Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When there is more hard...

It was October. I was a sophmore at St. Augustine All-Girls Academy. I had just transferred there to be with my best friend, Stephanie, after a difficult first year at Strongsville High. Difficult enough that I spent most of the year depressed and struggling with thoughts of suicide. The move to SAA was supposed to be my ticket to happiness. And it was...for about the first two weeks. After that, everything changed. Stephanie - for reasons I can only guess at - suddenly turned into my worst enemy nightmare. It was bullying at its ugliest in the way only girls can manage - with words rather than punches. The way she would walk up behind me in a busy hallway between classes and whisper, "You're fat" in my ear or how she would humiliate me in front of a whole classroom of girls by saying some snide comment in my direction. Then one morning I found two pictures of overweight girls cut out from a magazine with hurtful words written on them that she had stuck to the front of my locker. Thankfully, I had arrived early so the halls were almost empty which spared me further humiliation. But enough was enough. I couldn't go on living like that.

I remember wishing I could talk to my sister in that moment. Hilary had been a voice of encouragement over the course of my depression - always talking me down from that ledge. She was in college at the time and had gotten involved with a group called Campus Crusade for Christ. Hilary and I had had long conversations about faith and Jesus but I still wasn't sure how I felt about it all. It wasn't that I had a hard time believing, I just wasn't ready to commit my life to it. That day, I was brought to a crossroads. As I sat in that hallway, humiliated and alone, something caused me to pull out a small booklet Hilary had given me that I kept in my book bag. It was a guide to knowing God (as seen here) with a prayer at the end asking Jesus into my life. I stopped at the prayer, knowing I was on the edge of some life-changing moment. It was now or never. I knew I'd reached the end of my current life - that I was ready to commit suicide unless something changed. And God, based on what I'd heard about Him, seemed like my only hope. And so I prayed this prayer in my heart (twice - for good measure I guess. In case the first time didn't take):

"Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be"

From that day forward, life was never the same. The funny thing is, my circumstances didn't change right away. Stephanie continued to give me a hard time and I continued to face humiliation. The difference was that my outlook changed. I had something to cling to in the darkest of hours - like a mother hen draws her chicks under her wing, so God drew me under His. Jesus was and is my refuge, my example, my everything. Four years later I received a call from Stephanie apologizing for what she had done. She said her new found faith in Jesus had prompted her to make amends. That was a miracle.

It's uncomfortable to relive that part of my life and to remember the shame and humiliation . To dive back into that time when everything was dark and I was so close to choosing death instead of life. And then I come back to what my reality is now on this sunny beautiful afternoon over a decade later where so much has changed.  Where life has created life and before me are two little boys who are a part of me and my continuing story. It feels so far from where my story with Christ began and I am ever grateful for that.  However, I will never forget the power found in the pain I faced. Pain was and still is one of the fastest ways God makes paths into my heart where there wasn't one before. As this post so beautifully puts it - when there is more hard, there is also more Jesus. So while I am thankful for the freedom and joy I experience today, I am also thankful for what is hard and what is painful because it invites more of Jesus into my life.

"...But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.
When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.

Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God's love for them
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, 'Salvation comes from the Lord."
                                                    Jonah 2:6-9

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


It's Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten season. I'm not sure how I feel about giving something up for Lent - nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to do this as a lead up to Easter. And I find I end up doing it simply because it's the thing to do, rather than out of a genuine desire to suffer as Christ did which is really at the heart of the practice.

Instead, for the next six weeks I'm committing to exclusively use this space as a place to reflect on Christ's impending sacrifice (Easter Sunday) and how it has impacted my life and the world at large. This is a big step for me, as I've tended to shy away from sharing my faith publicly and if I do so, it's with a very small voice. Somewhere along the way, I became more concerned about people's comfort level with what I'm saying rather than on how it might impact their lives for eternity. There is nothing gained nor hearts won by preaching the Gospel in such a way.

I want to be an unashamed bearer of the Truth - even if the Truth is hard to hear. The Gospel of Grace (John 3:16) is essential and available to all who desire oneness with God. The message of grace rolls off the tongue nicely and sweetly - it's for everybody, and it makes everyone feel good inside. It's a much harder thing to bring a call to repentance - it can be a bitter pill to swallow. And yet, without repentance we have no hope of receiving God's grace (Luke 13:3 & 5). Grace and repentance must always be taught as a package deal. Leonard Ravenhill is a man who understood this, and the sermon below is a call to all of us to examine our hearts before the Lord.

If you are somebody who chooses to give something up for Lent, I'd like to challenge you to really examine your motivation for doing so. As Mr. Ravenhill states above - its not about what we do for God but why we do it. The heart is what God examines - not just our actions.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Snack Addict.

Today marked the first day of me making healthier choices. I'm convinced that most of North America has a food addiction, myself included. The power food can have over my emotions is incredible. Case in point - during pregnancy, when I was forced to be careful about my carb intake, I'd get really depressed if I couldn't eat what I wanted to. And we're talking about a few chips and cookies here. I also want to stay true to my list of five goals for the year, and getting back in shape is on there.

I want to to want healthy, whole foods that actually do something for my body. Not just food that tastes good - and often makes me gain weight and feel gross. I'm a huge huge advocate for the argument that the food you eat has a direct effect on anything and everything that's going on with your health - especially cancer prevention; I'm also a huge junk food junkie. Sooo figure that one out.

A few months ago I started a great book on food addiction and how it relates to our walk with God called Made to Crave. Just like every other topical book on things of the Christian nature, I get totally caught up in the first chapter, rave about the book and then fail to finish it. I have a whole bookcase of barely started books. But I really do want to finish reading that book. I do I do!

I don't really have a plan of attack yet - just trying not to eat whatever, whenever  but rather be really intentional. Here are a couple of guidelines I'm going to try and slowly incorporate into my lifestyle:

  • limit the insane amount of snacking I do
  • eat more fruits and vegetables - preferably raw
  • cut down on the carbs (especially sugar)
  • have an accountability partner to keep me on track

Basically, it's all about 
Here's to doing just that.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Old News.

This is old news but several months ago we invested in a new media cabinet. I didn't like the way our old one looked, plus I wanted a piece of furniture that could store our dvds as well as the television. Here's the old one:

I hated how all the wires were visible. It looked messy and unkept. The whole thing just looked cheap and cluttered. I also realized that almost everything in the bookcase on the right was mostly unused: books we never read, cds we never listen to and dvds we never watch.  This prompted a major media purge which also resulted in not really needing a whole bookcase to store about thirty dvds. Anyways, you get the point - that corner of the room needed a makeover. 

Our friends who live above us found an incredible IKEA media cabinet on craigslist for $50 and as soon as I saw it I knew it was exactly what I was looking for. Amazingly, we found another one listed on craigslist a few days later (what are the odds?!) The catch: it was listed along with a side table we didn't need for a total cost of $100. Way more than I was willing to spend. I contacted the seller and asked if he'd sell the tv stand separately, he said no. So I offered $80 for the pair since our friends upstairs offered to buy the side table from us... yadda yadda yadda. We ended up getting it. I'm embarrassed to admit that I was completely obsessed with getting this media cabinet - hounding the seller (the guy would NOT respond to my offer) and just using up way too much brain activity on a piece of furniture.  In that brief moment I was enraptured with Tumblr, I posted this would-be letter to the seller:

thank you for finally calling me about the t.v. stand. i apologize for all the negative thoughts i shot your way over the course of two agonizing days of silence. you’ve taught me two lessons: 1) that patience is key when buying something off craigslist and 2) sometimes my unflinching determination pays off. i’m glad that slightly hounding you resulted in being considered “the most interested buyer” compared to the other four people. 

Here's the media cabinet in all its glory. I posted the picture on the right to give the feel of the whole corner now. So much homier, brighter and neater. For $50 this makeover was a steal. One of the best parts is that the wires are no longer exposed, nor is the t.v. in reach of little hands as it was before. And of course, I love that everything can be stored in one piece of furniture rather than two. Score!

Thursday, February 16, 2012


So here we are, one month to the day that we brought Moses home from the hospital and while the transition from one child to two has been challenging (more on that later) its been such a blessing and such a joy to have him in the family. I have a special love for that little guy, I really do.  

Another big change as of late is that Tim has a new job (!) - it all happened very fast and the way his other job ended was very stressful and upsetting - but it's turned out to be a great thing (so far). His schedule is so much more conducive to family life: 8 to 4:30 with weekends off. WEEKENDS OFF. He hasn't had weekends off in almost two years. Amazing. And this week he's been able to come home for lunch. I love it. Money will be tight but I feel like it's so worth it if it means more time together.

Speaking of time together, Valentine's Day was a near miss this year. I say that because, as it always goes, Moses slept all day until the exact moment that dinner was being placed on the table. And then a few minutes after that Jack woke up and started crying too. Welcome to Valentine's Day with kids. I swear they have internal radars for waking up at the most inconvenient moments. It's uncanny. Thankfully they quieted down quickly. But anyways... my mom had gifted us a little money to put towards dinner, so I settled on some fresh wild shrimp ($15 a pound! Crazy!) and made this (tasty) paired with this (amazing) and finished with these (addictive). All delicious. I love because you can always feel confident that if over four thousand people have reviewed it and almost 100,000 people have saved the recipe it's going to be good. I had originally wanted to go with a lamb dish (Tim's favorite) but thought that was a little too ambitious considering I have no idea what it means to "pair and french" a rack of lamb.

My handmade Valentine's card for Timmy

There's so many other things I've wanted to blog about but can't seem to find the time.  Things like:

- worshiping with Aaron Gillespie
- practicing sustainability
- the challenges of motherhood
- update on those goals for 2012

Someday soon I'll find the time!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Around the House

Amazingly, even though I'm totally sleep deprived, I've managed (with the help of my amazing hubby) to get some little finishing touches done around the house.

click to enlarge
Firstly, the hallway leading to the bedrooms has been in want of some loving since we moved in. It's a small space but the blank walls have always bothered me. I found these pictures in my parent's basement and I'm so glad I did. They hold so much meaning, not only because they're the wedding photographs of my grandparents & great grandparents, but because they're a special reminder of where our family started - in England. Since both my nanny and grandpa have passed away, walking by these photographs throughout the day helps me feel close to them again. I also love having little pieces of my English heritage scattered around the house; those British roots run deep in my soul. Anyways, I repurposed some unused frames I had lying around (I have a bit of a hoarding issue when it comes to picture frames - you'll see what I mean by the end of this post) and they worked out perfectly in giving the photos new life without detracting from their vintage, aged appearance (the quality of the photos is pristine - I just had to increase the exposure on them for this post).

Second on the list was to clear the kitchen counters of unwanted clutter - something I was inspired to do by this post. I don't have a before shot, but trust me - it was cluttered. More and more I'm appreciating the simplicity of a clear space or surface - there's something so freeing about looking into a room and not being overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in it. 

Another little finishing touch we added to the kitchen was to hang some more pictures; we've lived here almost two years now and haven't done much in the way of wall decor. I finally just bit the bullet the other day and put some stuff up there even if it is exactly what I had in mind. The funny thing is, I love the way it looks and can't understand why it took me so long to make use of all my leftover frames. The frame above my stove has been collecting dust for years and was only $4.99 (down from $44 - so I bought two). I hung its "twin" on the blank wall in our front room which was in want of some attention. I formerly had committed to painting something for the space but let's be honest - that's not going to happen for a long time. The kids won't allow it.

Part of the reason it took me so long to hang stuff is that I'm really picky when it comes to choosing images to frame. Tim made it easy this time by requesting I only use pictures I've taken myself. The frame in the front room has pictures of downtown London from when I lived in England; we have a framed map of the city hanging on another wall so it made sense to stick with that theme. The picture above the stove is some close-ups of a gorgeous bouquet of ranunculus blooms I bought from Trader Joe's last year. And the two images on the corner wall in the kitchen are some favorite shots of Tim eating a corn dog and another eating ice cream as well as a picture of Jack from vacation last year.

This run on filling empty spaces means I have less than five unused frames in the closet and no more boring, blank walls. Win win.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Loss & Gain.

We seem to be in an endless season of fluctuation - an ebb and flow of loss and gain. That's life I suppose, but I've felt it keenly these past few months.

Losing a job, gaining a job, losing a job, gaining a job.
Losing insurance, gaining insurance, losing insurance, gaining insurance.
Losing a friendship, gaining a friendship.
Losing hope, gaining hope.

So often it can feel like I'm just treading water in a big ocean trying to keep my head above the waves. Thankful for the normal and mundane even, because it means there's nothing terrible in its place, but also hoping for something more, something that makes me stop treading water and makes me want to swim.  That something is found in God, I know, and so I'm searching. There are so many secrets and Truths of the God I serve that I have yet to discover. And He's showing me the way through this twisting, complicated, confusing often painful path of loss and gain. Sometimes I just need to stop and breathe in a a good worship song to get my heart right and get back to something simple and uncomplicated. Like salve on a wound, this song is helping me through this difficult week. I get lost in it. It also sends Moses off to sleep.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Totally getting monk vibes here
(especially paired with the medieval themed bib) 

This morning I committed a carnal sin of parenting - I attempted to cut my child's hair without the guidance of a professional. My sisters have both had similar disasters themselves, so I should have known better. But of course, we all think our untrained hairdressing skills will be the exception to the rule. The sad thing is - most of us do it in the name of saving time and money and in the end, your "quick fix" just lands you with a trip to the hair salon so you can pay someone to salvage your child's shorn locks.

Granted.... Jack's hair isn't that bad. But it's pitiful enough that he'll be wearing a hat for a while - even in the house (haha, jk). I get a little shock to my system every time I catch a glance of his weird hair. This morning I kept asking him to look at me, in the hopes that the more times I saw his hair the  more I'd like it - or at least, the less upsetting it would be. Nope - still stressed out about it. Hopefully Tim's aunt - who's a hairdresser - can come to the rescue, and soon. The hair at the back of his head is still long (I'd learned my lesson by the time I'd finished with the front) so the more time it has to grow out, the more it's going to look like a mullet :(

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Oatmeal Raisin Scones

My mom makes the most amazing bran muffins. She also makes delicious biscotti. But today I'm sharing her recipe for oatmeal raisin scones. We're having our new neighbors over for coffee so I decided to make them myself for the first time (it's really easy!). With only a 1/3 cup of sugar plus the added benefit of raisins and oatmeal, these are pretty guilt free in the way of sweets. They're also a very "comforting" snack, especially when paired with a cup of tea and a dab of jam.

1 1/2 c flour
1 c quick-cooking oats
1/3 c sugar
1 Tbsp + 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 c unsalted butter
1/3 c milk
1 egg
1/2 c raisins

Preheat oven to 400 F. Stir flour, oats, sugar, baking powder salt, ginger and nutmeg in a large bowl. Cut in butter until crumbly. Beat egg and milk together in a separate bowl and stir into dry mixture. Add raisins. Gather dough into a ball and place on greased baking sheet. Flatten to a 9 inch circle. Cut into 8 pie shaped wedges. Using a spatula, pull each wedge out to allow 1 inch space between the wedges. Chill for 30 mins. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Birthdays and other things.

I turned 28 this past Monday. The closer I get to 30 the less I feel able to claim it (maturity wise) which might be why I have a hard time remembering how old I am; my brain seems stuck at 24.

This year the celebration was a bit disjointed due to a couple not so pleasant factors but it made the lovely things all the lovelier in comparison, especially since it was filled with rarities like:

{my sister driving down from Ontario on a whim to spend Saturday with me}
{having lunch with just my sisters and parents (+ Jack & Moses) which hasn't happened in years}
{ordering creme brulee when Tim and I went out for my birthday lunch. it.was.divine}

It was only my second or third time eating creme brulee, but I've decided that it will be my dessert of choice every January 30. It's too rich to eat all the time (hello cholesterol) but too delicious to only be eaten every several years. Ok, who am I kidding.... now that I've been reminded about how amazing it is, I'll probably eat it again before the year's out. It was probably the best $6 I've spent in months!

Since most of my days are spent indoors due to the weather as well as trying to recover from surgery, I've been conscious of avoiding the temptation to wear a housecoat and pajama bottoms all day. As comfy as that may be, I tend to feel more zippy and fresh if I've taken the time to actually get ready for the day. This includes putting on a little make up and lately I've been wanting to get some new lipstick - something I haven't worn in years. Now I know outer appearance is NOT what "makes me a woman" but putting on some lipstick or painting my nails makes me feel extra-feminine - it counters the "housecoat mentality" nicely. Do you know what I mean? Plus Tim loves it! So aside from my new lipstick - I have a shade of pink and a shade of red (!) - I'm also excited about my new pair of bright red Tom's shoes that Tim got me for my birthday. I've been wanting them for a while and Tom's classics are great for spring and summer. Plus, for every pair you buy  they donate a pair of shoes to a child in need. Win win!

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