One of the Most Valuable Lessons You’ll Ever Learn About Ministry

this treasure

I will never forget the first Ladies’ Retreat that Camp JIM hosted after our family joined the staff.  It was the first time I had ever helped plan a retreat, and to say I learned a lot would be an understatement!

Our theme that year was “Beauty for All Seasons,” and our speaker, a pastor’s wife, was sharing about how God works in the different seasons of our lives. Little did I know she was in a very difficult season herself, and it was because of this that she unintentionally shared one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned about ministry.

That year was one of the biggest retreats we’ve ever had, and to be honest, I think quite a few of the women were there to check out the new director and size up the direction the ministry might take.  Many seemed guarded, and the mood was pretty serious, though I noticed some “reunions” taking place as old campers were seeing each other for the first time in years. We had a hilarious group of older women sing as a special Saturday event, and their comedic music was the bright spot in the afternoon.  All in all, it was pretty standard, for a ladies’ retreat.

And then, something happened that changed everything.  During our Saturday evening session our speaker got real.  As she talked about the autumn of our lives, the season she was living, she began to share the struggles her family was going through.  They were the kind of struggles that no one wishes to experience.  The kind you don’t get through without faith.  The kind you can’t talk about without sobbing.  The kind that showcases God’s glory because He is right there in the middle of the mess, rolling up His sleeves and working side by side with you–pruning your life and polishing all your rough places.

As she struggled to speak through gutteral tears, every protective wall in the room came down that night,  like Jericho, truth spilling and stories tumbling out as the pretense and fear of being “less than” fell away.  Those women stayed up all night sharing their stories; every woman had one.

Every woman HAS one.

You have a story.

Your story has been instrumental in shaping you, but it doesn’t define you;

it changes you, but it doesn’t make you.

Your story is God’s glory.

 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-10

You are an overcomer through Christ.  And the thing is that your story, God’s glory, isn’t meant to be hidden away, but shared because someone else is right now walking a similar path to the one you have already grown familiar.

Have you overcome depression?  Someone else is experiencing despair.

Are you experiencing the freedom of forgiveness?  Someone else is living in shame.

Have you recovered from a financial disaster?  Someone else has lost everything.

Have you survived miscarriage?  Someone else has empty arms.

Was your daughter among the 1 in 3 who is sexually assaulted, and you have walked that path with her?  Someone else’s world just caved in.

Have you forgiven the unforgivable?  Someone else is embittered.

Have you lost a loved one to cancer?  Someone else’s beloved is still in the battle.

Been abandoned?  Broken?

Isn’t it out of our brokenness that God does a new thing?  He said to comfort others with the comfort you have received.  2 Corinthians 1:4

What is your story?

Sharing your story, comforting someone else with the comfort Christ has given you, it reaffirms your victory in Christ.

It softens hearts.

It breaks down walls.

It establishes safe zones.

It declares hope.

It precedes victory.

It cleanses wounds.

Treasure in Jars of Clay.  One of the most valuable lessons you’ll ever learn about ministry?  Be REAL.  TRANSPARENT.  Your story becomes your testimony.  You are not “less than” because of what has happened to you; you are “more than” because of the Christ treasure in you.  Instead of pretense that showcases how great you are, your brokenness allows others see HIM.  And that is what ministry is all about.

 

Photo credit goes to Pixabay.

 

How to Make Coconut Water Kefir

In my journey to health I spent a long time eating Body Ecology style, which eliminated some foods, included some lesser known foods, and incorporated proper food combining.   I still apply some of its principles to the meals I prepare for my family.  Body Ecology founder, Donna Gates, highly recommends coconut water kefir.  She sells it on her web site, but being who I am, I opted for affordability and the challenge of making it myself.

Not to be confused with coconut milk, coconut water is found in young green coconuts, before it is replaced with coconut meat.

I was told by a “sample lady” at Costco about one of her customers who had served in the military.  He said that in times of war, when no IV fluid was available, they used straight coconut water in the IV’s of the wounded due its purity and high electrolyte content. Bottled coconut water is not as ideal as fresh, but this is what I have to use.

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Coconut water contains some B vitamins, and is high in potassium and sodium which are good for adrenal health.  It is sweet, as it contains easily digested carbohydrates which is what makes it suitable, temporarily, for kefir grains.

The name Kefir means “feel good” in Turkish.  Kefir contains the essential amino acid tryptophan which helps calm the nervous system and is also used by the body to produce serotonin.  Serotonin affects mood, appetite, digestion, sleep, and memory.

There are two types of kefir grains.  One thrives in milk and the other in sugar water (called water kefir).  I have not made water kefir, though I someday hope to try it.  I already had dairy kefir grains and so I use them to make my coconut water kefir.  If you have an allergy or intolerance to milk, you may want to use water kefir.

A mixture of live yeasts and bacteria, kefir grains digest sugars in the beverage they are added to, fermenting it into a sour but probiotic rich drink.  Combining the coconut water and kefir gains you the benefits of both, but with less natural sugars.  It provides good bacteria to populate your gut where most of your immune system resides and it improves digestion along the way.

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Here you can see my kefir grains have been busy turning this milk into a thick kefir. They tend to float up toward the top.

I use a plastic mesh strainer that came with the Kefir Kit I bought from Cultures From Health to rinse my grains.  Never use metal with your kefir grains.  Use a plastic strainer, but store your grains in glass so that your kefir does not leach chemicals from the plastic.

Kefir 3

When I wash the grains under cool water, I use a wooden spoon or clean hands to rinse the milk off as best as possible.

Because milk kefir grains thrive in milk, it is important not to keep them out for too long. They do not convert the coconut water as quickly as they do milk.  The grains will float up and down in the liquid.  Milk kefir is ready to consume 12-24 hours after adding grains, depending on how thick and how sour you want it.  I leave my kefir grains in coconut water between 2-3 full days.  I often do 2 batches in a row so my fridge is stocked and then I promptly put the grains back into milk for one or two cycles to make sure they are fed well and strong before placing them back into the refrigerator to store.  If they spend too much time in the refrigerator they will lose their ability to ferment.  As long as I give mine a couple of days in milk on the counter every two or three weeks they are fine.

Kefir 6

Once your coconut water kefir is done fermenting, strain the grains out and add to a clean glass container to either make more coconut water kefir or refresh with milk. Store your finished products in the refrigerator.

Drink 1/4 cup in your Plexus Slim for a lemonaidy taste or with meals for better digestion.  My little ones beg to drink it anytime as they are accustomed to sour flavors and enjoy them.  I love this since I know I am giving them something that will protect their immune system and benefit them in many ways.

Are you ready to add this to your wellness routine?

If you do not already have kefir grains, or don’t know anyone who can share (they multiply over time) you can order a starter from Cultures For Health.  The grains come dehydrated with detailed directions on rehydrating and using.  The website also has many video tutorials and recipes for using their cultured products.

If you would like to read about more of the health protecting benefits of kefir, Dr. Axe has a good article.

If you plan to make a boosted rice sourdough starter, this coconut water kefir is what I used to create the starter.  Look for instructions in a future post!

Can you use milk kefir grains to make kefir from coconut milk?  Umm, yes.  I did it once with canned coconut milk.  It worked.  It was also one of the few things that ever made me gag!  😉  So, you can try it if you want to.  Maybe you will like it better than I!!

My Journey to Health & Weight Loss, Part 2

 

Journey to health part 2

To Read Part 1, visit HERE.

I think it was some time during month 2 of dietary changes that I decided to add back in the meat and proteins that I had removed to follow the detox diet.  I used a salad plate for meals instead of a dinner plate, and continued to eat gluten free and sugar free.  There were no frills to my food, you know?  Just the basics: meats, grains, fruits and vegetables,  and with the Slim I wasn’t really hungry a lot of the time.  I continued to steadily lose weight, but more slowly than the first month.  I was able to dig out tubs of clothes that had been packed away for years, and it was like Christmas finding pretty an things that fit.  I felt less sloppy when I looked in the mirror.  I was standing up straighter, sleeping better at night, the natural practitioner I checked in with said my blood sugar levels were amazing, and my brain fog was lifting.  I didn’t remember ever having so much energy.

{11 weeks of gluten free, 10 weeks of Plexus Slim}

Years earlier, when I was pregnant with our first baby, I had researched an education in natural health, but it had not been feasible at that time, and over the years and our growing family I had forgotten that dream.  Now that passion began to rekindle, and my husband and I started discussing the possibility of me taking some classes in order to help our family instead of paying someone else.

I decided to get my feet wet.  One class, I decided, to see if I could really do this school thing, and find out if I liked it as much as I thought I would.  It was a block class that was held for long hours, several days in a row, and I had to travel away from my family to do it (which if you know us–it is a huge thing).  The class was on Enzymes and the part they play in our bodies, and I loved it.  I had learned just enough over the years, because of my own research and experimentation, to understand what the instructor was explaining and it made sense… a LOT of sense.  I was never going to look at nutrition the same way, ever!

I came home from that class armed with knowledge and a whole lot of enzymes!  I started giving them to our family with every meal, and tackled the job of changing our children’s diets.  I switched them to a primarily gluten free diet.  I worked the refined sugar out of their diets, too.  Within 6 months I noticed many of the health quirks each child had suffered were resolving… gone was bloat, dark circles under eyes, immune function improved and they stopped catching EVERY bug that went around, my husband’s heart burn went away and he was able to stop using kombucha after every meal, and the list is LONG.

Even with the Plexus Slim and dietary changes, I had continued to have soreness in my knees which had persisted since 6 weeks following that fateful tick bite and rash.  Applying the knowledge I had gained about enzymes, this pain now went away.

My husband and I began planning for my continuing education.  I felt like God was propelling me forward, and my confirmation was my husband’s persistence in sending me despite the fact he hardly sleeps when I am gone, so this was a huge deviation from the norm.  People started sharing with me on a regular basis about their struggles with Lyme Disease, even people I didn’t know—it appeared epidemic and I felt a burden to help others.  By the end of that first year, I completed certification as a “Natural Health Professional”.

I had been sharing Plexus Products with other people.  I genuinely wanted to see others attain better health, and I felt that sharing Plexus products could be part of that journey for others while helping me pay for my own products.  However, people are creatures of habit and we tend to take the easiest path.  So many wanted a product to do it all for them, wanted immediate results, and weren’t willing to make long term lifestyle changes to see that come about… in addition, because Plexus is structured as a multi-level marketing company I was concerned that people I might really be able to help as a practitioner may avoid visiting me for fear I would just try to sign them up in my downline.  I stopped sharing about Plexus.  I pulled back.  I experimented with what I had learned~ one can gain a lot of practical experience working with a large family.  😉

6 months into my own Plexus experience I discovered I was pregnant and stopped taking Slim with the intention of going back to it after the first trimester.  I suffered an early miscarriage.

My husband and I have committed our family planning to the Lord, and I knew another pregnancy was possible. Having lost a total of 50 pounds, I was comfortable with my weight and my body for the first time ever. God had been changing my heart in amazing ways.  He had used the difficulties of this season in my life to teach me to look to Him alone instead of looking to others for answers and approval. My “why” became completely focused on pleasing Him and being available to walk in His will.

I made the decision not to go back on the Slim, but to take time to evaluate where my health was without it.  My goal was not to need it.

Great progress had been made in rebuilding my health, but when I stopped taking Slim my energy plummeted again.  The rule of thumb for any practitioner working with someone who suffers from nutritional deficiencies and needs to rebuild their bodies is that after applying appropriate changes, it will take 3 months PLUS 1 month for every year an individual has lived with the deficiency for their body to regain proper balance.  In addition, the body picks its own order of priority.  The symptom you want to eliminate is often not the first thing to resolve.  The tick bite had been a catalyst to my making appropriate changes, but my health had been a struggle since I was in grade school, and I had been diagnosed with Environmental Illness and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as a young adult. 6 months of doing things right had only reached back 3 years in my health history.  I had a LOT further to go.

In my studies, I kept reading about the importance of proper food combining over and over.  Grrr.  This was another change I really didn’t want to make, but after it popping up in my studies so often, I began to feel like God was beating me over the head with it.  So, I obeyed.  Eventually I found the best platform for doing this was by following a Body Ecology Diet.  This diet is also good for controlling candida, which was a plus I needed.

In addition to food combining, my goals were to increase nutrition and decrease empty calories.  I made sprouts and learned how to cook some new foods, including coconut water kefir and kimchi.

I quickly became pregnant again, and this time I miscarried at 12 weeks.  It was a heart break and emotionally draining, and I also bled heavily which caused symptoms of severe anemia.  I continued to eat right, packing in the nutrients, and paid special attention to iron rich foods.  I took Maca Root, an adaptogen that slowly and gently aided my stamina and is good for hormones and reproductive health.  It is nutrient dense and rich in essential fatty acids.  As a result of the healing that continued to take place in my body, over the course of the next 6 months I slowly lost an additional 10 pounds.

Education wise, I really felt that I had barely scratched the surface of what I should learn, and so I continued studying and my family sacrificed to send me to more classes.  I became a Health Kinesiologist, and it changed our lives.  It will take a whole post to share exactly what that is, but I can start by sharing that the allergies that we have suffered with our whole lives are becoming a thing of the past as I take time to do the corrections.  Candida overgrowth is gone.  I have absolutely no residual symptoms of any tick borne illness.  HK is also a wonderful tool to aid emotional healing and the physical symptoms that can be a tied to emotional distress as our body, mind and spiritual health are intertwined.

God blessed us with a beautiful baby girl who is now 17 months old, and she is a lively, mischievous and healthy sweetheart.  God’s grace is abundant.

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I am 3.5 years into this health journey: 3 months plus a month for every year takes me back to those grade school years when my original health issues began in earnest.  I am following a ketogenic diet and am aware that a lot of detoxification has been happening… this has been something I have known I needed to do for a long time, and I believe it may be the last major step in healing.  I recently decided to try Plexus Slim again as Plexus has improved the formula and I wanted to rebuild muscle.  It’s still a great product, and yet I am grateful that I have not noticed any marked change in my energy.  I don’t NEED Plexus products to feel good anymore, though I know they are a beneficial product for my health.  The chronic fatigue that I have lived with since childhood is GONE, Praise the Lord!

God answers prayer.  I’m still studying.  Still learning.  I believe I always will.

God is the Master Healer.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

Whatever it is you may be struggling with, ask Him what to do and then listen carefully… pursue Him, expect to feel a little nudge, and then buckle up.  His plan is always bigger than anything you and I can imagine.  God NEVER wastes pain.  He will never waste any experience you go through if only your submit your plans to Him.

Even the most difficult experiences we feel that we may barely survive are, as Ann Voskamp calls them, “Hard Grace”, but grace nonetheless.

He takes our impossible and turns it into glory.

glo·ry–

noun: glory
1.  high renown or honor won by notable achievements.

synonyms:renownfameprestigehonordistinctionkudoseminenceacclaim,  praise

2.  magnificence or great beauty.                                                                                                          synonyms: magnificence, splendor, resplendence, grandeur, majesty, greatness, nobility   {a thing that is beautiful or distinctive; a special cause for pride, respect, or delight.}

3.   praise, worship, and thanksgiving offered to a deity.