Haiti then. Haiti now.

It has been some time.  Lots has happened this summer and fall and lots of things I needed to process not on a blog.  I will be writing soon about my Half Marathon and my new adventure, Crossfit.  Get excited.

One of the most exciting things that has happened in the last month is I have decided to go Haiti with my church family, Westwind.  I have been contemplating what I would even write in this blog, as Haiti gets me so exciting I sometimes can’t organize my thoughts into coherent sentences.  This is my best attempt…

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To be completely honest, Haiti was no where in my mind until 2010.  My roommates and I at the time had been visiting a church and a man from Haiti came to share about his ministry in the country.  I remember feeling bad that I couldn’t fathom what it would be like to live in a 3rd world country, especially after a devastating earthquake.

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My roommate, Sarah and myself talked briefly that day about how if we ever got the chance to go to Haiti we would take it.  A few months later we had settled at a different church and were given that opportunity.  It was the first mission’s trip that church had taken, lots of things were up in the air, and we couldn’t come up with two dimes to rub together between the two of us, but we knew we were going.  We did a bike-a-thon in the middle of November in Iowa, wrote lots of letters, worked extra hours, and thanked God for checks we never expected to receive.  Finally we were ready to spend 10 days in Haiti helping currently missionaries with a school project and digging a foundation for a new church.

As December 2009 came we were nervous.  The turmoil in Haiti was and still is very real.  At the time, they were in the middle of elections and riots had been breaking out resulting in lots of violence.  The day before we were supposed to leave our trip was postponed.  The missionaries thought it would be best to wait until the President was announced before we came to help.  God taught all of us patience and flexibility, as the trip would be delayed another time in February before we would finally put our feet on the ground in April.  What only God knew is that they we would arrive that Saturday in April and the election would be pushed back from December and be announced that Monday.  I can remember being in the kitchen with the Haitian cooks listening to a crank radio, as the government had turned off power to the city (their way of oppressing people during announcements).  They were speaking Creole, so I had no idea what was going on until one of the three women started to cry, tears of joy.  The women then began cheering.  We knew at that moment, the people’s choice, “Sweet Micky” had been announced.  Moments later we heard what sounded like fireworks…gunshots in the streets, their way of celebrating.

Haiti 5Haiti 6We worked on a couple projects, building a roof for a school and digging a foundation for a new church.  It was an amazing experience to meet another team from Louisiana, the Haitian workers, and the missionaries who have lived there over 20 years.

Short term missions has always been a struggle for me.  I have been on a couple other trips besides Haiti and have debated whether it is beneficial to go to a place for such a short amount of time.  Haiti definitely changed my view on that.  The physical labor we provided was helpful I am sure.  The more important part I saw was the encouragement and hope we provided to missionaries and people of Haiti.  There are plenty of wonderful people, doing great work in other countries but many of the people we encountered were happy to just be acknowledged.  The idea, that we came to their country and while we will never understand their hurts, fears, and lives, we were present, we showed up.  Reminded me of a great page from a book, Kisses from Katie by Katie J. Davis.  Katie explains the feeling of being overwhelmed by a broken world better than could have thought to…

God was opening my eyes to a whole new world and way of living and most important to a whole new way of living out the Gospel.  Every day I have spent in Uganda has been beautifully overwhelming; everywhere I have looked, raw, filthy human need and brokenness have been on display, begging for someone to meet them, fix them.  And even though I realize I cannot always mend or meet, I can enter in.  I can enter into someone’s pain and sit with them and know.  This is Jesus.  Not that He apologizes for the hard and the hurt, but that He enters in, He comes with us to the hard places.  And so I continue to enter.

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This brings me to now.  I have been given the opportunity to go back to Haiti.  Much like the words from Katie Davis, the mission’s group we are going to help shares the idea that each person is important and from God.  Westwind Church will be taking a group of people, myself included, in April of this coming year.  We will be working with Mission Starfish Haiti and helping them with upcoming projects including teaching, work projects, evangelism, and more.  It will cost me around $1500 to go on the trip.  If you’d like to support me you can do that a number of ways:

1. Pray for Haiti, our team at Westwind, and Mission Starfish Hait

2. Support me or someone else from Westwind- you can use Dwolla or write a check and mail it/drop it off to Westwind Church at 185 NE Dartmoor Dr, Waukee, IA 50263 (Please make sure to put “Haiti- Sara Zika” in the memo of the check or dwolla site)

3. Support me by donating to my fundraising site: Youcare Site

4. Buy a pumpkin roll or hire me for an odd job- my skills include but are not limited to painting, babysitting, cleaning, and cooking.  Details can be found on my facebook, feel free to send me a message if you need my contact info.

5. Share the news and information with your friends and family.

Thank you in advance for your prayers and support.

Sara

Too deep for words.

Romans 8:26

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

These last few weeks have been too deep for words.  I wish I could write this and say it was one thing that happened that has made the depths of my soul ache.  It has actually been a series of events that by themselves would have caused my heart to be troubled.  Instead of being able to process one thing at a time I have been living in fear of voicemails, text messages, and getting news of another bad thing that happened.  The message Sunday the speaker said if you are believing in doubts and deception instead of Jesus you will spend your time either chasing fantasies or running from nightmares.  That is what I have been doing the last few weeks, running from nightmare after nightmare, praying I would wake up from a dream that somehow turned into a few week reality. 

Church this week was a good reminder of what I stand on, what is a firm foundation, the way, the truth, the life.  It’s Jesus.  All other things change, fail, and can’t be controlled, let alone anticipated. He is constant. 

As I sat in our children’s church in the back this week my eyes welled with tears as one of our children’s leaders spoke to the children about Lazarus.  She sat them in a circle and started to share of how her daughter loves her special blanket, “blanky boo” because he represents safety and security. She went on to explain that he had been lost once and how devastating that was.  In the middle of this story she began to share of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha.  She walked through how Mary and Martha must have been feeling having lost their brother.  She talked about how Jesus himself was sad and wept.  But that wasn’t the end, Jesus conquered death- raising Lazarus from the dead.  I believe she only said it once or twice but in my brain I heard her repeating, “Jesus has overcome the most horrible thing on this earth, death.  And Lazarus would go on to die again but Jesus lives.”

John 11:24-27

24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[a] Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

I’ve been battling through what is emotion and what is truth, even when they don’t seem to match.  Here is how I have felt the last few weeks (warranted or not): alone, weak, crazy, confused, frustrated, angry, but mostly…lost.  Here is what I know and am clinging to in truth: Jesus will never leave me, I was fearfully and wonderfully made, He will carry my burdens, He has given me community that is out of this world with grace and love, and I am not lost, he knows me, deeply for he created me
 
I have thought about writing this post more than 20 times in the last few weeks but was afraid I didn’t have the words.  And honestly, I don’t think that I’ve said much or articulated well the thoughts in my head, but I’m in it.  Good friends have reminded me that a year ago I would have run away, hid out, tried to abandon any of these situations or feelings.  I haven’t, I’m in it.  That isn’t to say I’m awesome or doing this great job.  That is to say Jesus is Lord, He is sovereign, He cares, He loves, He knows me, and He is doing a work in me.
 

 

Whole 30 Part 3: The Future

I am sure everyone is as eager to here about my future as I am to write it, okay probably not.  Sure, I love sharing but writing this is mostly for me.  To put thoughts and commitments to paper.  I have had so many wonderful people share their stories with me so I figure I could share mine.  

These last 30-ish days have been a roller-coaster…a stunning, terrifying, gratifying, elusive roller-coaster.  There are many things I have started and quit.  I thought this would be one more to add to the list but am so happy it wasn’t.

Some high points…

  • I lost around 27 lbs
  • I am sleeping better than I can ever remember
  • I know I’m capable of doing more than I imagined
  • I have more energy than I ever imagined
  • I found out I like at least 12 more vegetables than I thought I did

This is a process…eating well, living well, treating others well.  It is a journey like everything else in life.  I am extremely grateful to have experience this leg of the journey though.

As for the future, here are the plans…

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  • finish something I started a long time ago, a half marathon
  • try something new, continuing to try at least 2 new foods a month
  • keep eating well…a majority of the time, going to try to the 85/15 rule of clean eating

I cannot tell you why this worked, other than God has done a work in me.  I have found grace in Whole 30.  It is strange actually, something that seemed so strict is now offering me so much freedom.  It overwhelms me to think of the freedom I have in surrendering something, food in this case, over to God.  To humbly surrender all of my anxieties and fears to the one who created me.  It just makes me think of something our pastor said a few months back, “People who walk in the dark only walk in the dark because they don’t know how bright the light is”  I would say this was completely true of me.  I hid in shame and fear of people really knowing my relationship and dependence on food.  I didn’t have any idea that there could be so much joy and excitement in eating well, using time I was wasting worrying about food on friends, and removing food from the pedestal I had put it on to use it as fuel for my body.

Whole 30 Part 2: The How/Recipes

I, a vegetable hater (or at least I thought), had little to no confidence I would be able to complete 30 days of eating mostly vegetables, meat, and some fruit.  I was really nervous, which resulted in a higher than normal grocery bill the first week of this journey.  I was scared I was going to starve, go crazy, or worse…be bored.  So I thought I would put together a couple of things that helped me get through the logistics of Whole 30.

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First, there is a book.  You can buy it here.  Honestly, I did not read the book.  I read up online and had a few good friends that shared some of the knowledge from the book.  I have been told there are some helpful hints and recipes.  Also if you are person that wants to know the why and how of everything, I’m sure it is beneficial to read how the chemicals in food affect our bodies.

Doing things alone can be daunting and alienating.  In response to that, I recruited around 10-12 people to walk this journey along with me.  People did it for various reasons and started and stopped at different times, but it was all so helpful to have a community of people to walk with and encourage each other. People that had started this journey before me helped by providing some sort of expectations. Hopefully the rest of this post will provide that for you.  FIND A FRIEND, SPOUSE, COWORKER, or STRANGER TO COME ALONGSIDE YOU!

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**Warning** this might be a bit too much information but here is a rough schedule of what myself and my friends experienced.

  • Days 1-4: Headaches, fatigue, sweating like CRAZY, and carrying a lot of anxiety and little confidence we could do this.
  • Days 5-10: Lots of bathroom breaks, still sweating, starting to gain some momentum, sleeping better than we ever have, and feeling more awake during the day
  • Days 11-15: Less sweating, hormones starting to level out with new diet (causing some strange displays of emotions), and beginning to see food as only something to fuel our bodies, we also started getting creative at this point…but more on that later
  • Days 16-20: Feeling on top of the world, starting to see we could accomplish physical things we didn’t believe were possible and really falling into a good routine of getting meals ready
  • Days 21-30: Seeing the end in sight, slightly fearful of what would happen when we started adding things back in, so incredibly proud of ourselves that we did it and shocked at the difference in our attitudes and bodies.

 

Things we used a lot of:

1. Minced Garlic

2. All kinds of spices we didn’t even know existed (there is a pumpkin pie spice and we used it A LOT in our breakfast smoothies)

3. Uncured/no sugar Bacon

4. Sweet Potatoes

5. Coconut and Olive Oil

6. Cashews and Almonds

7. Eggs

8. Avocados

9. Salsa

10. Frozen fruit/Coconut Milk/Spinach (these go together for smoothies)

It is helpful to make a plan.  We almost always had cashews or almonds available for a snack.  We also had peppers, onions, and chicken on hand in case one of our “incredible” plans went bad or we didn’t feel like making anything new, we could always stir fry.  The amount of eggs we consumed is too much to really explain properly.  I will just say, at one point we had three 18 egg cartons in our fridge because 18 were hard boiled and we needed the other two to get us through the week.

Something that really helped me about a week or so into this is deciding to actively try new foods/recipes. My roommate and I decided we would pick two foods to try each week (some we had never had and some we just wanted to make new recipes with). In this month we covered sweet potatoes, spaghetti squash, cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, Kale, Jicama, Artichokes, Eggplant, and Okra. This was a fun way to make cooking entertaining. We would create and cook new things and some we loved, cauliflower rice and crust, and some we probably wouldn’t eat again, sorry kale chip lover

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Here are a list of websites and recipes we found helpful:

Cauliflower Wraps

Spaghetti Squash with Meatballs

A Whole Lotta Whole 30

But quite honestly, you can google, pinterest, or ask your facebook friends for recipes for Whole 30, there are tons of resources.

As far as the food part goes, my biggest advice is TRY NEW THINGS…you might surprise yourself and find out you not only tolerate them but you might love them.  I went from being a self-proclaimed vegetable hater to someone who regularly ate mushrooms, zucchini, jicama, carrots, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, onions, and lots of other things I never dreamed I’d eat, let alone like/love.

I cannot stress enough how excited I am for the people who have gone through this journey and who are starting.  It is SO incredible to find out you can be a best version of yourself.

Looking forward to sharing some decisions about my results and the future in my next rambling.

 

Whole 30 Part 1: The Internal

First, I’d like to say I’ve written on and off for the last few years but this is my first public post.  I thought it only fitting that I do something I’ve never done before on the eve of finishing Whole 30.

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For anyone who is not familiar with Whole 30 you can read up on it here.  The basic jist of it is to cleanse your body of all the processed foods you’ve been taking in.  More importantly, it helps you to view food in the way God intended it to be, fuel for your precious body that you have been entrusted.

I need to make a HUGE disclaimer.  I didn’t have any confidence that I could accomplish walking through Whole 30.  It IS hard, it does take planning, you will have to try new things, and learn to be able to say no sometimes.  I don’t want to take away from the struggle that some days were during the last 30 days.

So many people have been extremely supportive this last month and have wanted to know ALL the details of how I feel, what I’m eating, if I’ve lost weight, etc.  And I am more than happy to share with anyone who will listen but I thought it might be more convenient for people to read in parts. So this first part is the internal- the motivation, things I’ve learned, and my attitude.  I’ll be posting two additional parts, The How/Recipes and The Future.

So why do this? Lots of people do this for lots of different reasons.  For me, I have known I needed to have a healthier view of food for quite some time but let fear keep me from ever really following through with any plan.  What first is fear of one thing quickly starts spiraling into a fear of all sorts of things.  God has also been walking me through a time of stripping me of excess.  This last year has shown me I am in need of a lot less than I have been given.

What have I learned?  I am capable…only through Christ.  God has enabled me to us the food I eat as fuel for my body he gave me.  I often let the fear I just talked about keep me from trying- that way I would never fail.  This process has shown me I can do things that are uncomfortable.  God supplies my needs, physical and otherwise.  On a lighter note, I have discovered I don’t hate trying new things, I actually quite enjoy it.  I’ll talk more about this in The How/Recipes.  For now, a picture of our almost complete whiteboard where we kept our feelings, saying, anything entertaining from the 30 days…

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My mood and attitude has done a complete turn around.  I have more energy and feel more awake during the day without caffeine or sugar being the reason.  Part of this I am sure is chemistry and science but I think the other part is plainly that I am more grateful for the things in front of me.  Being more thankful for the food on my plate has just seeped into other parts of my life and being excited about all that God has blessed me with.

More to come soon in Part 2: The How/Recipes.  And if I haven’t said it enough, thank you for all the support- it means the world to me.

 

Wrecked.

This week has been interesting.  We are studying David with Jennie Allen’s book, Chase.  It has already began to challenge my thinking.

I have never been good at change or being reflective. When I say that I mean I do it often but have a tendency to be depressed or solemn during it.  This week is different.

God has done a work in my heart.  He has helped me to see what He calls me to do in the daily grind.  He has also been showing me the things that need to change and rather than be depressed about my shortcomings, He has given me joy in knowing I am a child of God.

In a lot of ways this week I have felt wrecked.  Completely wrecked.  Wrecked in my desperation and knowing I NEED God.  It isn’t a choice, it is the lifeblood of being who he created me to be. Wrecked in prideful judgement of people I am suppose to be loving.  Wrecked in the version of me that lives in my “worst day” everyday.

But I have also felt more joy knowing God didn’t give us the law to condemn us but to show us we need a Savior and point us to His son, Christ.  Joy in knowing God can use me as a vessel to flow through, to love others in a crazy kind of love.  Joy in freedom from being set free of the of version of me that is no longer who I am because Christ has paid the price for my life and I am made new. 

I belong to Him. Him alone.

Two weeks ago one of our pastor’s preached a sermon that convicted me to be in the word of God more, to put a stake in the ground and say I am following truth from the bible.  I don’t want to base anything on how I feel or what new fad book I’ve read but on God.

This week I am equally convicted to love people in a crazy kind of love.  To come to them with the solution of a Savior, not the condemnation of a stone in my hand.

I am not perfect, but God does not require me to be.  Walking with Him isn’t easy but I’m learning it is far less lonely.  He must increase, I must decrease.  That is my prayer this week.