Mission trip, refugees, Soul-bearing

Praying for Refugees (How You Can Get Involved)

Know that the Lord our God loves the refugees and His Spirit is moving among them. I pray that their stories will capture your heart like they did mine because then you’ll be moved to do something, too. If you do nothing else, pray that they will find Jesus, pray they will be reunited with their families, pray that they will find purpose and meaning in their lives. We as a country, and we as the Church, have largely forgotten them. 

Before we left Germany after a week of meeting, listening to, and loving refugees, we were challenged by our group leaders to sit down with the teammates we had been serving with all week and come up with a summary/challenge to all those we’d talk with back home. The above statement is what my team wrote together.

“If you do nothing else, pray.”

That challenge has been a common refrain of mine for the past few weeks since returning from Germany. I’ve been blessed with many wonderful opportunities to share stories from my trip, and something God has really put on my heart to emphasize is the power of prayer. We were praying constantly during our time in Germany…and I saw God at work, directly answering prayers.

The Bible tells us to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Scripture also mentions calling to Him and “‘I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know'” (Jeremiah 33:3). A refugee I met, who escaped his home country because of religious persecution, cited his favorite verse as “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). We are commanded as followers of Jesus to pray for all things, and I truly feel personally convicted that we should be praying for refugees, fervently.

Nearly 60 million people are forcibly displaced in the world right now (source: World Relief website http://www.worldrelief.org/refugee-crisis). Sixty million. That’s 60 million people who have been ripped away from the life they knew. Sixty million people who have experienced great — sometimes even tragic — personal loss. Sixty million people who have no idea what their future holds. Sixty million people who need us to advocate on their behalf, starting with prayer.

Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, a person who works an 8-to-5, a pastor, a student, or someone in between, praying for the refugees is something we can all be doing. I’m challenging myself right alongside you. Beyond the needs in our own lives and those around us, my hope and prayer is that we will be crying out to Him on the refugee’s behalf.

Pray that the refugees will find the hope and peace that can only be found in Him, as many I met were searching in the midst of such personal turbulence. Pray that their families will be reunited, as many I met were separated from parents, wives, and children. Pray that they will be able to find jobs, whether they return to their homeland or are eventually granted permission to work in the country they’re resettled to. Pray for the children, some of whom have seen horrendous acts of violence and have experienced trauma I still can’t fathom. Pray for the parents, who have the same hopes and dreams for their children as many of you reading this do for yours. Please pray.

Pray that your heart will be open to helping however the Lord leads, even if it is just praying continually for these people. Pray, if you’re struggling with how you should react to this refugee crisis, that God will show you the unconditional love He has for these people. Pray for me, that I will continue to seek Him for how else I can serve and love refugees in the here and now. Please pray.

If you’re the type of person who enjoys physical reminders, here’s a prayer guide put together by World Relief with specific ways you can be praying for refugees: We Welcome Refugees Prayer Guide.

If you’d like to read more personal stories from refugees (or those persecuted in the midst of violence) and gain a deeper understanding of how to pray for those affected, I highly, highly recommend two books I’m in the midst of currently: Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis by Stephan Bauman, Matthew Soerens and Dr. Issam Smeir (I have it on audio AND in print if anyone wants to borrow either!) and They Say We Are Infidels by Mindy Belz.

In closing, I leave you with this quote from a refugee one of our teams met during our time in Germany.

“I cried because you prayed in the name of Jesus.”

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Mission trip, Soul-bearing

On Fear + Refugees

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Let’s talk about fear.

Fear is all around us these days. Wars. Shootings. Bombings. An upcoming presidential election. I could go on and on, but I know it’ll stress you out as much as it does me.

When I felt God’s calling to sign up for a mission trip to share the love of Jesus with refugees, I was confident. My heart felt so overwhelmingly burdened for these people that I knew I had to do SOMETHING.

But with every bit of passion and joy I had in signing up, I was also battling something else.

Fear.

I had no idea what to expect. How would I/we be received? Would we be met with hostility? Violence? Something else? We were going to Germany to hear their stories, to show love and compassion, but also to share the love of Jesus. Would we be met with something stronger than ordinary rejection?

The day I flew out to Germany, I learned of the Munich shooting just hours before my flight. Details were sketchy at that point, but my stomach was in knots as I flirted with a decision: Do I get on that plane and go in faith…or do I stay home?

I knew I had to go. Beyond wanting to live a life with no regrets or “what ifs,” I knew, more importantly, that God had placed the love for and passion for the refugees in me. It was no accident, and living in fear and staying home in my bed for a week certainly wouldn’t remove it. The Bible talks about how perfect love casts out fear, so I decided to lean into my First Love and follow Him.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

*

A few days later, there I was. In Germany. Bawling. We were in the middle of a morning meeting as we prepared to go to the refugee centers for the first time, just reviewing last-minute information and praying together, and I had my head in my hands, sobbing. I had woken up that morning to news of another attack overnight near Munich. I was scared. So freakin’ scared.

My head was cycling through worst case scenarios. Though a teammate had said something super profound and very true to me at breakfast when I briefly mentioned my stress (“I figure, if I’m going to die, what better way to go than on a mission trip telling people about Jesus?”), though I was reading and praying through Philippians 1 all morning (“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”), I was struggling. I was afraid.

Another level of anxiety came from the fact that I was specifically concerned about what my interactions with the male refugees would be like. I’m not naive — I know many of their home countries definitely have misguided, and oftentimes downright wrong, views about women. I didn’t know what to expect, at all.

Teammates put their hands on me and started to pray, silently. I sat there and begged God to take all the fear from me. I asked Him why I was so afraid. I know my eternity is secure in Him. I know He alone knows the number of my days, but I was holding so tightly to my dreams and hopes for the future. I realized the possibility of surrendering my own desires was driving my fear. The fear of losing what I want. The fear of the unknown.

I had to give it all over to Him. I know it’ll be an ongoing process of surrender for the rest of my life. But for that day, that trip, I was able to just place it all in His hands and surrender.

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God not only protected me during my time with the refugees, He truly opened my eyes to love and care for these dear people. Most of the refugees I met were men, the vast majority of whom are searching for more, for the love and security only Christ can give. I saw with my very own eyes how God is moving, taking a great tragedy to open so many eyes, cause so many hearts to search, and bring so many to Him.

I feel it’s important to share that I never felt dismissed or ignored when talking to any of the refugees. I never once felt threatened, endangered, looked down upon, or discounted by any of the men I met. They were all kind, courteous, and open when I engaged with them, oftentimes going out of their way to make me feel comfortable. They let me leave my shoes on when it’s customary to take shoes off before entering their homes. They offered us their beds to sit on while they sat on the floor. My teammate and I were, during one visit, asked what we wanted to drink; twenty minutes later one of our hosts returned with drinks and cookies he ran TO THE STORE to buy for us, using some of his precious weekly allowance of Euros to feed us.

I’m not attempting to make a blanket statement about all refugees, but I want you to know what my personal experience was, because it was completely different from what I expected from media coverage. Completely. Different.

God opened my eyes and stripped away so many fears and prejudices I had. I was humbled and honored to meet such incredible people. My life is better and my heart is more open having met them. Admittedly, I’m still learning. But I pray I’m able to speak up on their behalf and share my experience as much as possible.

*

My prayer is that my personal experience will make a difference, perhaps change or soften hearts, like mine was. All I know is that I feel an obligation to share what I saw, felt and experienced. I know my thoughts and experience may make some uncomfortable. My hope is that I am speaking truth in love.

At the end of the day, please know that these refugees — most of whom are, yes, Muslim — are people the Lord loves just as much as He loves me and you. They are made in the image of God, just like you are. Please know that these are real people with real families and real losses. Please care. Please pray for them. Please.

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Healthy, Whole30

30 Things I Learned From Doing Whole30

I DID IT! I survived–and thrived–doing my first Whole30. Truly, it was one of the best, most important things I’ve ever done for myself. I thought I’d break down my experience into 30 thoughts, in no particular order:

  1. The experience is totally different for everyone (but the first week does suck regardless). I happened to have IN.SANE. mood swings my first week while most of my friends who have previously done Whole30 experienced bad headaches. Sugar detox makes up its own rules.
  2. Whole30 is a commitment, so don’t even let yourself think you can cheat it. The main thing that helped me stay on track for Whole30 was I tapped into my inner stubborn side. No, I was NOT going to cheat or back out after I had told everyone on my Facebook I was doing it! Are you kidding?! Find your inner stubborn person if you’re going to do this.
  3. Your true family and friends will be wonderfully supportive, even if they think you’re a little crazy maybe. I was touched and often blown away by how understanding many of my family members, friends and co-workers were. From dealing with the Week 1 mood swings to the “Hey, I’m gonna ask our waitress a million questions before I order, hope that’s cool!”, they cheered me on through the 30 days.
  4. …but you will find some people are not quite as supportive. It happened. But don’t let it get you down! #haterzgonnahate
  5. Maybe my headaches were caused by something not-chocolate all along? So, here are the facts: I’ve only taken medicine for a headache once in the past month. I cannot stress how insanely awesome this is–I have a prescription for migraines that helped me function pre-Whole30…and now it’s sitting at the bottom of my purse mostly unused at this point.
  6. Sugar. Is. Everywhere. I rarely, if ever, looked at ingredients when buying groceries in the past. Now, it basically governs whether or not I’m going to buy something. If it has anything that sounds too science-y (with a few exceptions) or any added sugar (again, a few exceptions like bacon with trace amounts of sugar), I don’t buy it anymore. Also, if you want a kick in the pants to start Whole30, watch Fed Up on Netflix. It horrified me to the point of wanting to go forward with kissing added sugar goodbye.
  7. Calorie counting never forced me to make good decisions. Realizing this was a pretty significant thing for me. In the past, whenever I wanted to lose weight I would always calorie count, and it worked for me just fine. I would count carefully and lose weight successfully almost every time. However, calorie counting never forced me to eat veggies or good fats. Hm, I have 250 calories left. Should I eat an avocado or two servings of chips? Well, two servings of chips will fill me up more I’m sure sooooooo…bring on the chips. Also, I would go to bed hungry way too often, and that’s just not something I struggle with during or after Whole30.
  8. Veggies aren’t so bad! I’ve mentioned this in previous blog posts, but sometimes I have the taste buds of a 5-year-old. Certain textures are weird to me, I don’t like tomatoes or onions, etc. etc. But Whole30 made me not only eat but come to love certain veggies. First of all, almost any vegetable tastes delicious when you roast it. Roasted Brussels sprouts? YES YES YES. Also, I learned that sweet potatoes, in particular, are a new favorite of mine.
  9. I think legumes might be an issue for me. Whole30 has you cut out legumes but allows nuts (very close to legumes) and snap peas because they’re more pod than seed. I never ate many legumes, particularly beans, before Whole30, but I quickly learned that snap peas and too many nuts caused me to have an upset stomach, so I definitely dialed back on that.
  10. Either dairy, gluten or corn is also an issue for me. So I was on vacation in Texas for days 27-30 of my Whole30 and stuck with it! But then on day 32 I celebrated before heading back home by enjoying some DELICIOUS taquitos. During Whole30, I never once experienced swelling in my legs, which I had experienced often pre-Whole30 as a side effect of a medication I have to take. However, on the way home, I noticed the swelling was coming back a bit, so now I’ll eventually go back and test to see which one it is.
  11. It’s not only possible to eat out on Whole30, it’s actually not that hard. OK, so you’ll have to do some research ahead of time or ask your waiter a decent number of questions, but it’s totally possible to eat out while staying on Whole30. I modified a salad at Panera, ordered a grass-fed burger wrapped in lettuce, ordered a plain sweet potato at Texas Roadhouse, made my own salad at a restaurant with a salad bar…all while on Whole30.
  12. It’s not easy to go on vacation while on Whole30, but again, totally doable. Like I said, days 27-30 for me were spent in airports and in friends’ homes or eating out with them. I prepared ahead of time by packing lots of snacks (individual packs of Justin’s almond butter, dried fruit with no added sugar, LaraBars) to keep me going between meals as necessary, but I also just asked that everyone understand that I was sticking with it–and everyone was so wonderfully supportive. Two friends went on special grocery shopping trips to make meals I could eat at their homes, while the rest of my friends allowed me to choose restaurants I knew I could eat at.
  13. I didn’t need the scale to feel good about myself. One of the Whole30 guidelines is to not weigh yourself for the entire 30 days–they recommend you focus instead on how you’re feeling rather than a number on a scale. And I’m glad they pointed me in that direction, as I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the scale and how it can make me feel. Giving it up for Whole30 made me instead go “Hey, I feel energetic and happy today! That’s awesome!” instead of obsessively fretting over whether I was going up or down on a number.
  14. You will spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Honestly, this was the biggest adjustment and hardest part of Whole30 for me. Going from basically NEVER cooking (again, I was the queen of warming up meals from the freezer) to having to prep and make my own meals every day was a huuuuuuuuuuuuuge shift. I’m actually still getting adjusted to this. I’m hoping to one day maybe even love it?
  15. I don’t “deserve” bad food after a bad day. Oh man, did I ever say this a lot in the past. “I drove through because I had a crappy day and I deserve it.” “I mean, I got this because I got XXX done and it’s kind of a reward.” This isn’t to say I’m NEVER going to eat something “bad” anymore, but I’m definitely not allowing myself to pick up something not healthy for dinner just because I had a bad day or am feeling stressed. Because you know what relieves some stress? Chopping up things aggressively in your own kitchen.
  16. Before you start, read as much as you can on Whole30. Seriously, stalk their website. Borrow or buy It Starts With Food. Find recipes on Pinterest. Print off their downloads for your grocery shopping. The more you read and know, the better off you’ll be. Also, if you’re in the middle of the grocery store and you’re like, “Is this ingredient Whole30-approved?”, Google almost always will give you the right answer.
  17. There will be moments/days you want to quit, but it’s worth it to push through. On day 17, I about tossed in the towel. I was in my kitchen, prepping food for what felt like the billionth hour, and I was like, “I AM OVER THIS.” But then I realized:
  18. I am worth one month of saying “no.” No to what I used to eat, no to my old habits, no to not giving my health a restart. We are all worth saying “no” for a month. Truly. You have 11 other months of the year to do whatever with.
  19. Food is a suuuuuuuper emotional thing. I was prepared for Whole30 to be physically difficult, when in reality it was actually WAY more emotionally and mentally difficult for me. Not being to eat whatever made me want to cry some days. Having to work hard in the kitchen made me want to punch things (or humans) sometimes. Watching my friends eat cheese curds while I ate my lettuce-wrapped grass-fed burger made me die a little on the inside. Food is so emotionally tied to our experiences and memories, and it’s tough (but worthwhile) to force yourself to face new things to break some of those old binds.
  20. For me, food is also something I started thinking about on a Biblical level, too. Before Whole30 I never really considered “Am I honoring my God-given body when I eat this?” But about halfway through Whole30 I started thinking, “OK, so God made the Garden of Eden, which was good. And they didn’t have doughnuts in the Garden.” So when I stepped back and started thinking about things from a more Biblical sense, eating healthier started to become more important to me, too.
  21. I can live without dessert. I thought I wouldn’t be able to live without snacks or “just a little sweet” before bedtime. Turns out when you stuff your bod full of protein, veggies and good fats for your three meals, you don’t really need snacks to keep you going.
  22. You will have to spend a liiiiiittle bit more to eat healthy. My grocery bill went up significantly the first week, but once I knew more what I actually needed to get through the week, I ended up only spending about $40 more in groceries per week. That may seem like a big number to some, but to me it’s worth it. Also, I went all-in on buying organic or grass-fed on Whole30, so it’s not as expensive if you don’t want to go to quite that extreme.
  23. When it comes to my grocery bills being more, spending more time in the kitchen, learning how to cook, I kept asking, “Is my health and happiness worth it?” And yes, it absolutely is worth it. Definitely.
  24. Even a picky eater can survive! Like I said, I’ve been compared to a child with my picky palate. But Pinterest is a great resource for Whole30 recipes galore, and I was totally able to either find recipes I liked or modify a few to suit my tastes (AKA goodbye onions, I don’t want you).
  25. You will need a break from eggs at one point. In America, breakfast typically means something with eggs. I’ve personally come to love this egg cups recipe, but after awhile I was like, “NO MORE EGGS.” Yeah, eggs will get old. Whole30 recommends you think of your three daily meals as Meal 1, Meal 2 and Meal 3 instead of breakfast, lunch and dinner, so if you want soup or meat and veggies for breakfast/meal 1, go for it. So on my “I’m so sick of eggs” days, sometimes I’ll have a chicken breast and carrot sticks for breakfast or something similar.
  26. I feel way more stable emotionally. I’m known, at least among my immediate family, as being a bit of an emotional person. AKA I get hangry and/or can turn into a rage monster in about two seconds flat. But I truly think I’ve leveled out a lot more emotionally since doing Whole30, which is probably due partly to a) lack of chemicals and additives in my food and b) fewer glucose spikes without all the added sugar.
  27. I feel maybe the best I’ve felt since high school. I mean, seriously. Part of the reason I did Whole30 was because I felt all blah and sluggish all. the. time. before, but now I feel like I’m at least full of more energy. I don’t really deal with “that 2 o’clock feeling” every day now. I sleep better BUT…
  28. Whole30 doesn’t magically turn you into some morning person if you’re not one (at least for me). I really thought this would happen to me! I imagined waking up surrounded by cartoon birds who would sing as I seized the day a la Disney movies. But the struggle is still super real in the mornings for me. But hey, at least my days are better.🙂
  29. I lost 13 lbs. while on Whole30… But more importantly! I can feel a difference in my body, and I feel a renewed sense of purpose in life and more confidence in myself.
  30. I think everyone should give Whole30 a try. I’m being serious. I can only imagine how some of you would feel after embarking on Whole30. I want everyone I know and love to feel as happy and great as I do now. And what could you have to lose?! Seriously. I’m here to support you every step of the way if you do!

So, yeah, Whole30 was a great experience for me. I’ve decided to stick with a mostly Paleo diet now, which is basically Whole30 plus a few more things/a bit of wiggle room. Also, I’ve decided I’m only going to “splurge” or eat off-plan when it’s a special occasion out with family or friends. Because sometimes you still gotta have those cheese curds.🙂

Oh, and you probably came here for some before and after photos, huh? Here ya go! Goodbye, 15 lbs.!

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Whole30

Whole30 Week 2 recap

Another week in! Here’s another totally honest recap on how Whole30 Week 2 went for me. And good news: It’s a bit more upbeat than my last one!

Day 8 – Spent most of the day at a friend’s house, but here’s a Whole30/healthy eating tip for you: Do not be shy about telling everyone and their mother that you’re doing Whole30/changing your diet/eating a whole new way, etc. I’ve been talking about it so much that people probably wish I would stop, but it makes a wooooooorld of a difference when people are aware that you’ve radically changed your diet. Most people (AKA this is where you find out who your true friends are) will be understanding and supportive and won’t try to force you to break your plan. This being said, there’s a difference between understanding/supportive and questioning. Questioning, in my opinion, is also a legitimate, not-harsh way loved ones may respond. This is OK! One, it’ll force you to know and research exactly why you’re doing W30 (or any change in diet, for that matter), and two, it’s OK if they’re concerned for you. I’m from Wisconsin, so naturally some people thought it was absolutely crazy that I was cutting out dairy for a month, since, ya know, we basically thrive on all things dairy. Some also expressed concerns/alarm over me cutting out rice and beans from my diet. All of this is good–they just want to know why you’re doing what you’re doing and if it’ll be safe for you. I packed my own breakfast and lunch since I knew I’d be over at my friend’s for most of the day. It was no big deal to her or anyone. Life does go on when you’re on W30. Got home around 7 and realized, you know what, I just want to relax a bit tonight. I waited to do meal prep until two hours later, and I had zero regrets about it. Sometimes you just have to let yourself BREATHE during these 30 days. You don’t want to get burnt out. However, just make sure you don’t let breathing lead to total laziness to “I have no food to eat what do I do SHOULD I JUST QUIT WHOLE30?!” Balance!

Day 9 – Super Bowl Sundayyyyyyyy. The greatest eating day (outside of Thanksgiving, probably) in America, and here I was on Whole30. But guess what?! All was not lost because you can still eat great stuff! I found Nom Nom Paleo’s recipe for prosciutto chips, which I enjoyed while my family had tortilla chips with bean dip. I also made Whole30 compliant wings! YESSSSSS *praise hands emoji here* I didn’t feel left out or bummed all day. I realized I didn’t need to throw in the towel just because something important (OK, basically a holiday in America) was happening. Sticking to my goal was more important than eating a bag of chips.

Day 10 – Hit a bump in the road in regards to breakfast today. I just cannot do hard boiled eggs for now. Nope nope nope. Also, I need an avocado break, for at least a day. I LOVE avocados, so if W30 makes me hate them I’ll just cry. But today’s avocado-egg combo just made me nauseated and not happy, so I need a switch-up. Whole30 encourages you to think of meals less as breakfast, lunch and dinner and more Meal 1, Meal 2 and Meal 3, so if you’re hungry for soup in the morning, do it, etc. Had the most filling lunch in awhile: salmon cakes on bed of baby kale with a side of leftover Brussels sprouts. Delish! Went home and felt kind of “chef-like” for the first time ever–I was blasting my Spotify as I hacked into a spaghetti squash for the first time (holy cow, that stuff is hard to cut through!), whisked eggs and chopped sweet potatoes. By the end of the night, I managed to whip up a breakfast casserole for the next few days and cooked a spaghetti squash, which I immediately had for dinner. My review of spaghetti squash: certainly not pasta but a decent fill-in. I miraculously found some sugar-free marinara sauce last week. INCREDIBLE on top of the spaghetti squash. Oh man, had I missed tomato sauces. I’m realizing that my cap for cooking per weeknight is two items, which I think I can be OK with for the sake of my sanity. Also, got an email today from Tessemae’s that my Whole30-approved condiments are on their way. CAN’T WAIT TO BE REUNITED WITH MAYO, GUYS. (Go ahead and make a face. Don’t care. I love me some mayo.)

Day 11 – Woke up about a half hour before my alarm went off! Rolled out of bed and immediately went to eat some veggies and a spoonful of almond butter. I did some research the day before and concluded my morning grogginess may be partly due to not eating quickly enough in the morning. I’ve never been a big breakfast fan, and eating big meals in general is really hard for me because I get full pretty fast. So, I decided to try something new: Try to eat half my breakfast at home, the other half at my work. I’m still not completely experiencing the boundless energy that I’m supposedly supposed to start experiencing pretty soon, but I’ll give it a few more days. However, I’m just feeling overall better. The fact that I’m now regularly sleeping through the night is pretty significant, too, as I used to wake up at least once a night before. Today was a BIG DAY in my W30 life: I WENT OUT TO EAT AND DIDN’T CHEAT. I met up with a few friends at a super delicious local burger joint. Problem: This place isn’t just know for their burgers; they also make to-die-for cheese curds (like, a top 5 food for me) and custard. Oh, and there’s a bucket of peanuts at every table, no big deal. I smelled cheese curds and sat next to a bowl of peanuts and did not succumb to temptation. Do I get a gold star? Ordering, however, was still a slight challenge: They had grass-fed burgers on their menu, which is a definite W30-approved option, but I had to ask how they cook the burgers. The answer? BUTTER, SWEET DELICIOUS BUTTER. I asked if they could cook mine with no butter or oils–the waitress eventually concluded they could. Also, all the sides are this particular place are fried, so I couldn’t order any😦. To make up for the lack of veggies (definitely not an ideal W30 meal), I ordered two burger patties and extra lettuce to wrap them in. I also got in my good fat with the meal (a requirement with every W30 meal) and had the patties topped with avocado. I’m still 50/50ish on whether there was butter involved with the burgers somehow…maybe they were just extra juicy? Regardless, I did my darn best, and that’s what really mattered in this case.

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Day 12 – Had a headache on and off all day, which made me think DID I EAT BUTTER LAST NIGHT?!?!?! But, like I said earlier, I refused to really sweat it because I really didn’t have any proof of that, had done everything in my power the night before, and I could have a headache for many other reasons. I had a turkey burger for lunch, which was the first time for that on W30 and my tastebuds enjoyed the change. But I’m basically skipping the biggest news of the day: MY TESSAMAE’S MAYO (and ketchup and ranch dressing) CAME IN THE MAIL. I mean, look at my face in this photo. This tells you all you need to know about my relationship with mayo. Also, I had dreamed about making egg salad since I started Whole30, and now I finally can! However, today ended up with a big-time OOPS: First, I fell asleep sitting up in my living room chair at 11 p.m. … and stayed like that until 3:15 a.m. Woke up at 3:15 and realized, “Oh, hey, I never packed my lunch for tomorrow.” THIS is the true W30 challenge–before this challenge I 100% would’ve crawled straight into bed and called Jimmy John’s the next day. But I knew fast food is basically not an option whatsoever (even Panera is basically out because most of their meats/soups/salads have sugar or soy in them somewhere) so I HAD to pack a lunch. I groggily made my precious egg salad at 3:20 a.m., etc. etc, then crawled into my actual bed close to 4 a.m. Definitely not ideal. I HAVE to start 1) going to bed an earlier time and 2) packing lunch ASAP when I get home at night. Because Day 13…

Day 13 – OH HELLO GROGGY MORNING. Yeah, you don’t say I only slept 2.5 hours in my bed last night? Everything was painful and hard this morning. However, things did start to pick up at lunch–that egg salad was everything I dreamed it would be and more.❤❤❤ Thanks for being in my life again, Mayo, love you. I made a conscious decision before heading home that I was NOT going to prep meals — I had enough to get me through Saturday, which I’m planning for my big cook day, and I just wanted to relax. It still took me an hour to whip up dinner, hmph. HOWEVER, it was also one of my best dinners yet: chicken breast with Tessemae’s ketchup (like a cross between regular ketchup and BBQ sauce, yum!), roasted Brussels sprouts with prosciutto, and pan-fried plantains. Yeah, I did all of that! I was pretty happy with myself. Grocery list-making is still a very long process (took me like 45 minutes to plan my next trip to the store), so I’m still hoping for that to get better over time. Finally, I discovered broccoli can go bad and stink up your entire fridge/kitchen/apartment. It was so bad that I immediately took the trash out, except our landlords had already taken the garbage cans to our curb, so there I was at 9:30 p.m. dragging a bag allllllll the way to the road when it was like -2 degrees outside. Struggle, meet real.

Day 14 – TWO WEEKS! I’VE MADE IT TWO WEEKS! When I think about all the ways my mind has shifted (angrily, at times) in just two weeks, it’s kind of astonishing. Here’s just a very quick rundown in the ways I’ve changed since starting Whole30 two weeks ago:

1) I sleep through the night now. A typical night of sleep for me for years has meant waking up at least once in the middle of the night.

2) I already have the yes/no ingredients fairly memorized. Grocery shopping, while still an adventure, doesn’t seem so daunting now that I basically know off the top of my head “Yup, that’s OK” or “Nope, this is off-limits.”

3) I’m already not missing certain things. Bread? I’m surviving without it so far. I haven’t thought about needing a dessert to feel “complete.” Every time I start thinking about fast food I try to remember how icky I would feel after usually. Perhaps the most surprising of all: Outside of days 3-5 probably, I really haven’t thought about cheese all that much. Crazy? Maybe.

4) It’s just 30 freakin’ days. Every time I start thinking about weighing myself, in particular, I remember: It’s 30 freakin’ days. I can do anything for 30 days.

5) This is a big one: It’s totally shifting the way I think about food. I’m realizing more and more that I don’t have to live to eat; I eat to live. Food is great and delicious and all that, but really, I can live and not feel all that repressed eating what I’m eating currently. Also, I can’t tell you how freeing this experience has been for me mentally, particularly as a person who calorie-counted every time I wanted to lose weight in the past. Yes, it would work for me, but always really, really restricted me because why would I eat an avocado if it “used up” 250 of my precious calories? I could have two servings of chips for that much instead? Guess what I would choose. And I felt hungry or unsatisfied about 70% of the time when calorie counting. Whole30 is shifting me to think about what I want to eat…without any fear of “running out” of calories.

And now, a list of ways The Struggle is Still Real:

1) I have to grocery shop minimum of once a week now. A massive chunk of my diet is now produce, so this is just reality.

2) Cooking is still something I’m learning how to do…and enjoy. I had bright flashes of “Hey, this isn’t so bad” this week, but overall it’s still hard to come back from work and immediately go into making a dinner instead of just lazying around for a bit before popping a chicken patty into the microwave. Also, as I highlighted earlier in this post, gone are the days of “Oh, I’m tired/got home later/don’t feel like packing a lunch” and just having Jimmy John’s deliver to work the next day. I HAVE to have a lunch packed, every day. It’s still an adjustment.

3) I’m still figuring out how to balance my checkbook while buying fresh/organic stuff so much now, especially if I stick with a similar diet after this.

Tomorrow is the official halfway point of my Whole30! YAY!

 

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Whole30 Week 1: a day-by-day analysis

OK, so seven days ago I got crazy and decided to do something called Whole30. Basically, it’s a clean-eating program designed to get your body back to square one and without sugar (but also dairy, grains, alcohol and legumes are out for 30 days, too). I kind of came to the decision after 1) being weighed at my doctor’s office and realizing I was a little, um, heavier than I had thought and 2) hearing raves from several friends who were in various stages of it. Hearing things like “my husband stopped snoring halfway through” and “I’ve never had this much energy or felt this GOOD” were motivating things to hear. Also, I had been feeling sluggish for weeks, and it was honestly starting to wear on me. I was ready for a hard reset.

After one eye-opening trip to Trader Joe’s (guys, SUGAR IS EVERYTHING! Seriously, look at your labels sometime and you’ll be amazed), I was ready. Without further ado, here’s a very real and honest breakdown of what each day of the past week has been like for me (links included for the food products I mention, btw):

Day 1 – Woo! This is awesome. Eating all dem healthy veggies and proteins. I had three hard boiled eggs in rapid succession (two for breakfast, one chopped up with my lunch salad), which might’ve been overdoing it. I went to a baby shower right after lunch and politely turned away an ENTIRE PLATE OF DESSERT (which looked amazing). I felt invincible after that, and the ladies at my table said they were so proud and I didn’t even know them before the shower. Fortunately, the shower was held at a tea house where we got to each choose a tea and had an entire teapot to ourselves for the afternoon, so I chugged that while enjoying a few pieces of fruit and passing off my adorable tea sandwiches to the gals around me. I felt pretty great and unstoppable all day. WHOLE30, HERE I COME.

Day 2 – Huh, I thought I was supposed to feel hungover or something today? Well, I feel GREAT! I drank black coffee from Starbucks this morning and didn’t die (after asking the barista a few dozen times “You didn’t put creamer in, right?”). I also didn’t experience my usual “I had a big lunch and now I’m feeling super sleepy” afternoon fatigue. I went shopping with my mom to gather spices, since I now have to, like, cook and stuff. I went home and prepped a few things — hard boiled some eggs, made some breakfast egg cups, and cooked up a pound of ground beef with some fajita seasoning I found at Penzeys. I wasn’t able to find any taco seasoning that was compliant, but desperate times called for desperate measures. The fajita seasoning is interesting with the ground beef, but whatever, at least my tongue has a new flavor to enjoy. I was in the kitchen for about two hours, which is a new record for me because I NEVER COOKED BEFORE. I mean, seriously. A typical dinner for me in the past is basically “let’s pull this frozen chicken patty out of the freezer and nuke it for a few minutes” with a side of chips. Anddddd that was pretty much it. SUPER HEALTHY STUFF. So, if nothing else, this Whole30 thing will force me to actually learn how to cook, I suppose.

Day 3 – Oh boy. The struggle became very real this day. I woke up and instantly felt “off.” Couldn’t convince myself to get out of bed for almost an hour because I just didn’t feel like it. I felt like crying for no reason at all as I drove to work, followed quickly by a bout of rage ( and this continued throughout the day, hooray!). I waited too long to eat lunch and had to battle a fuzzy head for awhile. I went home and had grand aspirations of prepping a bunch of food for upcoming meals, but no. It took me an hour just to cook dinner and pack my lunch and dinner for the next day (since I go straight to a Bible study on Tuesday nights after work). I was already getting pretty annoyed with this whole prep work thing. I went to bed and called it a day, because man, Day 3 was the wooooooorst.

Day 4 – Woke up today and realized people and things were good again, and I no longer had the urge to punch things. However, I did wake up with a migraine. I have a prescription for those so I popped a pill, which thankfully took the edge off. I felt a little hazy on and off throughout the day but overall not too bad. I felt pretty bloated all day long, so I did a little research and saw that nuts can sometimes have that effect. I had been “enjoying” (yes, the quotes are there on purpose because raw nuts are still pretty boring in my world) almonds for a few days in a row, so I skipped those on Day 4 and felt much less bloated on Day 5. I changed my salad life FOREVER that night when I sprinkled on some Penzeys Fox Point seasoning on my salad. SO GOOD. Seasonings should definitely be a thing on salads, especially if you’re going to eat as many as I eat for the next 26 days. I went to Bible study that night and got home around 10, so I quickly threw together food together for the next day. I was browsing on my phone before bed, which is when my life forever charged. I FOUND COMPLAINT BACON, YOU GUYS. Also, compliant mayo, ranch and ketchup!, since I’m not yet at a point where I feel confident enough to attempt to make my own. WEEEEEE, can’t wait until these bad boys arrive in the mail. I might kiss them, who knows. *note: I only ended up ordering the Tessemae’s condiments for now — the bacon is $20 shipping.**cries* Maybe next paycheck…

Day 5 – Had my first food dream during the night: I went and ate one white chocolate-covered pretzels. I’m not sure why, but it was a vivid dream and I woke up CONVINCED I had ruined my Whole30. I almost started crying. But then I realized, phew, I hadn’t! All was right in the world still! Another day, another headache. Curse you, sugar and the hold you once had on my body. Also, I overslept and had to race out the door to make it to work on time. A friend, who finished Whole30 yesterday, messaged me and said she finally stepped on a scale after not going near one for 30 days (follow the rules, peeps!), and she lost 12 pounds! Without even exercising! That was exciting to hear. I was informed that I should be really blending my coffee with the coconut oil, not whisking it, so I guess I should get a blender? My hastily thrown together lunch from last night was actually a success: frozen broccoli that steams in the bag for 5 minutes in the microwave with some diced prosciutto I threw in. YUM. Also, the bag had 4 cups of broccoli in it. I. AM. STUFFED. Shortly after lunch, word spread quickly that there was a build-your-own taco bar downstairs. I wanted to cry. Also, I can’t stop thinking about potato chips. Like, seriously. The Applegate organic all-beef hot dogs are quickly becoming a favorite of mine — go ahead and judge. I looked forward to them all day just because I knew I had packed them for my dinner. Went to my Wednesday night Bible study and was satisfied sipping a cup of tea as everyone ate pretzels and cheese dip. Went home and decided to attempt to make kale chips, except the kale chips burned and the smoke detector started going off at 9:30 at night. Our landlords and their small children live above, so my stress level went through the roof as I’m fanning a beeping smoke detector. I threw together a lame salad, spent like an hour planning my grocery list for the next day, called it a freakin’ night.

Day 6 – Woke up crabby, muttering things like “Stupid grocery shopping” and “I hate cooking I hate cooking I hate cooking” over and over. My inner struggle is increasingly becoming more “I really freaking hate all this time spent in the kitchen/it’s taken me so long and I’m not getting enough sleep because I spent like an hour planning a grocery list last night.” I’m also hitting salad fatigue. Went grocery shopping after work and got pretty crabby in the process. I got sick of asking the deli guy “Can you tell me if there’s sugar in THIS meat?”, got sick of spending more money, got sick of staring at other people’s carts and wishing I had what they had in theirs. Went home, made a quick dinner of two Applegate hot dogs because I was starving, then I started another round of cooking. I made some more egg cups, kale chips (finally didn’t burn them…but I didn’t make them crispy enough😦 ) and salmon cakes. The salmon cakes are delish! However, I was just frustrated all night. SO over all the work it takes to cook things from scratch. I fantasized about quitting Whole30 as I prepped and cooked, though I’m way too stubborn to actually quit. Went to bed crabby. Crabby day all around. The end.

Day 7 – I woke up in a SIGNIFICANTLY better mood. It’s Friday! I made it to Day 7! WOOOO! Sure, I’m still a little stressed out about having to do MORE cooking this weekend, but hey, it’s Friday. Also, I’ve noticed I’ve been starting to sleep slightly better at night, or so I think. And maybe my stomach is a little less bloated? I’m telling myself that. People have been really awesome and supportive of me throughout this process, and that has really made a world of a difference on my down days. I’ve realizing this “journey” is far more emotional and mental than I had imagined. Physically, it really hasn’t been that bad — the mood swings have been mostly manageable (outwardly) and the headaches haven’t been all that bad. But I realized today that I think I’m so mad about all this meal prep/cooking stuff because I’m attached emotionally and mentally to the ease of fast food. On busy days, fast food is there for me…to make my life easier. It’s not so much about the food (at least I don’t think so); it’s about being very attached to the idea that fast food makes my life better because it’s easier. I’m working through that as we speak. I had three salmon cakes from last night for lunch NOM NOM NOM. Going to a friend’s house tonight, where packed salad will once again make another experience. But who cares! It’s Friday! And Whole30 is kind of making me become an adult even if I hate it at the moment! Also, I’m not eating junky stuff or quitting! Wins all around!

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My Next Mission Trip

When I came back from Costa Rica this past summer, I was sure I was going to go back again this summer, to return to a country and my dear Ticos. I had been in the community of Katira for two summers in a row, and as far as I knew, I was going back. I leave a piece of my heart there every time I go, and I know God has more for me in that country.

But then the Lord started to change my heart over the next few months. As media coverage of the refugee crisis in Europe started to pick up, I couldn’t stop reading. My heart was so heavily burdened, I felt like I couldn’t breathe at times. I couldn’t stop praying for and about the situation and people. I felt in my heart that I was supposed to do more, beyond sending money to a relief organization. I felt He was calling me to be His hands and feet in the midst of that situation.

I started praying and asking God if He was calling me away from Costa Rica this year and instead to Germany, a country which has been taking in many refugees over the past few months. Over time, He began to confirm it. Even though this is a totally new, (to be honest) slightly scary venture, I have peace that this is where He’s calling me next.

I completely understand that this may come as a shock to some. But please know this: I’m not going because of any political reasons; this is solely about an opportunity to reach people, to show them the love of Jesus, to share His hope. Who knows how long this window of opportunity will be open for, and I know that I don’t want to miss it.

Just like with my past two trips, I’ll be going on this trip with e3 Partner Ministries. I love going with this organization because they not only focus on building a lasting impact in communities and in individual lives–we’ll be working with a local church on this trip that has been really working with refugees–but also because of their focus on safety. The systems and guidelines they have in place make me feel very secure, whether in Costa Rica or Germany, so I can just focus on what God is doing and how He wants me to participate. e3 is well established in the area of Germany where this trip will be, too.

I read this article from Relevant Magazine, which really resonated with me:

“We have prayed for walls to crumble and gates to open. But what if God has chosen rather to bring people out—to turn them into the uprooted as a first step in making them His own?

What if it falls to Christians, more than countries, to welcome and serve these strangers—taking them in if this is permitted, or, if need be, sojourning with them in temporary camps, showing them the love that Christ has shown us? If we cannot go, what if it is our calling to adopt a displaced family, sending them personal words of encouragement as well as practical assistance, even if this offends some who accuse us of giving aid and comfort to our enemies?”

I’m excited to follow God leading up to and on this trip. I ask for your prayer support–for me and my teammates, for the people we’ll be meeting, for hearts to be open, for safety, etc.

Finally, if you’d like to support me financially (I’ll need to raise $2,985 total), you can donate online here! https://www.purecharity.com/help-send-molly-to-germany

Isaiah 6:8 – “Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?’

I said, ‘Here I am. Send me.'”

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I needed to be saved (Happy Liver Day!)

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I needed to be saved before I ever knew it.

Today marks 25 years with my new-to-me liver. Twenty-five! Medical professionals still exclaim “Wow!” when they are reminded of that. This life post-transplant is all I’ve ever known, but the magnitude of 25 years definitely hit me this October. Thankful, thankful to have made it to the 25-year mark with an organ that wasn’t originally mine to begin with.

Twenty-five years ago today, doctors wheeled tiny 2-year-old me into the operating room to give me a liver transplant. I remember nothing of that day or that general time period of my life, but from what my parents and other relatives have told me, it was a scary, stressful period of life, not knowing if I’d make it to my 3rd or 4th birthday. Also, my poor parents: My sister Amanda was only a few weeks old at the time of my diagnosis, so they had to balance and care for a very sick 2-year-old AND a newborn. Super parents.

Recently I realized: I needed to be saved before I ever knew it. Since I was two when diagnosed with tyrosinemia, I had no say over my medical treatment; it was all in the hands of my parents and doctors. I wasn’t able to make those life-saving decisions for myself.

I owe my second chance at life in them, in large part.

When thinking about all of that, I realized there’s a really cool parallel between that and my relationship with God.

I needed to be saved before I ever knew it.

God knew, well before I was born, that I needed a Savior. Someone who would see my sins, even the tiniest “white lie,” and be willing to take all of that, to die for my sins and everyone else’s, to rise from the dead, to defeat death once and for all.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8

I needed to be saved before I ever knew it, twice. Twice I was giving a new chance at this beautiful, crazy, bursting life that I’m blessed enough to live. And I don’t want to waste it ever, for a single second.

PS – If you’re not already a registered organ donor on your driver’s license, find out how to become on here. It’s important!

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