Day 2 of Whole 30

I highly recommend starting Whole 30 on a Saturday, because day 2 is notoriously known as “the hangover” and gosh was it nice to go through that on a Sunday.

How we handled it today

My husband and I slept 9 hours.  My 5 year old slept 10 hours, my 3 year old slept 12 hours and my 18 month old slept 12 hours (including nighttime nursing).

We went to second service, because we were a little slow to get dressed and eat.  My 3 year old had a few breakdowns wanting: pizza, chocolate chip larabars and bear claws.

After church, I accidentally fell asleep with my 18month old.  We were the only nap-takers.  My husband and I decided to skip our evening class and have a family night.  We watched The Hobbit and my son fell asleep by 7:30, so did my toddler.  Our oldest stayed up until the movie ended at 9 and went to bed with out complaint.

I have a slight headache.

Meal Plan

Kind of a bust.

Breakfast: leftover dinner, oranges, banana (1 fruit per kid). Boiled eggs that two kids request and  0 kids ate.

Church snack: our church has a nice spread (meltdown!) so I brought larabars.  C flat out refused any fruit or larabar. I ate one, my husband had half a banana and Z   at one too.  We sent them to class with snacks (Z had an orange, C had a larabar and J had sliced apple).

Lunch: deli turkey (older kids rejected) nori, baby carrots and mayo.

Sneaking food: the kids snuck leftover cauli-mash and nori.

Dinner: I missed dinner because I was at work, they seemed content and I cleaned up some almond crumbs.

Perspective helps

I have been in conversation with a mom struggling with breastfeeding, which reminds me of my WHY for Whole 30.  It is the only thing that helped me make more, fattier milk.  It was not a $95+ a month prescription, or a $30 a month herbal.  It corrected the cause of my low-milk-supply issue: Insulin Resistance.

 

Day 1 of Whole 30 (April 2017)

Inflammation, fatigue, bloating, and skin issues have gotten the best of me.  It’s time to get back to the basics, and for my family The Whole 30 is the *only* way to eat without regrets.

Please don’t mistake me, we eat poorly more frequently than I’d like to admit.  I’m not prideful about our eating but we really have discovered through trial and errors that all 5 of our bodies function best on this plan.

Signs & Symptoms a Whole 30 is called for:

Husband:

Dehydration (hangover type feeling despite not drinking), sugar addiction, inability to focus, lethargy, flatulence, belatedness, short temper, skin issues, phlegm, itchy legs, dry skin, restlessness, poor sleep.

Wife:

Fatigue, eczema, muscle pain, joint issues (especially after doing massage), lack of focus, weight gain, bloated abdomen, discomfort, lack of motivation to work out, “chicken skin”

Child #1

Temper, hyper-sensitivity, “chicken skin,” dark circles under eyes, lethargy, hyperactivity, random yelling, rashes.

Child #2

dark circles under eyes, mood swings correlating to sugar intake, abdominal pain, fatigue.

Child #3

“chicken skin”, dark circles under eyes, rashes, awful bowel movements, diaper rash.

Philosophy

We are not striving for a perfect Whole 30, particularly not for our children. Our goal is to stick to the letter of the law as adults and give a little lee-way to our kids.  By that I mean: we will allow our children 3 servings of fruit a day total, all at meals, if they request it.  We will provide our kids with “compliant” larabars during church so they don’t feel left out completely while grainy snacks are served.

I’m actually going to be totally honest and admit that I will be breaking one rule, every, single day stevia.  I will be drinking one ounce of Ningxia Red a day, because the antioxidant content is so high, and the stevia content is so low I decided the benefits to my body, outweigh the drawback of stevia.

Today’s Meal Plan & Evening Report

Breakfast: brussel sprouts roasted with compliant turkey bacon,  balsamic vinegar, pink salt and olive oil. YUM.  Homemade cherry breakfast bars (dried cherries, dates and almonds).

Lunch: romaine wraps with mayonnaise (non-compliant vegan may for my egg-allergic husband), complaint sliced turkey and baby carrots.

Dinner: garlic chicken, cauliflower mash with ghee.

It was a challenging day, but not terrible.  My husband felt both the effects of no caffeine, as well as significant changes to his GI tract.  I was hurting by 11am for lack of caffeine and ended up taking ibuprofen for my caffeine-withdrawn head ache.  Other than that, I felt pretty good about the food.  (Sidetone: even washed Romaine sometimes still hides bugs.  YUCK!)  I was astonished at my thoughts as I drove to work: dunking donuts, coffee, burritos. I didn’t actually feel hungry the first time I had those thoughts (the second time was after 2.5 hours of massing clients so I was hungry), so it shows how strong mental ties are to food.

For the kids, it was a hard day.  They barely ate any food, but I did catch my 5 year old sneaking left over brussel sprouts and she requested that I go to the store to buy more!  My son, 3, really wanted “brown coffee” which to him means vanilla creamer and a touch of sugar.  My one year old is recovering from a GI bug, so she was unimpressed with our food choices today.

The children did go to bed fairly easily, and I am starting to think I’ll fall asleep quickly.

What Exactly is Whole 30?

Whole 30 is an elimination diet that is rooted in 4 premises: Food should make you healthy, food should support good gut health, food should not create an inflammation response, and food should not foster poor mental health.

It eliminates the following groups 100% for 30 days, with a specific reintroduction plan.

Grains (wheat, gluten, corn, rice, etc)

Legumes (beans, peanuts, soy, etc)

Sugar (refined, coconut sugar, date sugar, honey, stevia, etc)

Dairy (except ghee)

Alcohol

So what exactly do you eat?

The meal template is about half your plate vegetables, a serving of protein, a healthy fat.

For us that means: ground organic pastured when possible beef, organic chicken, salmon, and eggs (no eggs for hubby!)

Any vegetables and Fruits we want (fruits in moderation).

Healthy fat: ghee, coconut oil, avocado, tree nuts and tree nut oils.

Thank you for tuning in.  I look forward to sharing more as the days go on.

 

Happily Married: The Power of Obeying Christ

Now: Happily Married

Mike and Jacque have an amazing love story.  It is full of adventure, foolishness, sin and the hard work of forgiveness.  Theirs is a story that should be heard, not because their character is so ideal that we should all aspire to it.  Rather, their story needs to be heard because they chose obedience to Christ, and following his radical ways led them from a broken marriage to being happily married.

Blossoming Romance

They met in high school in Milwaukee, and similar to many stories I have heard before: she was not interested in him.  In the later years of high school Mike was playing football and Jacque was a cheerleader.  They had some good times, but Jacque made it clear she was not interested in marriage.  As their relationship grew, she changed her mind.  They decided once Mike completed basic training for the army, they would get married.

While Mike was in basic training, Jacque attend a Billy Graham rally and began her relationship with Christ.  Looking back, she realizes that she did not get grounded in the word, and if she had been grounded in her faith she should have broken it off with Mike.  When he returned they got married, and after about a year their first child arrived..

Three Hard Years

Carrying some painful baggage from his childhood – he was abandoned by his parents- his issues began to surface in their marriage.  Mike says they both had unmet expectations, and something as little as breakfast fueled their issues.  “I was smoking, drinking and acting a fool.”  Jacque says they had about 3 very hard years, Mike was verbally abusive and angry.  At some point during these rough years, Mike went outside the marriage and had an affair.

In those days, Mike said it was easy to draw Jacque into an argument.  He knew what buttons to push, and he did.  Something changed in Jacque though, she made the life-changing commitment to Christ.  This time, she was following no matter what.  She was determined to stay in the word and follow Christ.  If Mike took the car keys on a Sunday morning, she’d hop on a bus with the kids and go anyway.

Obedience Changes Everything

Now, instead of being drawn in to arguments, Jacque would say, “Mike, I love you and I’m not going to fight with you.”  While everyone around thought Jacque was crazy, she chose to stay in the marriage.  Even though people told her she had her out – his affair- she decided to forgive.

Jacque says the Lord showed her what forgiveness was: it was to love him as if he’d never sinned against her.  She says that she prayed a lot, prayer became her life support.  Prayer allowed her to walk out in faith, to keep her mouth shut at the right times, instead of walking in the flesh.

Jacque’s behavior began to change Mike’s heart not too much time passed before he came to Christ as well.  Now, their lives didn’t suddenly become perfect.  Raising children, working and living life is messy business.  Here they are though, 37 years of marriage under their belt, and you’d never guess they’d seen such dark days. “I can’t fathom the person I would be if I had left.”, Jacque says.  She brings up a point that I’d never considered, even if she had chosen to leave the marriage, the Lord still would have required her to forgive Mike.

Jacque’s Advice

I asked her how she would advise a believing spouse in a tough marriage with an unbelieving spouse.  She says, “you have to go into the word.”  Wise advice from someone who was advised by Christians to leave her husband.  Her story is a testament to the fact that you really can draw them to the Lord by your life.  Another beautiful point she makes, “ask yourself how you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed.”

Mike makes a powerful point

Mike points out that divorce rarely solves problems.  The problems that led to the brokenness still exist, and now they have to be worked out in court, in custody battles and through the lives of children that you still have to raise together for years to come.

I asked them to share resources they have found helpful, atop their list are

Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

His Needs, Her Needs: Building and Affair-Proof Marriage by Willard F. Harley, Jr.

7 Desires of Every Heart: Looking Past What Separates us to Learn What Connects Us by Mark and Debbie Laaser

4 Tips for staying Happily Married

Mike says these steps have been a great resource, ones they used heavily during the early days of their walk into restoration.

  1. Be Vulnerable: admit that you’ve been hurt.

  2. Be Honest: discover how the hurt occurred.

  3. Empty: get rid of the offense, forgive each other.

  4. Unify: come together as a team.

As I look at this list, I can see how easy it would be to just do 1 or 2 of these items and think you’ve done your due diligence, but to walk through all four of these steps honestly and humbly is where you’ll really see results.  I admit it’s easy-ish for me to be vulnerable about being hurt, but to honestly asses why something hurt me: that is not so easy.  Emptying is hard too, but without that step of forgiveness unifying is really a false attempt.  We can’t hang on to offenses and have a unified relationship.

Marriage is messy business, marriage holds up a mirror to each of us and reveals our imperfections.  Mike and Jacque’s story is such a beautiful tale of God’s redeeming love.  I’m so thankful that Jacque chose radical obedience to Christ, it transformed Mike, it restored their marriage and changed their family tree.  I’m thankful they allowed me to share their story, I pray it inspires you to seek Christ as you walk through life, and honor him in all your ways.

 

Mike & Jacque at their daughter’s wedding.

I rebel: Prayer is an act of Rebellion

We have been taking the Perspectives course, the main text is one I read in my freshman year of college, just over 17 years ago!  I was a missions major, and so much of what I learned in my degree is permanently in my soul.

You know how life is though don’t you?  It’s prone towards the tendencies of our culture.  While daily in my heart I hear the cries of suffering,  darkness and lostness; I’m still prone towards an over-full schedule and late nights making Ikea wish lists.

A Stirring in My Soul

Do you know this struggle too?  Deep in your soul KNOWING God has called you to make his name known among the nations, and struggling with the day to day responsibilities of your life?  In my life it is working, educating my children, keeping my kids in clean clothes, bedding and fed.

I feel certain God has given me this incredible calling in motherhood, and my husband and I are certain the Lord has led us to be present with our children and to educate them ourselves.  We know that God has given us skills, talents and experiences he can use to provide for our needs.  To be honest though, most of the time those few things feel like too much.

It is too hard

I’ve been prone to anxiety over the past 5 years.  Some of that anxiety, I now realize, is rooted in my disobedience.  You see, as one saved by grace, I am called to make disciples.  Please do not think I am saying that raising children isn’t discipleship, because it should be.  The call to disciple my children and the call to disciple the nations are not mutually exclusive, it isn’t an “either/or” choice.

It is all too much because, once again, it’s me trying to make things happen in my own power, logic and strength.  The Holy Spirit at work in me, in my husband will work out details that I can’t figure out.  “Will we be missionaries?  How will we take care of our family?  How do we figure out all these details?”  As we remain humble, faithful, and obedient to Christ whatever details the Lord has for us will become clear.

Rebellion against the Status Quo

While doing our homework one week I found myself burdened, crying and confused about what we are supposed to do about the fact that 6,000 -7,000 people groups have ZERO witness of Jesus Christ, meanwhile I don’t even know where our next meal will come from.  So perfectly orchestrated, I found the answer in my textbook.  An article written by David Wells Prayer: Rebelling Against the Status Quo go read it.  It is a game changer, when we look at the life of Christ, his example in prayer, the world around us and the character of our God we find the answer is prayer.

Wells says that the reason we struggle in our prayer lives not because we are weak-willed, but because we have a poor understanding of prayer.

“What then is the nature of petitionary prayer?  In essence, it is rebellion – rebellion against the status quo, the state of the world in it’s sin and fallenness.  It is the absolute and undying refusal to accept as normal what is completely abnormal.  It is the rejection of every agenda, every scheme, every opinion that class with the normal that God original established.  Our petitionary prayers are an expression of the unbridgeable chasm that separates Good from Evil, a declaration that Evil is not a variation on Good but it’s very opposite.” 

 

I do not have to spend my time trying to figure out which political agenda to align with, or which social justice cause to take up arms with.  Yet,  I will still rebel against the status quo.

I Rebel

I rebel, by Hernando Melo

They cut this line from the trailer out of the film, but it resonates in my soul.  I don’t accept that the Lord intended for me to eat genetically modified food, drink fluoridated water.  Black Lives Matter, Paternalism is not the pattern established in the Garden of Eden, No one should be trafficked, the list of WRONGNESS is endless.  I rebel against that, and I don’t have to worry about what the right response is, or try to craft a perfect “in the middle” response.  I don’t have to alienate people on social media with my ideas on what the right response is to each social injustice, or every sin.

Wells says “that petitionary prayer flourishes when we believe two things:

  1. God’s name is hallowed too irregularly, his kingdom has come to little and his will is done too infrequently.
  2. God himself can change the situation.”

I believe those things.  Prayer is Rebellion against the ways of this world, the political systems, the generational sins, the injustice, oppression, violence and hatred.  I rebel.  I pray.

Pray

Unwanted babies?  Marginalized people groups?  Corrupt government?  I used to cry “Come quickly Lord Jesus!” thinking it was the correct spiritual response.  Surrounded by brokenness, pain and sin, I do long to be with the Lord and be done with this world.

He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”  

So this is what I’m teaching my children: pray the God will send more workers into his fields.

The Lord isn’t coming until his words and plan are fulfilled, ” And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.”  Matthew 24:14

If you look to Revelation 7, you will see that people from every nation and tribe and people and nation, are represented around the throne.  Jesus is waiting for us to obey his command and make disciples of all ethne.  We may be tempted to pause, define, debate all this entails.  Or we can pray.

Join the Rebellion: Pray

Join the Rebellion

We don’t need to take up arms to make a difference.  The Lord may not even lead us to the 10/40 Window.  That does not mean he calls us to be silent.  No, he calls us to petitionary prayer.  While I may want to March against Monsanto, I’ll make more of a difference in prayer. Let us now grow weary as we pray, let us be encouraged in our petitions by the words of Christ.

 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Luke 18:1-8

Sparkly Stefka’s Gift Giving Guide

I have put together a short list of thrifty and thoughtful gifts you can give.  As a mom on a budget, it often seems the budget gets tighter as the cost of living rises. Most gift-giving guides are affiliate ad driven, and this one is too. However, my goal is to provide ideas for those who have budgets less than $50 a gift, most of them under $15. I hope you enjoy this guide, and my first little e-book.Sparkly Stefka's Gift Guide

 

Young Living Essential Oils – become a retail member (11 oils & diffuser starting at $160) or just order as a retail customer, and re-order at any time.

Young Living Essential Oils

DIY

Sky Organics Shea Butter

Cold Pressed Castor Oil

Epsom Salt

Mental Health for Moms

Undivided Mom

Make Over Your Mornings

Super Stuff

Mister Mellow’s Veggie Land

Mister Mellow’s Mustachery

Montessori Minded

Didax Montessori Shapes

Marvelous Craft Felt Pages

Write 31 Days, Losing My Mind

Hello,

I’m popping in to explain why I am so far behind on this weeks’ posts.

My husband recently took a new job, and it’s turned our lives upside down.  I signed up for this challenge before he had the job offer.  I figured, if I could do it last year, with a 6 week old baby, I could do this.

It turns out, my husband’s actual support (with the kids, household stuff) was a major factor in last year’s challenge.  While his emotional support matters to me, without him being around I just can’t keep up.

I’ve been attempting to write the night before, edit in the morning and sharing socially throughout the day.  Unfortunately, as I attempt to wake at 5am to write, one or more of my children wakes up with me.  One morning, it took me 4 hours to edit a post while taking care of them.  I had thirty minutes to make breakfast, get myself ready and leave for work.

My husband is basically gone Monday-Friday, even though he sleeps here.  He sleeps from 3am-3pm on Sunday then leaves for work at 5:30 pm and gets home at 5:50 on Tuesday morning, sleeps, showers and goes to work.  On Fridays he wakes up early, so I can go to work at 11am.

Last week, he had a 10 overtime shift, and then he got sick.  It was a rough weekend for me emotionally and physically.

That leads to this week, I am also dealing with kids who miss their dad like crazy.  With all the waking up early, very little napping they are struggling to get good sleep.  So, by the time I get all 3 kids to be, it is 10pm.  Three times I have sat down to type, what I feel is the most important post in my series, and FALLEN ASLEEP AT THE COMPUTER.

Obviously, it’s normal to hit the wall many times int eh writing process.  Tonight is the firs night this week that I have any energy when the kids are all asleep.

Another factor that I have been struggling with is the reality that my husband’s work does not pay enough for us to put money in savings, and we really need to save.  We don’t have a car, and could really use one.  Our emergency fund is still a baby one, and I am just tired of that.  I am emotionally ready to push hard on Baby Step 3 (6 months of expenses saved) and move forward.  Being out of debt is a huge blessing, but I just want to start moving forward financially, even if all that means is we have money to cover an emergency.

That being said, I need to continue to work.  Childcare costs take up such a huge portion of the money I earn, that it hardly seems worthwhile.  So, I am working one afternoon a week doing massage, in addition to teaching essential oil classes.

I’ve been struggling between the demands of keeping a home, homeschooling, massage practice, oil business and the blog.  Taking two hours last night (I woke up at midnight, having fallen asleep on the couch again) and some quiet time this afternoon, I realized that I need my focus to be on homemaking and homeschooling/parenting my children.

Yes, I must continue to work.  Yes, I want to continue to work, but in a limited capacity.  I think I am allowing myself 10 hours of work a week, for this phase of life.  I’ve felt so much peace, and way more energy today.

Someday, I might work more, but for now I am keeping it limited.  There is a cost with that (less in savings) but it seems worth it to pour into my family.  I hear a baby stirring as I type this.  So, I’m not quitting write31days, but I may give myself some grace to extend it into November to keep my schedule.

Writing nourishes my soul, and I must continue to do it.  The SEO, the social media may take a back burner to allow me to finish.

Tonight, I’m going to watch another episode of Portlandia (Season 6, on Netflix!! Yay!!) and watch my first “TV” in a month.  It’s not holy, admirable, and probably will rot my brain.  It will however, help me laugh, relax and feel a bit more human.

So, I hope to be back very, very soon with my story on how God had shaped my heart and drawn me closer to his.  Thanks for reading.

 

Jesus Plus

Jesus + anything negates his work entirely. When my actions demonstrate I value my works as equal to, or less than,    I undermine his sacrifice.  Losing my religion, finding my savior is almost literal.

I’d begin to believe my works of righteousness were a part of my salvation. Prior to hearing these words on the first day we attended our new church, I was just as guilty as a mutilator of the flesh.

Paul addresses something that many of us get wrong.  Something that we must understand it if we are to walk with him.  There is NOTHING we can do to earn or be worth of salvation.  IT is all Christ

Obedience

Paul lives in obedience, that obedience leads him to prison.  He follows the lead of Jesus who also exemplified obedience, even to death.

I struggled with where we were financially, professionally and socially for a very long time.  At times, I still struggle.  God is shaping my heart, and part of that is the realization that God may lead us places that we do not want to go.

Ginny Owens sings “If you want me to” and it has always spoken to my heart.

The pathway is broken
And The signs are unclear
And I don’t know the reason why You brought me here
But just because You love me the way that You do
I’m gonna walk through the valley
If You want me to

‘Cause I’m not who I was
When I took my first step
And I’m clinging to the promise You’re not through with me yet
so if all of these trials bring me closer to you
Then I will go through the fire
If You want me to

It may not be the way I would have chosen
When you lead me through a world that’s not my home
But You never said it would be easy
You only said I’d never go alone

So When the whole world turns against me
And I’m all by myself
And I can’t hear You answer my cries for help
I’ll remember the suffering Your love put You through
And I will go through the valley
If You want me to

Work out your own salvation

It doesn’t mean that we have secure our own salvation.  We are sustained by the grace of God, not our own works. We put our salvation in practice, this is how we work it out.

I walk in obedience, I repent many, many times a day.  I fail, but God empowers me.  So I stay here, resting in the knowledge that God is good, faithful and true.  I trust the plan of God, even when I can’t see it and even when I don’t understand it.

Worthy of the Gospel, Relearning Suffering, Finding Freedom

sufferingRelearning the place suffering has in my salvation.  Relearning how to be worthy of the Gospel, Finding freedom as I continue Losing My Religion, Finding My Savior. How many times I have to learn this same lesson? As many times as it takes for me to hear, understand and internalize it, I suppose.

Reading Philippians 1:  As per usual, I invite you to listen for yourself and see what Holy Spirit reveals to you.

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.  For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Worthy of the Gospel

Here I have it again, a gentle reminder of how my life is to be a reflection of the nature of Christ and what he has done for me.  I cannot make myself worthy of salvation, only he does it.  To be honest, I tended to view the fruit of the spirit as a list of character qualities I need to work on.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,  envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:18-23

Does my life match this description of belonging to Christ?  It’s pretty black-and-white when you read the text.  Jealousy is one I have battled, especially as we have suffered financially.  Well, the American sense of suffering, we’ve never been homeless or hungry.  Yet, if I belong to Christ, then I KNOW that God is in control. I trust he leads me where he desires. If I believe that, then what place does jealousy have in my heart? none. none.

Suffer for the Gospel

I’m not united with Christ so that I can have a better life.  It’s not so my marriage is better and I am healthier.  It may be the case, but following Christ is not about me at all.  It’s about God and his glory.

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Of course, my experience is that by following Christ and his words, I find peace in decisions.  Following him DOES make my life better in dozens of ways.  That can’t be the reason though, would that not make me  some sick form a a rice christian? I don’t come to Christ to avoid pain and suffering.

I took a class in my sophomore year of college called “Missionary Life and Ministry.”  It was one of the most emotionally challenging classes I took.   Thinking of missionaries whose spouses died, children died, or those who died themselves in service; I never reconciled to the decision to go, if it might endanger my family.  Yet, I wondered for years, why God never led me into missions abroad.

Losing My Religion Brings Freedom

Again, this that phrase is scary and bold. It does not mean I have abandoned Christ.  It does not mean I abandon my savior for my own selfish desires.

No, it means that I found the “Christianity” I claimed and clung to, was actually shackling me in behavior modification, something that can be manipulated by people.

Losing my religion has brought me freedom because everything is Christ at work in me.

My response to my children, how I act in stress, how I live my days is not about choosing joy, working harder, trying more, earning more, striving.  It’s laying down my life and saying, “God, work in me.  Lead me where you will, and help me to reflect your beauty, your passion, your love, your holiness, your power.”

 

 

 

Losing My Religion: What It Means

Losing my religion.  Nothing better describes my journey of switching churches quite as well as the title of R.E.M.’s famous song.

losing my religion

Losing My Religion.

This song has always stood out to me.  It is a bit shocking, for me, it is sad too.

I have never been one to pretend that I “get” music, and I always look up lyrics to try and make sense of what I hear (and sing while driving down the road). I won’t pretend to have the understanding of the writers,  the title inspires me more than the lyrics. Losing my religion

I battled using this title, because it sounds shocking and sad.  Changing churches was shocking and sad.

Now, let’s switch over to me

All of my years serving Christ have been in the church, I attended the same church from 1984 – 2013, and when I was in college, I went to one church for all 5 years.  I immediately found churches to attend in Hawai’i and Sweden.  I have always taken being connected to the church very seriously. Even at our new church, I take being connected to the body very seriously.

Changing churches was a quick decision, and although some of the impetus was not deeply thought out  the decision was made very carefully and very prayerfully.

I knew it would be hard to “start over” at a new church and I knew it would be painful to “say goodbye” to relationships (simply due to proximity).  I had NO IDEA my heart would change, I wasn’t even aware it needed changing.

The past nearly 3 years have been sad and shocking, much like my reaction to R.E.M’s song.

I’ve been shocked to find that the relationship with Christ that I prided myself in was deeply intertwined in religious behavior, making it worthless to Christ.

My church was Everything

When our income troubles continued, we decided to sell our car before our second baby was born. It would not always be possible to ride to church with someone else.  We were, after all,  2 adults with precious cargo in very bulky seats.  I was unwilling to take two buses with a toddler and baby and then walk a mile in Wisconsin winter weather.

We connected with the pastors under whom we ministered and let them know that we would make every attempt to keep our commitment. If we ever couldn’t arrange transportation, we would let them know the night before. I understand how deeply frustrating that must have been for them, I do.  They relied upon us.

For October, November and December there was only 1 day when we couldn’t make it.  My husband had a pre-arranged work day, I didn’t feel up to heading out with both kids on my own (a 4 week old and 23 month old).  I walked 8 blocks to the church we now call home. I loved it, I had some friends there and it was so convenient. This was the first time I remember thinking I wanted to change churches, but it was not real option in my mind.

We continued to pray.

We prayed for God’s will and expected that to be full-time employment. We asked God to close doors he wanted shut and open doors he wanted open.  We prayed and waited.  The first Sunday we couldn’t make it to our “home” church we heard a sermon from the series “Regarding Joy: A Study in Philippians” and we were so deeply convicted.

We walked home both believing God was calling us to the new church.  Our hearts were touched, not in the emotional, blissful way I was accustomed to.  We were convicted and yet surrounded by God’s love and presence, completely aware of our sin and in awe of God’s mercy and grace.  We felt so humbled, not encouraged or inspired.

I didn’t want to let go.

A week after we decided to stay at our new church, we met with some church planters.  I imagined we would leave that meeting and become leaders in their new church.  The pastor said to my husband  “If God calls you, you follow and you know that means you will never achieve success, would you still say yes?”

My heart I screamed “NO!”   Immediately I was convicted and knew that following Jesus meant my answer was “Yes.”  The thought still made me sick.  I’ve never imagined being wealthy, famous or even having an amazing business.  I envisioned myself as stay-at-home-mom, a pastor’s wife, maybe doing a little massage work on the side.  Looking back, I can see that this was a clear indication that I was frustrated with God for not being faithful to me, after all I had been faithful to him.

All the good deeds for nothing.

I did (just about) everything right.  I went to Christian high school, I never really dated, I went to Bible college, I felt called to ministry, my husband is the only man I’ve kissed, I was a virgin when we got married.  I never smoked, partied or did drugs.  I followed Jesus in those actions, I did them because I thought that was what he asked of me, and I didn’t do them to “look good” I did them to “be good.”  Oh, how wrong I was.  I thought my motivation of “being good” versus “looking good” mean that my heart had things right.

The story of my relationship with my husband is beautiful and miraculous.  Our inability to be successful (financially or by being employed in ministry) made no sense to me.  If we were following Christ, why were things not getting better?  It had been two years of underemployment or unemployment. I began wondering if I had made a mistake marrying him.  The hurt and disappointment of our poverty was growing into bitterness.  I thought that if I just kept it up, without growing weary things would turn around.

Never be successful?  Ouch.

Church lady hooked on success.

How did I get to this place?  How did I become a person hooked on success?

It’s engrained in our culture, and some how it permeated church culture.

I thought I was pursuing Jesus, but it was really Jesus + American Dream.

I thought my last service at my former church was going to be significant.  I thought there would be bells, whistles and cupcakes.  I imagined a typical “missionary send off” service with fellowship afterward.

I can’t even remember my last service at my old church. I am sure no one else remembers it either.

Losing My Religion

One day, I started writing out my experience and I titled it “Losing My Religion”, the words have never seen the light of day, but the title has been in my heart all this time.

My series is sad and shocking because for me, leaving my church for a new one has been filled with shock and sadness.  I have LOST SO MUCH in this process.  It hurts, oh it hurts.

I welcome you, to my experience.  I don’t know *exactly* where this series will go, but I will take you through the series “Regarding Joy” because it has reshaped my heart, my heart has been changed by the words of the book of Phillippians, and I want to share it. Phillippians will take about three weeks, I’m still working on an outline for the final stretch of this 31-day series

Your experience will be different, as you read, I pray that God’ word will illuminate your heart, every corner, and reveal who Christ is, and how you need to be more like him.

Although I lost my religion, I can say it was the best thing that happened to me.  It has opened my heart up to pursue Christ, to be honest about my sin and be changed by his holiness.

And You?

How did you feel when you first heard REM’s song?  How does my title make you feel?

 

 

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