What Shall We Eat? Part 5: Resources & Conclusions

Thanks for sticking around long enough to get to this last post! My goal in this was mostly to share my journey, but also to encourage others to embark on their own. Hopefully some of these resources I used along the way will help you, too.

After opening my mind to the possibility that eating meat does not, in fact, align with my values, and taking the time to do my own research, I ultimately feel confident that there exists a thoughtful, spiritual and humane way to eat meat. Husband and I initially decided to eat less, better quality meat than we used to; for us, this felt like the right place to start. We care about the environment, we care about animals, and we care about nourishing our bodies and taking good care of them.

So this begs the question: how do we do this?

Based on everything I’ve learned, I believe the answer lies in buying the highest quality local food you can find. And at the very least – making choices to eat “less than ideal” foods minimally and with awareness of what you are contributing to when you do.

One of the first places I started was a website mentioned in The Omnivore’s Dilemma: Eat Wild. The site is organized by state and lists local farms, what they produce, some information about the farms and how to contact them. I was surprised how many there were, and how accessible they were (many will ship, some will not). This was by no means an exhaustive list, either. Atlantans: you have options. Lots of them.

Alternatively, be on the lookout for local farmer’s markets. Many cities have them every

marietta square farmers market
Borrowed from mariettasquarefarmersmarket.com

weekend (we love the Marietta Square Farmer’s Market!) and the big ones have websites that list their suppliers. This is also a great way to learn about farms in your area, read about their philosophies, and even visit/buy directly from the farm.

Husband and I tried to do this one Saturday – we drove to a farm in Powder Springs, GA – about a 30 minute drive from our house. Unfortunately, it was less a farm and more an abandoned shack that could easily be the set for a horror flick. Oh well; we’ll try again with a bigger, better-known farm some time!

I also stumbled upon a service in Atlanta called Garnish & Gather. It’s very similar to meal delivery services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh – which both use high qualityhello fresh veggie ingredients (Husband and I are currently using Hello Fresh for 3 Vegetarian meals per week). Each week, Garnish & Gather has a menu of 5 or so meals. All ingredients to make each meal come from local or regional farms. You select which meals you want, how many people you’re feeding, and you can either pay to have all the items delivered, or you can pick them up at one of several Metro Atlanta locations. You can even grocery shop and pick up those items along with your meals! They also have all suppliers listed on their website – again, another resource to find local farmers. We haven’t tried this service yet; I have actually been moving farther and farther away from eating meat.

There is also a meal-delivery service called Purple Carrot that is 100% vegan. While I’m not necessarily advocating meal delivery services for everyone, I have found our vegetarian boxes from Hello Fresh very educational! Meaning, I’ve learned a lot of new techniques and new combinations of satisfying dishes without meat. Part of me wants to try Purple Carrot for the same reason – to try and learn how to make tasty vegan dishes!

Aside from our 3 Hello Fresh vegetarian meals per week, we are currently doing most of our grocery shopping at Harry’s or Whole Foods. What I love about shopping there (aside from the convenience) is the ability to buy local items as well as see information about the treatment of the animals that products come from.

What I’ve discovered is this: the harder it is to get information about where the product comes from or how the animals were treated, the more sure I am that I won’t like the answer. And while you’d think companies that treat animals humanely, don’t use antibiotics or don’t force their cows to eat grain would want consumers to know about it, labels can still be super confusing.

I found a website with some guides and resources to help decipher food labels and discern what in the world they mean. Does this take some effort? Yes. But I WANT to make every effort I can to understand what I am putting in my body.

As I plodded along in my research, I also discovered that as of August 2016, 35% of the chickens used by Chick Fil A are now raised with zero antibiotics. Their goal is to reach 100% by 2019. Encouraging more suppliers to raise chickens in an environment where they don’t need to be pumped full of antibiotics is at least a step in the right direction in my book.

In this age of overly-processed, industrialized food, it’s definitely tough to avoid all of it. And I’m OK with that for now because I’m still learning and changing. I said at the beginning of this series that I was not going to be rigid. Educated and thoughtful? Yes. Buy humane and local, to the best of my ability? Absolutely. Eat less meat, period? Yep – and I can honestly say I don’t miss meat during those meals at all.

In fact, I’ve actually lost my taste entirely for some meats. I’m not sure if this is just a phase or not, but I have close to zero interest in any meat that comes from cows or pigs these days. I still eat chicken from time to time, and I still eat fish regularly. But suddenly, those other meats just aren’t appealing anymore. And it didn’t happen overnight – I did not feel that way after my initial research.

As for other animal products, I still eat cheese and eggs, and I still use butter every now and then. I haven’t “banned” any products necessarily, but truthfully, a lot of it just doesn’t appeal to me anymore and I actually prefer vegan alternatives. The fun thing is, I still have SO many vegan options that I haven’t even tried yet!

Will I end up a vegan someday? I have no idea. But I can tell you that trying vegan versions of things is fun, I don’t miss meat, and I wouldn’t trade the knowledge I’ve gained for anything. I don’t want my food choices to hinder my health/nutrition, enjoyment of or satisfaction from eating, nor do I want to support abusive and cruel treatment of animals. This is still a journey, and I know I have more learning, growing and changing to do!

Ultimately, I want to glorify God by taking good care of the body He’s given me, and do my part to support the planet and animals He’s entrusted to our care.

And to simplify things for you, below is a list of the resources I found helpful*.

*Just remember to do your own research on some of the claims you’ll hear in these documentaries, specifically. I don’t think every resource I listed here is gospel truth – just that they all helped me in my journey and led me to ask MORE questions and do MORE research. Omnivore’s Dilemma and Intuitive Eating were the most helpful to me by a mile.

 

 

What Shall We Eat? Part 4: The Spiritual Aspect

I know that the spiritual aspect of this discussion won’t be “relevant” to everyone. However, my Christian faith informs my life so I must include it. Aside from just doing internet research, I wanted to see what the Bible said about some of this stuff. So, I started thinking about which well-known verses might apply, and looked up some verses specifically about food and animals.

Most Christians know we are told to treat our bodies as temples (1 Corinthians 6:19), and to be good stewards of the Lord’s provisions (1 Peter 4:10). I take this to mean health ought to matter to us and that we are to behave responsibly with the resources the Lord has provided to us. But what instruction is given as far as what we are to eat?

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? In Genesis, we read about what God has created forbible boy Adam and Eve (and everyone else!) for food.

Genesis 1:29 – Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food.

Genesis 9:1-4 – Then God blessed Noah and his sons and told them, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth. All the animals of the earth, all the birds of the sky, all the small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the fish in the sea will look on you with fear and terror. I have placed them in your power. I have given them to you for food, just as I have given you grain and vegetables. But you must never eat any meat that still has the lifeblood in it.

These are pretty clear to me; God placed humans at the top of the food chain and it is not morally wrong to eat meat.

But that’s not the end of the story.  The below verses from 1 Corinthians are interesting in this context, too, especially since the examples Paul uses are about eating meat. Not necessarily as a commentary on “right” vs. “wrong”, but as a guide for how we are to navigate interactions with other people given our personal convictions about what to eat and what not to eat.

1 Corinthians 10:23-33 – You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. 24 Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.

25 So you may eat any meat that is sold in the marketplace without raising questions of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

27 If someone who isn’t a believer asks you home for dinner, accept the invitation if you want to. Eat whatever is offered to you without raising questions of conscience. 28 (But suppose someone tells you, “This meat was offered to an idol.” Don’t eat it, out of consideration for the conscience of the one who told you. 29 It might not be a matter of conscience for you, but it is for the other person.) For why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? 30 If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it?

31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God.33 I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.

There’s a lot to think about in these verses! First, there’s the concept that just because we are ALLOWED to do something doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. This makes me think of the health claims made against many animal products. Just because I’m allowed to eat steaks marbled with fat that come from cows eating corn on a feedlot doesn’t mean it’s beneficial for me. (If you have the inclination, read Daniel 1:8-16. In this passage, Daniel has been taken captive to Babylon and is being asked to eat a rich diet ordered by the king. He persuades the king to let him eat only vegetables and drink water. The end result is Daniel looking much healthier, stronger and vibrant than the men who consumed the king’s rich wine and meats.)

Perhaps the most important takeaway, though, is this idea of putting others above myself – and the motivation for that is to win others to the Lord by showing them HIS kindness and grace. The fact that Paul seems to place more emphasis on the person with a “sensitive conscience” is interesting, too. To me, this means if I’m eating dinner with a vegan, I’m not going to wave my bacon in her face and prattle on about how yummy it is. Because that’s rude and it offends her conscience. Does that mean I’m wrong for eating bacon and I can’t eat bacon? Of course not! Instead, try a little empathy. Accept that some people in the world just have a more sensitive conscience about the slaughter of animals.

Similar statements are made in Romans.

Romans 14:1-4 – Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.

No believer should be condemning another believer’s food choices. This one is a little harder for me, only because factory farming and the industrial food chain did not exist in biblical times! Yet at the heart of it is simply the notion that it’s not wrong to eat meat, nor is it wrong to choose not to eat meat.

What must be considered, in my opinion, is unnecessary cruelty. And the Bible does condemn cruelty towards animals as something only “wicked” people do.

Proverbs 12:10 says, “The godly care for their animals, but the wicked are always cruel.”

What I asked myself is this: Am I wicked if I am not inflicting the cruelty on the animal with my own hands (or machinery…<shudder>), but I’m eating and enjoying the product of that cruelty? I personally felt highly uncomfortable with the idea that I was contributing to the demand for such products.  I don’t think it’s wrong to eat animals, but I think it’s wrong to abuse them in order to get food. It’s also totally unnecessary and in many cases, unhealthy, to eat this way.

I want to acknowledge too that there are people who are more sensitive to this than I am; people that believe it’s cruel to kill animals for food, period. I respect those people, and I understand them. It’s uncomfortable to think about.

But because of my faith, I will not condemn the idea of eating meat entirely. I believe God designed our bodies to be able to consume and digest animal products, and the Bible clearly states that eating meat is OK, if you choose to. (Side note: yes, I am leaving out all the rules about what kinds of animals were considered clean vs. not in Old Testament times. That is an entirely different discussion that I don’t believe has as much relevance to this topic in post-resurrection times. But every time I read the rules about animal sacrifices in the Old Testament, I’m extra thankful for Jesus!)

I will, however, condemn factory farming until I’m blue in the face. We ought to have more respect for the living things around us. This is why I think it’s so important to consider what these creatures were MEANT to consume and digest. Feeding animals an unnatural diet and pumping them full of supplements and antibiotics to keep them alive is utterly disgusting to me (among many, many other common practices that I haven’t posted here). I don’t know what to classify it as, if not cruelty. I keep coming back to Proverbs 12:10.

 

Why Minimalism?

A few weeks ago, I had the joy of spending some time with my Great Uncle Fred. Though I haven’t spent much time with him in my life, I can safely say he’s a hilarious wealth of stories, travels and a life very well lived. He also happens to read this blog from time to time, for which I am deeply honored!

When we were together at his son Brian’s lake house, he asked me why I want to live a minimalist lifestyle. I said, “Because it helps me focus on what really matters in life.” While this is a true and honest answer, I wish we would have had more time to talk about it. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that someone who isn’t a minimalist can’t focus on what’s important in life, although I think living minimally makes it easier.

I always want to make the disclaimer that minimalism means different things to different

minimalism-definition
Photo taken: The Stephanie Inn; Cannon Beach, OR

people and I believe it’s helpful to provide my definition of it before I can really flesh out it’s full appeal in my own life. I’d define minimalism as “The pursuit of simple living; keeping just enough possessions, things on my mind and things on my schedule to encourage living in and being thankful for each moment.”

Here are the reasons minimalism is attractive to me…perhaps loosely in order of least to most important.

1. Cleanliness and Order. I struggle with anxiety, people. One of the things that always makes me feel more calm is to be surrounded by clean, clear, open and well-organized spaces. I’ve always been a fairly neat/organized person, but as I began to get rid of physical possessions, I realized my time spent cleaning our house went down a good bit. Since I am the maid around here, that was highly appealing to me. The less crap I have to pick up to wipe down the surfaces in my home, the faster I can speed through cleaning. This is also one of the reasons I like the idea of a smaller home. The less time I spend cleaning these worldly possessions that cannot accompany me to the hereafter, the better, if you ask me. And of course, a less cluttered room = a calmer, more contented Sarah.

2. Financial Freedom. Most folks pursuing minimalism are highly motivated by this one. Interestingly, the more things I give away, the less I want to bring into my home. If something is not needed, or being used, I typically consider it unnecessary clutter. I don’t buy as much stuff now because I just don’t want more stuff; it doesn’t matter to me like it used to. Personally, I have found great blessing in wanting less vs. wanting more.  I would much rather use money for things that are more important and more in line with my values as a person – like helping others, traveling and experiences.

3. Rejecting Materialism. Our culture is constantly selling us the idea that we need more, newer, bigger, better things to be happy. Yet, some of the most destitute people in our world are the most content and some of the richest people in our world are the most miserable. I’m not implying that all rich people are miserable. Just that this notion that we’d all be more content if we were richer is a lie. I honestly did not know this deeply and in my soul until I started giving things away. It was only when I consciously decided to get rid of things that I realized how much I actually already had (and how little I really need). This sounds so silly and bratty to me now, but I never considered NOT following a trajectory of bigger and better; apartment to house to bigger house to even bigger house or reasonable car to nicer car to even nicer car. I never would have called myself materialistic before I minimized my belongings; materialism would not have been on a list of my values. And yet, I used to think and behave in a decidedly materialistic way. Minimalism reminds me not to go back to that way of thinking. It teaches me how much is enough for me – and I didn’t know what was “enough” until I gave a bunch of stuff away. I could still give more and not suffer in the least, and knowing that makes me overflow with humility and gratitude.

4. A Personal Response to Global Issues. One of the very first things that led me to pursue minimalism (although I didn’t know that word at the time) was a soul-gripping awareness of how we live here in America as compared to the rest of the world. I’ve always “known” we are mighty fortunate, but after fostering a more global awareness, it finally became real to me. I found myself feeling inauthentic and restless in the face of what others around the world must endure; from extreme poverty to persecution for faith in Jesus. I know I don’t deserve the wonderful life I’m blessed with; I know I “have it better” than so many people in the world. It feels wrong not to respond to that in some way. For me, there’s a fine line between feeling guilty for all God has blessed me with, and being humbly thankful for those blessings. It’s something I must be careful about because ultimately, I desire to live in the moment with a grateful heart. But as I’ve purged belongings, events from my schedule and thoughts from my mind, the clarity I’ve found always leads me back to both generosity and gratitude. I have come to view minimalism as a first step in thoughtfully responding to global issues in my own little ways. It encourages me to continue giving and asking myself and God how else I’m meant to respond.

5. My Faith. For me, this is most important reason to pursue minimalism. I have learned that when I pursue minimalism for calm surroundings, less financial burden, and a deliberate turn from the magnetic pull of materialism, it helps me keep an eternal perspective and see Jesus more clearly. When I begin to strip away my excess, I am more free to pursue the life He wants me to live – not focused on myself or on getting MORE. While we are never in complete control of how much God decides to bless us with monetary riches, we are ALWAYS in control of what we decide to do with whatever money we have. The Bible tells us to be good stewards of what we have (be wise financially!). It tells us to hold loosely to the things of this world and live with an eternal perspective (avoid materialism!). It tells us that the love of money (not money itself) is the root of all evil. It tells us that it is harder for a rich man to get into Heaven. My logic tells me that when I pine for bigger, better things, when I already have more than enough, I am both engaging the root of all evil, and I’m making it harder for myself to live for the Lord. In short – I believe minimalism is a way of living that helps me be consistent with the teachings in the Bible.

Does the minimalist lifestyle appeal to you? What is your own definition of minimalism, and why is it a worthy way to live (or not) in your opinion?

3 Ways to Live in the Moment

At one time or another, we’ve probably all heard the adages: “Just take it a day at a time!” and “Life is a journey, not a destination!” Both these quips are fantastic advice. But all too often, I live my life thinking too far ahead, berating myself for not reaching my goals yet or focusing on everything that’s wrong in my life.

But when I am able to slow down…both in thought and action, I am able to truly see the value and peace found in living in the moment. While it is good to have goals and have a destination in mind, it is easy for the race to the destination to dull the joy of the journey.

So what steps can we take to enjoy the benefits of taking life a day at a time, enjoying our unique journeys and living in the moment?

Put off distractions. What things in life tend to distract you and disturb your peace the most? For me, it’s often comparing myself with others, or spending too much time playing on my phone. These things are an enormous waste of time. When I’m comparing myself with others, I’m allowing my insecurity to dominate my life and thoughts. And when I’m spending too much time on Facebook or Pinterest or lost in a game on a screen, I not only foster discontent in my life, but I’m also completely distracted from what is going on right in front of me in the real world. If I’m distracted all the time, it’s very hard to appreciate the current moment and it also encourages me not to deal with difficult things. If you find yourself constantly seeking distraction during calm moments, it’s time to turn off the phone/tv/internet browser. I am striving to minimize these distractions in my life.

Notice the good. When you identify distractions and begin to eliminate them, you’re free to notice the wonderful things that surround you. Just stop and look around. What do you see and feel? Is it a beautiful day outside? Is your office chair super comfy? Is your dog sleeping in a position that makes you laugh? Are your kids giggling and playing with each other? Are you working on a really exciting project at your job? Is it crisp and cool enough outside that you can wear your favorite sweater? You can’t live in the moment if you can’t see the moment.

Give thanks. I believe this is the most important step because it changes your perspective. If I’m unhappy or discontent, I’m usually doing one of two things: over-thinking and living in the future, or trying to distract myself from something. But if I just turn off the distractions for a moment, notice the good around me, and give thanks for it, my perspective shifts. When I practice giving thanks, I find there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. We can grumble, and not want the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but it is our choice whether we focus on what we don’t have or on what we do have.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to waste the journey of life by focusing solely on the destination or on everything that’s going wrong in my life. It’s important to remember there’s always something I’m striving for, that I’d like to change about myself, or some way in which I would like to grow. And I don’t think this will end in my time on earth – it’s human nature. I think I will always have some destination to arrive at.

If we live our lives as if we cannot be satisfied until we reach our destinations, but there’s ALWAYS a destination, how will we ever enjoy peace? The answer is to revel in the moment by removing distractions, noticing the good all around us, and giving thanks for each day, each hour, each moment in our respective journeys.

I saw a great quote somewhere a couple weeks ago by Aristotle Onassis that illustrates this

be present
Photo Taken: Amicalola Falls, GA

beautifully: “We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in the high winds.”

This is freeing to me. When I put so much pressure on myself to arrive at my destination, I cannot enjoy the path God takes me on to get there. When I accept that I will forever be growing, changing and learning, life seems more exciting than monotonous or slow-moving. When I see and am thankful for everything I have right now, I move away from discontent and into the present moment.

To me, this is the most simple way to live. It doesn’t mean things are always peachy keen and it certainly doesn’t mean that we’re happy all the time. But true growth and change often occur when we are able to lift our eyes during even our hardest moments and say, “I see all that I am blessed with, and I am thankful.”

 

How to Simplify Fear

If you’ve ever struggled with fear and anxiety, you know how crippling it can be. Fear can hold us back from so much – from doing small things like jumping in a pool to bigger things like making a career change or traveling the world. Fear makes us believe we can’t live the lives we might be destined for.

One of the most helpful things I’ve learned about fighting fear and anxiety is to accept both feelings as they come. Weirdly, the less you fight against anxiety, the less threatening it becomes. When you name your fears, they have less power and you begin to see them for what they are. Learning how to call your anxieties and fears by name and analyzing how they make you feel can curb the scary emotions that accompany each.

Oftentimes, anxious and fearful people are faced with a decision: put forth the effort to power through the feelings, or just skip it and “stay safe”. While I’ve certainly had moments where I decide it’s not worth dealing with my fears and just stay home, it’s far more valuable to go with it.

When you accept fears by deciding to face them anyway, you’re setting yourself up for little wins that will add up in a big way over time.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of traveling and airplanes. I deliberately confronted this fear during a year where Husband was traveling a lot for work, and we had

mt hood and fear
Photo Taken: Landing in Portland, OR – view of Mt. Hood

several out of town weddings to attend. Each individual flight wasn’t always easy (and some were worse than others!) but the end result of that year was a very obvious decrease in fear of traveling. In fact, this summer’s trip out to Oregon was the first time I can remember being more or less completely calm for the whole plane ride.

There have been several times where friends have asked me to help them or do them a favor that immediately stirs up fear, anxiety and dread. These times are often stressful and heart-breaking for me because if I’m available, I always want to help a friend in need. But the pull of fear sometimes feels much stronger than my desire to help. Fear makes me focus too much on me and not enough on those in need.

Yet, when I agree to help despite my fears, it’s always, always been a character-builder. There have been times where I said yes, was deathly afraid, but did it anyway and felt the accomplishment of facing fear and the satisfaction of doing the right thing. There have been other times when I agree to help with something, but the plan changes, or someone else has agreed to help and I’m “off the hook.”

For me personally, both scenarios remind me to put myself aside, trust in God and remember that He gives us strength for the moment. If I confront a fear, He’s right there beside me through it. Sometimes, though, I think He just wants to know that I’m willing to confront it; willing to walk through it in trust with Him – and that’s enough.

The way to simplify something you’re afraid to do is to recognize it, name it, and do it anyway. If you make a point to consistently face a specific fear, I promise that fear will dissipate. Even if you don’t have a chance to confront one thing over and over, whenever you decide to accept your fears and proceed anyway, you’ll find dealing with future fears becomes a lot simpler.

 

 

The Pride of Insecurity

I just finished reading a seriously incredible book. It’s probably in my personal top 5 now: Allison Vesterfelt’s “Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage.”

It’s the story of how Allison (Ally) and her friend Sharaya decided to quit their jobs and go on a 6 month road trip, visiting each of the 50 states. Ally writes that the trip was part of a dream for each of them (writing for her, singing/performing for Sharaya), how they got by, people they met, people they reconnected with, people and things they lost and lessons learned.

As if that wasn’t enough to intrigue me, (hello, blog post of a few weeks ago where I swoon about the idea of prancing on the west coast for 6 months) once I started reading this book, it was almost like I was reading words I could have written. It was as though I’d gone on the wild adventure I always convince myself wouldn’t be possible for someone like me, and I was reading the lessons I’d learn if I ever found the courage to do it.

So many things jumped off these pages and into my soul that I could probably blog for days on end about this book. But one of the most glaring was a particularly relatable diatribe of how Ally dreads the question: “What do you do?” She’s a twenty-something who has a dream of being a writer; who quit her job to travel the country with a plan to blog about it and write a book. Not sure any of this will pan out, she finds herself bogged down in insecurity about how to answer the question.

I get it. I quit my job, I’ve started a blog and I’m working on writing a book, too. No one is paying me. I have to set my own deadlines and goals. I worry about how others perceive what I’m doing. Do they think I’m just goofing off, wasting my life? Do they think I have nothing important to do because I’m not getting paid when I work at my craft? What do I even say when people ask me what I do? My answer to that question is usually plagued with insecurity, as I mumble something about reading, working out, cooking, cleaning and I’m actually, er, kind of, um, working on writing a book. (I’m silently lamenting how awkward I am in these conversations.)

Ally writes this about insecurity: “I wish I could pass off insecurity as a burden to bear and everyone would feel really sorry for me, but the more I think about it the more I see that my insecurity is really pride. My insecurity makes everything all about me.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks. Honestly, I’ve never really thought pride is something I struggle with.  And on the surface, many of us would think insecurity relates more closely to humility than pride. In fact, one of the easiest ways insecure people disguise their insecurity is in a fog of “humility.” For an insecure person, it’s easy not to take credit for something; not to call attention to yourself. It’s easy to brush off accomplishments by attributing them to someone other than yourself. Because we’re never quite sure we can hack it.

Perhaps the temptation to be an insecure person masquerading as a humble person is extra-easy to fall into for Christians. Because that “someone” we attribute everything to is God.

By no means am I saying that God isn’t involved in our accomplishments, nor am I saying He shouldn’t get any credit for them. Of course He should! I’m merely pointing out that TRUE HUMILITY is what God wants from us, and true humility is not insecurity. It’s not through self-hatred or self-deprecation that we ought to hoist our God onto His throne.

True humility says, “I don’t deserve anything God has blessed me with, but I’m so thankful for the life He’s given me that I want the decisions I make to reflect intense gratitude. I want to live life confidently in His love; sharing my blessings freely with others, in His name, to the best of my ability.”

So when I thought about insecurity as it relates to pride, I began to see it in a new light. I’m insecure at least twice a day – at least once about my physical appearance, and at least one more time about the question: “What do you do?”  When I am insecure, I am making everything about me. I’m comparing myself to others and either finding reasons why I’m not what I wish I was, or trying to make myself feel better. When I’m insecure, I’m elevating myself to a place of importance that I don’t even have! Do most people even care what I weigh or what I’m wearing or what I do with my life? Not nearly as much as I act like they do. Pride screams that it’s all about ME.

Ally writes, “There comes a point where we don’t need anyone to tell us who we are anymore, we just need to take the information we have and run with it.”

I think what she’s saying is…let the insecurity fall away. Trust that God made you who you

passion
Photo Taken: Cannon Beach, OR

are and put your passions in your heart. Recognize what makes you feel alive; look for the place where your passion and the world’s needs meet and go towards it. “Take the information you have and run with it.” Trust God for the rest.

It’s a freeing way to live, and one I know I need to reach for daily. And somehow, identifying the pride inherent in insecurity helps me put insecurity aside. It reminds me, “Hey, lighten up! Things aren’t all about you and you don’t need anyone to tell you who you are. God made you, loves you, and is in your corner. Run with it.”

 

Writing is Hard.

Anyone who is a writer, or who is attempting to write consistently will tell you it’s hard. It’s hard for different reasons, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Back when I was working for my Dad’s small HR & Benefits Consulting Firm, I wrote all the time. I was writing newsletter articles, blog posts and drafting powerpoint presentations. And it was always a challenge to work with a small amount of space and dissect “insurance lingo” into easily understandable bits. Oftentimes, we’d attempt creative ways to avoid horribly dry and boring pieces – a near impossible task when you consider the subject matter. But I enjoyed those challenges, and I suppose that’s one of the things I love about writing.

Keeping up with this blog has been hard at times, too. When I was de-cluttering our home, going category by category, writing it was easier; more inspired. I had a formula of sorts, a purpose and specific thing to blog about.

Now, it’s just not as often that what I’d consider “blog-worthy” inspiration hits. Either that, or I’m just not always brave enough to share the deep, dark recesses of my mind with the interwebs! Nonetheless, when I do come back here, I always feel a little more accomplished, a little closer to being the writer I want to be, and a little more inspired to keep going.

Working on this novel has been hard. It’s overwhelming when you begin to see the magnitude of that which you do not know. You might say, well, you have a story and a general plot line – just write it!

But me, friends, I’m a planner. I like to be prepared. I don’t usually just dive into things without serious thought or research. (When I do, that’s called Jesus.) So that’s why I’ve read a book, countless articles and blog posts about being a writer, downloaded multiple character creation worksheets to help me through the research process, and have at least 3 sets of interview questions to deliver to various friends and family.

So yes, I have my story. I’ve named most of my characters, and I know who is related to who and how. But when I sit down to write, there’s a lot to be strategic about. It’s not flowing just yet.

I have to make sure I decide whose point of view I’m writing from in each chapter/scene/section, and I cannot violate that point of view. For example, If I’m writing from Jenny’s point of view, she might see a look on Jimmy’s face, but she cannot know what he is thinking.

I have to write and re-write dialogue between characters, because it has to sound the way actual human beings talk. Further, I have to make sure the dialogue of different characters SOUNDS different and memorable, so my reader can easily identify who is talking, even before I write, “Jenny said”. Do you know how hard it is to NOT make every character just sound like…you? I have to consider their professions, education levels, accents and emotional state – all things I’ve had to make up (and keep track of!) along the way. It’s hard.

I must do my best to “show” my reader who my characters are and why they are the way they are. I can’t just “tell” those things in long, drawn out paragraphs that put a stop to the action of the story. How do I let my readers know, in an organic way, that my character is a control freak who has trouble trusting people without just saying it? I have to find creative ways to SHOW these things, through dialogues, scene descriptions, and other character’s points of view.

The time it takes to plan out and write a book is daunting. I’ve done so much, and yet I’ve barely begun, barely scratched the surface of all there is to know. Established writers have “a process”. I don’t yet. But I’m trying to. I’m trying to

dont give up on dreams
Photo Taken: Mountain Park, GA

write every day, add more structure to my writing sessions and set new writing goals for myself.

After all, the only way this thing will ever get done is if I keep chipping away at it; keep working on it a little bit at a time. Perhaps I need to let go of my strategic writing and just let it flow some days. They’re just words typed on a screen – I can go back and change them a million times if I so desire.

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t already felt fear creep in and suggest that I stop. But fear is like that, it comes quietly and plants little doubts in your mind. And over time, if you don’t replace those doubts with affirmations, they snowball into something bigger, something harder to dispose of.

One of the things I love about writing is that it keeps me accountable. Declaring that the fears have come, and calling those fears out here has already made me feel lighter and more determined.

After all, dreams don’t typically manifest themselves from nothing and fall into your lap. No; you must work for them, chase them, and fight for them. Sometimes, you let them go and sometimes, you rediscover them. And there will always be reasons NOT to do something your heart wants to pursue. But you should always believe that what lies deep in your heart is worth the fear you must overcome to be true to it.