Monday, December 24, 2012

Excited Anticipation

Unfortunately, I thought that not working full-time would entail a whole lot of catching up on blogging... I was wrong. It seems that the month of December (okay, the entirety of Fall) has flown by and I haven't even stopped to write about what has been on my heart. Well, this morning I would like to share a few thoughts from the past month about the anticipation of the arrival of our son. 

First, let me start by saying that this pregnancy has been wonderful. I have had little pain, no complications, and was sick for only a short period of time. I have experienced the best of pregnancy and I hope that all the rest of my pregnancies are just like this one! Another thing that has been wonderful about this pregnancy, is the amount of support and love that Chance and I have received from our family, friends, and church body. The overwhelming generosity of so many people has truly abounded in the last few months and we are astounded at God's goodness to us through all of you. Last month, two of my sweet friends (with the help of a lot more sweet people!) threw a baby shower for me. It was a wonderful time of fellowship, gift opening, game-playing, and prayer. It was a joy, and I hope that both of the hostesses know how much they are appreciated and loved. In addition, my mother, mother-in-law, aunt, and one of my best childhood friends were all able to come to Dallas to celebrate! What a joy! It truly was an unforgettable experience. Hudson now has more clothes than his mommy and daddy... combined. No joke. 

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, life did not slow down. Instead of perusing the stores at the mall for gifts, Chance and I spent our time packing up boxes. Last weekend we moved into a new apartment on the campus of Dallas Theological Seminary (where Chance is pursuing a Master's degree in Theology) and began to prepare for the arrival of Hudson. I've been organizing and re-organizing, putting things in closets and decorating. It has been a hectic month of preparation, both on the homefront and in the books. Chance finished his semester last week and we settled into our new abode just in time for Christmas.

So, as we've been counting down the days until our son's "estimated arrival date", I have been contemplating what it must have been like for another mother anticipating the birth of her child. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was also pregnant at Christmas time, waiting for the arrival of her firstborn son. She was young and unprepared, yet humbly accepted God's will for her life without reservation. I can only imagine what is must have been like for Mary to travel some 70 miles to the town of Bethlehem with a man she probably knew very little, in order to begin her new life as a mother and a wife. But Mary was not just another woman about to give birth to a son, she was going to give birth to the Savior. Her anticipation of the baby about to be born to her was of something greater than the rearing of a son, but of the raising up of the Savior of the world. You can't exactly prepare to give birth to a Savior! The Scriptures portray Mary as one who thought of herself as a "the servant of the Lord..." (Luke 1:38) who viewed herself as being of a "humble estate" (Luke 1:48). When she heard what was spoken to her by the angel, and what was said of her son by the shepherds, she often contemplated quietly within herself these things that were taking place. I imagine that Mary attempted to make sense of everything that was happening around her, and probably asked God many times to help her understand who it was that this baby would be. 

Although I am not welcoming a Savior King into the world in just a few short weeks, I am preparing to welcome our firstborn son into the world. I, like Mary, am fearful and uncertain about what life will look like once he gets here. I have doubts and worries about how I will take care of him and if I will be a good mother. But also like Mary, I echo her poetic prayer, "And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior...for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. "(Luke 1:46-7, 49) I hope in God, the one who has given me the gift of this child. I am confident that he will be my help and my strength. As many as are the cares of my heart, God's consolations cheer my soul (Ps. 94:19). My hope for this new journey that Chance and I are about to enter into is that we would trust in our loving, sovereign God who has seen fit to give us a baby boy. We look forward to the day when we will be able to hold him in our arms and the wait will be over!
As exciting as Hudson's birth day will be, however, I know that nothing rivals the day that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). On that day, hope arrived into the world. Our anticipation of Hudson's coming should point us to the "firstborn of all creation" (Col. 1:15) whose life and death and resurrection fulfill the promise of eternal life. Tomorrow, we celebrate the first coming of the Savior, and every day after that we look forward to Christ's second coming when he will come in glory to make all things new. Oh what a day that will be.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Beware of Commentators

Each month a pregnant woman's appearance changes as her belly grows little by little. Naturally, those around you will notice your body changing, and naturally people will make comments. This has been one of the most entertaining and sometimes frustrating parts of pregnancy.

Before Chance and I found out that we were having a boy, both of us were convinced that we were having a girl. This was due, in no small part, to the fact that almost everyone around us was convinced it was a girl, too! The first comment I remember someone making around week 19 had to do with the "way" I was carrying. Now keep in mind that I hardly showing at this point, but alas, the comment went something like this: "You have only gained weight in your tummy. It's definitely a girl! With my two boys I gained weight all over, but with my girl I only gained weight in my stomach." After hearing that, I was confident that this person was right. However, since week 19, I have heard this exact comment--only OPPOSITE! Multiple people have told me that because I have only gained weight in my tummy that it MUST be a boy. Wow, talk about contradicting opinions! 

About two months after we found out that I was carrying a boy, a woman Chance and I were talking with told us adamantly that we would be having a girl. I corrected her by telling her that we had been to the doctor and had seen the sonogram of our baby boy. "We are having a boy," I repeated to her, but it was to no avail. She was convinced that regardless of what the sonogram said that we were having a girl; in other words, the doctors were wrong. Oh fooey.

Just this past weekend, a woman told me that I was carrying very low, which is (apparently) an indication that it is a boy, and that he will arrive early. Really? Most people who I've talked to have said that I am carrying HIGH and that your first is typically on time or even late. I've been told that Hudson will definitely come before the new year, that he'll be here before his due date, that he'll arrive on his due date, and that he'll probably be late so don't expect him early--all from different sources! Everyone has their opinion, and everyone is indeed entitled to their opinions. But are they helpful to the pregnant woman who is already anxious about the way she looks and about when her baby will arrive? I would answer a definitive no. 

I say all of this to simply conclude that it is not always wise to listen to the "advice" of others. More often that not, that advice is not correct, and will just lead you to think something that is probably not true. Thankfully, there haven't been any comments that have caused me to break down into tears (at least not yet!). Therefore, I would advise you to take everything with a grain of salt, and be thankful for knowledgeable healthcare professionals who give their honest, expert opinions. And just remember that doctors make mistakes too. 

And the next time you think about sharing your two cents with the expectant mother at the grocery store, you might be wise to keep those lips sealed.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankful for ... WORK

As we roll into the holiday season, many of us begin to contemplate what we are thankful for. After all, the celebration that happens first in this season is Thanksgiving. Tomorrow, families and friends will gather to enjoy one another's company, share food, and be reminded of all the reasons they are thankful. I have often thought about the idea of giving thanks or being thankful, and would like to offer my two cents on the topic and then explain what I am thankful for.

Whenever you contemplate giving thanks, have you wondered, "Who am I giving thanks to?" Or do you know for sure who the One is that you are thankful to? It's quite a profound question when you think about it. I would guess that most people say that they are thankful for this and that, without giving much thought at all to the Source of their thanksgiving. Is it possible to be thankful without rendering your thanks to God? I would conclude that this is not possible. Scripture says, that "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." (James 1:17) If we begin with the presupposition that all good things come from God, then wouldn't we have to conclude that anything good in which we are thankful for has come from God? And do we not, therefore, have to give thanks to Him for that good thing? God is the Giver of all good things and so as long as we are thankful for good things in our lives, we must offer our thanks to the Good God who has made us and blessed us far more abundantly than we could ever think or imagine. 

 This brings me my reason for being thankful, not only this week or this holiday season, but in the past year and a half. I am thankful... for my job. Yes, you read correctly. I am thankful for my job, I am thankful for work. When Chance and I arrived in Dallas, I immediately interviewed for a job that was very close to where we were living. The position was that of an executive assistant/office manager in a financial management firm in Dallas. The building where this company is located is one of the most beautiful in Dallas. When I arrived for my first interview, I was stunned by the beauty of the building, the office space, and the view from the conference room where I was escorted upon my arrival. Well, to make a long story short, I was hired about two weeks later. Praise the Lord! It took me quite a few months to get used to the working environment and simply working full-time, but I have come to appreciate a whole host of things about this job. I have learned a great deal about myself while working here. I have been challenged to be more bold, to be assertive, to think critically, to mulitask, and to be responsible for many facets of a business. It has been a joy to work with my co-workers and to work under a boss who genuinely cares about his employees. I admit that working has not come without its challenges, but I am grateful for all (okay most of them) and wouldn't change my circumstances for the world. Admittedly, I have been discontent and complained along the way. However, God has taught me that He is a Great Provider and the One who orchestrates circumstances for my good and His glory.

As I close out this chapter of working in the corporate world full-time it is with reluctance and excitement. I will have the privilege of staying home to look after and care our new baby, Hudson, who Chance and I will be welcoming into the world in less than two months! We could not be more excited to see what the Lord has in store for our family. I am thankful for my job, for my co-workers, my boss. I am thankful to God for all these things and more and give Him the glory for all He has done and continues to do in my life. 

May we all seek to praise the Giver and Provider this Thanksgiving and Christmas season. As Paul said it so well in referring to the Lord Jesus, "Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Me-Less Theology

Have you ever heard the phrase "Don't thank me, thank God"? What does that phrase imply? Should we never accept thanks from others? How should we thank people in conjunction with directing our thanks to God? My husband told me a story of a fellow classmate whose mother made incredible spaghetti. This student would thank his mother for this delicious meal whenever she cooked it, and in response to her son's kind gesture she would retort, "Don't thank me, thank God!" How do you think this guy responded? Should his mother have accepted the thanks offered to her, or was she right in directing attention away from herself? If we pose this question another way, we might as well ask: Did God cook the spaghetti dinner? By now you probably get the point. No, God did not, obviously, cook this young man's spaghetti dinner. So what is the problem here?
I have been guilty of responding in the same way that the aforementioned spaghetti-cooking mother did. I think that oftentimes our desire to be humble and not draw attention to ourselves, is misguided when we do not take rightful credit for our human acts. If we cook a great meal, or do well on an exam, or perform outstandingly in a race or sports event, as Christians, should we take the credit? I think that this is a question of balance. It is obvious in the example above that the architect behind the meal was not, most basically, God. He did not boil the noodles, nor chop the tomatoes, nor brown the meat for sauce. The mother did. So whenever the son thanks his mother and she deflects his thanksgiving, is she really acting in accordance with reality? I think not. As Christians, we may have a hard time accepting praise or thanks for fear of being prideful or become too conceited. But we must remember that the Bible speaks very clearly of both the human and spiritual aspects of life. In theological terminology this is called compatabilism. For instance, when we pray we are beseeching God, the Creator of the universe, for our requests. God is not the one praying, we, humans, are. But God is ultimately the Sovereign King of the universe and has the right to decide whether or not he will grant our requests. So it is with our performance in the kitchen, in the classroom, and on the field. Humans cook meals. Humans take exams. Humans play sports. Yes, God enables us to do these things. God gifts us in specific ways so that we are able to perform. He strengthens our resolve to study for long hours, and ultimately to perform on tests. But when it comes down to it, it would be foolish to say, "God got that A+ for me." Right?
  • "Give thanks in all circumstances.." -1 Thes. 5:18
  • "Pray without ceasing." -1 Thes. 5:17
  • "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." -1 Cor. 10:31 
Scripture commands us to give thanks to God, and to do all things for his glory. But we must remember that we are not robots. We are human beings, created in the image of God, uniquely designed for the purpose of acting and living in this world in such a way that our lives praise him. This includes accepting praise, thanks, and honor when it is due. Of course we direct that praise back to God, whether verbally or in our hearts, but as Christians we would be mistaken to think that it is God who cooks our spaghetti. So the next time someone congratulates you or thanks you, do your humanly duty and respond appropriately. A simple, "You're welcome!" will do the trick.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Race Recap - Running for Two

After a long time of anticipation, I finally accomplished my goal: running a half marathon while being with child. Back in April, of this year, I signed up to run the Allstate Life Insurance 13.1 Dallas Half Marathon (a mouthful huh?) for the second time. Not two weeks after I signed up and paid my fee, did I find out what I was pregnant! Since the race was at least 6 months down the road I didn't worry too much about it but kept it in the back of my mind. I thought that if I felt okay to run at that point and my doctor gave me the go ahead then (and only then) would I run the race. Well, August rolled around and I was running again fairly consistently as the weather began to cool off. I told my doctor about the upcoming race and she encouraged me in my training. Early in September, as my tummy grew significantly bigger, I began to experience some pretty intense round ligament pain in my pelvic area. The nurse at the doctor's office encouraged me to purchase a maternity support belt to help ease the pain when I ran. It helped tremendously. Right after that I began to follow an 8-week training plan to get ready for the half marathon that had at one time seemed so far off! It was now right around the corner. The goal was to run 3 times a week and cross train when possible. I had already been running between 10-15 miles per week, and transitioning to the training plan was not that difficult. 

Each week I increased my mileage by about 2 miles, my longest "short" run was 5 miles at about 9:30min/mi pace. My longest "long" run was 10 miles at 10:00-12:00min/mi pace. Two weeks before the race I had an ultrasound where the sonographer measured the size of the baby to determine if he was growing at a normal rate. My doctor had said that if he was measuring small that I needed to ease up on running and possibly not run the race at all.  I was okay with that, I just wanted to do what was healthy and safest for Hudson! The ultrasound showed that he was growing right on par and my doctor said that I could keep on training. I completed that 10-miler on a warm Saturday afternoon only a week before the half marathon. I was starting to feel nervous about the reality of running this race. Was I crazy?! On Tuesday before the race, Chance mentioned that he wanted to run with me when we got home, and so we went for an easy 2.5 mile run on a beautiful evening. I began to feel run down on Thursday and so I took the day off to rest. As Saturday approached I was more and more nervous, but also excited. I couldn't believe it was finally here! On Friday night, I could not sleep and must have only gotten 3-4 hours of sleep. And then it was race morning. I got up around 5:30am, ate some breakfast and drank some coffee. The weather had changed and the temperature was a lovely 38 degrees at the start of the race! 

Chance and I drove downtown, parked, and jogged over to the starting line. It was a blistery morning but not a cloud in the sky and the buildings downtown twinkled as the sun rose. I warmed up and Chance practiced his photography skills. I hopped over to the starting line and chatted with a few ladies who asked, "Are you pregnant?!" It was funny to hear other people's responses to seeing me running alongside of them. At one point during the race a woman said, "I am just admiring you right now.. you must do this often!" I told her that it was not my first half marathon and that all I wanted to do was finish. I continued to run all the way until past mile 6 (after taking a short stretch break around mile 2) at which point I walked for about 2 minutes, through a water station. I was beginning to ache at this point, but did not feel at all fatigued. I kept running until mile 8 where I walked for a few minutes again and then kept running at a steady pace. After the 11 mile mark, at the American Airlines Center, I texted my friend Mallory and called Chance to tell them I was almost done! I'd be at the finish in about 20 minutes. I walked the next 1/2 mile and then ran the rest of the race, spotting Chance just before the finish line in the bright sunshine. My mood was light, I was thrilled to be finishing, and was just plain happy that I was able to run with my little buddy, Hudson, snoozing away inside of me. It was a great day and I am so glad that God allowed me to run. I will forever have the memories of running 13.1 miles while 29 weeks pregnant with our first child. 

To all those other pregnant (or future pregnant) ladies out there, I would encourage you to run through your pregnancy if you have a consistent running regime now. I would have been unwise had I not been a runner previous to becoming pregnant. If you are unsure about whether or not it is safe or healthy for you or your baby, let me give you some advice based on my own experience: 

  1. Running has helped me to stay energized. I have not been very tired throughout this pregnancy (only in the first trimester), and I attribute it to consistently running.
  2. Running has allowed me to gain very minimal pregnancy weight. I have gained the recommended amount of weight for my body size/type and basically all of the weight has been in my belly and upper body.
  3. Running has been a great motivator for labor! I am confident that if all goes according to plan, I will be able to have a natural birth no problem. I am hoping that training through my round ligament/pelvic pain has been a good setup for natural childbirth.
  4. Running has been a way that I have been reminded of the blessing, joy, and honor of carrying a child in my tummy for 9 months. I am continually amazed that there is a little person inside of me, living and growing. Every time I run I get to feel the changes that my body has experienced because of him! 
So after 30 weeks (today!) I can say that with all the excitement that I experienced in running this half marathon, I am even more excited to meet Hudson in just 10 more weeks! Please keep praying for me and Hudson, as Chance and I await his arrival!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Diet That Satisfies

After stumbling across Jen Wilkin's blog some months ago, I have been pleased to find that her writing is always edifying, honest, and not without eloquence. She happens to live here in Dallas, and although I've never met her, I would be glad to learn a writing/blogging tips from her. I found her recent post called "Partially Hydrogenated Bible Study" to be particularly insightful. I love the parallels she makes between our physical diet and our spiritual diet. So check our her wonderful post and ask yourself: are you being nutritionally satisfied in your study in the Word?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Food on Friday: Dinner on Average

Dinner on a week night is usually planned ahead of time. I know roughly what I'm going to make in a given week, and buy my ingredients accordingly, but it often changes and I give myself the liberty to modify on a whim. Recently, Chance and I have been eating beef tacos (YUM!) once a week, but after both of us had some inconvenient symptoms we both decided that we needed to lay off the red meat for a while and eat more vegetarian dinners. I get a lot of recipe ideas from The Gluten-Free Goddess and other foodie blogs. Now when I propose to my husband the idea of making a new meal, he usually responds with a mixture of open-mindedness and reluctancy. Such was last night.
Pinned Image
Mine wasn't this pretty, but still tasty!
I had been talking about making this quinoa recipe for dinner and when I mentioned it again to Chance he was a little less than enthusiastic. But nonetheless he was willing to try it, so after I got home from work I threw some quinoa in the rice cooker (best investment ever!) sliced some peppers and onions and put those on a baking sheet. While the peppers were roasting/grilling in the oven, I chopped up some scallions and parsley to throw in the quinoa. When the quinoa was cooked, I mixed in my add-ins along with a lemon's worth of lemon juice and some salt. Voila! Our meal was almost ready to be consumed. [While I was cooking, Chance was reading.. not sure what was going through his mind at this point, probably just hunger]. I dished up the quinoa onto two plates, along with the roasted peppers and onions, then put hummus and pesto on the table to be added if one so desired.

I put Chance's plate out first and as he took his first bite, his reaction was well... not that impressed. He made some funny facial expressions and said, "How much lemon did you put in this?" and I responded with a surprised, "Not that much!" After two or three more bites he calmed down and began to actually enjoy the dinner. I sat down and we both dove in. Hummus on roasted or grilled veggies is a-mazing, just so you know. I asked Chance what he thought of the meal (by the way, I had told him before we ate that if he didn't like dinner I wouldn't make it again). His response was that it was good. Then a few bites later the meal was "really good." Then a whole two helpings later, "That was an excellent meal Kathryn!" I love when he loves my cooking, it brings me such joy. So I would say that dinner on average, especially when I am making new recipes, always goes a little something like that.

Last night I also whipped up a soup for us to have for lunch today. Black bean soup to be exact. I have never made black bean soup using the food processor before, but now that I  have I am totally in love with the concept. I used two recipes (here and here too) as my inspiration and then kind of just did my own thing. This was my recipe:

1 cup chicken broth or water
2 cans of black beans, drained
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
2 tsp. cumin (more or less to taste)
1 tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
Some onion powder
(if I had had some cilantro, I'd have added about 1/4 cup chopped, but it was good without it too)

-Combine all of the above ingredients in the food processor until blended thoroughly.

-In a medium pot on the stove, cook 6 slices of bacon (hardwood smoked was great!) that has been chopped into small pieces. Cook through. Add your soup mixture from the food processor to the pot and heat on medium-low until it begins to bubble.

Mmmm enjoy! This was so easy.. I am going to start making all kinds of bean soups in the food processor!
I hope you enjoy your Friday :)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Jules, Greek Words, and Etc.

Wow, I haven't posted in a while, sorry. But today I am resolved because I have a million thoughts spiraling around in my brain and I need to just write them all down. Thankfully, that's one of the reasons I have a blog. A few major things that I'm thinking about: pregnancy, Hudson (our baby), and fear.
Yesterday, I had my 21-week (going on 22 tomorrow) sonogram with our sonographer whose name is Jules. I got to know her a bit better yesterday and I love her! Chance didn't join me for this sono since it was just a check-up, so her and I had some good time to chat. She is a wonderfully cheerful young lady, and when she mentioned she had just attended a young adults' retreat we got to talking about church and community. It was really neat to found out that she is mentored by a woman from our church who works for the DPRC (Dallas Pregnancy Resource Center) where Jules also volunteers! As we looked up at the screen at shy (he won't ever show us his face!), little Hudson's body, I asked her if one reason we can see babies' organs so well is because their skin is translucent. She commented on how amazing God's creation is, and I agreed. It was a blessing to share a mutual understanding about the life of the one in my belly with a person so gifted in what she does! [Note: she confirmed that Hudson is still DEFINITELY a boy!]

Secondly, Chance and I have been throwing around some pretty awesome Greek words lately, my favorite being κοιλία (pronounced: "koilia"). It means WOMB, or belly! I think it'd be a pretty girl's name. I feel Hudson kicking all the time in my belly, which is such a sweet reminder that he is still in my tummy. His movements are probably my favorite part about the second trimester. I just love being able to actually feel him in there!

Fear. I have had a lot of it lately. Mostly my fears are of the unknown. I have boiled down my fear to a lack of trusting God. I realize that instead of trusting in His purposes, I am trusting in circumstances. I am fearful about labor, delivery, the uncertainty of how things will go, his health, recovery, etc. The list goes on. I have had to make it a practice to stop my trail of thoughts and focus on facts like: "God is good", "God is sovereign", "God is in control". I am thankful that God's Word tells us and resassures us in our moments of fear and doubt, that these things are true.

I love the Psalms and am always drawn back to them when I am having fearful or anxious thoughts. Psalms 56, 62, and 139 are just a few that have been constant reminders of the trustworthiness of God, the greatness of God, and the omniscience of God. I have been able to rest in what I do not know because I am confident that God does know. He has planned all the details from the intricacies of my baby's growth to the days of my baby's life. This morning I prayed that the Lord would "Search me and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!" (Ps. 139:23) He has been answering this prayer by first showing me my fear and then comforting me in it as well. After reading a terribly sad story on The Gospel Coalition of a couple who lost their first baby boy (named Haddon), I was almost in tears this morning. But this women's testimony of her trust in God's good and gracious purposes in her and her husband's life, through the loss of their baby, was awe-inspiring. Our God is not only good and gracious, but worthy to be trusted with every detail of our lives.

So as I contemplate what the next 4 months of pregnancy will hold, I am choosing to surrender it all to the Lord: who searches me, who knows me, who is well acquainted with all of my ways, who knows my thoughts from afar, who hems me in behind and before, who lays his hand upon me, whose presence I cannot flee from, and whose right hand I am constantly being held by. "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." (Psalm 139:14)

Friday, August 31, 2012

And the verdict is...

Pinned Image

This is just about the funniest picture I have ever seen. Saw it on Pinterest, go figure. Well I thought I would make the exciting announcement to the social media world, that Chance and I will be having a ... BOY! Coming soon: Hudson Thomas Sumner! We cannot wait, we are beyond excited, and so incredibly thankful for this new little addition that we get to welcome into the world in just a few short months. May God continue to be gracious to us as we await his arrival. Thank you all for your prayers!

Kathryn and Chance

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Is it worth it?

Yesterday, I read a blog post by Kevin DeYoung entitled Questions for our Pro-Abortion Friends, Church Leaders, and Politicians** which was very thought-provoking. I am already convinced, in my own right, that abortion is wrong, offensive to God, and is certainly not the only option. I've watched one or two debates between pro-life Christians and other pro-choice advocates and read many blog posts and articles arguing on both sides of the issue. I believe that it boils down to one question: when is someone considered a human being? The discussion also boils down to one issue: the value of human life. In DeYoung's post he asks a number of essential questions that our draw our attention to the real issue, and cause us to ask ourselves, "Does any person have more intrinsic value than another, based on age, stature, gender, development, etc.?" My answer to this question is a resounding "NO!" Here are my reasons why:

  • Intrinsic value/worth as a human being is a God-given attribute. No one can take your worth from you for you have been made " his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." (Gen. 1:27)
  • No one is less valuable due to age, environment, or size. Would you really say that your infant is less of a person than your teenager or husband? Why then is a tiny fetus considered less of a person than a child out of the womb?
    • DeYoung asks: "Does the eight inch journey down the birth canal make us human?" What a great question! Does this not reveal the ridiculousness of the argument against a baby inutero not being a human, but one outside of the womb being a human?
  • Worth is not dependent on your capabilities. Most of you have probably seen The Story of Ian and Larissa on the Desiring God blog, which tells the story of a married couple who made the choice to get married despite Ian's limited mental and physical capabilities after an auto accident which happened just a few years ago. Would you say that Ian is less of a person or less worthy of life because he suffered this accident?
The list could go on as I unpack all of the questions that were rhetorically asked in DeYoung's post. I simply would like those of us who are wrestling with this issue to consider the logic behind all sides of the argument. Consider your own being, consider the children that you have or one day hope to have, consider the millions of babies that have thoughtlessly been aborted because hope was not given to their mothers in desperate need of true answers. My husband and I support a wonderful organization The Dallas Pregnancy Resource Center that does give hope to women who are considering their options as they face their pregnancies. I am all the more passionate about the lives of yet unborn children due to the fact that I have one currently in my own womb. It is our responsibility to be aware of the consequences of not valuing this little life as we ought to. I am thankful that God cares about children, born and unborn, and I pray that you would care about them too.

"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.  praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." -Psalm 139:13-14

**note: the term "pro-abortion" may not accurately represent the other side's stance on the issue, more often those who are not "pro-life" are termed "pro-choice"

Friday, August 24, 2012

Food on Friday: FONDUE

This is where I want to go on Chance and I's postponed anniversary date (see picture below). We went there for a surprise 6 -month (of dating) anniversary, and loved it! Fondue is such a unique experience and to me it always seems more romantic than your run of the mill dinner date. So if you're looking for date ideas try The Melting Pot! You will surely not be disappointed. Or even better - try and do your own!
They even gave us an anniversary card :)

So glad that now we're MARRIED!
Dark chocolate + white chocolate

See how much fun this looks.. that's because it was :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Power in Weakness

I am finishing up my study in the book of 2 Corinthians, and this week I am reading and studying through 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. This portion of the letter is known as the apostle Paul's "Fool's Speech". He begins the passage by declaring that he "knows a man in Christ", to which he is referring to himself in the third person. He recalls that this man was shown great revelations from God, and Paul anonymously refers to this "man in Christ" not as himself, because he doesn't want to boast in the greatness that he has seen. In verse 5 Paul states ,"On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses." Paul then goes on to tell of his experience of his thorn in the flesh, and his response from the Lord when he plead with the Lord to remove it from him. In verse 7 Paul states that the reason he has been given this thorn (of which we are not told the details of) for the purpose of humbling him, for it was he who saw these revelations of which he previously spoke. God apparently sent a "messenger of Satan to harass" him, to keep Paul from becoming too puffed up about his supernatural experiences. Three times, the Scripture says, Paul pleaded with the Lord (Jesus) to remove the thorn from him. The Lord Jesus responded, however, in this way, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (v. 9) So we are told that in Paul's human weakness, the power of Christ is exhibited mightily. Then Paul makes the profound claim that because of this reason, he will boast in his weaknesses so that Christ's power will be strong in him.
This passage highlights one of the major themes in the whole letter: power in weakness. Or more specifically, God's power seen in human weakness. Does this seem paradoxical? How can one who is weak be strong simultaneously? The answer is found in the last few verses of the passage. If you read the entirety of this letter you will see that this theme has been running throughout Paul's correspondence with the Corinthians. He tells us in chapter 1 that God put him and his companions through hardship so that they would rely "not on themselves but on God who raises the dead." In chapters 2 and 3, Paul talks of the insufficiency of men to be preachers of God's gospel, but through God, men are made sufficient for the task. In chapters 8 and 9 Paul argues for sacrificial giving, using the example of "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." (8:9) Also, throughout the book Paul talks of the hardships that he experienced as a servant of God, but how through them all God has sustained and delivered him. Paul reaches his climax of this discussion in chapter 12, when he mentions this thorn in flesh that was used to humble him.

Although Paul's request for the removal of this thorn was denied, Jesus ("the Lord") gave him profound reassurance that his grace would be sufficient to sustain Paul through this trial. This I believe to be the great message that reoccurs throughout the letter--that God may not remove trials from our lives, but will grant us sufficient grace in order to endure them. Think about what Jesus prayed when he was in the garden, right before his crucifixion, "And he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." (Mark 14:36) The gospel of Mark says that Jesus prayed "the same words" three times. And here in Paul's letter, we see the same pattern of prayer, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me." (2 Cor. 12:8) The Father did not remove the cup of wrath that Jesus drank on the cross, nor did Jesus remove from Paul the "thorn in the flesh" that tormented him. In both cases, Jesus and Paul, were given the grace of God to endure their trials. Did not Jesus have to suffer by becoming weak, in order to be resurrected by the power of God? Jesus' reply to Paul's plea was a reminder of the gospel. The same gospel which Paul exhorted the Corinthians to believe in was what Jesus, in his response to Paul, told Paul to remember. The tense of the verb "is" ("my grace is sufficient") is in the present tense, not the past tense, meaning that Jesus' grace is continually being dispensed. The power of God is made perfect in weakness, and that perfection was first displayed in the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Himself who "although he was rich, yet for [our] sake became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." (8:9) Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin on behalf of believers so that the righteousness of God would be imputed to their account. What a beautiful, applicable message!

When we think of the trials and hardships that we face in this life, even imagining that we cannot possibly live on, we are reminded that God's power (through his grace) is sufficient. It is sufficient for Jesus, for Paul, and for us. It will sustain us, invigorate us, humble us, and make us thankful that we have a God who is able to do "far more abundantly than all we ask or think according to the power at work within us" (Eph. 3:20). So whatever you are facing today, remember that God's supply of grace is unending and he loves to distribute it to all who will receive it by faith.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Rejoicing Together

It is my overwhelming joy to celebrate with my husband two whole years of marriage today. On August 21, 2010 I walked down an aisle for the last time as a single woman, and emerged from the sanctuary united as one flesh to the person I love most in this life. Chance, my husband, is without a doubt my best friend in the world and the person whom God has most used in my life to draw me closer to Himself. I am tremendously thankful to God for orchestrating our life circumstances in such a way, that we would fall deeply in love and have the opportunity to participate in [what I believe is the greatest relationship God ever created] marriage.
Two years may not seem like a long time, but in reflecting on everything that has happened in this short time span, I am amazed at all that God has accomplished in our lives. We recently returned from a long vacation to Florida, where we visited family and simply got to relax and spend quality time together. Chance had just finished a very (VERY) long paper for his second Greek class of the summer, in which he unpacked Paul's teaching on marriage in Ephesians 5:22-33. Just last Sunday, Chance had the privilege of speaking at his home church in Valrico, Florida to a class of college students, about this very passage. As I sat and heard my husband exposit this beautiful text on the union of marriage, I was struck by his zeal and excitement that he expressed. He spoke about how marriage is not simply a relationship between two people here on earth, but that it represents something so much greater--which is Christ's relationship with His bride, the church. Before our trip, Chance and I purchased the newly released book No Ordinary Marriage by Tim Savage to read and learn from together. Savage talked extensively about how marriage is meant to reflect the glory of God to the world and is for the purpose of glorifying God. He addressed married couples, wives, husbands, and singles as he sought to display the wonder of marriage and how it is anything but ordinary.
My greatest take away from the book was the reminder of selflessness within the marriage relationship. I was challenged to display the selfless love that my Savior showed toward me, in my marriage to Chance. Without God's abundant grace, this is impossible. I recognize how I need to ask for God's help daily, as I lay down my desires and make Chance's needs and desires more important than my own. I praise God that He has given me a husband to whom it is easy to submit because I know and see the sacrificial love that he has for me. I know without a doubt that his love is reserved for me alone, and that motivates me to serve him sacrificially. His love for me is not contigent on the way I treat him, in the same way that Christ's love for me is not conditional but unconditional. Today, I am reminded that our marriage is greater than ourselves because it is a picture of the gospel. What a privilege it is to participate daily in the this most intimate design, with the person I delight in the most! I love you Chance Sumner - HAPPY ANNIVERSARY SWEETY!

P.s. And today we find out what gender our baby is! Amazing!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Food on Friday: Feed on the Word

After reading this article posted on The Gospel Coalition, from Desiring God's blog about making the most of one's morning , I was challenged and encouraged to think about my daily 'food' intake. With the rush of hormones that cause a pregnant woman to be hungry at all times, I have begun to think about the necessity of being always hungry for a helping of God's Word.

When I was in college, I routinely went to bed earlier than most, and got up in the morning earlier than most (thankfully my roommate junior year was the same way). I enjoyed this more and more in the latter years of college, as my taste for the Scriptures grew and as my schedule became increasingly demanding. I would characterize my college days as a whirlwind of activities, punctuated by precious times spent with the people that I love: Chance, my dear friends, and my church family. To put it simply: I was always on the go. This meant that the alone time that I had in the early mornings (usually waking between 6:30 and 7:00a.m.) was priceless to me -- I needed it to stay refreshed and have energy to take on the day. So I made it a habit. My senior year, I was married, and having to adjust to a new routine. Chance is also an "early to bed, early to rise"-type, lucky for me, so our schedules have always worked very well together. I begun waking (most days) when he would in order to spend some time with the Lord while Chance did the same. That year was a dream because I was in school full-time and had benefit of a lot of free time. I would spend a lot of time reading, praying, and running in the mornings, and I loved it.

Fast forward a year or so to right now. I work full-time, while Chance is in school full-time. I work 8:00 to 4:30p.m. Monday through Friday. I come home and cook dinner every night. We serve our church two nights a week. Life has changed, we are still busy. Now more than ever, I covet that free time I had every morning during my senior year . There are some days that I don't want to get out of bed because I am just plain exhausted. There are other days when I jump out of bed, ready to get in the Word. It seems that as life changes, the busyness never truly goes away and so I am learning to adjust. I am learning to give myself grace and recognize that I am not earning anything by spending my morning reading my Bible. I am learning to rest in the Lord, and enjoy His presence.

The article that I mentioned above is simply an encouragement to make your soul "happy in God" by refreshing it with a generous helping of the Scriptures. Whether that is first thing in the morning, or late in the day, we should all heed the advice of letting the Word saturate our souls. David talks about this, in Psalm 63, where he says, "My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.." (vv. 5-6) So on this Friday afternoon, let God's steadfast love which is better than life (Ps. 63:3) satisfy your soul as food does your palette. Enjoy your weekend! I am off to Florida!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Self-Image: What Men Need to Know

In previous posts, I have spoken extensively about every women's battle with their own self-image. Whether it relates to weight, food issues, one's view of their beauty, I am convinced that every woman has internal struggles about her image. All of us have different degrees to which we wrestle with our own [false] ideas about ourselves and each individual's battle will look different. Admittedly, it takes time and energy to understand our own hearts, and the thoughts that too often plague us, but this is a crucial step in diagnosing the root of our problem and seeking grace from the only One who can truly heal us.

Recently, I spoke with a friend who described an extremely disheartening conversation she had with a guy friend about his response to her openness about her self-image struggles. This guy friend expressed his feelings of insensitivity, frustration, and disinterest in helping my friend deal with these deeply personal issues. It broke my heart to hear. But I believe the reason for this man's reaction was one thing: a misunderstanding of a women's struggle with self-image. I can attest to this reasoning because, 1) I have a husband, and 2) He doesn't always understand. Most men know very little of a woman's constant struggle with her image. It is not that men don't care, but for the the most part because they haven't experienced this to a similar degree, it is hard for them to be empathetic. On Friday, Chance and I were discussing this very topic as I shared some things that I have been dealing lately, mostly due to the trials of pregnancy. From that conversation, I would like to offer some counsel to all men about how to understand a women's struggle, and how to lovingly help her.

I cannot speak for all women, on a specific level, but I can speak for myself and my husband: this has been tremendously helpful. I have realized my frustration when Chance doesn't seem concerned or careful with his words regarding the distorted view I have of myself. I have attempted to be patient with him on recent occassions, to explain a women's desire for attention and for love. Deep inside of us is the innate desire to be wanted and when we feel ugly, we are ashamed and discouragement sets in. Many women struggle with their weight, which makes them self-conscious and timid. Other women struggle with distortions to their eating, problems that can be as severe as anorexia and bulimia, or as common as condemning thoughts about eating 2 extra slices of Papa John's (sound familiar?). The desire to be loved is not wrong, but because of the fallen nature of man, that love seeks its fulfillment in 'unnatural' places: unhealthy relationships, comfort from sweets, finding one's worth in exercise and seeking the 'perfect body.' God has created all of us for the purpose of worshiping our Creator, whose image we were made in the likeness of. But sin has caused our worship to go awry, which is why I believe all women have degrees of struggle with their own self-image.

Like I said before, the reason why most men don't seem empathetic is because they just don't understand. Women, on average, are the ones who most often deal with problems relating to "body issues" or "food issues." The first thing our male counterparts can do to help us women, is to understand the language and specifics. When I say, "I feel gross today," I am probably saying, "I am not believing that I am truly my opinion, the way my body is making me frustrated." Women tend to express feelings of self-pity (not okay) when we are discouraged about our outer appearance. Although the Scriptures address this specifically: "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she will be praised" (Prov. 31:30), it will likely not be helpful if you, husband (brother or friend) rattle off this verse and assume that this will solve the problem. Understand the language. When you pray for your wife, don't just say, "Lord, Kathryn is dealing with food." What does that mean to me? Am I having trouble shopping for it? Or am I dealing with self-condemnation in regards to my eating habits? See, the language is important.

Now women, this doesn't get you off the hook either. You need to be willing to explain to your husband (brother, friend, etc.) the specifics of your struggle. Don't just assume that he knows what you are dealing with, and don't write him off or get frustrated when he doesn't automatically 'get it.' Be patient and take the time to explain your heart - trust me, it will do you both a world of good.

Secondly, men, listen to your wife. I cannot express to you enough how much this matters to her. When a woman chooses to open up about her struggle with her self-image or a matter concerning her relationship with food, she means for you to listen to her. She needs you to. Loving her, as a sister in Christ and as Christ loved his bride, means listening patiently and actively. I know that my husband is listening well when he asks me questions to get me to explain more thoroughly, which in turn helps me to open up. I know that he cares, that he loves me, and that he genuinely desires for me to be helped through my battles. So listen up men!

Lastly, I eluded to this in the previous paragraph, ask leading questions. If I am sharing that I am discouraged about how I look today, you might want to ask your wife, "Sweety, what do you mean by that?" or "What kind of thoughts were you having?" I have often been helped when others ask me questions that cause me to think actively about something I have just said passively. I am able to go through my thought process, consider what made me think that way, and likely see what lie I am believing about myself or my situation. A husband will understand his wife better if he listens attentively and asks her questions that explain her heart to him.

In conclusion, our husbands are instruments God uses in our lives to help us see truth, and fight the lies that our hearts believe. Men, please take heed to these instructions and lovingly seek to understand, listen, and ask questions of your wife in order to empathize with her situation. You may not ever fully understand, but she will certainly appreciate your genuine effort.

"By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us." -1 John 3:19-23

[Note: I used husbands as the prime example here, but the principle is applicable to brothers, fathers, uncles, friends, boyfriends, fiances, etc.]

Friday, July 27, 2012

Food on Friday: Cravings

About a week or two after we found out that I was pregnant, I wanted to start making a list of the foods that I craved along the way, just to document. And partly because it is so funny to me. I think that this is the first time in my life where I do not have reservations about eating a lot of chocolate, cheese or dreaming of peanut butter toast for breakfast. I am going to blame it on the hormones, while also being conscious of my tendency to idolize food. I definitely don't want to use my pregnancy as an excuse to sin! Going on week 7 here was my list:
  • Cheddar cheese (lactose-free!) & crackers
  • Mac'n'cheese (unfortuately I'm allergic to wheat & dairy, so it might be difficult to quench this craving)
  • Dark chocolate.. haven't eaten much though
  • Fruit
  • Anything with tomatoes >>>>>>>>>
  • Peanut butter toast
  • Peanut butter on rice cakes
  • Peanut butter.. on ANYTHING! The salty/sweet taste is perfect for a queasy tummy
  • Grilled cheese & tomato soup - oh man I want this so bad right now (written at 9:30am, Tuesday 5/15/12)
  • Red pepper flakes (spicy)
Week 8:
  • I especially did not want = salads or coffee
Week 9:
  • EGGS! Scrambled & sunny side-up with GF toast, in the morning. Yum.
Week 10:
  • Cherry Jolly Ranchers (weird, right?)
  • Frozen yogurt - well I actually crave this even when I am not pregnant.
Week 11:
  • Still a lot of fruit! Berries in particular
  • Still a lot of tomatoe-y foods
  • Lemon anything - esp. lemon rice, lemon tea, lemon water
  • Salads are back :)
  • Greek salad
  • Vinegar-y salad dressing ONLY
  • Hummus
  • I really want some pita bread.. but I can't eat it :( Dumb gluten allergy.
  • Protein - I think my body is alerting me more to my need of certain nutrients
  • Any raw vegetables
Weeks 12-14:
  • Back to pretty much normal.. although deli meat was yummy these weeks
  • Cake pops/balls - my friend made some gluten free for me and they were so good
  • Coffee in the mornings again!
  • Indian food
Weeks 15-16:
  • Resumed normal eating habits
  • I had a strange craving for DILL PICKLES, so I bought a jar and ate them all in 3 days
  • Creamy peanut butter.. as always :)
To recap: weirdest craving  all sorts of tomate-based foods: soups, stews, Other than that, since I am now into the second trimester I am trying to eat healthfully while not being too hard on myself. I have been reading that the second trimester is really the most important time to be getting all of your nutrients and to stay hydrated. I usually drink about 64 to 72 ounces of water a day, so pregnancy has just given me a better excuse to drink all the water I want! I am very grateful that thus far I have felt great (second trimester) and have been gaining weight just as the doctor ordered. Four months down, five to go.. EEK!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why I Love the Local Church

This is actually not the topic I was going to write about this morning, but while I was thinking about the other topic I was contemplating writing, this one popped into mind. So this is more of an impromptu post than I normally write ... in other words: bear with me.

The local church. There is much talk amongst us Christians about the importance of, the necessity of, the value of: the local church. And I have come to the conclusion that it is for good reason. Recently, I finished the new release RetroChristianity by Michael J. Svigel -- a DTS professor and elder at our local church here in Dallas. It was a thoughtful reflection on evangelicalism as a whole and what we as Christians need to do in order to "reclaim" the faith of our forefathers. As I read through the book I was provoked to think more deeply about the why of how we do things in the local church and Christianity as a whole. In my experience, it has taken me quite some time to grasp the importance and necessity of the local church body and for me to understand the reasons why all Christians must strive to serve the church with "all his energy that he powerfully works within me." (Colossians 1:29)

In college, shortly after I became a Christian, I began attending a church about 25 minutes away from my university in Jupiter, Florida called Grace Immanuel Bible Church (see picture below). It was the grace of God that led me to this church, and while it is by no means perfect (as no church is), this body of believers was who God used to shape me as a young Christian in the faith. I learned much from sitting under the teaching of wise, godly men and through spending time with older, humbler women who showed me what being a godly wife and mother truly looked like. It was at this church that God began to show me the importance of a local body of believers. I quickly made many friends both older and younger and for the first time saw what "fellowship" in the truest sense, looked like. Though as a young Christian, I had my own ideas about community and I was skeptical about some of the ways in which I was being exhorted to be involved. As these ideas of mine began to be challenged, I couldn't help but admit that my opinions were solely that: my opinions. The gracious arguments against me were coming from none other than the Scriptures themselves. After getting married and working through these issues with Chance for a whole year, disagreeing often, we moved to Dallas where Chance would re-start classes at DTS.
Upon arriving in Texas, both Chance and I had made up our minds that we did not want to "church hop" but we wanted to settle into one church, as soon as possible. We visited Scofield Memorial Church that first Sunday and have been there ever since. Chance had attended the church prior to moving back to Dallas, and was encouraged by the ministry there. Over the past year, both Chance and I have come to realize our naivety and immaturity in some of our past 'beliefs' and opinions about the local church body. Scofield is currently in a transitional phase in their life as a church - almost 135 years old! - and we have seen first hand the work that God has been doing in the lives of its members and congregants. We have grown fond of the body of believers that calls Scofield its home and have cherished the opportunities we have had to serve there. From Sunday School teaching, to preaching in youth group (Chance), to speaking at a women's outreach event, to coordinating the volunteering of youth workers, to "captain-ing" ScoGames teams, to serving hot dogs at an apartment complex outreach, God has used all of these opportunities to grow both Chance and I in our love for and desire to serve in, the local church body.
If I had to sum it up, I would say that the major reason why I have come to love the church is because 1) Scripture says that Christ died for his bride: the church; and if he loved her enough to die for her, then I had better love her too; 2) The body of believers serving one another in Christian love. The second reason, my friends, has been an active way in which I have witnessed the gifts and talents of God's people all working together for the mutual benefit of others, and the glory of God. It has not always been pretty, but it has been truly genuine. As believers who are reconciled to God, but not yet fully redeemed, we still have our own sets of problems and sins. Multiply that by hundreds of church members and that makes for a whole lot of problems. But by the grace of God, he chooses to conform us to the image of his Son while we serve one another and seek to benefit others for the sake of Christ and for the glory of God's gospel. He uses our faults, our insecurities, and even our failures to show us that apart from him we can do nothing. We look to Christ, as his body, the church, to get our strength and to find our identity. As we serve and seek to honor him, he blesses our efforts in turn blesses those whom we serve. It's an amazing entity that all Christians not only should be a part of, but must be a part of. What a privilege and what a joy that God gives us each other: "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ...For the body does not consist of one member but of many."  (1 Corinthians 12:12,14) And that's why I love the local church.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Confessions: Of A Pregnant Runner

Since this is my first pregnancy it's been quite the rollercoaster of experiences. In the first trimester, I had a vast array of physical symptoms: nausea, irritability, breast tenderness, emotional "flexibility" (more like instability), and fatigue. Recently, I entered into the second trimester - wahoo! - and am now almost 15 weeks pregnant! I have noticed that my difficulties are now the internal struggles of insecurity and uncertainty. In this post I want to relay what sort of struggles this pregnant woman, like any woman, has had on both the heart and head level.

There is a baby in that belly!
As a runner, it is important to keep yourself consistently fit, which means maintaining your fitness level by eating healthfully, running an average number of miles per week, and cross training to keep your body free from injury. This past spring, I trained for and ran a half marathon and was in the best shape I have been in, since junior year of college (when I ran a semester's worth of cross country). I felt great and was proud of the work that I had done in order to look and feel like I did. About 3 weeks after that race, as I was recovering, we found out that I was pregnant. As we rejoiced and celebrated, I thought quietly in my heart about what this meant for my body: a lot of changes. And since I have never been pregnant before, this also meant a lot of unexpected changes. These thoughts produced fear and worry in me and I began to become anxious about the coming months and what this would mean for my overall fitness. Motherly instincts kick in as soon as you discover that you have a little person growing inside of you, and you instantly want to do "Whatever is best for the baby!" But as a woman who struggles with insecurities about her appearance, I couldn't help but have these nagging thoughts.

Like I mentioned before, in the first trimester your body is adjusting to the onslaught of hormones that your body is producing and you definitely see and feel their effects. I took a much needed break from all exercise save for walking and the occasional run. The first time I got out on the road to attempt to keep my heart rate at 150 (doctor recommended) I was sorely disappointed: 180, 190, 205, 170, 165, 190, and so on. My fitness level had clearly waned in just a month off, and I became discouraged about the possibility of running during pregnancy. My doctor has okay'ed it as long as I kept my heart rate low (my max HR is around 230) which proved somewhat difficult for me at first. Not only was I discouraged but I was humbled. Not being able to run the same pace, the same distance, with the same amount of exertion can be quite frustrating and for me it most definitely was.. and still is.

Many woman tell you that after you enter the second trimester, you start feeling much better. Thankfully, I found this to be quite true. I am very grateful that my nausea lasted only 5-6 weeks, and my fatigue became less after about 8 weeks. So I started to get up the hopes that I could get outside and continue running at a more 'normal-for-me' pace and be just fine! Well there have been a couple of factors that have still kept me from that goal: 1) My overall fitness level has somewhat decreased, 2) My body needs to exert way more energy in order to run at paces and distances that were 'easy' just a few months ago, and 3) The Texas heat kills me. I have never been one who enjoys running in 90+ degree weather, nor have I ever been able to do it particularly well. Combine all of these factors together and it makes for one discouraged, frustrated, and irritated pregnant woman.

While out for a walk last night, I discovered that these thoughts and feelings were rooted in a few different areas of sin: selfishness, discontentment, envy, and jealousy. My frustration in not being able to run how I want virtually spells out the selfishness in my heart. I want to do it for me, and when I don't/can't get what I want I become frustrated. I am discontent because what used to come so naturally is now feeling very unnatural and that creates a lack of joy in my heart. I am envious and jealous of other women that I see running with no problem: most of whom are probably not pregnant. See how foolish these things are when they are exposed? I am confronted with the fact that I am still yet to be fully redeemed, and am in need of my Savior. David says it well in Psalm 86 when he cries out, "Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me! For I am poor and needy." In God's infinite wisdom, He knows my desires and my frustrations. Yet, He desires that I cry to Him with those frustrations and tell Him my honest feelings. I am comforted by the fact that He is "...good and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You." (86:5)

Do I still want to run right on through this pregnancy? Absolutely! Do I believe that God will surely answer that prayer? I don't know. In the meantime, I must choose to trust Him and believe the fact that even when I can't run fast, or even run at all, God has ordained this time for my good - to teach me humility, the fleetingness of physical beauty, and fact that He cares about me in all of my weakness and stumblings. Have you ever dealt with insecurities in your pregnancy? I am right there with you sister.. let's keep fighting.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Goat Cheese Makes Everything Better

A memorable incident that occurred during the first year of Chance and I's marriage was the infamous purchase of a log of "chèvre" (i.e. goat cheese). We had just returned from a trip to the cold, northern parts of Michigan with my parents where we had stayed in a lovely condo, enjoyed tubing and skiing for a few days, and relaxing by the warm fire. One night my mom and I ventured out to the grocery store to collect ingredients for that night's dinner: roasted asparagus, a green salad and chicken breasts: stuffed with goat cheese. After that meal I fell in love with the stuff all over again and wanted to make the same meal for Chance and I when we got back to our little Florida apartment.
A few weeks later I made a visit to Publix (although in those days we mostly shopped at Wal-Mart) and meandered over to the gourmet cheese section of the deli. There I beheld what I had been looking for: one 4 oz. log of chèvre. I snatched it up and went to check out. I ended up making the chicken for dinner and used sun-dried tomato spread in addition to the goat cheese which was quite a hit. I don't really remember how the subject came up, but Chance probably asked out of curiosity how much the goat cheese cost. I probably showed him the receipt, not thinking much of it, and he practically fell out of his chair: $5.99 (or some amount that he deemed outrageous for a log of cheese)! This began a long conversation about our grocery budget and what my views were of spending money on food (something that would be the topic of conversation for some time to come). Needless to say, we didn't quite agree with each other but were able to laugh it off later, as I 'owned up' to my oversight and apologized not telling him before I splurged on the goat cheese.

Fast forward to today, almost a year and a half later, we shop at Sunflower Market (a natural grocer/farmer's market here in Dallas). While flipping through their weekly ad I spotted it: a SALE on goat cheese! $2.99 per 4 oz.! HOORAY! At my last grocery store visit, I picked some up and went home a happy lady to a happy husband. This past week I used the goat cheese on salads, in wraps, and in one recipe that is worthy of sharing. Chance had his wisdom teeth out on Monday (ouch!) and has been eating only soft foods, like yogurt and soup, so that left me to cook dinner for myself. I decided to do something easy (go figure) and roasted some vegetables, cooked some pasta, and tossed it all together -- topping it with goat cheese of course. And POOF - instant goodness.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta topped with Chèvre
2 red peppers
2 green peppers
1 yellow pepper
1 red onion
1 small yellow or sweet onion
2 cups of brown rice rotini pasta (or whole grain if you're not Gluten Free)
2 thin slices or crumbles of plain goat cheese
1 tbs. olive or grapeseed oil
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Cut up all vegetables into 1/2 inch chunks and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Spray with either canola oil or drizzle olive oil on top of the veggies. Sprinkle with garlic powder, and any other seasoning you might care to use. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until vegetables are browning and tender. At the 10 minute mark, cook your pasta according to directions on the box/bag. When the veggies are finished roasting take them out of the oven, drain your pasta, add to a bowl or plate, mix them together, then top with a generous amount of goat cheese - to your liking.

This recipe is DELISH! I had the leftovers at work the next day and it was still good. Like I said, goat cheese just makes everything better...

Additional recipe using goat cheese - 'Paris Cafe's (WPB) "Moulin Rouge" Salad
Toss together 1) organic mixed salad greens, 2) 5-7 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved 3) A handful of pistachios (shelled) or unsalted pumpkin seeds, 4) Goat cheese crumbles, 5) a 1/2 to 1 whole avocado, diced 5) Some sort of balsamic dressing (I like Dijon/balsamic vinegar/evoo) -- this salad is SOOO good! The homemade version competes with Paris Cafe's but I would encourage anyone visiting West Palm Beach, FL to visit Paris Cafe on S. Olive Ave -you will not be disappointed! Enjoy :)