10 Lessons I Learned About God in my Twenties

10 Lessons I Learned About God in my Twenties

Did you know that I wanted to be a nun when I was in high school? True story.

10 Lessons I Learned About God in my Twenties

See, I was raised Catholic and felt so close to God that I thought the only way to have that for the rest of my life was to pursue a life of chastity and prayer as a nun.

It was that chastity part that got to me, though. If I was a nun, I couldn’t get married. I couldn’t have babies. And I really wanted to have two boys and two girls by the time I was 26. (Also a true story. And it really happened.)

So I didn’t become a nun (you’re surprised, aren’t you?). Instead, I graduated high school, engaged to my husband. Yes, I got married at 18, a few short months after graduation.

People told me I was insane, that it would never last, that I was throwing away my life. And it’s been a long, hard, oh-so-fulfilling road and somehow, it’s almost 12 years later.

It’s a good time for reflection, no? Plus, I’m turning 30 next Tuesday.

Ok, this wasn’t all my idea. Last week, my pastor shared an excellent sermon on the 10 things he’s learned about ministry in the last 10 years. You know the term, “preaching to the choir”?

Well lately, our pastor has been doing just that with messages that evoke a hearty amen from my soul. (Which I never say out loud, of course. Mine is a quiet soul).

At the end of this particular sermon, he asked if five people would volunteer to share a few things they’ve learned this Sunday. I felt prompted to volunteer, so I shot up my hand.

And then I had to back out. Because I kind of forgot that we’d be out of town for my sister-in-law’s vow renewal shindig. (Sorry, Bre. I knew it was happening, really, I just didn’t connect the dots when I raised my hand.)

So, I decided that even though I can’t share this at church, I can share it with you here. Because maybe you’ve learned the same things. Or you need to. Or you’ve learned different things (would you please share them in the comments?).

Whatever the case may be, I had to share them, because God has been so great, so loving to me that I can’t not say anything. Here goes.

1. He always provides

I’ve always been really good about stressing out about money. For whatever reason, I was fearful that we wouldn’t have enough. But, time and time and time again, we had enough. Usually more than enough.

And if we didn’t get money, our needs were met in some other way. A random credit applied to our account. A perfectly timed gift from a friend. So much free food.

2. He gives the best gifts

I have a secret … we qualified for and received food stamps for several years. It started out as a temporary thing and we just kept qualifying. Well, when it came time to renew at the beginning of the year, my husband and I felt strongly that we shouldn’t.

We felt like we needed to step out on faith and see what God would do. So I tossed the application.

And the free food started coming from everywhere. Yes, my business was doing well and we could afford to buy it, but that didn’t stop God from showering us with gifts. And it wasn’t just any food – it was local, organic and fresh. We got boxes of veggies, excellent yogurt, handmade jam.

God doesn’t just provide the bare necessities. He goes above and beyond, showering us with gifts because giving is in his nature.

3. My best qualities are his qualities

As I was thinking about how giving God is, I thought about how much I love giving gifts to people I love. It’s kind of my love language.

I watch with delight as they receive their gifts and try hard to suppress the excited giggles until I’m out of earshot (I don’t want anyone thinking I’m crazy or anything).

And I realized that I get that from Him. He delights in giving to us, probably giggling excitedly as he watches us receive his gifts. We are made in the image of a giving God. A loving God. A creative God. And he’s passed those qualities on to us.

4. Our relationship isn’t one-sided

I’ve always loved prayer. In school, I’d sit in class, totally ignoring the boring videos and praying instead (See? Nun material. Sort of …). We had an ongoing conversation that brought me closer to him.

As I got away from that in my early twenties and have come back to it, I realize that much of our relationship depends on me engaging in it. He will always be there for me, but I need to participate for it to grow. I can’t just say, “Yes, I believe in you, God” and be done with it. It’s a relationship.

Just like a marriage only thrives when both parties are actively engaged, committed to growing and doing life together.

5. He is the master repairman

Speaking of marriage … my husband and I have had some seriously rough years. How we stayed together, I don’t know. Ok, I do know. God made each of us so stubborn, we refused to give in.

And because we hung in there and decided to press into God together, he’s redeemed it. Somehow, he took the hopelessly shattered pieces of our marriage and put it back together, making it work even better than before.

6. He makes all things work out for his good

God repaired our marriage and has turned it into something so lovely. Something that has helped other couples as they struggle with love and forgiveness.

It was such a mess, so hopeless, and yet, God is using it to reveal himself to others. How amazing is that? And it’s not the first situation I’ve seen this happen in. In fact, it’s unfolding yet again here.

7. When I ask, he answers

I’m getting better at listening and noticing the answer. Often it’s yes, and even better than what I asked for. And sometimes, it’s no. Just like when my kids are whining and begging for something that’s just not in their best interest and I have to tell them no.

I’m hoping that in my thirties I get better about accepting the no and knowing he probably has something better in mind, instead of whining and begging.

8. The Holy Spirit is a great guide

Pretty much any time my husband and I argue and I apologize first, the Holy Spirit has prompted it. Because I don’t want to, but I know I need to.

And the nudge is both gentle and powerful and definitely not coming from my desires at the moment, but it’s ultimately for my greatest good.

9. He has a great sense of humor

“What do you think, two kids is plenty? Or maybe wait a few years and try again? Yeah, that sounds good.” So went our conversation as we drove the windy road through the redwoods, on our way home from a camping trip with our 2 1/2 year-old son and 2-month-old daughter.

And then, suddenly, I had a very distinct feeling. God was laughing at us.

When I discovered I was pregnant six weeks later, I knew why.

10. God loves simple

I had no intention of living a simple natural life. I liked stuff and thought I needed more stuff, more activities, more everything for a good life. But God had other plans for me and I’m delighted that he loved me enough to steer me onto this path.

Jesus said that the most important commandments are to love God with all your heart, mind, body and soul and to love others as you love yourself.

Simple. Perfect.

What has God taught you in the last 10 years?

An Instant Library for Every Aspect of (Natural) Homemaking – for Less than $30

An Instant Library for Every Aspect of (Natural) Homemaking – for Less than $30

For the first few years of my marriage, I was a bit clueless as a homemaker. I thought cooking from scratch meant heating up convenience foods. I piled my dirty dishes in my laundry basket to take to my mom’s because I didn’t have a dishwasher. And my budget didn’t even include food. Food.

That’s … important.
An Instant Library for Every Aspect of (Natural) Homemaking – for Less than $30 | Shalom Mama
Thankfully, I learned a lot over the years.

Experience taught me that budgets are important because debt stinks, my husband is definitely the baker in our family since I love to get “creative” with recipes and you don’t use bleach on a brown carpet to stop a smoothie stain (yes, I seriously did that).

And the rest, well, the rest I learned through those wonderful sources of wisdom that always help me get a clue – books.

It is because of the wisdom shared by others that I now consider myself a pretty competent homemaker. I budget, meal plan, take care of my family naturally and homeschool our four kids without going crazy (most of the time). I haven’t even bleached a carpet lately!

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5 Tips for Curbing Cravings Naturally

5 Tips for Curbing Cravings Naturally

It never fails. You want to live healthier so you exercise regularly and try to eat right and then …

5 Tips for Curbing Cravings Naturally. Simple tips to help you live healthier.

Gah. Food cravings. Seriously?

In the moment a craving strikes, you have a choice – give in or resist.

I’ve given in more times than I would like to admit, but I have also had successes battling food cravings naturally. Below you will find tools that have helped me overcome giving in to cravings:

1. Stay hydrated

Three out of four Americans are chronically dehydrated. Dehydration is the main cause of headaches, daytime fatigue, slow metabolism, back/joint pain, and hunger. In 37% of Americans, the thirst response is so weak that it actually is mistaken for hunger. (source)

Drinking just one glass of water can shut down cravings and even an overactive appetite! Water also helps the body metabolize fat and can aid in weight loss. Most people believe that eight 8-ounce glasses of water keeps you hydrated but the amount you should drink is based on your body weight.

How much should you drink? Find out here.

2. Sleep

Sleep is so important to our health and it plays a huge role in appetite and cravings. Getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep a night helps regulate hormones that in turn affect appetite and how carbohydrates are stored in the body. (source)

3. Good food

When the body is depleted of a nutrient the brain triggers a craving in an attempt to satisfy that need. Unfortunately, sometimes the body craves unhealthy foods. If you are aware of the type of food you are craving you can eat healthy foods that will give your body nutrient-dense foods which will help quench cravings.

There are several helpful infographics on Pinterest which can help you pinpoint what healthy foods can address food cravings. I personally love apples and peanut butter or a green smoothie.

4. Get to the heart

Just as cravings can be caused by a nutrient deficiency, cravings can also be caused my an emotional deficiency. For some, food becomes a way to deal with loneliness, boredom, stress or anger. Knowing what emotional triggers stimulate cravings can help you find non-food ways to deal with the emotion.

5. Prayer

Don’t underestimate this one. We were all made to crave something and sometimes we use food to satisfy spiritual needs. Praying is one way to focus on those needs. John 15:5 tells us that without the Lord’s help we can do nothing.

We need the Lord’s help if we find we are struggling with giving in to a craving. Praying is something I have found not only helps me in my struggles but it also helps me de-stress, relax and be at peace.

Cravings are a signal from our body that something is wrong physically, spiritually or emotionally. Cravings are not our master. We get to choose whether or not we can obey them. May you, dear friend, find help and encouragement in this post today.

How do you deal with cravings?

Simple Faith

Simple Faith

by tokyosucks

I’ve simplified so much in my life and my faith is no exception. It’s a little sad, because my faith used to be so simple and fulfilling. But in my early twenties, it started to get more complicated.

It became less about being and more about doing (As Gary Barkalow pointed out, I was waiting to hear God say, “Good girl, Nina” instead of “I love you, Nina.”). If I could just follow the right rules, then I could win favor and have instant fulfillment. I know, it’s silly. I knew in my head it wasn’t true, but not my heart. 

I am grateful to say that there is now a connection between my heart and head. Yes, there is still a battle that takes place where I struggle with past beliefs, but my faith is becoming a stronger version of the simple beauty it used to be.

What has it taken? Introspection. Prayer. Surrender. And, you guessed it, major intentionality. You cannot be a passive passenger in life if you want it to be fulfilling. Nothing awesome will happen without your active participation.

Faith does not grow through spending one day a week in church. It takes daily action.

Pray Throughout the Day

I vividly remember sitting in sophomore history, praying and giving thanks. I also remember forgetting things and thinking, “Daddy, what is it that I can’t remember?” (That’s what I call him). And the answer would come to me. Always. Whether through a memory or someone randomly telling me.

Praying throughout my day kept me connected in a way that following rules couldn’t. It’s a practice that I began again last year, and I love it. It comforts me, gives me strength and lifts my burden for feeling like I need to be perfect at everything.

Practice Gratitude

Cultivating an attitude of gratitude will greatly shift your perspective on life. As I write this, my youngest has just opened a five-gallon bucket of wheat flour and dumped half of it on the floor. My first reaction was, “Oh good, that’s less flour to get rid of since I can’t eat that stuff.” Thank you, Daddy. (I’m not perfect, just so you know, sometimes I forget).

Find things in your life to be grateful for and give thanks often. Blessings abound all around us and it is much better to focus on them than anything negative. If you haven’t gotten my free download, Sustainable Change, get it here. I talk about cultivating gratitude in more detail.

Make it About Relationship, Not Rules

Growing up, I had a very simple relationship with God. I was always praying, giving thanks or asking questions. I felt close to him. And then I got older and started following rules. That’s when I began feeling more and more distant until I was at the point that I wasn’t sure I wanted to follow Jesus anymore. I lost sight of the relationship.

I was busy building and maintaining relationships with others – pouring myself into them, nurturing them, but not with the ultimate model of relationship. I let my spirituality turn into religion and it almost ruined everything. Don’t let that happen.

Any relationship must be approached intentionally – pursuing the person, getting to know them and continuing to discover more about them – it’s the same here.

Serve Others

Take the focus off yourself and take care of someone else. Normally, this is not only beneficial to the recipient, but to you as well. Giving your time to others helps take your mind off your own problems and shift your perspective.

When possible, let your kids see you in action. Better yet, let them join you. The world needs more loving, compassionate people. We’re talking about beginning a family service project, one where our kids can get involved that uses our collective talents and passions. It’s not enough to just send money.

Live Out Your Beliefs, Simply

If you believe that loving others is important and you talk about it at great length without doing anything, then it really isn’t a belief. It’s a delusion. And I’m just as guilty of doing that.

Turn your beliefs into actions in simple ways.

Loving others doesn’t have to be complicated: Send an encouraging letter. Help your neighbor plant their garden. Take a new mom a meal. Help your Grandma automate bills to save money on postage. Write your spouse love notes. Get rid of the TV and play games with your kids. Declutter your house and see what your local mission and pregnancy resource center can use.

The options are endless. You can live what you believe. Just act.

Freedom in Surrender

Credit: kelsey_lovefusionphoto

We were in our raft, paddling through the rapids of the upper Deschutes river. The raft wasn’t responding to our efforts, so we started paddling even harder, willing it to go where we wanted it to.

“No!” the instructor shouted. “Stop paddling harder. Stop, redirect and then paddle. More force is not the answer.”

More force is not the answer.

There’s a life lesson for you. But for the past two months, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing – applying more and more force and getting nowhere. Pushing harder, willing our income to grow, ignoring the small voice inside whispering, “surrender.”

Over the last several years, I learned how to do everything for myself. With Ian gone so much and all of these little kids, I was in charge of a lot. During the 18 months of hell paramedic school, it was all I could do to keep pushing forward and force our household and marriage to work.

It was exhausting.

And yet, that’s where I found myself again. Stressed, worried about money and trying everything I can to force a business into success. I was done. Done trying, done forcing, done feeling like nothing I do makes a difference.

Ignoring the loud resistance of the control freak inside, I surrendered.

“Here God. Take it. Take our income. Take my business. Take my determination to force everything I want. Please. I can’t do this anymore. It just doesn’t work. My desperate efforts are getting me nowhere.”

And then? Shalom. Joy. A big, dopey grin that I couldn’t wash off my face. I felt different. Lighter.

God reminded me that he’s always taken care of us. Always. No matter what. We’ve always had enough. Usually more than enough.

He reminded me of the path he’s put me on these last few years, of simplifying my life and searching out my strengths, talents and passions. The desire he’s put on my heart to pursue my calling so I could help more people, especially women and babies.

God, my valiant rescuer, pulled me out of the Deep Sadness yet again and reminded me that I am loved, I am his and he made me for a purpose.

And, of course, as I knew it would, with the surrender came the flow that had stopped. A book sale, inspiration, the resources needed to make it happen. A loving confirmation that I’m on the right track.

Surrender leads to freedom in so many ways – more force just isn’t the answer.

Is there anything that you’ve been trying to force that’s only led to frustration?

P.S. Have you ever read Hosea chapter 2? A dear friend shared it with me at Bible study recently and I fell in love with it. I love God reveals so many of his characteristics there, especially his tenderness. Sigh. I love it.

Be Careful What You Pray For

Leo Babauta and other minimalist bloggers have inspired me lately with their posts about being a one-car or no-car family. The man has six kids, surely a person with four could do it, too. The idea got stuck in my head and I approached (attacked) Ian with the idea. He said no.

We miss you Pearl.

Despite the arguments for the environment and the money we would save on gas and car insurance, he was not up for experimenting with one vehicle. Not even for a little bit. For one, we have 4 kids and for two, he works anywhere from 20 to 45 miles away for two days at a time. Not going to happen.

Until last week.

A funny thing happens when you ask God for something. Sometimes, he says yes…

Two weeks ago, we sold Pearl, the 1985 Vanagon we’d had for a couple of years. (Eva cried and Isaac raised his fist in the air and declared that we would get her back). She was awesome and full of character, but with no shoulder straps in the back, we were running out of seating options. That, and Ian was just tired of fixing her.

Then, three days later, our other van broke down. It had broken down a few weeks prior, (notice how I say “it” and not “she”) leaving me stranded on a much-needed mommy day out. Thankfully, my brother came to my rescue and diagnosed it as an alternator problem because my battery wasn’t staying charged.

We left it it alone for awhile and then Ian changed the alternator out. On the 2-mile drive home from where he fixed it, the transmission stopped working correctly. The $1700 it would take to replace the transmission could buy us another van. GROAN.

I’ve been stressed. Super stressed. We were only planning on replacing one car, not two. How were we going to take the money we had and get two reliable cars? And then it dawned on me. I had asked for this.

Not this situation, exactly, but I didn’t want to be dependent on two cars. I wanted the freedom to say no to a second car – I didn’t like feeling that we had to have it whether we wanted it or not.

And for the last two weeks, we’ve done it. Rather than being dependent on cars, we’ve been humbled by being dependent on people; friends and family who have been so generous in lending us vehicles. We’ve been doing well with one vehicle now for almost two weeks. And if it would fit our entire family at once, it would be even better. :)

We’ve found a replacement for Ian, and it will even accomadate our entire family. I dont’ know if we’ll replace the van or repair it or just sell it as is. But I do know now that it’s doable in the country with one car. Even when my husband has to be at work in another town for 48 hours. It just works out.

God is good.

What thing(s) can you not live without? Are you willing to try?