A poor widow. A rich man.

A few mornings ago I took to my journal and began writing out my prayers.

Lord, thank you for your mercies that are new every morning. Please forgive me for my selfish heart, going to social media and the news before you. I still get anxious about what you might say to me if I open up and pray, so I push it off. But you are what I need. The other things suck me dry and fog my head and make me sad and grouchy. That’s how I feel now.

But then I stopped. I realized that while everything I wrote was true, I was trying to put on my best face. Trying to put a good spin on it. So I continued…

I need to be honest with you.

Honestly, I’m tired and hungry. I wish I were back in bed. My expectations for this time with you are low in a bad way, and I’m mad at myself for going to electronics before you. I can never seem to get it right. I tried to pray, but it was a flop. No power. No idea what I’m doing. I don’t see the power in prayer.

But, this is why I need to spend time with you. You, Lord, are the safest place to process all this. With you, I’m free to fail and grow. And I need you to develop me. You’re the one with the answers. But… you’re not just some guru…you’re where I belong.

At this point, I decided to start digging into the bible. My bible study group is reading through the gospel of Luke, and the next section read,

While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”

Luke 21: 1-4 NLT

I stopped here because it showed me something. We’re all bound by our own circumstances.

This showed me that we can’t all offer God the same things. But there’s also not a specific standard he’s holding us to. In my Americanized understanding of this passage, the widow had two pennies. On their own, two pennies are worthless. Compared to the rich who gave, say, hundreds or thousands, the two pennies are shameful. Embarrassing. Pointless.

In his commentary on Luke, titled BE Courageous, Dr. Warren Weirsbe said, “God sees more than the portion; he also sees the proportion.”

This is why I can find no help in comparing myself to another. This is why, when I spend time with the Lord, it is not helpful thinking about how much better someone else is at it than me. Or how much better someone is at prayer or why it seems like someone else has something figured out better than I do. When I do this, I get frustrated and discouraged and I feel like I’m never enough. Never even close.

The widow is also talked about in Mark 12:43. In this telling, Jesus called is disciples to him when he saw what the widow was giving. They weren’t watching the people like Jesus was. They were doing something else, I suppose. But it was so important to Jesus, that he called them to him.

Digging in further, I noticed that the rich people “gave a tiny part of their surplus.” This implies that they had an abundance. They had more than they needed. And, they also kept as much of it as they could.

But the widow, she had “given everything she had to live on.” That tells me volumes about her heart. She didn’t have a surplus. All her needs weren’t being met.

In 2 Corinthians it says,

“For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.”

2 Corinthians 8:12 ESV

We aren’t judged by what we don’t have. So, what someone else does bears no weight on my own value, purpose or calling. I am judged by what I have and what I do with it.

God looks at my heart, my experiences, my choices, my resources, and my capabilities ….independently of others.

The rich man could have pleased Jesus by giving everything he had.

The widow could have given nothing at all.

Again, it’s not’s not about how much or little I have. It’s what I do with it.

I think that’s why comparison, or envy, is so dangerous and why “do not envy” is one of the ten commandments. Instead of focusing on what we have available before us, we get trapped into how it compares to others.

But God isn’t looking at everyone else when he’s looking at me. He looks at me. And only me. And wonders what I’ll do with what I have. He wonders about the state of my heart. He wonders about my motives. How will I respond? How will I react?

I guess to sum it up, I don’t know how to pray, be generous, or live my life well. But, I know who does. And he’s willing teach me everything I need to know. So, without looking to the left or to the right, I’ll set my heart on him and follow where he leads.

I hope you’ll do the same.

My Shelter

Only God could have prepared me for the coronavirus pandemic like he has. Had I known ten years ago, five years ago, even this time last year that this world crisis would come, I would have lived in total fear and tried in my own wisdom and power to prepare.

But in the midst of planning and worrying and preparing, I would not have learned all I have about God. I would not have learned how good he is. I would not have learned how deeply he loves me. I would not have learned of his faithfulness and power. I would’ve ended up living in a panic, ultimately doing it all without him. And when the crisis came, I would not have known him.

Instead, I am living through this with anticipation for all he’s about to do, and in wonder of all the ways he’s already provided. Looking back even over the last three months, I see how he’s made me ready for this.

Over the last week and a half, since this pandemic came to the US, I keep hearing over and over again from different people the reference to Psalm 91. It seems to be the hallmark passage for this crisis. Today more than ever, it means so much to me.

My take away today is that I don’t have to live in fear of what the future holds. I just need to always, in all things, trust the Lord my God. He will direct my steps and set me on the right path.

Psalm 91 NLT

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.
Just open your eyes,
and see how the wicked are punished.
If you make the Lord your refuge,
if you make the Most High your shelter,
no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your home.
For he will order his angels
to protect you wherever you go.
They will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.”

A gift of right perspective

I’ve been a little too lax in terms of my diet lately. If you don’t know anything about my last year in food discoveries, I found out this spring that I had SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and in order to help my gut heal I had to stay way from coffee, peanuts, almonds, dairy, and all grains, among other things. My gut is healing though and I have hope that someday I’ll be able to add some of these back in, as I’ve been able to do with tomato paste. But for now this is what I’m living with.

None of these are full out allergies, but they are bad enough that my quality of life drastically goes down when I have them. For instance, grains make me depressed and sometimes anxious for days. I don’t really know the science behind why, but I’ve experimented over and over again and this continues to be the case.

When I’m faithfully staying away from all these categories, I can have the occasional “dairy” treat if I take a lactase enzyme. And I can handle going out to a restaurant if there are trace amounts of gluten. But the last couple weeks I’ve taken full advantage of those lactase enzymes and we’ve eaten out several times. And last night I was in the dumps. It was like I couldn’t think straight. Logically I knew everything was fine, but it’s like I was paralyzed from being able to do life as I normally do. Depression and anxiety does that.

This morning I’m feeling better. We stayed home from church so that I could get a good long night of sleep in. Sleep is so important when I get to this point. And I had a dream that had me waking up feeling incredibly thankful for the home that I have.

To give some perspective, I make 90% of my food from scratch these days so that I can know they’ll be free of all of the above (which is why Danielle Walker’s cookbooks have been such a lifesaver for me.) And while I love cooking and it’s been fun, I also get frustrated that so much of my time is spent “working”. I work a 40hr a week job and then come home and work at home cooking and cleaning. It’s hard to find time a good balance where I am also able to have fun and adventures.

But this dream I had last night helped me to appreciate all I have. In my dream Luke and I were living on a college campus, as dorm hosts of some kind. We had gotten the tiny dorm perfectly cozy when another couple came to move in. They also had a crazy intense friend who declared he’d be over all the time and we should “be ready”. All of a sudden the only space we had to ourselves was this little loft bedroom we couldn’t even stand up in. It was a shock to both of us.

So waking up in my own home, with just the two of us and our dogs, I felt like I had hit jackpot. I have that entire kitchen to myself to do all my cooking in. I can stand up in all parts of the house. Instead of having no privacy like in my dream, I have full privacy in a home that is cozy, quiet, and cabin-like.

It was impactful for me because when I am thrown off balance by poor eating choices, these are the things that keep me grounded. And I have this beautiful environment to keep me going strong. It’s a lot of work, but life is work, right? They key is being thankful in the midst of it and enjoying what we have. And then when we’re able to do something special and out of the ordinary, it’s extra sweet.

My to do list is pretty big today, but I’m fully equipped to handle it. Physically, and now because of a good night sleep and God’s encouragement as I slept, mentally as well.

Perspective is a powerful thing. When life gives you lemons, it makes it a little easier to make lemonade.