1-Minute Inspiration

I don’t know about you guys, but when I first saw this commercial by Reebok, I was instantly jazzed. Insta-jazzed, if you will. Anyway, I hope this commercial also pumps you up a bit too. Plus, whenever you have friends or family asking why you’re changing your diet and exercising at crazy hours in the morning, you can just send […]

Finding Storm: A Reflection on God’s Love

Exactly three weeks ago was the night we (or I, rather) lost Storm. She crawled out the window I accidentally left open overnight—a window without a screen. Way to go, Victoria, I thought. The next few days were filled with nothing but searching. I didn’t go to bed on time. I neglected all chores and healthy eating habits. My mind was filled with one thing and one thing only: finding Storm.

Simultaneously, these past three Sundays were titled “The One Worth Finding” at our church. Stories of the lost coin, lost sheep, and lost son were told, analyzed and reflected on. Maybe I was just searching for some kind of meaning throughout all this, but I couldn’t help but think God was trying to teach me a lesson through these parables and the searching for Storm. Turns out, there were multiple lessons to be learned.

The week before Storm ran away, I mentioned to Austin how she brings me joy in loneliness. When I am by myself in the house, I love when she cuddles up, gives a sweet meow, and licks my face. It isn’t a bad thing to enjoy such a sweet animal, however, when I felt alone, rather than running to the Father, I embraced Storm. Rather than spending time with Him, I picked up the kitten, sat her next to me and turned on Netflix to remedy my feelings. Interestingly enough, I later found out my sister said a similar thing about Storm. Maybe God took her away so that we no longer had any one or any thing to run to in our loneliness. We needed to learn to run to Him.

If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and look for the one who wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” Matthew 18:12-14

This verse resonated with me throughout our treks in the woods, through neighbor’s backyards, and walking around the streets at midnight. I had lost sleep, skipped meals, and counted over 40 mosquito bites on my legs and arms from the ceaseless searching. I was afraid she was going to be found wounded, starving, or the most horrific, dead. I hoped to see her sitting at our back sliding-glass door so that we could celebrate her return, but it did not happen. Is this a small sample of what God feels like when one of His children wanders from Him? Does he pull out all the stops, constantly pursing until the lost child is found?

Recently, I’ve also been feeling a bit convicted about my relationship with my sister. She doesn’t know this (well, now she does), but I believe I haven’t been the best sister to her. This belief wasn’t attributed to any negative behaviors toward her, but it’s what I’ve lacked—a listening ear, someone to spend time with, and seeking ways to show love and serve her. We live under the same roof, yet have been miles apart. The most incredible part of all is that losing Storm was 100% my doing. My fault. Not for a second did my sister make me feel guilty or point blame. In fact, when she told people about Storm missing, she would say just that. She was missing. She got out. But nothing about it being her big sister’s carelessness. Losing Storm united us. We had a common goal. Our times spent creeping in the woods, laying trails of food back to the house, or coming up with the next “great plan” to catch Storm, brought us closer. Maybe God took Storm away so that in her absence, Jacqueline and I could learn to enjoy each other’s presence again.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Surrender. Surrender has always been hard for me. Is it really easy for anyone though? How do you hold onto hope, but yet still surrender? Storm is a cat for goodness sake. Some people don’t even like cats! In fact, if you’re not an animal person and are reading this, you probably think I’m a tad nutty for coming up with all this just because of a cat. Well, my challenge to you is to think of whatever it is that you hold so dear. What if God took it away? After all, all things are His and we are just stewards of it. Would you be able to come to a place of surrender? That’s what we had to do. By the end of the first week, we knew it was time to close our garage door. We spent countless hours searching for Storm that we started to neglect responsibilities and priorities. This may have been the hardest part of the experience—laying down a life we treasure so much in God’s hands. If He wanted to bring her back, He would. If He didn’t, He had His reasons and we can treasure our memories with her, but we had to come to a place of peace and trust in our Father. Maybe God took Storm away so that we could learn to trust Him in all circumstances. Maybe we needed to reevaluate the things we treasure most. Maybe I haven’t been treasuring my relationship with Him the way I most definitely should.

“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20

During the second and third week of Storm’s absence, we kept our blinds open. We carefully scanned the streets as we came and went from our home. We left a little can of food out just in case. While we surrendered the situation, we still kept hope as we went about our lives. We even caught a few sightings of her and so had our neighbors. What a relief to hear she was alive! Then it got me thinking again. In the parable of the lost son, the father awaits his son’s arrival. While the father still went about his life, he kept hope for his lost son. He even saw him “while he was still a long way off”. Did he keep his curtains drawn open? Did he glance out the window often, or look to the horizon whenever he was outside just in case? Is this a bit of what God feels towards us when we choose to stray? He actively waits for our return, not so that He may scold us for leaving, but so that He can wrap us in His everlasting love and rejoice over us. Maybe God took away Storm so that I may understand no matter how far I wander for Him, He will always, always be right there, awaiting my return with His unfailing love.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26

Around 9pm last night I saw Storm sitting in our driveway. In my eagerness, I opened the door a bit too violently and she ran off, scared from the noise. Stupid cat, I thought. We’re trying to bring you home! My sister had bought a crate earlier that day and we left food inside it hoping we could catch her. Then, 3am strolled around and I woke up. I sprung from my bed to check the crate—nothing. Frustrated, I made my way back to my bedroom. Before I fell asleep my sister came running into my bedroom “STORM IS BACK!! STORM IS HERE! I HAVE HER!” Impossible, I just checked the crate 3 minutes ago. Sure enough, battered, skinny, and with a scratch across her little nose, Storm was in our living room. 3 minutes. Storm was only caught in the crate for three minutes. She could have been in there all night until we awoke the next morning, but instead God chose to only allow her to be trapped for no longer than three minutes. How incredible is that? I asked my sister this morning. How incredible is it that we have a God that cares about little kittens who have strayed from their home? And as Matthew states, “Are you not much more valuable then they?” Think about how vast His love for us is.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15: 8-10

Jacqueline immediately gave Storm a bath, combed lifeless fleas from her fur, and cut off the burrs entangled in her freshly cleaned coat. She finished Storm’s primping with a blow dry. Good as new. When we all awoke again this morning, we checked on her. She hasn’t stopped purring since. She gives little kisses on your nose. She shoves her face against yours to cuddle. My roommates, sister and I have already posted several pictures of her online and told our friends and family who were praying for this silly, little kitten. We are rejoicing her arrival home! So maybe, just maybe, God took Storm away so that He could bring her back. Maybe He wants you and I to know that whether we are coming to Him for the first time at the realization of our need for Him, or for the umpteenth time due to our human nature causing us to stray and falter, He always rejoices over us. He always celebrates the return of His dear children. His mercy and grace is overflowing. His love never fails.

Little Storm

What I Ate Wednesday #3

Florida was a chilly 48-degrees when I walked out the door this morning. And in the words of one of my Kindergarten students, “Miss Baxter, this is SOOO unusual outside!!” Today was especially delicious due to my meal prep for the night before. Meal prep saves the day! Although, I may or may not have had to eat breakfast in the car due to my lack of desire to pry myself from my warm, toasty bed this morning.

Breakfast: Three scrambled eggs with a side of roasted broccoli and two slices of mouth-watering sugar-free bacon. Not to mention the fresh, tart taste of red raspberries. Mmmm. And it tastes even better in the car… NOT.Egg Breakfast

Tea Time: The chilly weather made me crave some warm Chamomile tea, which tasted lovely. I also paired my hot cup with a festive, Fall-flavored Pumpkin Pie Larabar. This thing is like a Fall party in your mouth people. Get on it!Tea Time Pumpkin Pie Larabar

Lunch: I decided to go Raw today for lunch. I made my own version of Raw Pad Thai filled with Dino kale, broccoli, carrot, green onion, cucumber, red cabbage, and green bell pepper. Plus a Spicy Jalapeño Coconut dressing made from coconut milk, jalapeño, ginger, lime, and green onion, which was all blended to creamy perfection.Raw Pad Thai Raw Pad Thai

A delicious gala apple and GT’s Enlightened Hibiscus Kombucha made this lunch extra special.

Dinner: I actually wasn’t very hungry this evening, so I went really simple. A Tessemae’s Cracked Pepper marinated chicken breast with good ‘ole fresh spinach.Tessamae's Cracked Pepper Chicken

In other news: My roommate and I just signed up for The Color Run – Orlando and we are SUPER excited. We’ll be reppin’ Team DyeHard so the training will be starting ASAP! The Color Run is the self-proclaimed “Happiest 5k On The Planet” and can you see why?!

How AWESOME does THAT look?! Plus, if you’re in the Orlando area and interested in joining our team, let me know! Or if you just want to run the race as an individual, I also would like to let you know that the PROMO CODE: “ORLANDO2” will give you $5-off your race fee! Baller on a budget! 😉

Color Run StrongOh I cannot WAIT for January 31st to arrive! Time to get running!

Elementary Energy

At work they announced a STEP CHALLENGE. 
So naturally my first thought was, I need to crush all these people!! I mean…. uh, I’m glad we’re all challenging ourselves to get healthy together! 😉Pedometer

We have two weeks to get as many steps as possible and we all need to keep track of them on these pedometers. My crazy competitive side is now causing me to obsessively check it after every 28 minutes just be sure I didn’t get a defective one. If I lose, clearly it will be the pedometer’s fault.

I’m still holding strong after the Whole30. I am still quite amazed how my habits have completely changed. While the smell of boxed brownies were filling the kitchen, I was noshing on Garlic Roasted Spaghetti Squash with a garlic basil tomato sauce that I threw together. Topped with some roasted tomatoes + Aidells Artichoke & Garlic sausagesfresh basil. Now that’s a delicious Paleo (and Whole30 compliant) pasta! Am I right, or am I right?Paleo PastaI had the pleasure of babysitting two very active elementary schoolers this evening. They are so energetic and it encourages me to jump right in. What’s great about this situation is that you can basically trick persuade them to exercise with you by pitching it as a gameHey guys come here, I have this really fun game!

Tonight we did “animal races” (bear crawl, crab walk, and ape walk), then set up an “obstacle course” (box jumps) and had a “hold-it competition” (planks, wall sits, bridges). If you have kids, or are hanging out with some, you can still get that workout in and have them tag along!JUMP!And I will have you know that I won all most of the races!
Okay, so maybe I was beat by an 8-year-old… but I totally let him win! 😛

TWENTY DAYS: A Whole30 Update

It’s not over yet, but I am pretty darn proud of myself so far, PLUS all these great things are happening…

But first, can we talk about the irony of my calendar?
Thanks a lot Betty Crocker…Cinnamon Roll Calendar1) I feel like a super hero.
I am a pretty energetic person in general, you know those crazy extraverted types, but this is a different kind of energy. I am not as sluggish or tired during the day. I don’t feel like sitting for hours after eating a meal. When I workout I feel like I can actually tackle the workout rather than just get through it. Overall, I feel energized and able to enjoy the day that I have been given! And that feeling rocks. 🙂Super Duper

2) My hair and nails are growing fast.
And strong too! I first noticed in my nails due to their lack of breakage. Usually my nails will grow nicely, but they break or peel the second I bump into anything. Currently, that’s not the case. So… that’s pretty neat. Then, someone complimented how long my hair was getting and after taking a good look in the mirror I was actually surprised to notice the same! Nails!

3) My rest is quality rest.
First, concerning my sleep. I always need an alarm clock to tell me when to pop out of bed to press snooze 6 times on every morning, but now not only do I sleep through the night, but I also wake up every day at 6:30am like clockwork. Not that I enjoy getting out of bed (hello, I’m not crazy), but at least it is a much easier process. Secondly, resting during the day. After reading the importance of the “play hard; rest hard” mentality, I have done my best to take some time to read, draw, journal and listen to music– even if only for 15 minutes. This time has also made a difference in the way I mentally, emotionally, and spiritually approach the day.

4) I feel a need to be outside and move.
What first started out as dragging myself outside to run or workout, then turned into a wonderful experience. I used to be an avid runner, but once transferring from college to “the real world”, that motivation dissipated. When making my Whole30 goals, I wanted to be active at least half of the days during the challenge. Maybe its something about putting a little gold star on the calendar that makes me feel proud of myself. Although now, I actually want to get in a run or workout. On top of that, I want to head outside to do it, or drive down to the park. I want to experience God’s handiwork and move those muscles. Great Outdoors Tree View Splash of Color

And the best for last…
5) I don’t really want the sugar, breads, or junk foods anymore.
With the exception of dark chocolate, I now look at pasta, rolls, sugary cereals, and baked goods and cringe. CRINGE, I TELL YOU! What is happening?! Something about knowing all those ingredients (especially the chemically created ones) and what they do to our bodies makes me think twice about my food choices. Better than that, I am able to look at a plate of cookies or basket of bread and not want it. It’s like we’ve broken up and I no longer feel anything for them.

Ooooo... Look at all the artificial colors and flavorings!
Ooooo… Look at all the artificial colors and flavorings!

And this is only day twenty! I can’t wait to get to Day 30 and shout “Hip! Hip! Hurray!” Perhaps not those exact words, but you catch my drift. I hope you all are well and enjoying your week! If you’re participating in the Whole30 don’t forget to celebrate each of these milestones! 🙂