a couple of leaders, they would cram lots of kids in a van, and you’d be off to some city (one that you no idea of ahead of time), and upon arrival would do helpful projects while forming wonderful bonds with your teammates and then return home a changed little human being (for a time) where you felt guilty for using your curling iron. Or something like that. At least that was the impression I got from friends who opted to go.

As horrible and selfish as this sounds, at the time none of those things appealed to me. I hate road trips, get terribly car sick, am often easily annoyed by people in close quarters, don’t like to be out of my comfort zone, and so, quite frankly, always opted to go to Hawaii or Cabo with my family. High school and college came and went quickly, and there were a few more opportunities for mission trips but something important always seemed to collide with the dates. Marriage came, kids came, and here I am now, twenty-seven years old, having been raised in a Christian home and never once been on what most churches and Christians define as a real “mission trip”.

One of our senior pastors at our home church has always tried to nudge me along to come with him on a trip. Trips would come up, I would ponder it for a minute, then find a reason I couldn’t go. Trip after trip came and went, but he still continued to invite me and even challenge me to come. One afternoon I found myself in his office and he was telling me about a hand picked team that was leaving for Haiti the next month. For some reason I just knew I was going to be on this particular trip. You know when you just know things? I looked at him, heart stirred and incredibly eager, and said “Hey man can I come too? For real this time.”  Knowing full well that it was a construction team (of which I have no background or skills in) our pastor looked at me and said, “I’ll tell you what Sheena. Go home, look up the flight and if there are any seats left still available, you can come with us.” 

I went home, looked up the flight (there were six seats left), plugged in all of my information and was about to press purchase when my husband reminded me that I had a $200 credit with that particular airline. Score. Out of all the airlines out there, the group’s flight happened to be on the one airline that I had a credit with. Amazing.

So this month, I will be traveling to one of the poorest countries in the world: Haiti. It is filled with devastation, starvation, and as a result, home to many violent crimes of armed robberies, kidnapping, rape and homicide. (Guilty admission #1: when I first discovered this I thought “Great. This blonde girl will certainly not make it home alive.” Guilty admission #2: I seriously suggested to my husband that he up the life insurance policy prior to my departure). These discoveries came after I had already booked my flight thankfully, otherwise it might have deterred me. And after a brief moment of anxiety, I quickly settled back into that initial peace. If I die, I die. If I’m kidnapped, I’m kidnapped. Whatever. I am going on this trip, Lord willing, and I am very thankful.

When we purchased our tickets to a neighboring Caribbean island this past summer, we got a great deal of $700 round trip per person leaving out of California. Now this trip to Haiti, round trip flights out of San Francisco were an unbelievable $473 (including taxes). Then deducting the $200 airfare credit just blew me away. (I may or may not have broken down on the phone when the JetBlue manager applied the credit.) I am overwhelmed by God’s goodness to me so often.

I’d like to think that I am a woman who is very conscious of the world we live in. Even though I have never been on a “mission trip”, I often recognize that I really do live in a nice little bubble in a safe city in America. I have friends and missionaries all over the world, in very remote and dangerous places, and staying in touch with them keeps me keenly aware of this incredibly privileged life I have over here. But I also know that knowing and experiencing are two very different things.

Am I ecstatic about stepping out of my comfort zone? Not really. Am I happy that I am becoming a woman who will do it anyway? Yes. I believe we could all use a good dose of reality of the world we live in. Not just from the news or in a book, but right in front of our eyes, when the opportunity affords itself. And while I love traveling the world and seeing new places, relaxing getaways with my hubby, family vacations and historical European destinations, I know this trip will touch a deeper part of my soul. It will require me to deny myself; deny myself sleep, good coffee, a cozy bed, comfortable temperatures, and probably countless other things that I’m not even aware of yet, all so that I can serve and love other people. Don’t get me wrong, I try to do that here in my own surroundings. But this will be on a different level I’m sure, without all my nice comforts.

We arrive in the country on my 28th birthday and I thank God for the gift of growing and stretching me, so that I may, hopefully, look and love more like He does.

gorgeous photos via Sheena (article written previous to trip and published after)

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Posted in Culture & Media, Travel | Leave a comment

Consider the Orchid

Somehow, I have failed to kill the orchid.

The orchid in question is the first I’ve ever owned. It was bestowed upon me this past July as a hostess gift from a visiting friend. This friend — unlike me — does not have to drive an hour in order to reach the nearest Trader Joe’s, so she arrived at our house thoughtfully bearing an array of exotic Trader Joe’s products: dried mango, chocolate-covered cherries, seasoning salt. Also: the orchid.

“It’s beautiful. Thank you,” I said as she handed me a tiny pot containing the single curved stalk upon which three delicate blossoms trembled. “I’m going to kill this.”

“That’s okay,” she shrugged. “Enjoy it before it dies.”

My only previous experience with orchids occurred immediately after I graduated from college. I taught by day at a private girls’ school in Greenwich, Connecticut, and attended graduate school by night. This schedule left me little free time or money, so I was grateful when a family with three daughters at the school where I taught invited me to live, rent-free, in their mansion.

I say “mansion” because the only other possible word to describe this residence would be “compound”. It had a pool, complete with a pool house where one of the maids lived. It had a tennis court, and a guest house (which sat empty unless there were overnight guests). The main house was so large that, in the eighteen months I lived there, I don’t think I saw all the rooms. My own quarters were in a wing above the gym, with stairs leading down to the kitchen.

The orchids were in the kitchen: a counter full of orchids. It would not be unfair to say that these orchids received more attention than the family’s daughters. Various members of the household staff moved them reverently around the kitchen, plucked off their dead foliage, and spritzed them with brass plant misters.

Those were the images that flashed through my mind when my friend handed me the orchid. It was more frightening than the moment when I held my own baby for the very first time; then, I just felt overwhelmed, but in this case I felt the certainty of defeat. You are a doomed plant, I whispered to those trembling blossoms.

I have no household staff. Or rather, I am the household staff, and I already have my hands full trying to sustain the lives of four daughters, one husband, one dog, and a few hardy houseplants that I’ve been assured are “impossible to kill.” (I live in fear that I will one day suffer the humiliation of killing the aloe plant, which resides in the guest room, ignored, for months at a time.)

Nevertheless, I read the orchid’s care instructions. For about a month, I dutifully tried to water my orchid at regular intervals. But school started. Then it was Halloween, and a daughter’s birthday, and Thanksgiving. My husband turned forty, and five days later it was Christmas.

After we rang in 2015, I caught my breath and remembered the orchid. For nearly two months I had treated my orchid the same way I treat my aloe plant: I had ignored it completely. I walked over to the kitchen window, slowly and with trepidation, ready to pronounce death.

To my complete shock, I found that my orchid was not only alive, but had sprouted a whole new branch. And on that branch, there were – get this – five brand new buds! My orchid hadn’t just survived my negligence, it had thrived! 

Lest you doubt that this was a miracle, I present you with the entry for orchid care from my gardening book:

“Orchids are commonly perceived as delicate and demanding. But thanks to modern cultural techniques, home gardeners can grow these exotic beauties with only moderate effort. Most orchids require a warm environment (60°-80° F), high humidity, 12 to 14 hours of light daily, protection from direct summer sun, and good air circulation. For the best blooms and growth, apply a special orchid fertilizer once every 2 to 3 weeks. Provide good air circulation. . . . If you can’t open a window, use a small oscillating fan, directing it away from the plants. Orchids love humidity. Set them atop a tray of damp pebbles, keeping the base of the pots out of the water. You can also mist them lightly each morning. Water in the morning whenever the potting fiber looks dry – but never make it soggy. While you can water once a week most of the year, you may need to do it daily in the summer. Use 60°- 70° F water.”

I’m not sure who wrote that, but I’d bet it was a childless, pet-less, single retiree living in a rainforest. Special orchid fertilizer? Oscillating fan? Tray of damp pebbles? In whose world is that considered “only moderate effort”?

There are many things in life that I’m tempted to treat like orchids – the way the gardening book says you’re supposed to treat orchids: things that I want to worry about, fuss over, follow every care instruction to the letter as a totem against failure. Included in this category are my relationships, my health, my “career”, my spiritual life, and my children. In other words, I treat almost everything like an orchid . . . except my orchid.

I turn my head and it’s there on the kitchen windowsill, buds preparing to open. Still alive (for now — but I’ve started watering it again, so who knows?). It’s my reminder that I am not solely responsible for life and death; that things can thrive regardless of whether I fuss over them. And that sometimes things thrive best when you leave them alone for a bit.

Posted in Adversity, Home, Decor, Organize, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Holiday Traditions: A Divorced Christmas

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I come from a divorced family. So does my husband. Both of my parents are remarried, as are his. One of his parents actually remarried two more times. And there is a “step-sibling situation” that I would need an Excel spreadsheet to properly explain.

I know we are not alone in this. Due to the rise in divorce in the last twenty years, the average American family is quickly becoming the blended family. I will likely be singing this following song directly to the choir.

I would like to say that, decades later, our parents’ divorces are just an unpleasant memory, but I cannot. While the pain certainly subsided long ago, and we are blessed to have step-parents that we love and consider a blessing to our lives, there is one time of year that seems to sound the alarm and summon the ghost of divorces past . . . The Holidays.

Firstly, it can quickly become a scheduling nightmare. There were years, especially when our children were young and everyone wanted to watch their innocent delight at everything sparkly and wrapped with a bow, where it felt like we had to chop our Christmas up into semi-equal sized chunks and then distribute those chunks in a way that would not offend, insult, or slight anyone. But we were never truly able to meet everyone’s expectations at once, and someone was always disappointed when it came time for us to leave.

Secondly, we quickly discovered that it was much more difficult to establish traditions for our own little family while chasing the elusive goal of keeping everybody in this oversized web of extended family happy.

Thirdly, we were exhausted. We found ourselves dreading Christmas Eve, day, and the day after. That was not okay. We realized that as our children grew older, they would begin to sense that stress and tension. We were unknowingly showing our daughters that the holidays were a time of making family appearances and meeting the expectations of others, rather than celebrating the miracle of The Incarnation, and doing so in a way that was meaningful and joyous for our family.

And if someone wanted to join us, they were, and are, welcome.

So, we gave ourselves permission to rethink our holidays; to consider, talk about, pray, and prioritize. We talked to our parents and extended family members, who were for the most part very gracious, and let them know we would be slowing our holiday roll.

There were some aspects that we truly wanted to firmly protect: attending a Christmas Eve service, baking for our friends and neighbors, reading the story of Jesus’ birth and singing Happy Birthday before opening gifts, leaving room to invite someone who is alone or away from family to have a meal with us. We also decided that we would limit our extended family visits to one per day, and spread it out a bit.  In some cases, we just decided to stay put, and open up our home for festivities.

All in all, it dramatically changed our holidays for the better. We realigned our focus — teaching our children the miracle of Jesus’ birth, showing them ways to celebrate Him and share Him with others. And yes, also to wish our loved ones well and be thankful for their presence in our lives. But that can also be done on the other 364 days of the year, and be just as meaningful.

We could breathe again. And for the most part, we have been breathing ever since. As our children have grown into teenagers, we are able to be more flexible. We can keep the spirit of our traditions be but creative in how we express them. And we are making some new ones! Now our focus is to show our children how Jesus did not come to save traditions, He came to save people. And when relationships and loving others are the priority, you are willing to invite others in to share your traditions, and when necessary, alter or submit them.

Our holidays can still reach moments of chaos, but as long as they are just moments, we can live with that. Honestly, there are still times when we daydream about how much simpler and easier it would be if our parents had stayed married, if everyone could be in the room together at the same time without tension and excessive throat clearing, but it’s a romantic notion for another reality. We are all broken, and all loved, and the overarching story of Christmas is, always, GRACE.

 

 

 

Posted in Adversity, Current Events, Family, Holidays, Parenting, Relationships | Leave a comment