Ramblings of a Dietetics Major

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God

Can I just say that the past year has been hard? Don't get me wrong, many happy things have happened and I am so blessed in the life God has given me. But, commuting daily to an amazing (but out-of-the-box and challenging) job, being very involved in your various communities, and being newly married to a student in the final stages of his PhD work is not a cakewalk. Combined with turbulent political climates across the globe, two friends committing suicide, and general adult growing pains, it has been a lot to handle. My downfall is too much empathy, not too little, which combined with my desire to "do" and "fix" often leaves me feeling incredibly inadequate, overwhelmed, and guilty that I should be doing more. 

But, God reminded me today of what my life is meant to be. Micah 6:6-8 provides an excellent reminder of what life really should be about. I can't solve childhood obesity. I can't make everyone feel loved and valued. I can't end health disparities. I can't be the best family member. I can't even have a tidy and organized house all the time. And I definitely can't do all of these at once. Instead of being overwhelmed and frustrated by what I can't accomplish, I'm choosing to focus on the essentials of what is truly important. And, I think that maybe, just maybe, by refocusing on these things as my primary goals, the "big" desires I have to serve others just might happen. 

There truly is mercy, hope, and joy. And for this, I am forever thankful. 
Image taken from LostBumblebee, http://lostbumblebee.blogspot.com/

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Come Then, Lord Jesus

The whole creation groans, and wait to hear that voice,
That shall restore her comeliness, and make her wastes rejoice.
Come, Lord, and wipe away the curse, the sin, the stain;
And make this blighted world of ours, your own fair world again.
Come then, Lord Jesus, come; Come then, Lord Jesus;
Come then, Lord Jesus, come, Come, come.
From the hymn Come Then, Lord Jesus | Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)

This hymn is one that gives words to my feelings of the past few days. I think we can agree that killing another innocent human is a very wrong act, regardless of whether or not this person is living in a manner that we believe to be correct. What I find shocking is the idea that this is not a thought widely held  – even in the Church.

I am not saying that we should disregard we believe to be true. I am not saying that God has not given us a rule and standard to live by. In other words, don’t hear what I’m not saying (quoting one of my former pastors.) Instead, hear what I am saying: We as Christians should be compassionate. This should not be a thoughts-only compassion, but a real, live, tangible, noticeable way of life that sets us apart from the world.

Instead, I feel too often that the Christian community seems to be the exact opposite of compassionate. We don’t support government programs that help so many children and families achieve good health, because we believe they are entitlement programs. We don’t embrace immigrants because of their religious background or their immigration status. We even lack compassion towards one another when someone has different opinions about how to educate their children,  whether a woman chooses to work or stay home with her children (or do both), or even in things as petty as whether someone chooses to consume organically-produced or conventional food items. Even prior to the events of this past Sunday, I have become fatigued with lack of love and compassion found in our world, found in both Christians and non-Christians alike.

I am tired. Tired of the head-in-the-sand, hardened, apathetic attitudes that seem to be distinguishing characteristics of our culture. And, even if complete apathy has been avoided, what are we actually doing to make this world better? How are we actively bringing about God’s kingdom? How are we engaging with our friends and neighbors to show God’s love? How are we caring for our planet, so as to be good stewards of what we’ve been given?

In spite of my often frustrated feelings, there is hope (or rather, a Hope), and this is something that I need to remember daily. I am someone who is empathetic to the point of being almost daily exhausted by what I find in this world. The brokenness of this world is hard to handle. You may not think a dietitian – particularly one working in a retail setting – would see this in their daily work, but I absolutely do. I’ve seen firsthand how Iowa’s Medicaid privatization is crippling the ability of families to care for their children experiencing mental health concerns. I teach nutrition classes for juvenile delinquents who have little knowledge of how to prepare healthy meals or feed themselves well. I overhear conversations at the pharmacy with older adults who aren’t able to access their diabetes management supplies – all because of insurance issues and unnecessary red tape.

While I know that there are many factors involved in these issues and that there are valid points on both sides of the political fence as to how to address them, I still cannot help but feel that some compassion would help. I know the day of real and true compassion will not come until Jesus comes back, but I also think his Church can step it up a little in the meantime.

And so, in the midst of trying to live a life of compassion, I echo the refrain: Come then, Lord Jesus, come. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

On Love and Being Loved, Part One

Love it (no pun intended) or hate it, Valentine’s Day is here. While I have only been in a dating/marriage relationship for three of the twenty-six Valentine’s Days I’ve experienced, I must say that I’ve actually always enjoyed the day. Yes, there was some annoyance with the overly and outwardly affectionate couples, and there was sometimes that feeling of awkwardness about being one of the precious few single folks (or, so it seemed at the time.) But, overall, I have fond recollections of Valentine’s Day. From the homeschool group parties growing up to special packages from my grandparents to fun times spent with my roommates during college, I’ve never thought bitterly about this particular holiday.

But, I don’t think this is the case for everyone. My Facebook feed abounds with posts about embracing singleness (or, drowning your woes of such feelings with other similarly-placed friends), “Galentines Day” posts, and any number of other similarly-sentimented things. And, let me say right now, I think this can be good. Everyone is loved and valued and special; when they don’t believe this to be true, it makes me incredibly sad. We all need a boost sometimes. But, behind all of these “singleness power” or “I’m loved, too” style posts, I can’t help but feel that there is a sadness, a longing to belong, a desire to be (and more importantly feel) really and truly loved.

Case in point, my Google Play station just showed a “Being Single” mood for choosing music this evening.

And so, this will not be your traditional “I love my husband and here’s my gushing about how awesome he is” Valentine's Day post. He is, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think this is the time and place. And here’s why: I think, as a culture, we have a serious problem with the word “love.” We want to be loved, and loved in return, and I sense the hurt and longing associated with that word among those I interact with each day. But, when we place our focus on this romantic love, we lose sight of the greatest love in our lives, the one that gives meaning to the love we experience in our other relationships.

And so, friends, I hope and pray that you feel loved. Because you are. So much that someone (and not just “someone,” but the Creator of the universe) sent His only Son – completely blameless of any wrongdoing – to die for you. If that doesn’t give you meaning and purpose, I’m not sure I know what will. And this is just the point: When we look for fulfillment in dating relationships or marriage or our jobs or our children or any other thing, we won’t feel completely loved. These things are not where we’re meant to find our worth. All of them are good. All of them are from God. They can most definitely be used for His glory and to further His kingdom. However, when taken out of such context, the very things that make up the daily fabric of our lives lose part of their meaning.

While I am very happily married this Valentine’s Day and am looking forward to many more with my husband, I can also say that I was very happily single on Valentine’s Days past. Not that I never wished I was dating someone or never struggled at times with feelings of “what is wrong with me and why does no one seem interested in me?” I definitely did. (To put this in perspective, I went on my first legitimate date during my second year of grad school.) This feeling intensified when a brief dating relationship prior to my meeting Josiah came to rest. Through all these instances, though, I learned that my worth and meaning needed to be firmly and only rooted in my identity as a child of God. My purpose in this world is to glorify Him, and that can be done through a variety of ways – single, dating, or married. It wasn’t an “I don’t need a man!” attitude, but rather, one of relying on God to place me where He wanted me to be. And so, I have embraced the people and opportunities are around me.  I have tried to show others this same love and truth that I myself experience. And in these things, I have been content. In years past, I did not feel lesser (or superior, pending the circles I was in) to my married friends. I wasn’t particularly seeking out to change my life’s relationship status. I was really and truly fulfilled, happy, and loved, just as I am now. This has obviously changed in regards how it is experienced recently compared to previously, but the inner workings of Martha and how I feel have remained much the same. I can’t imagine my life without my husband now; he truly does complete me and points me daily - lets be real, multiple times per day - towards my need for Christ. But, I also felt complete prior to being married.

And so, friends, if my ramblings today have made no sense, remember this: No matter what your relationship status or lack thereof, please, please remember: You are loved, by me, by others, and most importantly, by the origin of all true love. Celebrate the day with flowers and chocolate and all number of other special things. But, please do not forget the essence of what it all means. 

On Love and Being Loved, Part Two

As a continuation of my previous reflections on love, I wanted to follow up with something a bit more specific: What human love really is. I know this varies depending on the person, the relationship, the circumstances, the like. Everyone is different. But, I do think there are some similarities.

And so, this post may really only end up being a shout-out to those in my life who do an amazing job of loving me and others. But, hopefully, this can be encouraging to you, too. Likely you help many people feel incredibly loved without realizing it. I often don’t feel as though I do a very good job at showing love to those around me. But, in that, I’ve went astray: I’m not the one doing the loving. Rather, letting God work through me and being willing to carry out His work is how to share and demonstrate this love.  

Now, without any further ado, the real meat of this message: What love really is.

Love is all the time, not just Valentine’s Day. Few things drive me more insane than the commercialism and single-day-nature of Valentine’s Day romanticism. It is a special day, for sure, and who doesn’t like valentines? However, I honestly really don’t care how I’m treated one day a year; I care about how I’m treated the other 364 days of the year.

One of the things I remember vividly about my parents’ relationship is that both lived this sentiment well. Valentine’s Day wasn’t a big deal – in fact, they even both forgot their anniversary one year. But, they never forgot they love they had for each other, which was visible on a daily basis. My dad would bring my mom home her favorite Girl Scout cookies when a coworker’s daughter was selling them or spontaneously buy roses or a plant because he thought it would brighten the kitchen (a location in which my mother, having five children at home, spent much of her time.) My mom made their house a home, caring for it, the kids, the day-to-day work; she would daily pack my dad’s lunch and make his favorite foods on especially rough days. My parents regularly made time to spend together. When my dad worked twelve hour days and my mom was busy caring for a home and homeschooling, I can imagine that was pretty difficult. But, they made it a priority. And because of this, they are still best friends and forever valentines almost twenty-seven years later.

                 My parents, Josiah and myself at the wedding.

In a similar way, Josiah has always very much demonstrated his love for me in real ways, both tangible and intangible. After my parents told him that I get rather, uh, cranky when I’m hungry, Josiah made sure to have my car stocked with (dietitian-approved) nonperishable snacks. Even before we were married, he insisted on doing the dishes each night before heading back to his apartment because he knew that messes stress me out. On more than one occasion (and often on no occasion in particular), he had flowers delivered to me at work because he knows how much I love any and all things green and floral. He custom-designed my engagement ring because he knew that I don’t really like big gemstones or traditional designs. He scrapes the car off every morning before I leave for work so that I don’t have to be out in the cold. I think you get the picture: He shows me, not simply tells me, that he loves me. Verbalizing love is important, too, but so are actions. If my reformed upbringing taught me nothing else, it instilled in my mind a sense of “actions speak louder than words.” I need to be intentional and do something about the things I say. And, while this may not be true always, I do definitely think it is such in regards to love.

And so, I challenge you: How can you show love to someone today, tomorrow on Valentine’s Day, and this upcoming week or year? It may be through something as simple as a smile or quick text message, or maybe through something as elaborate as a special meal or time spent together. And, of course, it should be something through which the other person will feel loved, not just an idea that you personally would like. However, whatever the avenue, know that it does matter; your actions will add true meaning and value to your words of love. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Of love and marriage

So, a few months ago, I met a guy. At church. A pretty nice one. I quickly came to appreciate his caring and kind spirit, witty and honestly sometimes slapstick sense of humor, and love for learning. Also, let’s face it, he’s an engineer, and we all know how dietitians and engineers tend to get along rather well. J  This appreciation grew into something much deeper and I must say that the past six months of knowing and growing closer to this man have been an immense blessing. But, this is not meant to be a “my boyfriend is amazing and I’m super happy” post (although, both of those facts are indeed true), but rather some way to coherently put together some things that have been floating around in my mind for some time as I’ve tried to piece together how my life could change and what that means for my service to God.

At face value, nothing has changed. I still engage in the same church and spiritual activities as previously. I still love people of all sizes, shapes, and sorts. I continue to desire for my life’s work to be to glorify God with the gifts He’s given me by serving others. But, somehow, these things all suddenly seemed threatened when I began pondering what exactly potential marriage would mean to these core elements of Martha. What if I cannot perform the same (or as many) volunteer activities as before? What if my work or family situation would change? How am I serving God then? And in this, I realized that somehow, my Reformed, Protestant upbringing (and very likely just the way my mind works), didn’t leave me with a great idea of how being married or pursuing marriage helps enables one to serve God. I very much believed that marriage was instituted by God to bring him glory, carried with it distinct responsibilities and privileges, and also was for the good of society at large. I had no qualms with the institution of marriage per se, but rather how exactly Martha could be serving God better in this role than in her current role as a single, newly graduated registered dietitian.

This Tim Keller quote, shared by a dear and wise church friend, was the first item to get me thinking more about what exactly this whole marriage thing is about:

Within this Christian vision for marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey that you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!’ “ (The Meaning of Marriage, p. 132).

As time went on, I started to actually read Keller’s book and talked to God, my parents, and others who care about me to help me grasp a greater understanding of how marriage could be a good thing – and could be a good thing for me. You may be half laughing to yourself, “Oh, Martha….” And, I would agree. I overthink most things, particularly important ones. However, I also am someone that needs to have a reason for things that I do, reasons that are grounded in Scripture and what I sense God is leading me towards. I do not take things lightly. Some people may not require this much processing time (so please do not feel bad if you do not connect with my sentiments!), but I definitely do.

Through my ponderings and God revealing to me more what marriage should mean/look like, I came to realize these things:

-Marriage is a way to make you holy. Actually, that’s kind of the whole point.

-Marriage is a way of displaying to the world the relationship that Christ has with the Church.

-Marriage is the way through which godly offspring are to be brought into the world.

-Marriage is not something that you have to have. Nor is it something you should avoid. It is something that God gives as a gift according to the council of His will.

-Aspects of marriage and such companionship can bring pleasure – and that isn’t wrong. Should that be your primary and only motivator? Absolutely not. But, can you enjoy what God has given you? I think the answer is most definitely yes.

-More directly serving one person through a marital relationship (versus many people at large) does not make one lesser. It is not less service to God. It is not more. It is simply another way through which God has provided us to glorify and enjoy Him.

I think I can get behind those reasons. Obviously, I probably wouldn’t want to pursue marrying someone that I wasn’t attracted to in other ways. But, many of these aforementioned items are things that I am already passionate about. I very much desire to serve others in meaningful, relational ways. I want to proclaim Christ to the world. I love kids and teaching them about God. And so, I came to decide that I had no reason to be at unrest because I was pursuing a more serious dating relationship. I’m still Martha, and God still loves me, and He will still use me in the best way possible to serve His purposes.

It’s hard, isn’t it, to shift our mindset of how we think God can use us? As I reflected more, I found that my identity was very much rooted in being single. Which, again, is not a bad thing. Probably just as well at times during the crazy busyness of studying that was my undergraduate experience. J But, truly, if my identity is found in being single rather than that of being a child of God, whose primary purpose is to glorify and enjoy Him – in WHATEVER situation that may be – how it this really any different than someone finding their identity in dating someone? Or being married? Or being a missionary? Or a mom? Or any other thing that replaces God? I really don’t think there is any difference, and if there is it is negligible. No matter whether you’re married, single, or somewhere in-between, God has it figured out and will give you the grace you need to accept when those life situations (almost identifiers in our culture) change. He is not thwarted by our human plans and desires, but rather uses them for His glory – which is incredibly comforting, freeing, and humbling all at the same time.

As I’ve already mentioned, I really, really hesitated to actually post this blog entry. I didn’t want to be one of *those* people who post gushy posts about their significant other and how happy they are. But, a part of me feels that there is probably someone out there who needs to hear some words of encouragement. Also, a semi-recurring fear in the back of my mind: What if things with this particular individual don’t work out and then I have this whole post – won’t that be super awkward? But, even in thinking this thought, I am again missing the entire point of everything I just wrote. I am a child of the King. Nothing more. Nothing less. If my identity is rooted in this, I cannot veer astray.

In the meantime, I am walking very contentedly and happily along the path in which God has placed me, assured that no matter what occurs, He will continue to lead me in the proper way.


So, the above post was written by me in late March of this year. Fast-forward to yesterday, July 8, a day in which I made the decision to accept and embrace the blessing that God has given me in the form of a fiancĂ©. His name is Josiah, he’s super great, and here’s a picture because I know you all want to see it:

He managed to surprise me utterly and completely (I was expecting this question to be asked later in the year), and truly did an amazing and humbling job in caring and honoring me that day. The ring included. I’ll probably post more about all that at some point. But, today, too much. Gotta get the story honed down to a 5 minute soundbite for interactions with friends and coworkers. J

Currently, I’m honestly in a state of many and confused feelings. I’m excited, super happy, and feel incredibly loved. Honestly, in a way that is very different and so much greater than anything I've experienced before. There are also elements of surprise, “what on earth just happened”, and honestly even a little bit of uncertainty if I made the right choice. But, I also think those feelings are completely normal. And Josiah has been great in supporting me in all those feelings and assuring me that he loves me for who I am. Just because I’m not outwardly elated and pinging off the walls (not saying that anyone else acted that way yesterday…. J) does in no means indicate that I’m not equally happy and excited for what God has in store. As I’ve trusted God in many decisions for many years, I will continue to trust Him in this one. I am humbled beyond measure to be so loved, both by God and by Josiah, and truly am in awe at the goodness demonstrated in it all. I’ve never doubted that God is good and loving, in spite of my many imperfections, but certain things in life make this all the more evident. This is definitely an indication and reminder of that great love. 

And I couldn’t be happier.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The more things change...

The more they stay the same. I do agree with some connotations of this time-honored phrase. I thought I would be less busy after finishing grad school. I’m not. I thought a new job would make me all the more convinced that I would love being a dietitian. It has not. (Well, at least not often enough for my liking). I thought I would have my life together and feel mature enough to handle it when I was 24. I definitely do not.

And another thing that definitely has not changed for me: My inability to handle silence. Pretty sure there is another blog post on here to that effect. Don’t get me wrong, I do like a little quiet every now and then. A country kid at heart, living in a city (yes, Iowa City is a big place to me; I give you permission to laugh at me) can sometimes be a challenge. I need to be outside in the quiet on a regular basis. I am also one of those odd people that enjoys silence when they’re home alone. I’ll occasionally play music, but I overall very much appreciate the silence after being around intercoms, noise, and commotion for 10-12 hours a day.

So what exactly is the type of silence I struggle to handle? That of not being around people. Alone time is important, don’t get me wrong, but my quota of alone time is 30-60 minutes a day tops and then I start to go stir crazy. Maybe it’s because I grew up always around my family. Maybe it’s just because God has willed for me to be an incredibly extroverted and people-loving individual. I really don’t know. But I do know that it is a hard thing for me to process. And sometimes Martha left with too much processing time can be a very interesting thing…

I spent Christmas this year predominantly solo. Please know that this is not a plea for feel-sorry-for-me pity. My situation this Christmas happened of my own choosing due to conflicting work/family/life schedules. And as a result of these occurrences, I was able to spend part of the afternoon with a pretty great guy. So all was most definitely not lost. J But, this did cause me to ponder, yet again, why I struggle so much with being by myself – for more than an hour. Maybe I don’t want to take the time (or be perceptive and patient enough) to actually think about deeper life questions. Maybe it’s because I’m more exhausted than I care to admit and am embarrassed when I catch myself falling asleep when I was not intending to. (No joke, I went to bed at 7:40 p.m. last night). Or, maybe it’s because humankind is meant to be innately social. Or maybe it is for none of these reasons. I still have no good answers except for the fact that I know it happens and I’m still trying to figure out how exactly to handle it.

I do think it’s a good thing, to be a bit uncomfortable sometimes, to have time and space to think, and to actually take the time to do so. I wonder if the root of all these struggles I have with silence (and rest, for that matter) is that I am a bit too much of a Martha. In spite of the fact that I wrote my entire Christian Scriptures II exegesis to prove that Martha was not as evil as we often make her out to be, I will admit that she had some flaws, ones that I definitely possess. I’m almost always “doing", never resting, not always reflecting, and these are, when boiled down to the heart of the matter, ways to try and exert myself as a mini-god over my life. I was raised a good enough Calvinist to know that I am not solely in control of my life. But, by keeping myself constantly busy, immersed in “noise”, etc., I am in essence saying that I think I can live my life the way I want and please God. No rest or silence needed, both of which God instituted for our own good. For the past 6+ years, God has been trying to get my attention in that area. And while I covered this up with college, grad school, etc., these things are not excuses. It’s really only been over the past 6-12 months that I’ve thought more deeply about these things and tried to make intentional changes – not only for my own sanity and wellbeing, but more importantly to follow the life pattern God has laid out for His people.

Please do not take this all to mean I think I’m a terrible person because I like to be busy and love people, because I don’t. I know God gifted me in those ways for a reason and these Martha-tendencies can be used for His glory. But, I also know, it is very easy to have my biggest strengths become my biggest weaknesses – a phrase my dad repeated often from a sermon or some such source during my childhood. And it is true. And thus I am glad that God has, once again, reminded me of my need for still silence as well as my need for Him.

So, if you’re in a similar place, know you have found a kindred spirit. If not, hopefully this helps you appreciate that the struggle is real for some of us extroverted, busy humans. Good thing God made us all different, isn’t it? I am ever-thankful that He extends His grace to even the most complicated and confused folk such as me. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Being Secure in Insecurity

I really was not planning to continue this blog, since I do an incredibly poor job of updating it and generally feel that I have very little to say that many would find interesting. But, I have since been reminded that writing helps me process thoughts better. And if it encourages someone else in the process, all the better! All this to say, my ramblings will continue. Prepare yourselves. :)

Life update: I graduated (yay!), have a full-time job as a retail dietitian, am an adjunct professor at Iowa, turned another year older, and life in general has been good. Definitely busier than what I thought – after all, your life gets less crazy the older you get, right? (You can laugh at me now – because I am). I believed at least some of the busyness would subside with not being in school, but that has not been the case. I’ve maintained my long-held belief of “just keep plowing through”, so at least I have that going for me. And I wouldn’t not be involved in any of the things that occupy my time. So I’ve decided to quit complaining about it and continue to enjoy the various opportunities, relationships, and activities that God has placed in my path.

One incredibly beneficial activity I’ve been able to be involved in this fall is a discipleship group at my church. More focused on how we cultivate a Gospel-filled life, how to disciple others, and theology versus solely Bible study, this is exactly what I needed at this point in my life. I had inklings, but didn’t fully realize, how many spiritual things I’ve either not thought through completely or have ignored for the past 6ish years while being in college. I don’t regret decisions I made about my faith and how I engaged in it during these years, but I am definitely aware that more intentional cultivation needs to happen as I embark in my adult life.

One area of weakness that has become especially obvious to me during this study is that of insecurity and self-worth. I have always had a firm foundation in my worth being defined as a child of God whose sole purpose and mission is to serve and enjoy Him. I am ever-thankful that my parents instilled this in me at a young age. However much I may hold this belief, however, deeper reflection has revealed that I don’t always act that way.

Take my job, for example. First, starting a new job is always hard and you will be worried about a variety of things. However, I have noticed that I have been thinking much more about how my actions are perceived, how others subsequently treat me, and other similar things, which in turn play into how I feel about my work. Some of this is a good thing, to be sure. Reflexivity is often beneficial. But, I also cannot let these thoughts cripple me or make me feel awkward and ineffective all the time.

In a similar way, my relationships with others should not define my worth or security in myself. Obviously, these relationships with family, friends, and others are incredibly important. And being someone who is rather extroverted and incredibly people-centered, likely I am more affected by this than others. However, I need to derive my ultimate assurance of worth, satisfaction, and security in Christ alone. 

When I take the time to dig through my thoughts and actions down to the core, it is amazing how many are rooted in these sinful patterns of insecurity. Naming and owning it is part of solving the problem, but the true solution comes when these things cause us to fall all the more on Christ’s atonement and God’s redeeming love and grace. I cannot be full and complete on my own, to be sure. But, I do happen to have a God who makes this possible and who uses these things to draw me closer to Himself. And for that I am forever thankful.

Now that my philosophizing for the day is complete and the temperature has risen to 20 degrees, I think it’s time for a Saturday morning run. We’re even supposed to get snow today, so I’m pretty excited. J Enjoy the day, friends!