Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"To Infinity and Beyond!"

"To the Bat Mobile!" - Batman

"There's no need to fear, Under Dog is here!" - Underdog

"Up, up and away!" - Superman

"Avengers assemble!" - Captain America

"Wonder Twin powers, activate! Form of an iceberg!" - Wonder Twins

So, I was reading through a book on leadership the other day and found this awesome prayer. (At any one given time you can find me reading a broad spectrum of topics, from leadership to parenting to nutrition and recipes to biographies and topics specific to women and conquering the world...)

Here is a list of titles of the pile of books next to my bed currently, in case you are bored or don't have some reading materials of your own:
  • NIV Study Bible by God
  • The Skinnygirl Dish by Bethenny Frankel
  • Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro
  • How Babies Talk by Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, PhD and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, PhD
  • Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist
  • The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook by Cybele Pascal
  • The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss
  • The Healthy Child by our doctors at Partners in Pediatrics (Ryan and Em are both sick...)
  • No Compromise, The Life Story of Keith Green by Melody Green and David Hazard
  • I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui
  • The Secrets Women Keep by Dr. Jill Hubbard
  • Climbing the Ladder in Stilettos by Lynette Lewis
  • When a Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin
Oh my goodness! It's no wonder it takes me a while to finish one book! And that doesn't even include my pile of library books! Holy Schnikeys! After writing that list I almost forgot why I was blogging in the first place...Oh yeah! Oh, but first, let's not forget the book that is ALWAYS on my reading list, the one that has permanent residency on the back of my toilet, where at one point each day, I truly have a moment of solitude: One Minute of Margin by Dr. Richard Swenson.

Okay, so, back to the prayer I found in "Leading on Empty," page 103. Jason and I have been praying about some specific things lately, seeking God for His direction and will, waiting on Him for open and closed doors and directives for the next season of life. Well, I hadn't actually looked at this book in a few weeks and snatched it up the other day, seeing I hadn't left a bookmark in the book. The thought "Chapter 7" came to my mind, so I sat down and started reading. The heading, "Monks to the Rescue" stood out to me so I started reading what is currently my favorite prayer! Here is the author's adaptation to a prayer once written by the Franciscan Monks who started serving the Lord in the early 1200's.

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, hard hearts, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live from deep within your heart where God's Spirit dwells.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world and in your neighborhood, so you will courageously try what you don't think you can do, but in Jesus Christ you'll have the strength necessary to do.

May God bless you so you remember we are all called to continue God's redemptive work of love and healing in God's place, in and through God's name, in God's Spirit, continually creating and breathing new life and grace into everything and everyone we touch.

Side note: When I was in elementary school some of the priests at my church wore long brown robes with rope waist ties and large wooden bead rosaries. Picture Friar Tuck in Robinhood and that's totally the look. My dad informed me they were Franciscan priests who had taken oaths of poverty in order to rid their hearts and minds from distractions of the world and serve the poor and outcast. For those hungry for history, it was started by Italian Giovanni Bernardore, known as Francesco by his father, and finally called Francis, who is known to us today as St. Francis of Assisi.

Anyway, throughout history the Franciscan order has morphed and changed, but one thing we have from them is recorded prayers. I haven't practiced Catholicism in almost 25 years, but this prayer is without boundaries of denomination. Heck, it's without boundaries altogether!

I LOVE it because it's totally the way God works!

God works in OPPOSITE WORLD! He doesn't do things the way we think He should and, as a result, it helps our eyes be opened to life as it was meant to be...selfless, without hindrances, lived to the fullest extent, full of love, without hate, lived out in complete trust, encouraging others along the way.

My favorite part of the prayer, at least for right now, is the part that says, "May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world and in your neighborhood, so you will courageously try what you don't think you can do, but in Jesus Christ you'll have the strength necessary to do."

If that part of the prayer doesn't make you want to tear open the front of your shirt to reveal your superhero insignia, I don't know what will!

No matter what hat you wear, what title is before or after your name, where you work, if you are out of work, or if your over-time job is that of being a mom, God is the One Who can give us strength to face ANYTHING! ANYTHING! ANYTHING!

Don't let the opinions of others pull you down! Don't believe lies!

God made you ON PURPOSE! He has plans for you!

And if anyone ever accuses you of having the audacity to believe you can actually change the world for the good, just thank them and keep going, because with God's strength, literally anything is possible!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Gotta have faith!

Today my mom starts chemo. I wish there was no such thing as cancer, sickness or any type of disease or pain, suffering, or heartache.

I wish magic was real, fairy dust worked, and really awesome things happened when I twitched my nose...not only cures for disease, no more famines and war, but even instantaneous house cleaning, disappearing laundry piles, and steaming fresh dinner on the table, along with a spotless kitchen, by 6:00 every night.

In all truth and honesty, I wish my reality matched my faith...because I have HUGE faith! I do not doubt that God can do anything at any time in any part of the whole wide world...and yet at the same time, I've known sadness and deep disappointment in the way my heart yearns for things or outcomes and the way that God runs the Universe.

I'm not disillusioned to believe that life on earth will be without its struggles. It's life on earth, the first clue. I just wish I could take away other people's pain and sorrow.

At the same time, I know full well that it is through hardships, suffering, resistance, opposition, challenge, and pretty much anything that drop kicks us out of our comfort zones, that makes us grow stronger, putting down deeper roots, and allowing the false fluff of faking it to fly away.

My mom is really brave. It's not that she wants to be brave. She doesn't want to walk through this as much as you and I don't want to walk up and order our favorite java treat in a busy coffee shop BUCK NAKED. Yeah...who wants to do that? Who even wants to see that, right?!

And you know, this journey being one of her daughters, watching, listening, praying...it's been interesting. For the most part, it's been beautiful, in spite of the word cancer. The very word has opened doors to people willing to be vulnerable, real, candid, honest, and sincere. And, of course, the word cancer has also brought out some of the well-meaning sentiments. Like, "Betty, you already ARE healed. You don't need to DO anything about it but just have enough faith, because you ARE healed."

Yep. Someone said that. To my mom. If the person had said it to me, let me just say there would have been a can of whoop-ass opened at that moment. You see, my mom has faith. Like I said before, it could be a bumper sticker on the back of my car that states, "My mom has more faith than your honor student..." or something to that effect.

But let me just expose something that I feel is just one of the reasons some people shy away from God and church in the first place. Yes, in order to believe in a God we cannot see, we need faith. And, yes, there is a woman in the Bible whom Jesus spoke to and told her that her faith had made her well. Not her willpower, but her trust that Jesus was who He said He was and that God was bigger than her condition. BUT, here's where I get a little crusty. When people think they have control over a negative situation by sheer will power, positive thinking, or even trying to manipulate an outcome through prayer and fasting. And, this really gets my panties in a wad...I've even seen it here in blog world, but when an idea is put out there that if we just get enough people praying, it will change the circumstances...yes, historically God has moved when His people prayed...but at the same time, He knew their motives. He always knows our motives...and if motives are "bandwagon" or sheer entertainment, well, how pure is that?

So, basically, that thought process is stating there's a magic number that will change the outcome to line up with how we want it and if we can just hit that magic number of people praying...Or, I've heard people say, "Well, I guess I didn't have enough faith..." or "You know, you have sin in your life so that's why this is happening to you..." or "God's trying to teach you a lesson." Jesus blew the "sin in your life=why this is happening to you" theory out of the water.

ANYWAY, I am ALL FOR enlisting a lot of people's prayers, not just for the healing of a dying little boy or the healing of a cancer patient. But, what about enlisting prayer on a daily basis. What about talking to God in an intimate way, regularly that doesn't come with an agenda or a "What I want for Christmas" list? Since God is real and Santa's not...And, what about having faith and trusting God because He's good, even when we don't agree with how He does things? And not just when it works in our favor or benefits those we love?

When we pray for other people and the rough road they are walking, it's time that we are one, not thinking of ourselves, and two, communicating with the God who is in love with His creation. How great is that?!

Jesus gave us a model by which to pray. The part in there that says, "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done..." I would guess many want to leave out the "Your will be done" part because it doesn't line up with our own.

Are we able to trust that even though we may not understand why we walk through trials and suffering or why our lives aren't as smooth as we would like, that maybe, just maybe, maybe, maybe, "Your will be done" is a beautiful thing? That perhaps God sees a bigger picture, and even though we don't, He's got beauty in mind for each of us?

I don't have all the answers, but I do know this. My mom's got faith. And my mom's got cancer. And my mom's got her first round of chemo today for the next half year. And God's got my mom. So, I have faith in Him.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What's in a name?

Jason and I both wanted our kids' names to mean something, not just sound good to the ear. And by "mean something", we wanted their names to bestow a blessing on their character and life, a kind of calling, if you will.

I knew for sure for our first kid, if it was a boy, or girl I guess, that I didn't want a name where a synonym for "Rambunctious, wild, moronic, dare-devil" could ever be found. I also wasn't keen on the kid's name meaning "pansy or wimp or lily-livered fraidy cat."

I actually knew for our first kid, since I didn't really know what I was doing being a first time mom, that I could sure use a little helper. Someone who would be my assistant, a hard-worker, a kid who could roll with the punches and not give me too much flack. Is that wrong?! :)

Well guess what?! Emily means "Industrious, strong worker."

And, with Noah, since we knew he was a boy via ultrasound, Jason had chosen either Jude which means "Praise" or Noah that means "Peace." Either name had beautiful meaning in our book, but when I was pushing and our son was taking his sweet old time, Jason chose "Noah" in the delivery room and said, "Noah, come out!" Noah's middle name was Steven. It means "Crowned." Ironically, it's not a royal crown but the kind of crown you receive after a race of endurance. It fit him, and his powerful little life calling, beautifully!

For all of our kids we had actually always loved the name "Ryan" either for a girl or boy.

Now, in choosing a name, it was so very important to us that there were no booger eating, cranky, mean, violent, creeper people attached to the name. We had to skip one boy name we had been thinking about for Noah because there was this creeper guy in college that always gave all the girls back/neck rubs and it just gave me the heebie jeebies. Thankfully there are millions more from which to choose :)

But let me tell you about my history with Ryan's.

The first Ryan I ever met was in Michigan while I was in high school. He was a really great friend that had a fantastic sense of humor, such an easy-going personality and true character. As a grown-up, I know he loves his wife and is a loving dad.

The second Ryan I met was my husband's friend. Jason lived next door to Ryan's grandparents growing up. Jason's and Ryan's families went to the same church in their small town, and actually still do. The first time I met Ryan was after my freshman year of college when I went up to meet Jason's family and everyone else that came along with the package of falling in love with a boy from South Dakota. I liked him instantly. I could tell he was intense, sincere, and a really hard worker. I could also tell that he was the kind of guy who was a true friend to Jason, the way Jason is to others. As a grown man, Ryan adored his wife and 3 sons, was a faithful friend, was a man of his word and really cared about the quality of life, life to the fullest.

I met the third Ryan as a young married woman. He had the hots for one of my best friends, and she reciprocated. To get the boy to talk was like pulling teeth, but I could sense his depth of love for my dear friend and so wasn't going to stand in the way of watching them fall madly in love! Like the other Ryan's, this one loves his wife and children with his whole heart, works diligently to provide for them, and is a man of integrity.

Bonus material: All three Ryan's are easy on the eyes...in a strictly platonic sort of way, just sayin'.

Ryan means "Little King" or "Kingly." Maybe that's why I easily couple it with "Lion" when I sing to my little man?

Ryan the Lion...Ryan the Lion...

All I know is that when Jason and I took a leap of faith and got pregnant after losing Noah, then learned it was another boy, I knew, as we did with all of our children, that this child, too, was not ours but God's. I knew that God loved him more and had a plan for his life. I knew that my knowing him on this earth was, and is, a tremendous blessing, but also a huge responsibility...

...I also knew his name had to be a blessing not only to his character, but to God and to the people he would encounter.

Ryan means "Little King." His middle name is Everett. It means "Strong."

I can already tell my sweet Ryan is both of these things. I also have to say, I am so very grateful he is in the company of three Godly men who have set the tone for how to humbly carry the meaning of their name. Not that they are perfect, but kings in their own right.

Today, I write in honor and memory of the second Ryan, after whom we named our beautiful baby boy. What an honor it is to raise a boy by the name of Ryan!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Soup, it's what's for dinner!

So, I've been called the "Soup Nazi" by some who love me and my random made up soup recipes. I must confess, I love soup and could eat it and make up a new recipe every other day. It's souper easy and coupled with a salad and/or some good gf bread, well, it's a little bit of heaven :)

I've been asked to share, and with the crisp air at night and fall right around the corner, I'd be happy to...

Butternut Squash Soup is simmering right now on my stove top:

First, items needed (I buy organic, but use whatever you have):
  • One butternut squash (scoop seeds out, clean, toss w/olive oil, bake at 325 for 15, set aside)
  • One Pink Lady or other yummy apple, cut up, skin on
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 or 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ginger (powdered)
  • 1/4 tsp sage (powdered)
  • 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp organic Better Than Bouillon chicken base (I'm gluten free and haven't had issues w/this stock...it DOES NOT SAY IT'S GF, SO IF YOU HAVE CELIAC, USE YOUR FAVORITE CHICKEN OR VEGGIE STOCK!!!)
  • 6 cups pure water
  • Plain yogurt or sour cream (I use goat yogurt b/c I'm dairy free)
  • Parmesan or asiago cheese, shredded

  1. Cut and quarter one butternut squash, scooping out seeds and pulp (clean seeds, dry on paper towel, toss w/olive oil and sea salt in bowl, bake on cookie sheet at 325 for 15 minutes, set aside for later)
  2. Set oven to 350. Pour or brush however much olive oil you want (I do probably 2 to 3 Tbsp) on the skin side of squash and place pieces skin side up in baking dish with 2 Tbsp water.
  3. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes. (I did this all last night and then refrigerated it to use for today...)
  4. Okay (I'm so cheffy with my steps, huh?)...in a large stock pot on medium to medium high heat (I LOVE my gas stove!!!) pour 2 to 3 Tbsp olive oil in pan.
  5. Put chopped onion, celery, and apple in oil and saute until onions start to brown.
  6. Add ginger, sage and rosemary. Stir.
  7. Scoop cooked squash out of skin into celery/onion/apple mixture. Put a little water in the baking dish that you used to cook squash to get the yumminess out of the pan and into your soup pot.
  8. Add bouillon 6 cups water to pot.
  9. Let this all simmer on medium to medium low for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  10. Scoop soup into your blender or, in my case, my NINJA :) and puree. If all of it doesn't fit into your blender, that's okay! Scoop some, blend, pour into pot, scoop some more out, blend, pour into pot, etc, until it's all smooth.
  11. Scoop into bowls, top with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle each of toasted seeds and Parmesan or asiago, or no cheese if you are dairy free like me.
  12. Probably makes 6 bowls of soup, but haven't ever paid attention!
  13. Enjoy :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Have you ever been jealous of someones life? Maybe their circumstances, their title, bank account, seemingly problem-free family life?

I just received a text from one of my best friends telling me that her sweet Grandma was now with Jesus.

I'm not trying to sound overly spiritual, because actually, my initial response surprised me even a little, but I immediately felt jealousy. Not because my friend's heart is hurting. That would just be weird. Not because she and her family are grieving the loss of a beloved woman.

A different kind of jealousy.

I had just tucked Ryan in for his morning nap, taking in his cuteness, soaking in his little head snuggled into my shoulder, in awe of God and the gift of being able to hold his chubby feet in the palm of my hand. As I always do, I prayed over him and his time of rest, that the Lord would bless his dreams with dreams only He could instill in my son's heart. I prayed God would put a deep desire in Ryan all the days of his life to pursue God and serve Him always, to be used for His Kingdom and to be a man who longed for Jesus' return. And I thanked God, as I smooched Ryan's sweet, soft cheeks, that He loved him more than I ever could and, in His goodness, had a plan from the beginning of time to save the baby I love bigger than the Universe from death because of sin in the world.

I had to leave his room (because he wouldn't fall asleep if I stayed there staring at him, obviously, and because I was so choked up, thankful that God is so in love with His creation that He'd do what He did for crummy old us...).

And then I got my friend's text.

My phone was on the kitchen counter where Jeremy Riddle was belting out "What Joy is Found" and, at that moment, I was overcome with jealousy...

...a different jealousy than the kind that leaves a sick, dissatisfied feeling in our hearts. Instead, the kind that instills a passionate pursuit and longing for the very thing we were created to do. Like when you just feel this intense drive or motivation to do something with all your heart!

Like worship at the feet of the All-loving Father, the One True God, King of kings and Lord of lords, Creator, Divine, Everlasting, Good, Holy, Healer, Redeemer, Savior, Majestic, Pure, Beautiful, Wise God.

We weren't made for here. We were made to live in His presence.

Do you long for it or does the thought scare the tar out of you? Or is it the furthest thing from your mind because the busyness of life has set in?

I'm not going to lie and say it's the thought at the forefront of my heart every. single. moment.

But at that moment, when I learned that my friend's Gramma was with Jesus, it was...

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Through thick and thin...

I want to share with you my mom's Facebook status from yesterday. Then I'll share some of my own thoughts...
"I want to thank everyone for their love poured out to me in prayers and well wishes, flowers, cards and lots of dinners! Just received a synopsis on the pathology report from my 30-something breast surgeon who really rocks......the cancer cells did not go beyond the first lymph node.....and the tumor was not larger than they anticipated. Thank You, Jesus.....my Faithful Savior.....my Hiding Place......my Comfort.....my King!"
My mom means this....that is, she's sincere in her thanks for the encouragement, but also, regarding that last sentence, giving thanks to Jesus, her Faithful Savior, Hiding Place, Comfort and King, that part she means.

And she means it all the time.

It's easy to have those sentiments about the Lord when all is well, when we receive good reports, when life is smooth and peachy keen.

That's often when people are able to warm up to God, let Him in a little, give Him credit, even admit a bit of admiration for Him.

But what about when life hits the fan?

What about the bad days, the ill reports, the moments that grip us with fear or utter and total disappointment and despair? What about those moments?

Is Jesus still all of those things that my mom mentioned in her Facebook status?

I will say this...He is. He is even more! He doesn't change just because our circumstances change. God is the Only One in the Universe that remains Faithful and True.

He remains.

He is unshakable.

A Rock. Our Firm Foundation. Never-changing. Always and Forever. The One True Lover of our souls.

And for my mom, whether her super awesome cancer surgeon had told her the cancer had spread, or they got it all, she would have posted those same sentiments about the Lord...because my mom knows that God is in love with her, regardless of circumstance, that He will never leave her or kick her to the curb.

The reason I can share this with such confidence is I've been able to witness my mom over the last 30+ years as she has trusted the Lord with her life, as well as our lives as her children.

She takes Him at His word...He promises that He is Who He says He is...no less. She knows He's not a liar.

I tell you what, through thick and thin, whether it's fashionable, popular or comfortable, my mom trusts God. I am so grateful for her example! And I am so thankful to love and trust Him, too!