On Gluten and Sacrifice and Doing the Hard Work

Lee came to me shortly before Christmas and dropped a bombshell. I didn’t see it coming, and when he shared it with me I didn’t know what to do with the information.

I reeled from the news for a few days before heading into denial. From there, I moved into frustration, and shortly after that I worked my way to acceptance.

He wanted to go gluten free.

I know. I know.

After I got over feeling mildly amused by his nutritional conviction, I began to accept his challenge for a new way of life. I could do this gluten free thing. I mean really – how hard could it be?

Turns out it’s hard.

Not impossible, but really hard. Eating a diet that consists almost solely of unprocessed foods that are free of gluten seems like it should be easy. But let’s not forget that I am not a woman who loves spending time in her kitchen.

Our first hurdle was getting the kids on board and, surprisingly, they’ve rolled with the punches fairly well. Although when I denied one of them McDonald’s the other day, I was met with an emphatic, “YOU’RE JUST GOING TO MAKE ME GO HOME AND EAT STUPID GLUTEN FREE FOOD THAT ISN’T GOOD BECAUSE YOU JUST WANT TO TORTURE ME!”

So, you know...we’ve got some work to do.

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We have no deep health issue that requires this sort of diet, so I’m offering myself a wide berth of freedom. When we go to restaurants, I won’t even consider trying to avoid gluten. I won’t impose these dietary restrictions upon friends and family when we go visit, because I just don’t have to.

But I admit, I am curious. What will happen if I replace our old, processed foods with wholesome, nutritionally sound foods? How will we each respond if I really put in the effort?

I’m calling this an experiment.

This is hard, though. It requires work, organization, and preparation, and I don’t really love any of those things. But aren’t the hard things worth pursuing? Have you ever noticed that the greatest rewards come from the deepest toil?

My husband meets regularly with a friend where they push and challenge one another to dig deeper into life. What does it look like when we’re willing to live a life of sacrifice?

How do the people around us respond when we’re willing to suspend convenience and comfort, and instead give ourselves fully to serving those around us?

Living in sacrificial obedience requires effort and sacrifice. It begs you stand up and work, to think beyond what’s easy and safe. The convenience of tearing open a box of noodles and fake cheese may taste good temporarily, but it really only fills you up temporarily. Are you seeing the metaphor here? 

There’s no nutritional value in comfort food. And likewise, there’s no substantial comfort in living life on easy street.

If I’m going to make any kind of impact on my family’s overall health, I’m going to have to put in the effort. I’ll need to plan ahead, and shop wisely. I’ll need to spend time in the kitchen preparing meals, and researching recipes. And I will have to accept that this way of eating is going to be harder, and will take more effort.

I have to say “Yes” to the effort in order to see results.

More than that, though, if our family is going to make any kind of impact on others, we’ll need to put in the hard work. We’ll need to be ready to say “Yes” to the challenge, remembering one important fact:

Serving others will be hard. It will require sacrifice.

Bringing a child into your home who needs the love of a family will never be easy. But that doesn’t make it wrong.

Pouring your funds and resources into loving the least of these will require sacrifice. It will require you saying “No” to things that you want, or even need, so that you can say “Yes” to someone else. And make no mistake – it’s hard.

Giving of yourself in a sacrificial way will always and forever be hard. But that doesn’t make it wrong. Discomfort isn’t a sign of a wrong decision.

It may just be a sign that you’re doing something right.

One Small Box

Safety.

I both long for it, and resent it. Everything about my life is safe, and for that I am truly thankful. I’m free to move about as I please, and so are my children, and there are moments when I truly, genuinely do not take that for granted.

But there are more moments when I do take it for granted.

Like everyone else, I have been captivated by the photos of a little boy washed ashore. I think about his parents and their longing for safety, and the journey they took that was anything but safe, and my heart breaks because it was just so hard.

I think about the family who recently brought home a little girl from a Chinese orphanage, and they now sit cocooned in their home because they need her to know that they aren’t going to leave her. She’s barely two, but she’s conditioned to believe that everyone leaves, and so they must build trust. And how many children are living that way in this world?

I think of the young woman in Ukraine who spent the last two Christmases with us. She wants family and safety. She wants to be known. She wants life to be easier.

And then I think of my own children swimming in opportunity, and I worry that I’m failing. We have a house bursting with “stuff.” So much stuff. It’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and we have enough clothing to last us at least a month, maybe more, if needed.

Food piles in the pantry and fridge, but still I run to the grocery store almost daily, because I can. And because these people in my house eat like it’s going out of style.

We’ve tried to expose them to the suffering of this world, but as they bicker over who gets to play the PlayStation next, I fear we’ve done a poor job.

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We took them to Walmart on Monday armed with a list of needed and necessary items for Syrian refugees. Our sole purpose in the store was to purchase for others, not for ourselves. And yet, in every aisle they asked for something. We reminded them over and over, gently at first, and then with more urgency, that this trip wasn’t about us – it was about suffering people.

But even I had to restrain myself from grabbing a few things for our family while there.

We brought all the items home, and they’re piled in the corner waiting be boxed.

“That’s really not that much stuff,” my oldest said last night as I pulled it all out and began organizing it. “How many refugees are there?”

“Thousands,” I replied. He raised his eyebrows.

“That will only help a couple of people.”

And so it is that my heart constricts again, because this box I’m putting together feels so small. I know that for the three or four people who benefit from it’s content, the gesture won’t be small. But this feels like a single drop of rain in a vast desert. Everything feels so small.

A solitary box fill with clothes and shoes is small.

Bringing “K” into our home for two months is small.

$38/month for our sponsored children is small.

My children live in a world that is bursting with need, and I do know that they’re aware of this – they’re not clueless. Nor are they indifferent to the suffering of others. In fact, when given the opportunity, they are more gracious and giving than I am.

But it all feels so small.

I placed the sweatpants and tennis shoes, socks and underwear in the box, and before closing it up laid my hand on top of it and prayed.

“Lord, multiply this offering so that it isn’t small. This isn’t enough, Father. But it’s something – it’s a start. Make it sufficient, Oh God.”

My one box is small, but it’s something. It’s a start. And maybe if we work together as a collective whole we can make that offering a big one. Like the loaves and the fish, the offering can be made sufficient for the masses.

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I tell you these things not to bait you for encouragement, but rather to let you know that I get it – what we have to offer feels small. But a lot of small can equal a big, so maybe we can join forces.

My small box combined with your small donation, and her box, and his donation all come together to clothe and feed the desperate.

My orphan hosting combined with their adoption, and your sponsorship, and their mission trip to paint the orphanage, and build shelving, and offer clothing all work together to show the fatherless of this world that they’re not alone – their lives matter.

Want to be small with me today?

 

A list of small things you can do to make a big difference:

Provide relief for Syrian Refugees

Sponsor a child through Compassion International

Host a child who needs to see a picture of family this Christmas

Throw a Shoe Cutting Party 

Hope Is Slow – #GivingTuesday

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It’s been two and a half years since I boarded a plane to Tanzania. Two and a half years since I walked through the red dirt and cried, the images of abject poverty almost too much for my heart to comprehend.

It’s been two and a half years since a spunky toddler with a big, wide grin led me by hand with such confidence through the rocky streets that I knew she must frequently walk those paths alone.

Two and a half years ago, a little boy named Moses taught me the meaning of pridethe good kind of pride.

Two and a half years ago, I learned that Hope is Slow, and that is, perhaps, the most valuable lesson the Lord has taught me. I’m still grasping hold of what that means even today. Hope is so very slow, and I get weary in the waiting, but God in His Mercy is not bound by my impatient timeframe.

Hope may be slow, but it is alive.

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The work that Compassion International does worldwide is humbling. I’ve seen firsthand the impact this ministry has on communities, the hope they are bringing to families living in poverty, and I have wept.

Hope is Slow.

Today, Compassion is participating in #GivingTuesday, and together you and I can help spread Hope. In this season of giving, when our hearts are soft and pliable, let’s join together and make a difference.

Today we have the opportunity to raise $25,000 so that Compassion can build a Child Survival Program in India. Did you know that nearly 1 in 3 infant deaths worldwide occur in India?

I didn’t know that either.

Hope is Slow. 

Over 2 million children under the age of 5 die each year in India. In the small community of Gujarat, where many of the mothers are teenagers, most do not have the resources needed to provide for their children.

Today we can change the lives of an entire community. We can reverse the trend of hopelessness, of illness, and of childhood death. Opening a Child Survival Program in Gujarat means:

– training and preparation for young moms to help care for their babies

– helping mothers learn to read and write

– giving children a safe place to learn and grow

– ensuring lifesaving medical care for babies and moms

– proclaiming the hope of God to families living in poverty

Today, as we step away from the blessing of Thanksgiving, and move into the beauty of Christmas, we have the chance to bind together and offer Hope. We can wrap it in love, and breath new life into a community that wonders if Hope is real.

It is real, friends, and it is actively moving through willing hearts across the ocean, and into the arms of young mothers who are more accustomed with fear than they are of Hope.

Will you join with us today? Your donation, no matter the amount, will change a life. Together, in just one day, we can make a huge difference. 

Changing the world is entirely possible. Like Hope, Change is Slow. It takes time and patience, and a lot of faith.

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Won’t you be a part today? Will you give back according to the abundance of your riches? Will you place your stake in the sand today and declare that there is no place for hopelessness in this world?

To donate to Compassion International’s #GivingTuesday campaign to build a Child Survival Program in Gujart, India, click this link.

After you’ve donated, take a moment to share this on your social media channels. Help us spread the word so that we can link arms with others, and together we can make a huge impact.

Thank you, my friends, for being a part of a movement of Hope. You made a difference today. A big one.

Hope may be Slow, but it is Alive.

When You Feel You’re Being Chased

I answered the phone in my matchbox apartment as I unpacked one last wedding gift. A set of dishes that I thought were the coolest thing I’d ever seen when I was a 21 year old college student dreaming of setting up her own home. A set of dishes that I no longer love with the same fervor that I did then.

My husband of three weeks was on the other end.

“I got the job,” he said.

“Great!” I answered. “Congratulations.”

When we left for our honeymoon, we thought he had a job lined up, but we’d been surprised to return home and find out the job had fallen through. This was a hasty interview set up at the last minute for a job selling printers for Hewlitt-Packard in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

His salary was meager, but it was more than enough for the two of us, and given that it was our first experience living alone in the real world, we felt kind of like Scrooge McDuck swimming through his vault full of gold. 

There are some many days that I miss those early years when we lived more on love than on cash. We had so much fun, and between his salary, and my earnings as a gymnastics coach, we had just what we needed to enjoy the newlywed life. We knew even then that we were beyond blessed, and that we had more than we really needed.

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As life has moved forward, and careers advanced, we have, naturally, been able to increase our earning capacity, and with each salary raise, each new job, I find myself missing more and more that feeling of freedom that comes when you don’t have a lot of money.

It’s ironic, isn’t it? Ironic to equate having less money with freedom. Granted, we had no children, which made our lower earning less of a strain, but there is still a sense of freedom that washes over me when I remember those early days.

Freedom from want. Freedom from the desire for possessions. Freedom in contentment.

When children enter the picture, you naturally amass more “stuff.” The bills increase with each sports team joined, each new endeavor tested. These aren’t bad things, of course, but I find myself slowly and methodically being chased.

Chased by the want of more.

The more we’re blessed with, the more I find myself wanting.

I want to take this vacation.

I want to purchase that new furniture.

I want to buy my children this new toy, or that new outfit.

I want to eat out because OMG THEY NEED TO EAT THREE TIMES A DAY EVERY DAY!

I want, I want, I want…

When the “wants” start to close in, Lee and I ask ourselves a few questions:

First, is this something that we need? This is often the toughest question to answer, because sometimes the answer can legitimately be “Yes,” but the item may still be more frivolous than we’re willing to really admit.

Second, can these funds be put to better use elsewhere? We have two children poised to enter the world of orthodontia. We got the estimate for Phase 1 the other day, which has now taken precedence over a few of the other things we were hoping to spend money on. It is what it is, even if it’s not fun.

Third, will this purchase hinder us from giving freely? This is the area in which I feel God has most freed us as a couple in the last three years. While we used to think of ourselves as joyful, cheerful givers, often when the time came to actually do the giving, we had a hard time pulling the trigger, or we gave less than we actually could because we were afraid to let go.

In the last three years, the Lord has shaken our family in so many ways, moving us across the country, leading us down the path of failed adoption, allowing us to take a mission trip together as a family, and hosting K in our home last Christmas. All of these experiences have worked to create a deep desire in us to give more, and give abundantly, because we’ve finally grasped the understanding that what we have, we do not deserve. 

We want to give it away.

I often feel chased by wants. There so many things I want to do, places I want to go, changes I want to make.

But before we fulfill any of those desires, what I really want is to make sure my heart and motives are checked first. Because there’s a fine line that separates just enough and too much, and with three (soon to be four) sets of little eyes watching closely, the want that I must place first and foremost, is the desire to show them that life is so much more full when you give it away.

And that is a want I’m willing to surrender to, every. single. time.

How do you fight the “wants?”

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