Homemade Thanksgiving Turkey on a Plate

Why you’ll enjoy Thanksgiving dinner this year

This year, the holidays are going to be different. Thanksgiving is up first and it’s going to be a good one. Why? Because you aren’t going to place one iota of  judgement, guilt, restrictions or plans for post-holiday dieting upon yourself. There will be no promises to only eat certain things off the Thanksgiving table and to avoid other “evil” foods. Thanksgiving is going to be an experience–you’ll take in the sound of voices from your friends and family; you’ll inhale the warm scents of turkey, fresh bread, herbs and spices, and pie; you’ll see the joy of laughter and pleasure of being together; you’ll feel the peace of gratitude and love.

When it’s time to eat, you’ll survey the feast and load your plate with what sounds good. You’ll eat because you’re hungry; when you’re full, you’ll stop. If you aren’t sure, then you’ll wait it out a few and see how you feel. The food will still be there if you want it; there’s no hurry, no rules. You won’t worry about that stuffed feeling at the end of your meal because you’ll remember that, with the exception of yoga pants and sweats, clothing isn’t made to expand with a full stomach. So loosening your belt or button makes sense when you’ve eaten a voluptuous meal full of nutrients, which your body is immediately using to fuel you through conversations, family games, and laughter. You won’t worry about gaining five pounds this weekend because it takes far longer than a few food-filled days to gain five pounds. And even if you did, who cares?

Since you won’t be going on a diet tomorrow or after the Thanksgiving weekend or ever, you can have that extra slice of pie later tonight or in the morning for breakfast. Because there are no rules. Your body doesn’t care what time it is or when you eat the pie or leftover mashed potatoes and gravy. Your body just knows when it’s hungry and what sounds good. There are no rules that say certain food is or isn’t allowed for breakfast. Pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie all taste lovely with coffee or tea. So if you aren’t hungry later, the food will be there in the morning and you’ll enjoy it then.

Since you’re ousting judgement and guilt this year, you may or not participate in the annual family Thanksgiving football scrimmage. If you do, it’ll be because it sounds fun and you feel like moving, laughing, and being cold.  You may or may not join your mother-in-law or Uncle Jim for a walk after dinner. If you do, it’ll be because you feel like walking and spending time with your people. None of your pre- or post-meal movement will be exercise to accommodate or burn off the calories from your Thanksgiving feast because eating and enjoying your food is not a punishable offense.

You can enjoy your Thanksgiving meal because food is meant to be enjoyed. You’ll be thankful for the freedom to literally eat, drink, and be merry–to fully experience the nostalgia of family traditions, the warmth of thankfulness, and the inner contentedness of self-love.

Oh yes, this year is going to be way different. Better.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, my friends. May you enjoy all it has to offer.

Old american flag and microphone.

The Painful Truth of America

Donald Trump revealed a painful and dark truth about America. Racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, are a big problem in our seemingly modern country. The problem isn’t Trump. It’s the distorted and dangerous beliefs deeply rooted in our nation’s heart–our cultural heart.

Through out Trump’s campaign I continually described Trump as “our entire culture wrapped up into one person.” Broken down into the simplest and crudest of terms, American culture as a generalized whole:

  • treats women as ornaments
  • regards non-Caucasian races as scary
  • regards all religions, including Christianity, as extreme
  • thinks gay people are dirty, sinful, and wrong.*

Does everyone in America believe these things? Of course not! But President-elect Trump’s campaign messaging plugged right into these generalized truths and lit up the hearts of over half of America. This is where the shock and grief stab me. If the above truth’s are what live at the heart of our culture, then Trump’s win isn’t a surprise at all. And rather than singly pegging Trump as racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic, and calling for his ousting, we need to be humbly looking in the mirror as a nation.

Our culture is infected with racism, misogyny, and xenophobia– all Trump did was lacerate our nation’s infection and now it’s oozing all over the damn place. If we got rid of Trump, the darkness–the infection–living in the heart of our culture will still remain. To give Trump all the credit for the post-election damage that’s being done right now is giving one man way too much power and control. The problem is us, you guys.

Here’s how I see it:

I think we experienced divine intervention in America this week. We have serious problems with hate, intolerance, and fear, and we have a massive deficit of love in this country. It was that way before Trump ever conceived the thought of running for president and it’s still the case now 72 hours after his election. From the protesting to the venomous poison being spit between family members and so-called friends, our problem is nationally systemic and not a localized, rashy Trump-lump. Our entire body is sick.

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For those of us who stand up for justice, advocating for love, rights, and action for the marginalized, abused, and hurting, Trump did us a favor by showing us where serious hard work needs to be done. Trump addressed those of us who didn’t vote for him; he said:

For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.

I say, let’s take him up on it. Instead of fighting and protesting, which by the way is taking away resources from other vulnerable people, such as the homeless in Oregon right now,  we need to get to work. We need to reach and teach. To reduce fears, we need events, classes, performances, and presentations that share the stories of folks from other races and religions to educate and light up the hearts of folks who don’t understand. To reduce inequality, we need activists, lobbyists, and passionate people to stand up for those who can’t and/or are refused to be heard. We need brave leaders–from the youngest of our young to the eldest of our elderly to advocate for and build up those who live in the margins.

I didn’t vote for Trump; however, I have a deep suspicion that we’re going to be surprised by what happens with him in office, with or without Trump’s efforts. I have high hopes for the United States and little trust in the media. The media is notorious for blowing up that bad and ignoring the good, strong, and positive.  Did you even know the first Somali-American lawmaker was elected into the House? And she’s a WOMAN!? How amazing is that!? What else are we missing?

We’re going to be okay if we work together for each other. If Trump proves himself to be the ass he represented himself to be in his campaign, that will be unfortunate but it won’t be the demise of our country. The rise or demise of our country falls on us as a people, not on one man.

*I never personally heard Trump attack the LGBTQ community; however, the prejudice against and the hurt within this population is deeply real in our culture.

kidselectionday

The day Donald Trump became president

“Mom? What’s an olive branch?”

“It’s a sign of peace and reconciliation. The olive branch as a sign of peace that goes way back into early Bible times.”

“Mommy, do you think what Mr. Trump said in his victory speech is really his heart on the inside? I’m confused.”

“I don’t know, buddy. I’m confused too. I hope the Trump we see in the speech is who we really experience as our president. We have to give him a chance now.”

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Today is where the rubber meets the road for me as an advocate for love and Jesus. Will I choose to love radically, trust radically, and believe there is something bigger going on here than I can see? Or will I remain in a place of fear, cynicism, judgement and distrust, both for God and Trump?

I understand now why Jesus was so unsavory and scandalous to people in his time. It is far easier for me to love the people whom Trump ridiculed, abused, and cast aside as invalid. What’s hard is loving Trump. But that is exactly what Jesus would do. Love in its truest form is hard and humbling. President-elect Trump is a hard an impossible guy to embrace, trust, and radically love as a human being right now let alone as a leader for my country. While Jesus certainly wouldn’t condone (and would likely challenge) Trump’s words and behavior thus far, Jesus would accept him, love him, and hang out with him. At the same time, He’d call out Trump on the hardness in his heart and give Trump the choice of pursuing a new self or remaining in his current self. Any repentance and transformation that would take place would happen between Trump and Jesus only.

That space between Jesus and Trump isn’t my place to be. Jesus calls me to pay attention to my own heart…

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I’m very uncomfortable as I process the history that’s unfolding before me. But it’s when I’m most uncomfortable that I know God is working inside me. Ultimately I find myself squirmy in my own heart as I examine my beliefs juxtaposed with my feelings.

I believe in Love–capital L. I believe divine Love includes ALL people, and that means Trump too. It has to. And while Mr. Trump hasn’t shown a value for all-inclusive love, that does not give me the right to cast him off in return, and to do so would make me hypocritical.

I believe in unity and peace; I believe the more division we have, the more vulnerable we are to Satan’s wiles to perpetuate hate, violence, and fear. To turn my back on our new president makes me part of the problem. True to God’s nature, the only way to unite and experience peace is to do the exact opposite of what we’re doing now in angry recoiling and harsh backlash. We have to draw near to one another and come along side President Trump if we want to experience the unity that defines our nation.

I also believe in innocence until proven guilty. I confess the media has done an excellent job in convincing me that Donald Trump is a criminal on multiple levels; if I am going to remain true to my beliefs and values, then until he is proven as such I have to radically trust his innocence. I’d want that for anyone else.

Fair is fair regardless of my feelings. It’s okay to feel shocked, uncertain, and disappointed (I refuse to feel fear); however, it’s important to not let my feelings blind my values. Otherwise I am simply a fair-weather Christian, living out my values when it’s easy and feels good.

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Here’s the bottom line for me and what I’ve literally told my children today:

  • “God took one of the most vile, dangerous men in the Bible, Saul, and turned him into Paul. Paul became one of the greatest advocates for God’s love and kingdom; he is one of the most revered people in Biblical history. We have to trust that God can and will do something amazing with Mr. Trump as our president. I believe He will.”
  • “God is far bigger than Trump and Clinton and this election and our country. What we’re experiencing today is evidence that we are not as in control of things in this world as we think we are. That’s humbling and that’s okay. With humility comes wisdom.”
  •  “Our job in our own lives is to continue loving people the best we can, being kind more than ever, and living a life of love, no matter what. So we are going to pray for President Trump; we are going to pray for our country; we’re going to stand up for what’s right when called to do so.”

If someone didn’t trust me, I’d want the chance to prove my trustworthiness.  I’m willing to give President-elect Trump my open heart, my open mind, and a chance to make American great again.

Welcome to the presidency Mr. Trump. May you experience support, growth, and a successful career as the United States President.

 

 

 

Burrowing Owl portrait

Why I’m not in church

Around Lent season of this year, I found myself irritated as I was thinking about what to give up for 40 days. I was mulling over my different options when I realized two things:

  1. Lent causes me to feel shame.
  2. Giving up stuff for Lent has never made me feel closer to Jesus.

First of all, I’ve always been taught, whether directly or indirectly, that Lent is about giving up stuff that’s “bad for you.” It’s sacrificing something you love–that you indulge in–that isn’t good for your life. Growing up we were always giving up some kind of food for 40 days. Today I have a zillion friends who give up chips, chocolate, alcohol, pizza… The message for my brain: “Food I enjoy is sinful.” And if I cheat and sneak a bite of the forbidden food, there’s this enormous guilt and shame that follows that I have failed Jesus, and I’ve also failed myself. Food seems to be the #1 choice of sacrifice, but I’ve seen other people give up a favorite show, social media, or television as a whole. While the choice of sacrifice and suffering differs across the board, the shame is the same when people “fail.” Lent is like a springtime New Year’s Resolution–a fresh promise to do or not do something only to fail a week into it and feel like a big jerk for Jesus.

Shame has never made me feel closer to Jesus. Giving up chocolate has never drawn me closer to my Lord. I understand, now in my adult years, the idea behind “giving up something for Lent” is to, on a small scale, experience and resist temptation as Jesus did during his time in the desert with Satan. It’s supposed to allow me to identify with Christ. But that’s not what happens for me. Lent season becomes about me–my sinful desires for food or activities I love and my failure to identify with Christ.

And yes, I’ve seen others who, instead of giving up something, pour out their lives for 40 days doing something for others. I love that people do this, and I love the idea behind it, but it stresses me out. I feel like I am forcing myself to find ways to serve that quite frankly God hasn’t asked me to do. It still ends up, at the end of the day, being about me and whether or not I was able to follow through on a promise to God–usually not–and feeling like a failure.

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With all this running through my heart I simply whined in prayer, “What do YOU want from me? You tell me what you want me to give up or what you want me to do. I want this season to be about You.”

The immediate response I heard like a tender whisper to my heart that filled my entire living room was: All I want is you.

The vision that came across my mind was of Mary and Martha, two sisters whom Jesus adored. Martha is known for her busyness and bustling around doing things; Mary is known for sitting at Jesus’ feet with an air of childlike wonder and expectancy, just waiting for whatever Jesus had to say next. I have always identified myself with Martha.

With this picture in my mind I heard: Sit at my feet and learn My story. Learn Who I am. Give me yourself so I can teach you about Me.

In the days that followed I had a hunger to learn about who Jesus was as a person, yet I had the strong conviction I wasn’t supposed to be in church. I also realized there are major gaps in my knowledge about who Jesus was because I’d only known him in the context of Bible stories and Christian traditions. I’ve spent my whole life in church learning the lessons of Jesus–from his parables and experiences–and striving to try harder at being a “good Christian” (living out the lessons and traditions of Christianity that I learn through sermons and Bible studies).

I’ve never questioned the traditions. I’ve never questioned what I’ve been taught. I have put 100% of my belief in sermons and studies as how I’m supposed to live; if anything in my heart doesn’t match what I learn then I must be wrong. After all pastors and church leaders are educated and experienced in this stuff. I’ve never allowed me to think for myself in my own faith because I didn’t know it was okay or even how to; I’ve never allowed myself to explore, let alone express, what lives in my own heart about God because I figured I would be wrong.

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I have spent the last many months studying and learning about Jesus just between the two of

For instance, I fully support the LGBTQ community and believe God loves them and protects them. God cares more about their hearts for humanity and their love for Him than he does about gender/sexual orientation. LGBTQ are just as welcome at the feet of Jesus as I am.

For instance, I fully support the LGBTQ community and believe God loves them and protects them. God cares more about their hearts for humanity and their love for Him than he does about gender/sexual orientation. LGBTQ are just as welcome at the feet of Jesus as I am and thus free to live equally as who they are as the rest of us. Discrimination is painful for both Jesus and his people.

us, without the distraction of church and my tendency to take what I hear from others (especially church “authorities” as my mind held them to be) as my own belief. God is revealing the truths that live in my own heart–and have for years–about Jesus, and He’s teaching me to be confident in those truths even when they don’t match the world or even Christian culture. God needs me to be confident about what He places on my heart so I can stand firmly later. I am shocked and relieved by what Jesus is teaching me, but I am not confident in my expression. There’s an uncomfortable dissonance between what I believe about Him and what I’ve been taught my whole life–it’s scary to know that I am going to offend people. (I actually already have here and possibly here and maybe here.) But none of this is about me; it’s all about God and the news of his love for ALL people and what that Love looks like.

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God is going to bring me back to church; He has been clearly reassuring about that, but He has given me zero clue as to when. Typical.  While I haven’t been in church, molding my normal pew spot on Sundays, He’s kept me active within the church body through the Shattering Stigma mental health ministry and precious one-on-one experiences with my children, husband, friends, and strangers. Church on Sunday is simply one way, not the only way, to worship and connect with God and the church body.

I know from the deepest part of me that where God has me is where He needs me right now; and while I am not yet comfortable (and probably won’t ever be), I have to trust what I am learning is from God and true. Maybe not always 100% right, but rooted Truth. But I don’t think God cares so much about me being right or wrong; he cares more about me being connected with Jesus and confident about what lives in my heart and obedient to His calling.

 

Strawberry ice cream sundae

What does healthy mean?

Our culture has a wacky perspective on what healthy means. Culture says if you eat lots of greens, a bunch of protein, and little to zero carbs, simple sugars, and fat, then you are healthy. You will also be healthy if you force your body into shape by walking thousands of steps a day, crunch your abs flat, and burn more calories than you eat. If you don’t follow the rules and control yourself then you are unhealthy, which means you will stay fat or get fat if you aren’t already.  Culture’s definition of healthy is “skinny.”  Skinny isn’t enough, though, because even if you aren’t fat right now, you should probably “drop a few l-bs” because it will be healthier for you.

If you are following the rules but you aren’t slimming into those pants that are supposed to slim you down even more, and you’re feeling miserable about why your body is still craving sugar, then according to culture you need to have better self-discipline and take care of that addiction or you are just never going to be healthy. Shame on you.

I tried culture’s way and ended up in recovery for an eating disorder that almost killed me. Doing healthy culture’s way led me to the unhealthiest I’ve ever been in my life.

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Health has nothing to do with what I’m eating, how much I’m eating, how much I weigh, or what size I wear.  Health has to do with being connected to myself; healthy is between me and my body. Healthy is being able to tune into my body and know what it needs based on the things I feel–hunger, sadness, pain, pleasure, wonder, fatigue, etc. Healthy is responding to my body in a way that is respectful and loving without judgement, shame, or questioning.  When I am connected to my body and obliging what it needs and wants, then I am healthy. I can be whatever size and weight and eat all of my favorite foods and still be healthy because healthy doesn’t have a shape or size or criteria. Healthy doesn’t look a certain way; healthy is a state of being.

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There’s a difference between not feeling well and being unhealthy. When I am not feeling well, my body is trying to tell me something is wrong, and it will adjust until I do something to feel better, like maybe eat a sandwich; take a nap; go to the doctor. When I am connected to my body, I intuitively know what to do to feel better and I will do it. That’s healthy.

Conversely, when I am “unhealthy,” outside of being legitimately sick, then I have become disconnected from my body– viewing and operating myself from the perch of the world–the media, my friends, my family, my doctor, my peers, culture–and living from a space of perceived expectations without understanding that I am perfectly fine just as I am. There’s actually nothing wrong with my body, but I believe I am unhealthy because the world says I should be eating certain foods, weighing a certain amount, and looking a certain way. So I squirm in the discomfort, forcing and dieting my way into “health.”

I can’t think of anything more unhealthy than disconnecting from my body and forcing it to squeeze into culture’s expectations of what healthy means.

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Practically speaking, healthy is:

  • being in tune with my hunger and fullness cues.
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  • knowing which foods I enjoy eating and which ones I don’t.
  • eating what sounds good rather than because something is good for me.
  • listening to when my body wants to move and when it doesn’t.
  • understanding how my body moves and how it doesn’t.
  • accepting (maybe even loving!) my body as it is today.
  • appreciating what my body can do as it is today.
  • wearing clothes that fit me today.
  • resting when my body is tired.
  • challenging myself when I’m energized and uncomfortable.
  • feeling the feels when I’m triggered emotionally.
  • coping with life using tools that are right for me.
  • respecting what my body tells me ( e.g. More please. I’m done. That hurts. I’m hungry. Let’s rest.)
  • honoring the need for self care.

Healthy is not:

  • counting calories.
  • restricting/omitting food groups.
  • watching what I eat.
  • idolizing greens and protein.
  • demonizing carbs and fat.
  • controlling portions.
  • regimenting exercise.
  • burning more calories than I eat.
  • judging food as “good” or “bad.”
  • fitting into a particular size.
  • reaching a goal weight.
  • ignoring hunger or fullness.
  • demanding a certain number of steps in my day.
  • shaming myself for eating or eating something I supposedly shouldn’t have.
  • disrespecting my body’s call for rest.

What does healthy mean? Healthy means I am connected to my body–trusting and responding to whatever it’s asking for. 

How do I know if I’m healthy? I live in the freedom to eat and move how I want to; I feel good inside my own skin; I am at peace with myself regardless of the cultural noise around me about nutrition and body.

What does healthy mean to you?