Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Ten Tips for Being Eco-Friendly Without Sacrificing Mental Health

I'm not vegan and I own (and drive!) a car, but I still care about the environment and like to be eco-friendly. I'll tell you how below. But let's get a few things straight right away:

I don't worship the environment or believe I can save it. I know that this earth will one day perish and God will create new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13). But I do believe we're called to be good stewards of what God has given us (1 Peter 4:10). I believe there are higher goods than creation, most notably health and wellness and ability to serve others. I was vegetarian for a time, but it didn't work for me. I feel better physically and mentally when I eat meat. Yes, I rode the light rail to work for a time. Yes, I appreciated its efficiency and clean energy use. But the commute was detrimental to my time management and mental health, so I stopped. 

So on that note, here are a few things I do to be a good steward, without (hopefully) going overboard and making myself crazy: 

1) Skip the receipt (gas pumps, pop-up shops, etc.). I have the blessing of owning a smart phones and can either record our purchases in notes, or get the receipt e-mailed to me. I really don't need the paper.

2) Shop using reusable bags. My best friend got me mesh reusable bags, and they are great for produce. Most stores sell bags for the bulk of the other goods. (Note: I still use plastic sacks for meats. No use being unsanitary and getting sick because of trying to be eco-friendly.)

3) Buy from the bulk bins. Save money and save plastic (bagging with reusable bags above). Stores like Basha's,Fry's, Sprout's, Whole Foods, Win-Co, and more have bulk bins.

4) Re-use what plastic bags we have. Use plastic grocery sacks as trash liners. Only change the trash liner when needed. (We consolidate trash in the kitchen trash sack, and dump that for the week. No need to throw away a trash liner when all it held was office paper or cleaned out recyclables.)

5) Use dryer sheets at least twice. We aren't to the point of dryer balls yet, but we can still use a sheet several times.

6) Clean with micro-fiber. We generally only use paper towels for really nasty stuff, or when we don't have access to anything else in one of those "panic" moments.

7) Buy juice concentrate. Yes, the concentrate comes in plastic, but there is less plastic than buying juice in bottles all the time. (Plus, mixing up our own juice from concentrate is cheaper for the most part.)

8) Wash Ziploc bags. Yes, we still use them. But we wash and re-use them until they're not usable anymore. (Balance, people!) We also use silicone bags where we can.

9) Pack lunches. This saves times and money and throw away paper goods and plastics from eating out. (Yes, this is a source of and use for washed Ziplocs.)

10) Recycle. Our city does not recycle a lot, but we take advantage of what it does. Baby steps....

Being a good steward seems so all-consuming sometimes. There is so much publicity about the "right way" to live. But really the right way to live is 1) in alignment with God's will, as expressed through his word, and 2)in alignment with our own values and priorities (which vary from person to person). There are lots of ways to cut back and save and do better for the environment. You do you.**

*If you are vegan or vegetarian for the environment's sake and it works for you, great! But if your overall health is struggling because you are making choices to honor the environment that don't feel good in your body, here a few articles with helpful information:

**Explore other ways to live responsibly by reviewing these resources:

Monday, February 17, 2020

Thoughtful, But Unkind

I've always thought of myself as a thoughtful person. But the Holy Spirit has shown me lately that thoughtfulness and seeing the needs of others does not always equate with kindness. Though I may be a thoughtful person, able to see the needs of others, I am very unkind.

Case in point: The other night in the shower, I kept turning up the water hotter and hotter. I knew I was running the water tank low, leaving my husband with only cold water, but I did it anyway. I chose my comfort over his. In the same manner, I often see the needs of others, but steel myself against them, sometimes because I don't want to dig deep to see if I can meet those needs, sometimes because seeing the needs hurts me, sometimes for other reasons. In most cases, my selfishness comes to light.

I am not Jesus. I cannot meet the needs of everyone, but I can be kind. And I should be more kind. But I'm not getting there myself. And being self-righteous about how thoughtful I think I am isn't going to help me.

Having the Spirit show me how great a sinner I am is painful. It is shaving down of my pride. But the more I realize I am a sinner, the more I realize I need Jesus. And maybe that's the way it's supposed to be. Jesus is the only truly thoughtful and perfectly kind human. He is the only one who can meet all our needs. May I ever more look to him as the Spirit forms me in His likeness.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Your Mat is a Reflection: Reflections on Yoga with Adriene's Home

Yes, I did it again. I took another journey of 30 straight days of yoga (by God's grace, and thanks to the plethora of free video series online). This is my third 30 days of yoga, having completed two in 2017, and one in 2018. You might remember that I did a Yoga with Adriene series in 2017, and didn't like it. But guess what? I did another one. And I liked it. I'm in a different place. Maybe she's in a different place. This year it worked.

What made this yoga challenge work?

1) The calendar. Knowing what time to expect to spend on my mat each day was exceedingly helpful, for scheduling and for life.

2) The daily e-mails. Signing up early meant I got an e-mail each day telling me more about the day's practice and how to embrace it. This helped keep me motivated and accountable.

3) Not using the challenge as my primary source of exercise. Last time I did the Yoga with Adriene challenge, I did it as my main workout. Since switching to running more, I have used yoga as a cool-down and stretching component. It is more satisfying this way.

What did the challenge teach me?

1) That my life is more harried and hurried than I think it is. Adriene said one day, "Your mat is a reflection." (Some teachers say, "Your mat is a mirror.") I noticed that I almost always multi-tasked while practicing. I'd be scrambling to read or reply to an e-mail as I loaded the day's video. I'd be on my phone reading my devotional or looking something up during the seated start to the practice. I'd be checking the slider bar to see how much time I had left as I went through the moves. I struggled to be still.

2) I get out what I put in. I admittedly didn't get the most out of the practice because of the habits above. I wanted to rest and relax, but I didn't. I got the stretch and cool-down out of the practice, but less of the meditation and stress relief (which I also needed).

3) I know more than I think I do (but don't trust myself). I always hate the last practice of Adriene's challenges, because she likes to turn off the microphone and have viewers practice themselves. In the past, I didn't know what to do. This time, I felt I could do my own practice, but I nevertheless found myself glued to the screen, straining my neck to make sure I could copy Adriene. Why? I didn't trust myself. Though I'd done most of the challenge by the sound of Adriene's voice and not the video, I didn't think I could do it right by myself. I didn't trust my body to tell me what it needed. I also feared missing out. I feared I'd miss the workout if I didn't follow her. Sigh. I have a lot of growing to do.

So would I do a Yoga with Adriene challenge again? 

Yes. Actually I would. And I even found myself wanting to practice yoga after the (self) obligatory days of the challenge. Maybe I didn't get the full benefits of this practice, but I got something, and I am both thankful for that, and eager to learn more.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Real Life Marriage: Our Marriage is Out of (My) Control

Okay, now that I’ve maybe shocked you with my headline, let me explain. In my human assessment, our marriage is okay. Both my husband and I are working at it, and working towards making it better. But over the past eight months, I’ve come to the painful realization that our marriage is out of my control. And it always has been. For a control freak like me, that’s terrifying.

Let me explain. First, the control. I’ve realized that no matter what I do, no matter how hard we work, no matter how many healthy habits we institute, we cannot do anything to ensure the success of our marriage. Our marriage is God’s. He is the one in charge of it. He holds it together. And while I wholeheartedly believe that God wants our marriage to succeed, endure, and last because marriage images Christ’s undying love for the church, I’m not in control of what our marriage looks like or how it gets there. I’m only in control of my actions. That leads me to my second point.

I’m responsible for what I put into marriage, but not in control of the outcome. I’m accountable to God for my godly submission, for my respect, for my actions, and for my inaction. But I cannot control how my husband responds or what effect I have on our marriage. I pray to be faithful and true and right. But that guarantees nothing.

Salvation is a free gift. Marriage is a gift. I pray that I steward both well. But they are also both out of my control, reliant ultimately on God and His grace and not on me.

Maybe this seems like a downer post. And if you don’t have Jesus, maybe it is. Because if I didn’t have Jesus, the terror of marriage being out of my control would be overwhelming. But by God’s grace, I have Jesus and his redemptive work at my life. Because of that, the realization that my marriage is out of my control should ultimately be a comforting one. Because the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-controlling God of the universe is in control, and not little old me. And since His glory is at stake in our marriage, I can trust that He is always working to hold our marriage together. That thought balm for my often troubled soul.

My marriage is out of my control. My marriage is in God’s control. Hallelujah.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Sugar Free January? Absolutely Not!

Many of you know that I prefer to be a person of balance. I don't like diets or absolutes or restrictions. I prefer to be intuitive. But this January, after seeing the challenge on Pinch of Yum, I decided to go off sugar, like absolutely. I don't normally eat a lot of sugar to begin with, andnd I usually prefer to sweeten with honey or maple syrup if I can. But I'd noticed myself getting a lot more attracted to sweets, to the point that I realized I was looking to food for comfort, instead of to Jesus my Savior.

So I cut sugar out. I stopped taking chewable vitamins that contained sugar. I checked every condiment I used at home and if it had sugar, I left it off or out (think Worchestershire, sriracha, mustard, etc.) I tried to skip food I knew could have sugar when eating food at work (bread, salad dressing, etc.) I didn't eat homemade bread I made that had a little sugar for sweetener, and I certainly the cookies I made for my husband. I thought I was doing pretty good.

And then I heard on a podcast that table salt contains sugar. I panicked. What? I'd worked so hard to avoid sugar, but I hadn't avoided salt. I'd used it both in recipes and at the table. I went home and checked the label and sure enough, there is dextrose (aka sugar) in iodized table salt. Why? I googled it, and it turns out dextrose is a preservative. So I'd been eating sugar all along, albeit in small amounts.

I was tempted after gaining that knowledge to give up my sugar fast, but I'm stubborn, and I didn't. I wanted to cave again when it got to be January 31st and I made cookies for my husband. Why not indulge? It was the last day of January anyway. But I stuck to my guns. I wanted to binge eat (a negative side effect of fasting) everything sugar (chocolate, cake, cookies, etc.)on the first of February, but by God's grace, I just enjoyed some of this lemon chocolate chip cake.

So what did I learn from Sugar Free January?

-Sugar is in a lot of things.
-Living in a world of absolutes is really difficult, if not impossible. (I can only imagine what it is like for people who absolutely have to avoid certain foods due to allergies.)
-Sometimes when I want sugar, I am just hungry.
-I am capable of finding snacks that taste good or meet a need and don't contain sugar.
-Reintroducing sugar (so far) has really had no ill effects. I just feel best when I eat sugar after I have other food in my stomach (which I already know, but had reinforced by this challenge/experiment/fast).

My biggest takeaway:

Sugar isn't really as evil as some people make it out to be.

Sugar isn't the be all, end all. It's A comfort, not THE comfort. It can be an extreme, but it doesn't have to be. It's a preservative and a flavor enhancer, so it actually has uses. I won't die or even feel that bad if I eat it (or don't).

All in all, Sugar Free January was a good reminder to me to let God be God, people be people, and allow balance to fluctuate in its meaning. 

Maybe I'm stirring up a hornet's nest with saying I don't believe sugar is evil. But I don't. I believe sugar is a good gift from God that's meant to be enjoyed in moderation (1 Tim 4:4Jam 1:17). May I partake of it as such.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Who's Being Unfair?

I woke up the other day feeling so tired and worn out. Life felt so unfair, like it was always throwing at me more than I could handle. Like I had too many responsibilities and too much to do. But then I felt the Still, Small Voice speak: “If you’re saying life’s unfair, who’s being unfair? God?”
I was immediately convicted. Oswald Chambers writes in My Utmost for His Highest, “To discuss or deliberate over spiritual matters when God calls is inappropriate and disrespectful to Him” (December 22). I have so, so many of the things I’ve always wanted, and I need to be thankful, so thankful. But I wasn't. And in telling myself life was unfair, I was debating God and his denying His goodness. I don’t want to do that. “Belief is not the result of an intellectual act, but the result of an act of my will whereby I deliberately commit myself,” Chambers later writes. So if I believe that God is good, I need to make a commitment to acknowledging and stop believing the lies. If anything is unfair, it was the sacrifice of Christ’s life for mine. What I deserve is death and damnation. Yet God was merciful and offered Jesus to pay my for sin. That is reason in and of itself to be eternally grateful!

So in the strength of the Spirit, I’ll go in believing. I’ll go on trusting. I’ll start, by God’s grace, giving thanks and being grateful more. I believe. May I, by the Holy Spirit’s power, will my thoughts and actions to align.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Happiest Day of My Life

It’s been many months since that blissful (I mean nerve-wracking?) day. It seems like eons ago...the preparations, the family, the friends, walking down the aisle. That day, our wedding day, was a special day. It was a day of a lot of firsts. It was a day of a lot of change. But it was a good day, a special day, marrying the man I loved in front of so many people I loved. But that day wasn’t the happiest day of my life. A happier day had to come first.
The happiest day of my life is a day I actually don’t remember, the day I accepted Jesus as my Savior. The day I accepted Jesus was the day I changed from old to new. The day I accepted Jesus was the day I traded this temporal life for eternal life. The day I accepted Jesus was when the Holy Spirit filled me.

I wouldn't have met my husband had I not known Jesus. We wouldn't have been able to make the commitment of marriage without the model of Christ's love for the church. I wouldn't be able to keep on keeping on in the hard days of marriage without the conviction and power of the Holy Spirit.

My wedding day wasn't the happiest day of my life. But since marriage images Christ and the church, I’d say that my wedding day was the second happiest day of my life. My wedding day gave me a chance to participate in Christ in His glory and glorification here on this earth, and that's pretty awesome.