Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Movies as Food for My Soul

Meghan and I don't often go to the theater to see a movie when it first comes out. Usually we wait to see if the film is any good before risking the 'buyers' remorse' on those high priced tickets. But, this year, we have been looking forward to three films that come out in 2012.

#1 Brave

...because it's Pixar, and we are big fans of Pixar. Almost everything they do is high quality, even the short films. If you've never seen a Pixar movie because you think they are 'for kids'...go see one. The plots are written for all ages.

#2 The Hobbit

...because I have a weakness for Tolkien, and grand travel adventure stories. Of course, I freely admit that I am mostly looking forward to the final battle against Smaug, which won't be in part 1. However, the chance to have a good film adaptation of such a strong story just draws me in.

And #3 Les Miserables

...because it is real, at least to me this year.

It is this 'reality' that makes 'Les Mis' the one movie that I am looking forward to seeing most this year. For those unfamiliar with the plot, the story follows one Jean Valjean, a poor laborer who stole a loaf of bread in his youth, and has spent the last 19 years as a prisoner. The story follows his life, and the lives of those who interact with him, from the moment of his release from prison, until his death.

The main theme of the story is the response of the human soul to the consequences of its own mistakes. For instance, let's take the woman singing in the trailer, Fantine. The song is her story, here are the complete lyrics:

There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame

He slept a summer by my side

He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came

And still I dream he'll come to me

That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather

I had a dream my life would be

So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

Fantine sings of her love and dream to live with her man, even though he has abandoned her (and their child) to a life of poverty and suffering. And so she recognizes that 'there are dreams that cannot be.' The 'tigers' have come and destroyed all her hopes and dreams for the future. I never understood exactly what Fantine was singing about until this May.

I made an 'error of judgement', and did something I had sworn I would never do. I knew the action was wrong, but I did it anyway. And so now the consequences have come...and like tigers in the night, they have torn my hopes apart, and turned my dreams into shame. Nothing can save me from the consequences of this choice...not magical fairy spells (a la Brave), or an all-powerful ring or a wizard for a friend (as in The Hobbit). I am completely at the mercy of my failure.

Or am I?

Jean Valjean is in a similar position in the film. He, however, is shown the grace of God through the love of a priest upon his life. Of this experience he sings:

One word from him and I'd be back
Beneath the lash, upon the rack
Instead he offers me my freedom
I feel my shame inside me like a knife
He told me that I have a soul,
How does he know?
What spirit comes to move my life?
Is there another way to go?

I am reaching, but I fall

And the night is closing in
And I stare into the void
To the whirlpool of my sin
I'll escape now from the world
From the world of Jean Valjean
Jean Valjean is nothing now
Another story must begin!

Is there another way to go? YES! I must go to God...and THIS is why I am so excited to see 'Les Mis' when it comes out in December. The plot of this movie reminds me that, even though I have failed, even though I have made bad choices, even though I have betrayed trust, even though my circumstances are punishing my poor judgement, God still loves me. God is still wanting to use my life, to show me grace, to allow me joy.

Is the movie sad? Undoubtedly. Will there be tear-jerking moments? Absolutely. But I will gladly take those moments if they will push me closer to Christ. As Paul says to the Corinthians:

"Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done."

In other words, the sorrow that the movie will bring, will work a great deal more good in me than the momentary joy from the typical movie. This is not to knock the idea of going to see movies like Brave and The Hobbit, but I find that they do not feed my soul as well as a movie like Les Miserables will. I know that I will need that 'real' food to help me forget what is behind, and to press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

As Valjean sings:

Who am I?
Can I conceal myself for evermore?
Pretend I'm not the man I was before?

Must I lie?
How can I ever face my fellow men?
How can I ever face myself again?
My soul belongs to God, I know
I made that bargain long ago
He gave me hope when hope was gone
He gave me strength to journey on

...and so I journey on...

In His strength,

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

God Provides

My friend, Taylor, over at Fields of Green has been doing a weekly series on money and how they are able to live on one income in the DC metro area, something they get a lot of questions about. So far, the advice has been:
1. We know that God will provide for our needs.
2. We don't spend money we don't have.
3. We make the best of what we already have.
4. We follow the advice of the Duggars: "Buy used and save the difference."

She took some time recently to give a very specific example of #1 and how God provided for them recently. It was inspirational to hear and a good reminder to me of how God has provided in my life as well.

You see, we've been living on one income now for a month as well. But it wasn't our choice. Oh, down the road we definitely wanted to move to one income but we never expected it like this. The day before I wrote this post, my husband lost his job.

We've been doing some belt-tightening and God has allowed what we do have to stretch to cover our needs. We had been able to save up a good amount since we got married so we're doing our best to steward it wisely.

And then the Keurig broke.

Now, yes, I know that my Keurig (a single cup coffeemaker) is a luxury. A big one. But we both get a lot of enjoyment out of it and it's a lot cheaper for us than Starbucks. It lasted over 3.5 years though so it was outside (waaay outside) the warranty when it started tripping the GFI outlet. We gave it to a friend who has some electrical knowledge to see if he could fix it, but he and my husband ended up having to take a sledgehammer to it to even find out what the problem was.

We figured we would wait and just buy a new one after my husband got a job again. And then God blew us out of the water and provided...even for something that is mostly a 'want' that brings us joy, something as frivolous as a Keurig.

As we talked with our friend about possibly fixing it, another member of the church choir overheard and asked about the situation. Turns out she had a Keurig as well...and didn't like the way it brewed coffee. On the spot, she offered to give it to us if ours couldn't be fixed.

And now? Well, it's all cleaned up and sitting on my counter, just waiting for a nice warm cup of coffee or chai. :)

It wasn't something we expected. It wasn't something we asked for. We were prepared to either try to repair what we had or do without until finances allowed us to purchase another. But God saw fit to intervene this time, providing above and beyond our wildest dreams.

It's a great reminder for the coming days as my husband continues the job search and we face impending changes and possibly moving. If God can provide a Keurig for our enjoyment, how much more will He provide the right job for our sustenance?

"If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Matthew 7:11

Soli Deo Gloria,

Monday, June 18, 2012

My Whole30 Adventure

Well....I DID IT! :)

My friends, Jeff and Julie, started taking on Jeff's Crazy Idea at the beginning of this year. Part of that idea included their whole family of 4 doing a Whole30. I followed their journey and was astonished at some of the results they achieved in those 30 days. Curious, and wanting to start eating better, I decided to do my own Whole30.

Basically, a Whole30 is 30 days of eating meats, seafood, eggs, lots of veggies, fruit, and healthy oils from things like nuts, seeds, avocados, etc.

That's it. Nothing else.

No added sugar, no legumes, no grains, no soy, etc.

Nada. For 30 days.

I admit I was worried about jumping into a Whole30 immediately. I work outside our home 3 days a week and usually take both breakfast and lunch with me to the office. I also knew, with my husband not doing the Whole30 with me, that I would have to choose dinner recipes that he would either enjoy or be able to eat in a non-Whole30 way (like tacos). And being a firstborn through and through, I figured I would plan out meals for all 30 days before I started. that actually happened.

Not that I didn't do any planning but it ended up being less than I originally planned and thought I needed to be successful. I guess it just goes to show that you don't need to have it all figured out before you jump in and start eating healthier! I usually plan out our meals for the week before grocery shopping on Monday evenings. This was still true during the Whole30 and helped me to plan out my week ahead and realize when I would have to do some pre-cooking to have food for work or when I needed to use my wonderful Crock-Pot.

After putting off the start of my adventure for a month, I finally dove into things head first on May 8th. June 6th marked day 30.

So how did it turn out? I will admit, even after seeing Jeff and Julie's results, I was flabbergasted by mine. I lost a total of 15.2lbs and a couple of inches between my body measurements. My husband even said that my energy levels have been more consistent overall

While I have not and will not fully maintain these eating standards immediately (baby steps), we have incorporated some of the recipes into our normal pool of meals and are definitely eating more produce (read: fruit and vegetables) overall. I found some breakfast recipes I really liked that incorporated some veggies first thing in the morning and we've been experimenting with new foods too. I even cooked with red and green bell peppers for the first time last week! I've noticed that my tastes have changed, especially when it comes to sweets, and it's helped my self-control and helped me to make better choices knowing how my body will react to things I didn't eat on the Whole30.  

I am maintaining one thing straight from the Whole30...I will not measure my weight for another month. During the Whole30, the idea is not to concentrate on a number but to focus on healthy eating. But I will admit I can't wait to see my results...especially right before the family cruise! :)

So here's to healthier eating, more energy, and hopefully dropping a few more pounds!! :)

Soli Deo Gloria,

P.S. For more detailed information on the Whole30, you can click on the image above or go here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Meet Ninja Squirrel

Many of you may have heard us refer to one of our neighborhood squirrels as "Ninja Squirrel". He got this name the day we moved Dan into our apartment...

As Dan was bringing in a box to our new apartment, he saw this squirrel running in his direction on the sidewalk. He figured when the squirrel noticed him that it would run off in the opposite direction...but not Ninja Squirrel! No, once he noticed Dan, he flattened himself on the sidewalk and seemed to pretend that Dan couldn't see him. Thus the name "Ninja Squirrel" was born!

On another occasion, I was leaving the apartment and heading towards my car when I saw him. He stopped on the sidewalk then ran off towards a tree after I took one more step forward. Upon reaching the tree, however, he only climbed about 4 feet up and moved to the opposite side of trunk, away from me. Curious about his methods, I took a couple of steps towards the tree. Still some distance away, I leaned to the side to see around the trunk and, as I did, Ninja Squirrel scooted further around the trunk but no farther up!

He's also usually a big fan of knocking over any potted plants I have close enough to the ground. Pretty normal and all seemed quiet for awhile. But NOW? Well, now he has taken to climbing up our screen door on our patio! Most of the time he hangs out upside down and looks like he's licking the screen. We've caught him doing this on about 3 separate occasions.


Crazy squirrel!