Thursday, November 13, 2014

The wellness secret that will change everything



Fall snuck in the back door, and just as quietly, is about to leave, replacing brilliant colors with serene and peaceful landscapes.

Long, quiet, lonely days prompt me to pick up the lens and capture moments of joy to remember the beauty right outside my door. So too, is the choice to be thankful... a lovely guest that sits out in the foyer waiting to be welcomed in, but is often ignored while the pesky and burdensome Discontent distracts and dazzles.


Making the choice to really see the beauty we're surrounded by is strangely difficult. Thankfulness is the mortar that holds together the joints and marrow of our souls, giving our lives shape and meaning.



This stony path is littered with beautiful surprises and one small secret spurs me on when my faith lags...

She told me during another rough time that what God was giving me in that season was His best for me...not an afterthought, a punishment, a manipulation to get me to 'behave better'.







And so I turn the key and open this door to a beautiful surprise, the gift of joy. Realizing that because God gives what is best, I have what I want (who really does know what one's soul deeply needs?) rather than wanting what I don't have. What I have is all I need for today. Perhaps tomorrow, a need or desire will arise, but for today, my soul can be full if I slow down to chew and enjoy the feast of today.




I see light ahead, showing only the next step towards Home. I wipe the dust of fear and doubt at the welcome mat of His throne, and whisper thanks for Him, for my hard-working man, for the simple joy of snapping beauty all around. And I feel His smile and embrace as we warm by the fire of joy.


For further meditation: Matthew 6:25-34, Psalm 30:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


By Grace,


Ruth

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Gluten-free banana chocolate chip oat muffins

Hey friends!

Here's a quick and easy treat for you, complete with the option to try the muffins dairy and gluten-free if you so desire!  I whipped these up in less than 20 min with about a 25 min bake time, so no major fuss. I've decided that I will try to cook gluten-free when I can, but not spend an inordinate amount of time or money trying to do it. These muffins can be made by quickly grinding oats into flour, without having to buy expensive and hard-to-find flours. Cooking and meal planning need to be enjoyable and not too demanding or it is easy to just give up and go back to bad habits. Better to make a few healthy improvements, stay within budget, and enjoy food that your family won't total reject :) I've tried the vegetarian, gluten-free, and organic eating habits, and being too legalistic about it doesn't really help the healthy living cause in our home :)

So enough chatter.... here's the original recipe from A Mama's Story with my notes below

To make your own oat flour.... It's as easy as measuring about a 1/4 cup more oats than the recipe calls for in oat flour, and blend away in your blender! Wa-la, your have your own oat flour. Be sure to measure the flour again, because it's not an exact science. You also want to check that you are using gluten-free oats if you have a major gluten allergy, but I've read good sources that say oats really don't have that much, if any, gluten. Do your research. I used the olive oil the recipe calls for, but I might try coconut oil next time for a change and a little added flavor. I didn't have chocolate chips, but a chocolate bar chopped up worked just as well. My muffins were a tad gooey at a 24 min bake time, so depending on your oven and your preferences, you might want to consider that.

Enjoy your treat!

Ruth


Monday, October 27, 2014

When a hard story is the best story // keeping your heart alive to hope

Sweet friends. You've stopped in again to let me open up my heart and share the good news of the Gospel in the midst of our brokenness. Perhaps you've seen bits and pieces of the story the Divine Author has written across the pages of our one flesh life this year. The job loss, the weeks of travel, the moments of joy and reconnection with family, the darkness of losing a mother I never knew but gave me so much in Paul, the renewed desire to give our lives fully to vocational ministry, the desire for little ones, new and unexpected callings, moving a-g-a-i-n, and the unforgettable brilliance of Grace in the midst of it all. It has been an uphill, tearful, and yet joyful season. I am quickly reminded of the Cross as I write, the Story of Grace in the midst of darkness, as the story His followers thought should be written one way had a dramatic, painful, and yet gloriously eternal and necessary twist. It was the hardest and best Story ever to be written.

Perhaps you are living a hard story, a painful story that you never wanted and would gladly write yourself out of if you could, yesterday. I know. I've been there. In some ways, I am there. And yet, it's in these dark and confusing moments where we find the deepest Grace, the most profound connections with those we love, and the most dramatic growth possible. There's no other way to move forward sometimes, except through the darkest valleys. We all live for the happy days, the days when life 'makes sense' (at least to us). We see the wicked flourish, the unlikely prosper, the ungrateful and selfish expand their broken families endlessly. Disease abounds, governments make unwise decisions, women make choices that bring death and not the freedom they crave.

And yet. Or rather, but God.... This masterful HIS-story maker and life-story production manager is at work writing an epic story through our brokenness. He is turning the effects of the fall, our sin and the broken systems in which we live into something glorious, beautiful and breathtaking. If you are written into His eternal playbook as His adopted child it's happening in your home, closer yet, in your very heart. Pretty amazing, I think!!

But it hurts. It really hurts. Some days, who am I kidding, most days, it is easier to distract ourselves from the pain with anything that works... could be something harmless, could be something damaging and deadly. You know what your go-to method is. To be clear, finding ways to lift our hearts and bring us joy in good and godly ways is not to be denied. In fact, we are called to rest and allow our hearts space to breathe. God often allows pain to heal our hearts. The pain could be a result of our sin choices, the sin of others, or the brokenness we daily face because of the fall in the Garden (See Genesis 3). Life just doesn't work the way it was meant to. Are there good and healthy ways to keep our hearts alive but at the same time not ignore the deeper work going on within us?

What happens to our hearts when life hurts? Does our heart stay alive to hope or does it slowing stop beating? Do our relationships die or do they grow stronger? Do our callings become stronger and more obvious, or do our dreams slowly die? This is where the battle lies, and the enemy wants nothing more than to turn our hearts to stone...to kill, steal, and destroy the life that is growing within us as we are daily renewed in Christ. How do we fight for our own hearts, and the hearts of those we love to keep beating with purpose, joy, conviction, and intentional focus on Gospel living?  There are never easy answers. At least I haven't come up with any! But looking to the ancient paths given by our Maker are the surest ways to lasting hope and joy. May I humbly encourage...

~ The Living Word. Ingest it in small amounts, big amounts, listen on audio, read online, read the old-fashioned hardbound, read it in Spanish or Greek. However you can get His words into your soul, please DO. The Psalms bring me relief in hardship like nothing else. Read good Christian books, fiction too!

~ Pray & confess. With a friend, as you shower, as you cry, give kisses, wash dishes, or wish the day would end. Pray honestly, one word at a time if needed.

~ Be thankful. There are apps, there are notebooks, you can text it to your friend, or post it on FaceBook, or across the sky. But thankfulness will breathe life into your otherwise dreary day as few other things will. Ask God to help you when you're not thankful, and thanking Him for the Grace He gave on the Cross is a good place to start.

~ Honesty. With your spouse, a friend, yourself. There's no need to look pretty when life is messy. I've tried it - with horrible results!! I like the Day One app for a place to record my thoughts and prayers.

~ Care for your temple (Romans 12:1-2). Sleep, eat your veggies, take a walk or yoga class. Taking care of yourself, even when you don't feel like it, will reap huge dividends. I find that taking care of myself physically and emotionally reminds me of my worth in Christ. You are worth the effort, friends! But - ahem - dark chocolate might help too!

~ Give yourself extra grace. Being hard on yourself when life is hard is just...pointless! But we all do it. God is looking at you with deep compassion even if you've made bad choices to get you where you are right now. Beating yourself up in the midst of your struggles will just compound the difficulties.

~ Fellowship. Hold onto friends and family. Tightly. Look for every chance you can to spend a moment together with someone you love, whether on the phone, over coffee, a movie night, doing chores, whatever! Don't be afraid to reach out to someone new - I'll bet he/ she needs a friend as much as you do, and sharing your struggles honestly will open up more of your heart as well as theirs.

~ Look to eternity. If you are His child, all pain and tears will pass away, and our joy in Christ will far outweigh the pain and suffering of this life. I know very well how hard it is to wrap your mind around this truth, so ask God to help you live with eternal hope. Preaching it to myself as I type!

~ Find rest in the fellowship of His suffering, knowing you will never face the depth of pain and sacrifice that He bore for your sins, but that He is also a gracious High Priest who understands. He will meet you there, in deep and profound ways.

I recently started reading The Hardest Peace and have been so deeply moved and impacted by Kara's words. One point in particular that blessed me immensely are her comments concerning Proverbs 1:33, and the promise that as we rest in Him, He will remove not the disaster, but the dread of the disaster. Fear causes us to live in agony as we imagine the impossibility of future circumstances (often not imagining the God of Abundant Grace with us there!) But He will keep you in perfect peace as you turn to Him, as you walk the ancient paths... slowly replacing fear of pain, with faith in the One who suffered the deepest pain.

Fighting for our hearts,

Ruth

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Suffer well, live well

  
  In the last 5 weeks, we've been in 13 different states, as Paul candidates for various pastoral ministry positions. (We're not done!) We've enjoyed visiting with churches and spending time with several family members and friends along the way, but because the length of the trip was very much unexpected and several stops were added along the way, I've had to adjust my expectations several times (which is not my forte). I like being in control of my life, or at least having the allusion of being in control.  :) I really miss our cute little home in Florida, our friends, and church...and having your own space and schedule is certainly hard to let go of for an extended period of time.  I'm learning to take James 4:13-14 seriously!

In some ways, I've traveled this path before: the unknown and winding path, the fears lurking around every corner, and the insecurity of what the future holds... Walking a path of uncertainty feels strangely familiar. It's almost like a recipe that you've cooked several times before, and though you might add different spices each time, or some other interesting variation, the main recipe stays the same. What's my recipe for hard times? James 1. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Psalm 18, 23, and 40. Worshipping, praying and crying with friends. Choosing thankfulness. Eating too much chocolate. Extra naps and walks and yoga. But sometimes the oven is turned up a little hotter or your capacity (pan size) for the difficulty might be different, etc. Sometimes you cook with friends, sometimes alone (most of life is better with companions). Thankfully, God is a great chef and no matter what He throws in the mix, it eventually turns into something beautiful. Silly analogy? Perhaps. However, considering the fact that I haven't always enjoyed cooking, it's a miracle that it's now one of my favorite activities. The same can be said about seasons of hard times in my life.  I'm certainly not eager to see them come, and just like you, I'd rather life be comfortable, but each trial brings with it particular joys that looking back, I'm glad I didn't miss out on.

 “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” ― G.K. Chesterton


For a wedding gift, a dear friend wrote the quote above in a blank journal, that I later used for a thanksgiving journal. No quote could have been more appropriate for the journey of marriage we've been on together. I think it's easy (and quite natural) to consider trials an inconvenience. Look a little closer at another word in that quote - 'considered'. This same word is in James 1, which, to be honest, has not always been one of my favorites. I know, I know, that's a terribly un-Christian thing to say, but James 1 used to really rub me the wrong way. It is a hard truth to wrestle with, this assertion that it is largely in my control how I experience trials. Notice I did not say, whether or not I go through trials, or what they might look like, but how I experience them. I can be miserable, or I can choose to 'consider them pure joy.' I can choose to 'consider them rightly.' What does that even mean? I'm sorry to say it is probably not the answer you want, and it will require work. Certainly work that God will empower you to do, but it comes down to the battlefield of the mind. This means choosing to think rightly about our trials in the light of who we know God to be, rather than judging God's character in the light of difficult circumstances. {Read more by clicking on the Calm my Anxious Heart image above right - affiliate link}

This definition from the Webster's 1828 Dictionary is very helpful (wonderful dictionary reference): CONSIDER, verb transitive [Latin , to consider to view attentively, to sit by; to sit. The literal sense is, to sit by or close, or to set the mind or the eye to; hence, to view or examine with attention.] 1. To fix the mind on, with a view to a careful examination; to think on with care; to ponder; to study; to meditate on

In essence, when we are going through trials, we must fix our eyes on things that are good, true, and lovely, namely the perfect character of Christ, as being a loving Provider, Protector, Savior, Friend, Warrior, Sympathetic High Priest, One who daily intercedes for us at the right hand of God and promises to NEVER leave or forsake us. He is allowing each trial because He loves us; He is not standing far away, judging us, laughing at us, or wondering if we will choose a certain path. He knows how we will respond, and He knows at exactly which temperature to place the 'oven of life', to produce the results in us that He desires and knows will help us in the eternal sense. If we fix our eyes on the storms around us, like Peter did, we will sink every time. Easy to say, you might be thinking, harder to do. And right you are! I certainly am no expert in this regard, but what I will say is that the fruit flowing from this mental discipline of choosing to focus on GOD and His promises, rather than the trial, is so rewarding. You will find yourself gradually choosing this narrow path more than the easy, oft-travelled path (which eventually leads you into a pit of despair). Trust me, I've been there too many times!  Enter Psalm 40.  :)
Bringing this back to a wellness focus, we see that there is a good and right way to suffer. A way to struggle through life bearing the fruit of righteousness, rather than hardened, bitter hearts.  Research shows that bitterness can lead to so many health problems, not the least of which being anxiety, depression, a weakened immune system, broken relationships, and a diminished view of our own worth and God's love for us. We see the rewards of responding to life's storms with wisdom in Proverbs 3:5-8. Notice especially verse 8: "It will bring healing to your bones and refreshment to your body." I'm certainly not saying that A (doing the right thing) always leads to B (feeling better physically, mentally, spiritually), but as we see with generally following the wisdom principles in Proverbs, choosing to trust God and respond to Him in faith does often lead to positive overall wellness, joy, and peace. This is a never a guarantee this side of heaven though, and certainly not dependent on your level of faith or God's favor in your life. Many people suffer with health problems their entire lives, whether they have been living in wisdom or not.  But doing everything in our power to live healthy, whole lives is something that often (not always) brings favorable results.
As challenging as it might be for you to begin the process of capturing and redirecting your thoughts, the short and long-term benefits are certainly worthy of consideration (there's that word again!). You will find yourself more regularly filled with joy, and your faithful Shepherd will be right beside you, cheering you on, lifting you up when you fall, and lightening your load when it is more than you can carry. Remember those friends we were cooking with earlier?  They will carry you to Jesus if needed, I'm sure. :)
Many blessings of peace and joy...
Ruth

**For further reading, consider Jen Wilkin's study on the book of James.  I'm only just starting, but so far it's excellent!


   

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Why wellness matters (but the Gospel matters more...)


Falling asleep to crickets instead of careening vehicles is certainly one of the blessings of growing up on (and visiting) the family farm.  Summertime brings an abundance of sweet corn, watermelon and as many tomatoes and cucumbers as your heart desires (while also being entertained by silly cows)!  But a belly full of home-grown goodness pales in comparison to a soul full of love, wise counsel, and passionate discourse on many topics.  Sprinkle in lots of belly laughs, practical jokes, hard work, and board games, and you get a small picture of what we enjoyed as kids.  Going home provides a good body-mind-soul reset!  

It's been a full couple of weeks for Paul and I, visiting churches and praying about where God might have us next.  But the support of family and friends along the way has been invaluable. As my sister jokingly reminded me, we have enough family stops to keep us going for a while. It has been a blessing to stay in numerous homes and find the encouragement we need for the journey ahead, especially considering this road trip won't be over for at least another two weeks! :)  

Being on the road makes it harder to squeeze in exercise time, but it's certainly not impossible.  Taking walks with Paul and using whatever floor space I can find to do a yoga routine has been a fun challenge.  Though it's been an adjustment to shift my focus from my wellness ministry goals to the greater goal of finding a church to serve in as a ministry team, it is well worth it.  I'm reminded of 1 Timothy 4:7b-8 : "On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." (NASB) Our passion for Gospel ministry is greater than my desire to encourage women in body-mind-soul wellness, but that God-given passion is still important.  I want to sit with women and encourage them in their marriages, visit them in the hospital, help them set up their homes, pour over Scripture, and hold hearts and hands as we laugh, pray, and weep through life together.  But I also want to encourage them to care for their bodies as well as their mind and soul.  Caring for our bodies may not seem to have lasting eternal value, but I know from my own experience, that when I have NOT properly cared for my body, I am limited in my ability to serve God and others.  It is certainly very important to remember as well that caring for myself physically honors God because I am His daughter and worthy of that effort and personal sacrifice of time and energy. 

This time on the road is also giving me a good opportunity to pray and consider how I'd like this wellness ministry to take shape.  Shifting this blog to more of a wellness focus is easy enough to work on away from home. But again, the overall direction of my future ministry depends on where we end up, and what God is calling us to there.  God (and my sweet husband) are reminding me to take things one. day. at. a. time.  Isn't that always the battle?  But a battle worth fighting.  

Just a couple of weekends ago, my favorite preacher spoke on Romans 12: 1-2: "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (NASB)  

It was a special blessing to my heart, not only because I think he is the best preacher east of the Mississippi, but also because God put this passage on my heart as I have been thinking about wellness ministry.  As we've pursued God's leading for our next assignment, both Paul and I had been thinking about this passage, and didn't know it!  

Our desire separately and together is to glorify God in body, mind, and soul, and offer our entire lives for His service.  What that will look like exactly, we don't know, but we know that sacrificing our desires for the sake of the Kingdom is always the right choice.  Sinking my teeth into some oh-so-good, farm-fresh peaches, berries and melon reminds me that spiritual fruit tastes even sweeter.  I won't be surprised if God has a nice big farm waiting for all of us Perrys in heaven, filled with fruit that lasts for eternity.  


Sunday, June 29, 2014

His beloved child

Yahweh Yoga - Tribe 48
Dear friends,

My intention to post regular updates about my time in AZ has been unrealistic, considering how full our days have been!  But we have some time today to rest, and it feels like such a gift.  Our training has been wonderful in many ways, but I have come to my limits physically, spiritually, and emotionally/relationally.  I would rather see my need to grow, however, than to be content with staying the same.  The first couple of days were especially intense, as I was getting over jet leg and also not used to getting up so early.  Oh, and doing hot yoga for the first time, in HOT Arizona!  I don't remember sweating this much since cross-country training camp in college :)  And that was, a-hem, a few years ago :)

One big thing that I am taking away from this time so far is the knowledge that I am a beloved child of God.  One sweet sister in our class has spoken of this often (thanks Melissa!), and I was also encouraged by a yoga mentor (thanks, Kristin!) to repeat this phrase to myself when I was facing self-condemnation, discouragement, fatigue, etc. : "I am God's beloved child."  What a simple, yet extremely powerful phrase!  It has calmed me spirit immensely over the last few days, even as I continue to struggle with the uncertainty of our future... where will we be living, serving, etc., in the weeks and months to come, now that things have changed with Paul's employment?  I have had to discipline my thoughts, as well as my body, these last few days.  I'm finding that those things, when married together, produce beautiful fruit.  While I would not consider myself a lazy person, per se, I can see how I have more potential 'growth areas' than I thought!  Doing yoga several hours a day is challenging me to not only discipline my body, but it is providing many opportunities to meditate on the truth of God's love for me, and my need to let go of fear, self-judgment, anxiety, and disbelief in God's goodness.  There is something powerful about holding yoga postures, listening to Scripture and worship music, and being given the opportunity to really look within.  I have discovered a deeper battle within - will I surrender to the will of God for my life?  I have a sense that God may be calling Paul and I back into full-time ministry.  Will I let go of my fears about what that might look like, and instead choose to trust His heart of love for us?

Beloved friends, children of the Most High God, you are faced with the same choice today - will you acknowledge God's lavish love for you, and embrace this day, good and bad?  Will you praise God in the midst of suffering, and thank Him for what He IS doing and WILL do through you, if you surrender?  I have not 'arrived', but I am closer to this than I was a week ago.

So thankful for this opportunity to learn, grow, see more of God's love, and rest in my need for Him... Rest in Him today, my friends.  I'd encourage you to check out this great movie about Rich Mullin's life as you seek to deepen your confidence in God's love for you.  We are His beloved children,  ragamuffins, as Mullins and Manning would say, desperately in need of Grace.

Blessings, sweet friends!

Ruth