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.

The Gardener

John 15:1-17 is a classic passage where Jesus talks about the importance of abiding in him. It speaks to finding your life in the Lord. The first two verses say, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”

I’m struck by the significance of these two verses. God is the gardener, trimming and pruning the grapevine. Jesus is the core of the plant – the stock, the roots, the strength, the source. We are the branches, growing out of him and producing leaves and fruit. Our life is fueled by the nourishment we receive from Christ. It’s just as it was written in Deuteronomy 8:3 where it says we do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

What’s amazing is that it’s not enough that we would produce some fruit. But God cuts away the dead or overgrown stuff in our lives, even sometimes the beautiful things, so that we might increase in fruitfulness and growth!

In James 1:2-4 is says when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. We’re able to handle life’s trials, and God’s pruning, when we’re connected to the vine (Jesus) – when we are abiding in him.

The Lord is asking us to stay with him. To stay with him means that he is allowed to work a deep work in our lives. Our lives are made of so much more than what we can see in the physical world around us.

A sobering thought is that we see in scripture that he cuts off every branch that does not produce fruit. To him, that branch is useless. They’re gathered together to be burned. Nothing comes of them. It is as though they never existed, never benefiting anyone.

But you who remain?

You bring great glory to God.

So lean in to the good work that God is doing in your life. Trust his timing and his methods. He is the gardener. Jesus is the vine. And we are the branches.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Philippians 1:6 NLT

A Man of His Word

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
John 15:4

Through this section of John, Jesus is telling us that if we remain in him, he will remain in us. In this way, we produce much fruit.

Jesus also tells us that just as a branch that is severed from the vine cannot continue to bear fruit, for it withers and dies when it is cut off from what gives it life, so are we severed from the source of abundant life when we no longer abide in Christ. When we are living on our own strength and doing life apart from God, the simple yet profound truth is that we are no longer able to bear fruit.

And what is this fruit?

Galatians 5:22-23 says that the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These things are the direct fruit of abiding in Christ and being connected to the vine.

If your life is lacking these things, if you’re devoid of joy, peace, and self-control, there is no way to experience what he’s talking about outside of taking a step of faith and connecting yourself back to the vine. We’ll never experience the blessing that comes from abiding… until we abide. In this case, he’s waiting on us to make the first step. He says he will remain in us. We will be fruitful. We will bring great glory to the Father. We may ask for anything we want and it will be granted! When? When we remain in him. When we trust him to do what he says he’ll do.

We need to have confidence that Jesus is a man of his word. We need to stop being so suspicious of his motives! When doubt creeps in, we need to fix firmly in front of us a sureness, certainty, and assurance that God is bigger than we are and more than capable to accomplish above and beyond what we can.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
Ephesians 3:20