Allergy-friendly, Almost-vegan Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

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One of the bummer limitations of my diet is that I can’t eat eggs. Well, I can, of course, but if I do I will develop a sore throat that usually turns into congestion and a full-blown cold. Isn’t that weird? I feel like it’s really weird. But it’s one of the things that triggers inflammation in my body, so it was one of the first things to go.

Eggs have been the most challenging thing to avoid, by far. And not just because I love a nice fried egg in the morning (which is exactly what I ate for breakfast for years), but because they are so vital to baked goods. I’ve been able to find replacements and work-arounds for wheat and gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and sugar. But take eggs out of a favorite recipe and you get a dramatically different result. So when I find a good egg-free cookie, I grab hold of it and never let go. Well, more accurately, I do let it go… right into my mouth.

After tinkering with this recipe a few times, I’ve made it my go-to. I always have these ingredients on hand and these cookies have proven to be a relatively quick and easy dessert to whip up and bring to a social gathering.

I originally found this recipe on Bethany Menzel’s blog (she is adorable!), but she got it from someone else who got it from veganhousewives.com. My adaptations made the recipe gluten-free and sugar-free. It is not nut-free but I think you could easily sub in your favorite nut-free flour and milk.  Honey is not considered vegan to some, hence my inclusion of “almost-vegan” in the recipe title. I have tried the recipe with stevia only, but I think the cookies needed more weight as is typically found with traditional brown sugar. The honey brings a nice weight while being a little healthier, but you could also use coconut sugar. If anyone finds a way to add a similar weight while removing the sugar, let me know! Stevia is great, but because a little bit of it goes such a long way it can’t do everything sugar does. Anyway, here is the recipe…

Allergy-friendly, Almost-vegan Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies
(adapted from bethanymenzel.com and veganhousewives.com)
Ingredients:
-3/4 Cup coconut oil, softened/room temperature (not cold!)
-1/4 cup honey
-Dash of Stevia (around 1/4 tsp.)
-1/2 cup almond milk (or milk of choice)
-1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
-1 cup arrowroot flour/starch (could use tapioca)
-1/2 cup almond flour (could use oat flour)
-1/2 cup brown rice flour
-1/2 tsp. baking soda
-1/2 tsp. baking powder
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/2 cup chocolate chips of choice
-3 Tbsp. flaxseed meal + 7 Tbsp. lukewarm water
-Coarse sea salt for sprinkling
Steps:
1- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2- In a ramekin or small bowl, mix flaxseed meal with lukewarm water to make your flax “egg.” Set aside.
3- In a medium bowl (I used the bowl of my mixer), cream oil and sweeteners, then add the milk and vanilla. I like to warm the milk a little so it doesn’t solidify the coconut oil too much.
4- In a separate bowl, mix flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
5- Add the flax egg and then the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in your mixer bowl. Mix or stir until combined, then fold in the chocolate chips.
6- Scoop out the dough by tablespoons and place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or baking mat (or ungreased cookie sheet). These cookies do not spread when baking, so flatten them as much as you like before baking. I roll them into balls and then flatten them a little with my hand. Sprinkle with sea salt.
7- Bake for 9 to 12 minutes (but watch them closely! Start checking them at 8 minutes just in case). Try not to move them until they are cooled or they will fall apart- trust me.

So there you go. Hopefully you will enjoy this recipe as much as I do. It took me 3 or 4 attempts to get it to this point, so it’s possible that I will discover ways to make these cookies even better, in which case I’ll need to come back and update this post.

*I also want to note that if you are looking for a good store-bought allergy-free cookie, check out Enjoy Life. They have soft and crispy cookies that are like manna from heaven for an allergy person, and I love to keep them in my pantry for those times when I don’t have anything healthy on hand or I have just experienced an allergy-free recipe fail and need to bite into a yummy cookie.

Do you have a favorite “alternative” or allergy free cookie recipe? If you try these cookies and have any questions or tips, please leave me a comment.

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2015 Verse of the Week #8: 1 Corinthians 10:31

2015-02-23 10.21.00I stayed up late last night with one of my best gals, watching the Oscars and eating yummy food that won’t make us sick. I’d say it was worth sacrificing a little sleep in the name of fellowship. Today is a work-from-home day so I allowed myself a little sleep-in, and am feeling pretty good despite my 1 am bedtime.

This week’s verse is actually just one verse, 1 Corinthians 10:31. The Seeds song is called “Whatever You Do,” track 8 on “Seeds of Purpose.”

24 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

This verse is brief and succinct, making it an easy one to memorize. It applies to people of different ages and stages of life who are striving to make godly decisions.

I do notice a tendency in our human nature to take words out of context and to a legalistic level, though, and I know that I personally need to be careful about that in certain areas, so I want to look at what this verse does and doesn’t mean. I think this verse is more about balancing freedom with humility rather than about giving us a rule to follow.

When we look at the chapter of 1 Corinthians 10, and more specifically verses 23-33, we can see that verse 31 is instructing the Corinthians in matters of conscience as it relates to food and drink sacrificed to pagan idols. As the early church grew they had to navigate more of these issues of conscience and how to behave as they represented the Way of Christ. Paul’s instructions to the people can be tied to themes of the freedom we have in Christ (v. 23 “all things are lawful”), the unity of believers (v. 24 “let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor”), and obedience to God (v. 31 “do all to the glory of God”). They were free to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols, whether they bought it themselves in the marketplace or they were served such meat at someone’s home, because their hearts were set on God and not on the idols. But in cases where it might bring offense to someone else, or give the appearance of condoning idolatry, believers were to abstain from such food. It is not about the letter of the law here, but about the heart of the believer and the proper representation of Christ.

Today we don’t need to worry about meat that has been sacrificed to idols, but the instructions in 1 Corinthians 10:31 still apply to us. From a simple, out-of-context reading it may seem that the instruction is to make everything in our life churchy, or constantly examine our actions to make sure we are glorifying God out of fear of punishment or failure. Don’t get me wrong; we should examine our actions and follow the Spirit’s guidance. A Christian’s actions should be different because of her/his relationship with Jesus. I can glorify God whether I am walking my dog or going through the checkout line at WalMart or driving my car. If I’m not using my time wisely when I’m by myself or with others, or if I’m acting without regard for others I am not acting in a manner that brings glory to God, and that is a problem. So those things are important, but I think the greater message of this verse is that we should balance our God-given freedom with God-given, Spirit-led self-control and responsibility. The message is to love God (which means obedience) and love our neighbors (which means humility and sacrifice) before we think of and serve ourselves.

I’m looking forward to meditating on this verse (and the verses around it) during the week. I actually started reading some commentary, and wanted to write more, but had to stop because I have other things to do today that are just as important as this… if not more important, because the other things have deadlines. I don’t think I can procrastinate to the glory of God, as hard as my mind tries to justify it. 🙂

I’d love to know: what does “do it all for the glory of God” mean to you?

You Are Enough

I read a beautiful blog post a couple of years ago by Kate Conner entitled Ten Things I Want to Tell Teenage Girls, and loved it so, so much. (Apparently a lot of other people did, too, because she has since published a book about those ten things– you can find it on her website.) The items on her list are– obviously– specific to teenagers, but number 10 can touch every woman’s heart, and there is truth for men in there, too. It certainly touched me. I actually printed a portion out and taped it up where I could see it every day. It’s easy to get down on ourselves, because we are surrounded by images or ideas telling us explicitly or implicitly what a successful human “should” be. We will fall short of those unrealistic standards every time. We can also get down on ourselves because we do legitimately mess up and make mistakes. But none of that cancels out the truth that each of us is wonderfully made with a unique purpose. One of my favorite sayings is, “Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful,” because it’s so true! So much of life is a process, and the going is often slow or difficult, but that doesn’t mean it still can’t be wonderful. We should do hard things. We should speak up. We should share with others where we are at in our process.

This week has been a mixed bag for me. Productivity-wise I accomplished some of the things I wanted to, but I also let myself down by putting off or neglecting some of my “to-do” items. While this week had some shining moments, I didn’t use all of my time as I should have. How about you? Were you winning this week, or left feeling like you can never catch up, or somewhere in between? I hope that these words will bring some inspiration to your heart like they do to mine, and that the weekend will bring some time for you to refresh and reset. Be gentle with yourself, but don’t forget that worthwhile accomplishments rarely come easily.

These words were written for teenage girls, but if you need them today, here you go. 🙂you_are_enough

2015 Verse of the Week #7: Psalm 37:4-6

This week’s passage is a favorite of mine, Psalm 37:4-6. The Seeds song is called “Delight,” track 7 on “Seeds of Purpose.” Again, these songs use the 1984 NIV translation, and the current NIV was pretty different, so I’m pasting the ESV translation here.

Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
    and your justice as the noonday.

I was in college when I discovered Psalm 37:4. At the time it seemed like God would make all of my dreams come true if I would just worship more or read the Bible more or something. I was very excited about the desires of my heart (which was boys, btw!), and not maybe as excited or informed about truly delighting myself in the Lord.

Looking back at the time between then and now, I have learned a few things about this passage (and I hope that I will continue to learn even more). What I see from these words now is that to delight in the Lord is to commit my way to him and trust him. Verse 4 is tricky because on the surface it sounds like God is a wish-granting genie. But looking at the rest of the passage and Bible as a whole, we know this is not true of his character.

God loves to give good gifts to his children, but he gives things that are good for us, that fit into his plan, and that are consistent with his character. So sometimes we will go through hardships, and we will still experience the natural consequences of our actions. On the flipside, sometimes we truly will receive the desires of our hearts, those things that feel like a dream come true. And when any of these things happens– when our dreams come true or when we go through trials– the blessings will be sweeter and the hardships will yield more growth if we will seek God first and foremost as our “delight.”

There are some desires in my heart that are not the most godly. While I do really want my character to reflect more of Christ, I would also like to have fancier clothes or furniture, or more spending money. I have actually received many of those things at different times in my life, but if I’m honest they have not done much for my heart. As I commit my way to the Lord I start to see that the things that grow my heart are what I really want from God. He has shown me that he is trustworthy, and as I have stepped out in faith, I have seen him act. I have also seen him bring forth righteousness and justice in my life as I trust and obey. And when that happens, it’s clear that it is God’s gracious and mighty hand working in spite of myself.

The title of Psalm 37 in the ESV is “He Will Not Forsake His Saints,” and it is full of wisdom and truth. I would encourage you to check it out, and certainly to meditate on verses 4-6 with me this week.

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I should add “dragging words around on the screen of your phone” to my list of memorization techniques! I used the Rhonna Designs app to make this image.

 

It’s Galentine’s Day!

My first post today was a little heavy, so it is with great joy and relief that I now share a fun and happy one to kick off this weekend of love!

In our house, we really enjoy tv. We have found several shows that we connect with (both comedy and drama), and we are probably those annoying people who make too many references to tv shows in regular conversation. Sorry! My family is this way, too, with our favorite shows and movies and even songs, so I come by it honestly. My dad said “girls just wanna have fun” so many times in response to our girlish antics that my sister thought it must be a line from the Bible. So it’s not in the cards for me to change.

Anyway, Parks & Recreation is one of “our shows” that Mike and I have gotten into, and after watching and re-watching all 6 completed seasons (it’s currently in its 7th and final season), a fictional holiday invented by the fictional main character has seeped into my consciousness. Last night I actually said to Mike, “Hey, tomorrow is Galentine’s Day!” I was genuinely excited about it because it is a day to celebrate your ladies. Now, I live far away from many of my dear gals, and even with my local girlfriends it’s tough to just “get the girls together” because life is not like tv. If it were, I would hang out with them every Galentine’s Day and probably every Friday at the same charming local eatery, at which time we would banter with the staff and one another, and I would have alllll the frittatas, because “tv Kristen” would not be allergic to them. But here we are, living our real lives in which eggs make us (me) sick and it’s hard to schedule a girls’ night.

But I am still celebrating! It will be with texts and Facebook messages and maybe emails, but I’m going to let my gals know that I love and appreciate them. My friends are smart, talented, creative, encouraging, dedicated, funny, kind, thoughtful, and supportive. They make me feel normal and special at the same time. My lady friends have enriched my life in so many ways.

Tomorrow is for the husbands and boyfriends, but today is for GALS. If you are a lady I would encourage you to join me in the celebration! Spread that love around! If you are a gentleman, think of how you can encourage and affirm the ladies around you, and if you’re a gentleman with a special lady, think about what you’re going to write in that V-day card. You can also encourage your fellow men, just, you know… in manly ways. Chest bumps? I don’t know what you guys do.

Other than the fun messages I plan to send out, I’m sure I will listen to Delilah tonight, too. My love for her show began ironically, because of her saccharine sweetness, but over time it turned into a not-so-guilty pleasure. Every Friday she celebrates “Friday Night Girls’ Night.” With Valentine’s Day so close at hand, I wonder what ooey-gooey sentiments she will serve up? I can’t wait.

Will you celebrate Galentine’s Day? How do your gals inspire you?

from Smart Girls at the Party

What I Won’t be Doing on Valentine’s Day 2015

I couldn’t stay silent about this weekend’s movie opening that has brought with it so much controversy. My husband told me, “You need to write about it,” and I was unsure, but ultimately I knew he was right. We will not be going to see Fifty Shades of Grey this weekend (or ever), and I am very concerned about what its popularity says about North American society right now.

I’m not going to say too much here, because I think the information and opinions are widely available online and my point has already been made. I’ll share some links below. But I do have some opinions of my own I would like to share. My opposition to the books and movie begins with my faith– it doesn’t end there, but it certainly is the strongest part. I believe that God designed sex exclusively for marriage, and that the sexual relationship should be one of love, trust, love, respect, and joy. I believe that external sexual/sensual images and words in the minds of one or both spouses can poison or even kill a relationship, and that the Bible tells us not to go there (1 Corinthians 6:18 is just one example). At the same time, I don’t think that relationship was designed to be boring by any means. But I do not believe that watching other people simulate sex as is done in this movie (or actual sex as with pornography) is a healthy way to “spice up” our own relationships. Off the top of my head, the book Sacred Marriage contains some really solid thoughts on sex within Christian marriage if you are looking to enrich your sex life in healthy ways. Also, weird as it may seem… ask your pastor for resources on the subject! I can pretty much guarantee that he or she will have some recommendations for you.

The only thing I did not read a lot of as I was following this movie was the way it twists God’s intent for gender roles. He established men as the head of the family, and I find it interesting that in such a feminist society where we have lost sight of this, many women are flocking to a story of a male who has total control over a woman. It is an unhealthy depiction, to be sure, but does it speak to a God-given desire for men to step up into their God-given responsibilities? Sadly, I think it might.

But here’s what’s most interesting to me about the negative “buzz” surrounding 50 Shades: many Christians, feminists, BDSM groups, and anti-domestic violence groups are all on the same page. When does that ever happen??? The core reasoning may vary from group to group, but the common thread is that this movie and book series depict an unsafe, unloving, and downright abusive relationship. From summaries I have read the story includes stalking, disrespect, sexual and emotional abuse, and even rape. The way the heroine’s thoughts and feelings are described is very similar to how victims of abuse describe their own thoughts and feelings. We all seem to agree that it is wrong for one partner to use control and violence over the other partner, and that it is dangerous for us to fantasize about (or engage in) such a relationship.

I think that’s all I really have to say. If you are considering seeing the movie I would encourage you to be informed before you welcome these influences into your mind and relationship. If you’re not seeing the movie I would encourage you to inform yourself, as well, and speak up about subjects of abuse, pornography, and marriage thoughtfully and respectfully.

Here are some links that might be helpful:

Why You Should Talk to Your Kids About Fifty Shades of Grey

Christian Women and Christian Grey

Should Christian Women Watch Fifty Shades of Grey?

The Real Abuse at the Heart of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

Five Things ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Teaches About Sex

Who Helps You Shine?

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This week I have enjoyed some encouragement from others. It’s nice sometimes to get a little pick-me-up or affirmation that you’re on the right track. But I am very aware that pride comes before a fall because I have proverbially skinned my own knees because of it many, many times. So in an effort to accept the encouragement graciously (rather than pat myself on the back for how awesome I am), and stay on the right track, I started thinking about what went into building the things in my character that people noticed. One person came to mind: my husband!

Now, I believe that God makes us each wonderfully and uniquely, with gifts and talents that we can contribute to the world. He made us so that we can grow and change, and for followers of Christ, he is renewing our minds and shaping our hearts so we will become more like him. I just want to give credit where credit is due: first and foremost, the Holy Spirit is responsible for growth in my character and gifts.

But God does put people in our lives to help with his work of refining, strengthening and growing. My husband is one of those people for me, and I don’t acknowledge that enough. Maybe it’s because we are so different that I tend to see our growth as happening on separate tracks. We learn in different ways and find interest and inspiration from different sources. It’s something that is good for our relationship, but also means we spend a lot of time politely listening to the other person talk about things we have no interest in. 😉 The good part is that listening to those different ideas makes us more well-rounded people. I would say that listening to what Mike has learned about life, God, the Bible, and people over the years has actually taught me a lot. And I know I would be exponentially more awesome if I would listen a little more intently. Something to work on.

I have also been shaped by his encouragement and support. Knowing that I am treasured and valued by him (even though he sees my weakest, darkest moments) brings security and confidence as I make decisions and live my life in general. Hearing affirmation from him about my gifts and talents helps me to keep going and even try new things.

This has not happened overnight; it is the fruit of lives faithfully lived through the power of God’s Spirit, made available to us through the sacrifice of Christ. I am so thankful to my husband for seeking to live faithful life in all aspects. He is not perfect, but he is always trying to be better. And he is perfect for me.

There are others who have shaped my character, to be sure. I have loving and supportive biological and in-law families and faithful friends who have celebrated and grieved with me, asked the tough questions, and given me grace.

I heard a song (video below) last night for the first time and thought it was sweet. It may be just a silly, simple love song, but it was what sparked the realization that my husband has played such a role in developing the very traits I was encouraged about by others. It also gave me the idea for the graphic at the top of this post. I thought, “a good man helps his woman to shine.” But it’s not exclusively a romantic thing, it’s a love thing between humans! So with love being all around as Valentine’s Day approaches, I would encourage you to thank the ones who help you shine, and give some of that love back.

2015 Verse of the Week #6: Matthew 16:24-25

2015-02-09 13.43.39I was at preschool this morning for one more subbing shift. That’s my excuse for the later-than-usual verse post. I also waited until afternoon before posting because I wanted to make sure I had time to write on my chalkboard and take a picture. Priorities.

My passage for this week is Matthew 16:24-25. The Seeds song is called “Follow Me,” track 6 on “Seeds of Purpose.”

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”

It’s kind of funny that the song for this passage is so upbeat, because the words can be hard to swallow. But obviously the song is geared toward younger ears, thus the emphasis on the “follow me” part, which I think is appropriate.

But those who are a little older and maturing in our faith will find ourselves confronted with some hard truths in this passage. Denying ourselves, suffering, following someone else, and losing our lives are not things we like to do or things that are celebrated by most people. Some of these things we might be okay with doing a little bit sometimes, but Jesus says we “must” do them, and he doesn’t leave much wiggle room.

This verse tells us exactly how to follow. Jesus tells us what to do and that it is very important. And while he is concise in his instructions, it does take a person some time to understand the fullness of the meaning and learn how to live it out. I’m still trying to figure it out, which is why I don’t feel super comfortable pinpointing here what the exact, practical applications are. What I do know is that I need to obey, and follow to the best of my current ability and understanding. I need to seek God’s wisdom and grace so that ability and understanding will increase as I go.

For me right now, this passage is a continuation of what I learned from Matthew 6:20-21 about holding my possessions loosely. I now have to take it even further, not only holding my possessions, but my very life with a loose grip so I can give God the honor and authority he deserves. Today I am reminded that my self-protecting, fearful desire for comfort is not conducive to Jesus’ instructions for his followers. This is one more thing I am to give up in favor of a closer walk with the one I claim to follow. What might that mean? Probably giving up some time. Some convenience. Some preference or pride. I know it definitely means continuing to allow the Spirit to train my mind to think of others before I think of myself.

Here are some references that helped my understanding today, and may help you. I’m just pasting the links I had open in my browser as I wrote this post.

Matthew 16:27 (a sobering verse that sparks much thought for me on the idea of merit in the light of grace, and almost immediately follows the instructions from verses 24-25 indicating an important connection)

Colossians 3:1-17 (More specifics on dying to self, actions to avoid or adopt)

Romans 6 (Even more specifics on Christ’s death as it pertains to us and our sin)

What does Matthew 16:24-25 mean to you?

A Child-ish Week

This week I’ve been spending my mornings with preschoolers. The preschool teacher at our church is on vacation, so I’m technically filling in for her, but the assistant teacher runs the show since she knows the kids, and I am an extra set of eyes and hands (and sometimes an extra corrective voice). The under five set is probably my all-time favorite demographic of people. They are energetic, curious, excited, and generally unguarded. They wear their hearts on their sleeves. I love to watch them discover the world. “This thing kind of looks like that thing!” “I saw this same thing at that place!” It often doesn’t take more than sharing rhyming words, a silly saying, a new song, or a simple “life hack” to light up one of those little faces with a smile of joy or confidence. I also enjoy the challenge of deciding when or whether to intervene for them. Sometimes they need my help, but sometimes they need to struggle a little and figure it out on their own. There are times that I could tell them how to do something properly, but other times it is perfectly fine for them to do it in a different way. On the other hand, there are times when I could let them tough it out but other times when they just need a hug and a helping hand. After all, they are still so little. Three or four or five years is not a long time to have been alive! That blows my mind every time, thinking about just how new children are to our world.

I observed many chuckle-worthy moments and thought I would share them here. I LOVE preschooler stories.

-The teacher showed the class a photo she took of a boat on the Sea of Galilee on a visit to Israel some years ago. As one of the little girls was looking at the picture she looked up at her teacher, confused, and asked, “But where are you in the picture?” The teacher explained that she was the one taking the picture, but that didn’t seem to ease the confusion. Once I added, “It isn’t a selfie, it’s only a picture of the boat,” that seemed to clear things up.

-I love a good non-sequitur, and one of my little friends can usually fill my quota for such statements… one morning he raised his hand to tell me that “lasers are good for getting bad guys because they can pew really far.”

-When talking about Presidents’ Day and how some presidents’ faces are on our money, a little boy turned to a friend and said he saw one of those guys on money that he “gave to Jesus at church.” His friend said, “to Jesus?” and the little boy said, “Yeah, you know- Jesus? [Pointing up] He’s dead?” Oh, that Jesus. 😉

-I also thoroughly enjoyed that one of the children says “next what” instead of “guess what” before sharing exciting news with teachers and friends.

Speaking of childhood, a piece of mine came screaming back to me last night when I happened to hear a reggae song that sounded kind of familiar. You may or may not (and probably don’t) know that in 1991 Disney released a CD called “Sebastian: From The Little Mermaid.” But we had this CD and I remember really enjoying it. The only song from the movie is “Under the Sea” (naturally), but other than that it’s just an album of Sebastian and Ariel singing covers of reggae songs. Since I didn’t love the idea of shelling out $99.99 or more for a used copy, I asked my dad if it’s still among his collection, and he found it! Soon I will have these songs for my very own. I’m sure it will be… not as good as I thought it was when I was eight years old. I did find a couple of the songs on YouTube and had fun remembering days and songs gone by. Now you, too, can enjoy Sebastian’s take on a beloved classic:

That’s it from me… off to preschool!

2015 Verse of the Week #5: Proverbs 3:5-6

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This week’s verse/passage is Proverbs 3:5-6. The Seeds song is called “Trust,” track 5 on “Seeds of Purpose.” I almost skipped this one because I’ve had it memorized for years, but I decided to go ahead and focus on it this week anyway. The Bible can teach us new things every time we read it, and I think the message of this passage can apply to our lives in very different ways at different times. It has certainly brought new truth to light for me.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

There is a huge difference in what this passage meant to me as a high school student preparing to go to college (I think that’s when I first memorized it) and what it means to me now as an adult. Thank you, Lord, for helping me grow and change and trust you in new ways!

When I read this passage today I felt something like a gentle tap on the shoulder from the Spirit himself, a whisper that prompted me to make a directional adjustment in my walk.  Today the conviction I felt was (graciously) gentle, and the changes seem easy enough, especially with help from above. This is how he makes our paths straight! His guidance is such an amazing gift!

I felt that the directional adjustment needed for me is in how I process and share my emotions. Sometimes I let thoughts tumble around in my head too much before sharing, and other times I share without really thinking at all. The danger with both of those choices is that the feelings can turn into something else altogether, and the result is counter-productive to my life and relationships.  I will need to make changes in two different areas: the first is in what I do when I first feel something, and the second is in how I voice it, specifically to my husband since he’s usually the first to hear about it. What a lucky guy!

The Spirit shed light on my frequent response of thinking and thinking and thinking when I encounter a more complex emotion. Instead, I really need to pray and pray and pray! Those two behaviors are so close in form (in other words they both feel like thinking), but have really different functions and roots in the heart. They also have different consequences. When I over-think and over-analyze I am being prideful, selfish, and lazy even if I don’t realize it. No good “fruit” will grow from this behavior- it’s like spinning my wheels. It will breed confusion, trouble, and sometimes just plain old drama. But if I pray, I will humble myself by acknowledging to God that I need and want to do what he would have me do. The fruits that come from this behavior are peace, wisdom, patience, humility, and more. This is not to say that I shouldn’t still think! I sometimes swing to the other end of the spectrum, sharing before I have given any thought to the matter at all, which has the same roots and can produce the same bad fruits as when I over-think, strangely enough. Thinking still needs to be part of the sharing process, but my thoughts should be rooted in Scripture and surrendered to the Lord to ensure good fruit.

I was also convicted that when I share what I’m feeling (specifically with my husband, but also with others) I need to be more calm, more specific, and more action-oriented. Often I just spill my guts to Mike, and while this indicates some good things like my trusting him, it’s often not helpful or productive, or even fair. Sometimes when I spill an emotion to Mike I am not even sure what it is yet, and in that confusion things can snowball and turn into something else entirely– molehills into mountains, as it were. This might include bringing up past hurts or blowing up an issue that is not the real issue. When I share these un-processed feelings I am putting onto my husband a responsibility that he should not and cannot bear– that of capital-d Discerner. Because I have the Holy Spirit with me at all times, I should turn to the Spirit as my first source for discernment since his wisdom is perfect and my husband’s is just not. So my new task is to share after prayer and with goals in mind about what I need from my listener. Maybe I will need just that: a listening ear. But I may need encouragement, affirmation, help identifying the next right step, or I may need something else that I’m not aware of yet (like correction– ouch!). It seems like this more prayerful way of sharing will be more beneficial and edifying to everyone around me.

Note: I definitely think it can be okay to spill or vent to a trusted person sometimes. I’m not saying that external processing is bad, or that we cannot benefit from those times when feelings just spill out. Sometimes we are overwhelmed and aren’t even aware of what we’re doing, and I have seen God graciously provide me with wisdom and clarity through that sharing process. But we need to be wise and balanced, and I believe the Spirit can train us to engage in new, more godly responses when we are overwhelmed (aka renewing our minds). And for me, right now, primarily in my marriage, I am seeing that I can serve the relationship by first turning to the Lord to discern what I’m feeling and why, and rely on wisdom from above when deciding what/when/how to share. I don’t want to share something when I’m “turned up to 11” that should be shared at a 5 or 3, if that makes sense.

I think this change in thinking and sharing is part of taking my thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), allowing God to renew my mind (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:20-24), learning humility, and just one more way in which I can acknowledge God as Proverbs 3:5-6 instructs.

It was not just Proverbs that inspired this conviction for change. I have been reading Christine Hoover’s blog for a while, and recently listened to a talk she gave to a group of pastors’ wives based on something she had previously written about: 4 Conversations to Have with Your Pastor Husband. One of the 4 conversations was “I need your help,” and it was her thoughts on that particular conversation that started me thinking about how I could be a better sharer. You can listen to or download the talk here, and I also found a link to download a pdf of the talk outline. The talk is pretty ministry-specific, but even if you are not in full time vocational ministry, the blog post is worth at least a quick scan.

I’m sorry/not sorry this turned into such a long post! 🙂 I ended up with more time this morning than I had previously planned thanks to a snow delay that canceled my substitute teaching gig at our church’s preschool, so I’m enjoying my warm house and warm coffee while the wind blows the snow around outside. I’m looking forward to being with the little munchkins for the rest of the week, weather permitting.