The Winter Blues

Does winter get anyone else down in the dumps?
I’m not trying to blame my attitude on the cold, because I know that owning my attitude is always my responsibility. But man… I really, really hate the cold. 

It is one sensation I can think of that makes me truly ANGRY.

It makes every activity more difficult. Like today, thinking about leaving the house for the different things on my agenda, from a meeting at my pastors’ house with their kids, which is one my favourite parts of my week, to a coffee and study date with beautiful Mary, to shopping, all things I love and have a generally positive attitude about– the cold weather can literally be enough to almost keep me inside.

Always “almost”… it’s never actually kept me inside, that I can recall.

But the severity of my disliking toward cold weather makes me wonder why we have it in the first place.

And then it makes me reflect why we have much bigger, truly problematic situations present in the world, hardships and fighting and poverty and greed.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

Now, I am a baby and out of line to liken dealing with the cold as a very privileged Western person as “suffering.” But my internal and external struggles with it reminded me of the promise of this verse in Romans. Suffering, hardships, difficult times, and struggles… they are part of the Gospel. They themselves produce endurance, which produces character, which produces hope in God’s love, NO MATTER WHAT.

So, to my friend struggling… with ANYTHING…

God knows you. Inside and out. And He hears your silent prayer. Bring it to Him, for real, and entrust it to Him. Know that He has deeper plans for every trial, and that an attitude that says, “This hardship will produce endurance, which will produce character, which will produce hope in the ONE THING that will never fail” is one God calls you to. 

Don’t judge me, but I’m still gonna go into the cold with an attitude that says that God is gonna use the chill in my bones to produce endurance, character, and hope… and honestly, He does. He uses everything. 

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What Is Exhaustion Without Purpose?

All I can think about right now is hitting my pillow.

I hate sounding dramatic, but my eyelids are so heavy and my whole body is exhausted from not stopping all day.

And that could easily be for nothing.

I could easily work this body hard and fast for a single purpose: my own feelings of worth, productivity, to boost my ego, “because I’m good at it or enjoy it,” to “make a living.” But, why? Why live to “make a living?” Surely I was put on this earth for more than to be put on this earth.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. MATTHEW 20:28

A pastor I very much look up to and respect preached a sermon on this very verse yesterday that God used to convict and challenge and change me. Jesus might call me to a remote part of the world to be in the depths of danger with starving children and my calling and purpose would be to say “it is well with my soul” and obey. He might call me away from all comforts and pleasures, the “things of this world” that I think bring me joy and say, “These things are NOTHNG,” showing me that glimpse of Heaven, and OH, how good that would be. JESUS I JUST WANT TO KNOW YOU MORE.

Don’t allow me to live this life selfishly, Jesus. Don’t allow me to think about when it’s my turn to eat, or my turn to “shine,” or anything of myself or “my” success. Jesus I just want Your name glorified in my life, and I know that that looks like servanthood. Less Cassie and more You, I pray Jesus, every day.

This doesn’t look like burnout, and it doesn’t look like the striving I often find myself wound up in again. It looks like submitting, it looks like letting go, and it looks like listening. It looks like joy, and unabashed consideration for every soul I encounter. I can’t be perfect in this, so I might as well give Him the steering wheel. It’s all I was created to do.

When Will I Learn?

…that life is all about the “little moments?”

Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.”

I have written about it countless times. And I think about it all the time. But sometimes, in the heat of a moment, it doesn’t happen.

In a moment when…

I tiredly choose to watch YouTube videos in my room rather than catching up with one of my roommates (also some of my best friends).

I choose to stress over the fruit that needs cutting at work rather than meeting a customer or co-worker where they’re at.

I choose to take on too much so that I’m spread too thin and feel I have no time for friends and family.

This morning, when I woke up, I was reminded by timely encouraging texts from my roomies, Beth and Mary, the importance of taking time out.

Like every day, I brought my Bible and highlighters out to my living room when Jesus asked me:

Are you sitting with me this morning? Or just “the book?”

Wow.

Sometimes I focus “so much” on making sure I’m ACTUALLY sitting with Jesus that I don’t leave room for Him to just speak. This morning, He spoke loudly, and I decided to listen.

Inspired by a thoughtful, gracious co-worker at work later that day, reminded by her of the love God calls me to share, I was equipped to serve customers in a way that made memories rather than just “what can I get for you?” kind of service.

Further inspired by one of my pastors, Nat, at our meeting about the coming year, where I officially agreed to interning at Creekside Church for a second year. Nat met me exactly where I am. He cared to listen to the details of my life, and reminded me that that is what I am called to do. Stop and listen. To Jesus, to people, to music, to history. 

Aggravated when I knew I hadn’t written my most recent article for the software start-up I write for to the best of my ability; humbled and blessed by the grace my employer showed me, anyway.

These “little moments” that are memory-worthy matter. And they’re memory worthy because of Jesus.

Each time His love is truly shown, and He is responded to, eternal glorification and life-change happens. I’ll take more of these moments, Jesus. Give me a heart and soul that only wants more of you in me, and more of You in others.

Attitude and Altitude: What Is Filling Me Up?

Today I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. My head and heart and spirit have been whirring and I’ve been praying and Jesus granted me lots of awesome people to talk with and engage these thoughts with throughout the day which is cool, but I’ve been itching to blog too.

Today began slow and beautiful for me. Wednesdays are sleep-in day. It’s the one day in the week– besides the occasional Saturday– that no alarm is set. Wednesday mornings, because I don’t have class until 2:30, I’ve been allowing myself to sleep until whenever my body desires.

This morning that was until 11am. Glorious. 

When I did finally awake at this oh-so-almost-afternoon hour, I answered texts and emails, and then spent my time in the Word.

When I finished my last personal Bible study, I prayed about what to study next. And God was really putting on my heart that it wasn’t going to be a “routine,” all organized, laid out plan of a Bible study. I’ve tended to idolize and obsess over routine and structure in the past, and I’ve learned that focusing on the structure can prevent from my attention to the Holy Spirit. This can turn Bible Study into a thing to check off the to-do list. Not okay.

Rather, Bible study is where I do my most important and everlasting growing; the Bible is the first place to get Truth and instruction and guidance.

So, I settled on my Bible study being just reading the Bible with Jesus. From beginning to end. No expectations. This has led to searching some commentaries; to lots of prayer; to referencing other studies and versions. I’m just over a month in and now 10 chapters into Exodus, reading about the plagues God sends over the Egyptians as Moses is working according to God to free his people from slavery. I know this story well from watching The Prince of Egypt probably a dozen times as a kid, but reading the Word of God is a whole different story.

Moses replied, “It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the Lord our God. EXODUS 7:10

What a reminder from Moses, in the midst of the Lord performing miraculous signs for the sake of his people knowing He is their God– there is no one like our God, nothing satisfying as His Truth; nothing else True.

And so the second I turn to my phone, opening myself up to whatever might be on Facebook; the second I go into the world, opening myself up to whatever other messages might try to impose themselves as “True;” I ask Jesus to guard my heart. To direct me in HIS Truth, and to make me more like Him.

I’m thinking about that when I head out of my room to make my favourite breakfast– a giant chocolate peanut butter smoothie on top of oatmeal, of course with coffee. Mary is doing homework, and we decide to watch the new This is Us episode. And I cry, again.

I get to see Maddie, too, before heading to school, and am overwhelmed in so much joy and gratitude in the fact that I get to live with these amazing, Jesus-loving girls. I express it to Maddie and we’re laughing and talking about our days before I head to class.

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Johnny and I are texting about seeing each other soon, too, and just about how “done” we are with distance. In one of those moments of struggling. Where I just want to sit in my missing him and be sad about it.

But Jesus reminds me how much He’s growing us, strengthening us and our communication, and making us more like Him.

Classes are good, and I’m drawn by a conviction about the pursuit of human connection. In this age of social interaction being so much done in front of screens, allowing ourselves to be susceptible to any sort of notion of truth; to opportunities to compare one’s body to images of bodies that are all photoshopped; to compare one’s life to other lives that are all idealized snapshots that don’t represent even the truth of one’s life let alone truth PERIOD… all of this was going on in my head, and I just looked for opportunities to talk to the people around me. And God gave them to me with some fellow students, which was so cool.

My paper for one of the classes featured a thesis that was literally about the way our expectancy can have such an impact on the outcome of a situation. If we’re expectant of goodness, of success whether it looks like what we picture it will or not, we experience joy and trust in God. He grants this expectancy, and just asks us to have faith.

And so, at Youth tonight, when I had amazing conversations with my co-leaders about what we’re exposing ourselves to and guarding our hearts from social media, perseverance in our time in the Word, and when the message was on advice/mentorship/where we are getting leadership from, I thanked the Lord that He spoke so clearly to me through these conversations, changing me for the better, and hopefully preparing me to work through me to help others, too.

I also had two “mentor-like” conversations with two of my amazing co-leaders about long distance dating– one who is currently in a long-distance relationship and who felt my struggle but also admonished the opportunity it is to have a Christ-centered long distance relationship; and one who has been happily married for seven years, now with a child, who did long distance for four years with his wife while they were dating, and spoke about its beautiful ripple effect in their marriage now.

Thank-you, Lord Jesus, for meeting me where I’m at in order to serve You better. Make me more patient; eager to expose myself to what is of You and of service to You; eager to help others. Amen.

Not My Glory, Lord, But Yours

Last night, at 11:58pm, I submitted the longest essay of my English career thus far. A lot of thought went into its thesis, which surrounded largely a dystopian novel published recently called “The Circle.”

The essay was about modern day tendency to exalt self. To revel in being seen, and in the desire to present oneself in a “put-together” manner on social media and other public outlets.

Fifty years ago, teenagers didn’t pull out their phones to show the world their lattes. They didn’t auto-biographically define themselves for the rest of the world in 150 characters or less on Instagram. They didn’t filter photographs to appear more vivid and “better” than they looked in real life.

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Matthew 23:12

While formatting this essay, I was continuously reminded of the Bible Study I got to take part in a couple weeks ago, in which we studied a sermon by Pastor Eric Ludy called The Man Under the Stage.

The sermon talked about the call for Christians to trust radically in Jesus, knowing that He Himself will move mountains, that we can retreat to the prayer closets and lean into Him for His sake alone. He is not dependant on us, nor does He call us to strive, but rather to seek Him continuously once He’s revealed His Truth to our hearts, and sacrifice every ounce of our reputations for His eternal cause.

When He saw that there was no intercessor, no perfectly obedient man in Israel,

his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. Isaiah 59:16.

Since sending that intercessor into the world in the form of Jesus, God has called His people to rely on the ever present Holy Spirit, who teaches us the goodness of humbling ourSELVES and the foot of the cross in order that HE would be revealed in our daily lives.

This doesn’t look like perfecting my Instagram account.

It doesn’t look like caring about how many followers I have.

It doesn’t look like snapping photos of every coffee date or excursion.

It does look like presence with loved ones. It looks like constant fruitful desire to press in to the God of the whole universe, for His Son’s sake alone. Knowing that my body is a beautiful creation of HIM, but temporary, a vessel for His controlling.

Lord, lead me to the prayer closet. Meet me in the secret places of Your heart, and not half the time or some of the time or only when it seems convenient, but ALL IN ALL Jesus may my heart be after Your own. I pray for revelation of Your Spirit in every last area of my life. You are mighty to save, Lord, and I know that my strength is nothing compared to Yours. May all of Cassie be wholeheartedly submitted to You, Jesus, and may You receive all the glory. Amen.

FAIR TRADE MATTERS: Bananas and Fruit

Bananas are by far the most consumed fruit in North America.

Most of these bananas are grown on large plantation sites, where the workers often live there and are grossly underpaid, primarily in Ecuador, Guatemala, and Costa Rica.

Under extremely unhealthy working conditions, with no benefits, and making only 1-3% of the profits of these bananas, employees in these plantation sites are not remotely met by fair standards according to basic human rights.

Children as young as 8 are forced into these conditions, working 12 hour days with dangerous machinery, in unfair and hazardous conditions, and with inadequate food and drink. Surrounded by harmful pesticides and chemicals, workers have reported consistently nausea, dizziness, fever, and aching bones, to name a few symptoms.

Fair Trade Brands

Many local grocery stores are now selling fair trade bananas. Look for these brands:

  • Equal Exchange
  • Earth University
  • Grow Bananas

And if they are not currently sold at your local grocery stores, put in a word with the managers! Many grocery stores are diligent at taking customers’ word into account.

Continue to be aware of what you’re consuming; and thereby supporting in the process.

My Favourite Breakfast “Ice Cream”

My favourite morning meal, hands down, is a thick, frothy, creamy, fatty, sweet smoothie bowl.

With chocolate.

And peanut butter.

And that’s FILLING.

Here is my recipe for the perfect texture, perfect flavour, perfectly filling morning “ice cream” bowl. It is OUT OF THIS WORLD.

Ingredients

1.5-2 frozen bananas, in chunks

1 scoop chocolate protein powder (I like this one)

3 ice cubes

2/3 cup chocolate almond milk (or regular chocolate milk)

1/4 cup yogurt of choice (I use full fat goat’s milk yogurt)

1/2 Tbsp almond butter

2 dates, chopped

1/2 tsp sea salt, for flavour

Method

  1. Place all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth, scraping down sides if necessary.

  2. Spoon into bowl, or drink with a straw (it will be very thick!). Top with desired toppings; I love topping this with more dates, nuts, nut butter, granola, sliced bananas, chocolate, etc.– get creative!