Thursday, March 29, 2012

Food for the Win

There are two things I really want to talk about tonight. The first is food, the second is missions. Both are important and both are on my mind. Don't judge me that I am about to pick food. Tomorrow will come a brilliant post on missions and you will feel glad that I let those thoughts seep into the depths of my mind before I put them down on paper the internet.

So let's get to it. I am passionate about food. Not the fancy gourmet kinds of foods, but the kind that God put on the earth to feed us kinds of foods. Now, you are about to get some of my honest opinion here so if you really love cheeseburgers and cheez-its....well, keep reading. I believe that God gave us all we needed to eat when He created the world, and yes He gave us innovative skills to learn how to pair those things together, but I do not think He intended for us to "enhance our foods" with extra chemicals and artificial things that are not nice to our bodies.

So I am going to let you in on a secret....there are foods out there without those ten syllable ingredients that actually taste just as good, or even better. And when you eat them you get to finish your meal with the satisfaction that only good things are in your lovely body. So if you don't mind, I want to give you some tips on great "clean" foods that are nutritious, tasty, and chemical/weird long ingredient name free. It can be done!

1. My favorite new thing is Back to Nature foods. Today I ate cheez-its that only contained four ingredients, all of which I could have bought at the store. The other day I ate ritz-like crackers that only had three ingredients. The important thing here is that the food tastes the same with less ingredients. This product is totally worth the extra dollar and available (I believe) at Publix.

2. Peanut Butter. I live off of it. But why all the extra unnecessary things? Try Jiff Natural for a good alternative (I choose Jiff over Skippy because it has less sodium). Then when you are feeling really adventurous try Trader Joe's Valencia Creamy Salted PB. I really believe that my PB and J should only have peanuts, salt, and some fruit preserves in it. Don't you?

3. Yogurt. Ok, I seriously LIVE off yogurt. In the past five days I have downed about 50 ounces of the stuff. Yes, gogurt is pretty and Trix has a bunny on it, but try a Greek yogurt (Fage or Chobani are good brands) or try looking at the ingredients and choosing the one with the smallest list. Yogurt is seriously good my friends,

4. Lundberg Brown Rice Cakes. Yes, still a rice cake, but with the ingredient list of "eco-farmed whole grain brown rice and sea salt" you cannot go wrong. Add some PB and mmm, four ingredient snack. And I am telling you, this rice cake is GOOD.

5. This one is going to be crazy but....broccoli, apples, oranges. These things are yummy. Try to get ones that are organic (especially apples so you are not eating a lot of pesticides) and try to get ones that are from as close to home as possible. The less distance your fruit has traveled the better.

Eating more natural, organic, or local food will truly make you feel better physically and maybe even mentally because being good stewards of our earth and our bodies is a happy thing. And I am telling you, it is seriously delicious my friends. God did not skimp on the food He gave us. He made it colorful and made many different flavors and textures. Believe me, after a few weeks of eating fresh foods those hydrogenated oils won't be looking so good.

I have plenty more thoughts on food (it is one of my favorite pastimes after all...thank God for a good metabolism!) and if you want to get me started on things like meat then just push the button! But I think this is enough for one night. It is something to think about and try, and I promise it does not make you a hippie or a liberal. It simply makes you a healthier, happier person. And don't worry, a piece of artificial crap every now and then is definitely not out of the question. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pondering and Wandering

My dear faithful readers,

Have you been prone to wandering around your kitchen, slightly hunchbacked, with a scrunched up nose and a quizzical brow? Has your mind been on one lone track, pondering the details of my next wandering? 

What's that? 

No? You have not been doing that? 

You had more important and pressing things to think about?

 Oh....Ah well. At least it put a nice picture in my head and a momentary proud aire to my self-centered notions. At any rate, you can probably guess that I am now going to answer the questions you did not have and the ponderings you did not ponder. In addition, to save myself from constant self-centered notions that all people really want to do is read my silly writings, I ask that if you have a blog, then please put the link in the comment section of this post. I want to keep up with you and your silly notions and lovely lives!

But back to me. 

Today I started the Spring quarter! Wooo! The reason for the wooo is that as soon as this quarter is over I am heading to Arizona for the summer! wooo! As many of you know, since you avidly follow my life, I am going to be working with Apache Youth Ministries in order to fulfill the practicum requirement for my Masters. I will be on the White Mountain Apache reservation in Eastern Arizona for eight weeks and I recently found out just a few of the things I will be doing there. 

1. I will be working with incoming short-term mission teams.
2. I will be working with the kids group home.
3. I will be working with the current youth staff at AYM.
4. (My favorite) I will be taking the teens to the Warrior Leadership Summit, a conference for Native Americans aged 15-30. 

Doesn't that sound amazing? I could not be more thrilled about this summer (and the fact that I get to visit my roommate from Spain in Mesa on the way is an awesome bonus). I am ready to stop studying and start doing. I think that my time with AYM is going to be life altering and heart changing. Hopefully God will give me some direction, but even if He doesn't, I cannot wait to meet these Apache students and start loving on some kiddos.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Following in Peter's Unfaithful Footsteps

Today I ran out of money. Ok, I didn't totally run out of money but I did the whole look-at-all-my-expenses -for-the-next-quarter-thing and thus realized that I will not actually have the money to cover the rent and the school and the food for the next ten weeks. A total bummer. 

There was actually never a moment where I considered giving up food to save money, so maybe I was not as desperate as I felt, but I did freak out for a solid fifteen minutes. As I called my parents with tears in my eyes, I felt like a fool. How did I end up with no money? Shouldn't I have planned better for this? I should have definitely skipped all the froyo I have eaten in the past six months. I am not the kind of person who calls my parents for a loan as big as the one I just asked for. I don't think I have ever even asked my parents for twenty dollars! I felt like I had come to an all new low. 

Its some tough loving that pulls you up when you feel so low. After applying for some more babysitting jobs, praying to the good Lord for His guidance, and a pep talk from my new roomie, I realized that I have to have new perspective. God is the one who told me to come out here, I know that for a fact. Yes, it may have been easier if I worked for a year and then came, but that is not what He told me to do. I can look back on my whole life and I can see that He has never once let me down or left me for dead. If He promises to take care of me, why am I faltering to believe that?

I realize that I have a lot in common with Peter. I can picture him walking on the water towards Jesus. His eyes are firmly fixed on Jesus as he steps out of the boat and begins to walk. Yet slowly his eyes start shifting. He sees the waves that can overcome him and he gets the nervous feeling in the pit of his stomach. He begins to lose focus as he forgets why he got out of the boat in the first place. He forgets the One he is walking towards and he begins to sink. He sinks into what he sees as the problems that will overcome him. But even with his lack of faith, Jesus does not leave him to die. He pulls Peter back, commands his focus, and gives him grace. 

Funny that the name of this blog is grace. I guess God knew when I started it that I would be needing to realize a lot of His grace in my life. Fifteen minutes ago I was sinking, believing that the waves of my financial burden were going to sweep over me. But He reached out. He commanded that I look into His eyes and the waves of mercy, grace and love that sweep across them. He has commanded that I trust Him, because He is the one who let me get out of the boat in the first place. 

And thus, I am left with peace. A new budget plan? Yes. But also a knowledge that my Father will never cease to take care of me. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Shout Out to Lake Ave

I have to share this with you guys because it is such a joy in my life and such a reminder of God's grace and love in community. As many of you know this is my spring break, so this afternoon I headed over to my church here in Pasadena to hear two cellists play an AMAZINGly difficult five movement duet in preparation for their doctorate recital. Just being invited to hear these two cellists play was really a treat. A little background on the church I am attending is probably necessary at this point. So I will put the deets in 3 simple points.

1. The church is called Lake Avenue Church.
2. The church is huge, with over four thousand members in three services.
3. The church is just across the interstate, so I can walk there in an easy ten minutes.

I recently started working to get connected at Lake Avenue and it has been such a joy to connect with the people here.  The director of the orchestra has been so full of grace and so intentional about getting me connected, and being at this mini concert was just one sign that the people of Lake Avenue are amazing. When I got there it was a small group consisting of people on staff, other players in the orchestra, and a rogue Fuller student or two, so I felt pretty elite. A few minutes after I arrived the head pastor of the church came in and immediately came over and introduced himself. We talked for a good ten minutes and he then proceeded to introduce me to everyone in the room. The conductor of the orchestra then arrived and he too made sure to introduce me to everyone and tell them a little about me and my new involvement with the church orchestra. There was not a moment when I was not talking to someone, as everyone kept coming up to chat and make conversation.

Now this may not seem profound to you, but to me, this is everything. Here is a church of four thousand people, but the pastors, the staff, and the members all take the time to know me, the individual. Everyone I met today was so kind and welcoming, past just the "hi-nice-to-meet-yous." To me, it is this that shows how Lake Avenue Church truly embodies the meaning of church. They love me like family, treat me as though I am important, and welcome me into their lives with a smile and a heart like Christ. In a big church, they are taking time to know me and listen to me. This is what it means to be the body of Christ, and God has led me right into the center of it.

As I sit here and thank God for the blessings and grace He gives me, I think of this moment as an encouragement and a challenge. The people of Lake Avenue Church have changed my entire experience here in Pasadena, simply by loving and welcoming me. It challenges me to be that kind of embodiment of Christ in any church I attend, and I hope it challenges you to do the same. Whether your church is big or small, find those people who are new. Meet them, remember them, and love them. It can change someones whole day, and maybe even their whole life.

And if you happen upon this blog and you don't attend church, or you don't like church, I want you to know that there are churches and people out there that will love you, no matter what. I want you to know that there are people who embody the true meaning of loving like Jesus, and I pray that you find them. Or better yet, I hope they find you.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Breaks, Beaches, and Books.

A week of rest is a glorious thing. I have spent copious amounts of time in pajama pants reading books and thinking of nothing unpleasant. Today I went with two of my favorite friends, Elizabeth and Nolan, to Manhattan Beach. I can complain about the smog and traffic for decades but the fact that I can drive to about fifteen different beaches within an hour is most certainly a Southern California perk. We spent the afternoon eating sandwiches on the windy pier, walking down the deserted beach (not everyone is so lucky as to have a Monday off) and gawking at the amazing houses built up these cute walkways on the hill. Manhattan Beach is apparently the home of beach volleyball, which is awesome, but looking past the beach to the town it seriously looked like an upper-class slum because the houses were all only six feet apart! People seriously take up every inch of land here. Interesting that it is such a popular place to lay down your bucks since earthquakes are so common...hmmmm. Not the most logical idea in my opinion. But we had such a fabulous time. We danced through the alleys, ate ice cream sandwiched between two cookies, and tried on fabulously overpriced but adorably floppy hats (number 1 purchase when I have a job that makes more than 800 bucks a month). It was sunny, windy, and all together lovely.

I also played in my church orchestra on Sunday! Yippee! It was so fun, well except for the fact that I had to be there at 7:30am and didn't wake up until 6:50. Let's just say that for the first time in my whole LIFE I failed to take a shower before I went to church. (Thankfully as a girl I always smell like roses and beautiful things, right??). In the orchestra I sat next to a nice older man named Paul who was so kind and really fun, so we became automatic friends. We both got lost in the same places (this orchestra is seriously serious) so I felt like I had a partner in mediocrity. It is nice to be slowly but surely making a few friends in my big church here. When I went to the connecting area the three people I met who got me connected (makes sense, right?) were all so excited for me since I played that morning. They gave me big hugs and were really happy and supportive, and I felt loved. How nice that my church family extends to wherever I go.

After such a lovely few days, I think I will go ahead and continue the pattern of comfy pants and a good book- now that is what I call a well-deserved break!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

2 down, 6 to go.

Another finals week down! I am officially 1/4 of the way to my Masters! Now for one week off and then back to the last quarter before summer. Though there are plenty of things on my to-do list I plan on watching a lot of movies, spending a day or two at the beach, and changing my diet from cheerios and yogurt to more substantial grown-up meals. This week is going to be great!

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Cry of My Heart

I just wrote 4,116 words on the Navajo people and the poverty that exists on their reservation.

You see, I have been learning in my Poverty and Development class that poverty is more than physical needs. It is a web of things like vulnerability, powerlessness, spiritual depravity, and broken relationships. The root cause of poverty is sin, and from that sin comes broken relationships and marred identity, which leave people impoverished. A web of lies has left the poor captive to the God complexes of the non-poor, and we have been left with a broken world.

But as I finish those 4,116 words I raise my eyes and my arms to praise God. For as I finished this paper, a paper that should have brought me a sense of duty and deadlines, I was brought to tears. For it feels like the scales have fallen from my eyes. Because of writing this paper I can see and feel the hurt of not just the Navajo people, but all native people in the United States. And at the same time, I can see and feel the hope.

Yes, I have a long way to go and I have a lot to learn. I certainly do not know everything and I certainly will never be able to fix all the problems of the world. But if what I do know, if what I have learned, can help restore the identity of a broken people by understanding that they are not made in the image of an oppressive government or unequal power relationships, but that they are made in the image of God.... well, then my whole life was worth it. For I am a broken sinner. I am a failure and I probably always will be. But I serve a God of love, hope, faith, and forgiveness. I serve a God who can restore and rebuild. And if He chooses to involve me in even the smallest part of His mission, my whole life is worth it. My whole life will feel complete. For He has chosen to open my eyes, the eyes of a sinner, and He has chosen to let me feel in this moment, the heart of my Creator. A heart that beats solely for His people and their brokenness. A heart that is consumed with joy and at the same time sadness. A heart that will jump up and down with the Navajo people when our Savior comes back, because He has saved US. 

So I will Praise God, our Father, our Creator, and our Emmanuel.  
For He has restored my soul.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Open Roads

The open roads are calling my name. It just takes one adventure and you are hooked. It is like a string attached to your insides. Every few months it begins to tug at your heart, like on a schedule. Your heart slowly starts beating in your chest towards the road. And then your mind moves there too. You can smell the fresh air whipping through the open car window. You can see the landscapes, feel the adrenaline, the adventure. Now your whole body has caught on. Your legs keep twitching, nudging you to just get up and go. Your brain stops focusing and your hands keep taking to packing. Your stomach, your heart, your feet, say go! Go to the road! Take a trip. Your heart beats loudly you need this, you need this, you need this. But one part of you stays sane. One part of you says softly amid the beating and the moving, not yet. Your time will come again. Stick it out. Not yet. So I put away the suitcase, I take a deep breath and release the string attached to my heart, and my legs sigh, giving up on their nagging for now. As I begin to focus on the day at hand I will comply, I will try to find the adventure in the day, but I know the truth. The truth is that next time, when my heartstrings pull like clockwork, I won't resist. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Revealing Grace

Unnaturally orange powder and macaroni will never go out of style. So gooood.

Do you want to know what else is good?

I moved and got a roommate! If you know me even remotely well you know I am most definitely an extrovert. Having Nayeli here I feel like I can finally breathe, like I am at peace, because living alone is not really that conducive to extroverted tendencies. I am going to go ahead and put it out there that my new roommate is a straight blessing from God. He knew what I needed, and what she needed in moving here, and we get along so well. I will say that it is so nice to come home to a big apartment complete with my own room, a living room, a dishwasher AND a washer/dryer! I feel as if I am in the lap of luxury, even though I am just one building over! But it is even nicer to have a friend in the next room who I can laugh out loud with and who likes to watch silly television. It feels like we have been friends for so long, almost like a piece of home has come to me (and my dearest friends you know I have been longing for you), and I know that this is just another blessing I absolutely do not deserve. Praise God for revealing His grace to us!

Another cool thing I want to report is that I am writing a really long paper for my Poverty and Development class. Don't worry, this is not another super nerdy moment. This is something different. Through a few adjustments and research walls I recently finalized my topic to the poverty and development of the Navajo Nation. As I was researching for some more information tonight, the toolbar brought up the link for one of my old blog posts. Distractions are always welcome so I clicked on it and read about my road trip here to California. The post ends with this sentence:

I will tell you this: the Navajo are an incredible people that seem to have been forgotten along with the small town of Gallup. I really cannot wait to learn more about them and their culture here in New Mexico. 

Do you get that? I had no remembrance of that when I chose my paper topic, but I see that it is something I was not meant to forget. These people I am not to forget. After seeing God's hand so clearly in this paper I got really excited to write it. It is so nice when God gives you the motivation to get your work done.

It will be a busy two weeks, but I will get through it. For I am blessed. And as my friend Ashley always tells me, Meredith you are loved by so many people. For these blessings I will praise God. For though I am so utterly undeserving, His grace is ever apparent.