Candy vs Soul Food Relationships

Anyone who knows me well, also knows the value I put on health, wellness, and disease prevention. I do this through whole food, high nutrition eating and a balanced weekly workout routine. These things are fundamental to who I am and how I function on a day-to-day basis.

A prime example of how seriously I take my physical health and wellness lifestyle is this: In 2018-2019 I lived in Madrid, Spain for almost a year. I would drag a small suitcase through the Metro and city streets, EVERY SING DAY, to and from class, the gym, and home… filled with healthy snacks, my gym clothes and shoes, and my laptop. I didn’t have a car to haul it all in, and working out and eating right are just that important. When I moved back to the US from Spain, I ditched the suitcase, but continued my daily walks, working out at 6 AM without fail, plus gravel and road biking on the weekends. I’ve kept up with this lifestyle from the time I was in middle school and high school, active in sports and learning to appreciate salads and vegetables as a meal, not just a side every once in a while.

For as much as I pursue and put time, energy, and effort into my physical health and wellbeing, I can’t say I have always done the same when it came to pursing romantic relationships.

I had written this post for a group of women, The Higher View, about a month ago, just before getting married, and felt compelled to turn it into a personal blog post, which I am finally doing today… three weeks after getting married.

SO, here goes with the initial post!


I think in light of getting married this week, this post shared by a friend stood out to me and I wanted to pass along the concept. Hoping it brings encouragement to single ladies, or anyone struggling with friendships or other relationships in general!


Candy vs Soul Food in Relationships.

Are we entertaining relationships and people that are producing FRUIT? The good, life producing, healthy and wholesome food that we need to survive? Or are we entertaining the sweet looking, tantalizing, fake candy “food” that does no good for us? The latter may cause more harm in the long run as it brings a sugar rush and high, and then leaves us worn out and burnt out with the drop in levels when it’s all over.

The same friend that posted this [quote] graphic told me something years ago that helped get me where I am today in not chasing fake relationships with guys, but instead to go after the life giving kind.

We were at some restaurant, having our fill of chips, guac, and margaritas. I was bemoaning some guy and she encouraged me to look at his fruit, checking in with God about it. When I did that, it turns out he wasn’t producing any fruit despite me wanting and wishing it.

NOW, years later, I’m about to get married to a man with a generous heart and kind soul. He’s pursing God. He treats strangers with love and looks out for his friends and family. I think of my friend’s wisdom often. And the change happened in myself first in what kind of men I was willing to feed my soul with.

Real “Soul Food” relationships will be filled with Fruit that satisfies as they are connected to the One who gives true life. They won’t leave you crashing and burning. Just like we choose what eat and what we put in our bodies daily- junk or whole foods- which determines the health of our physical bodies, we can choose who to put ourselves around, talk to, and entertain on a daily basis. Are they connected to the Vine and producing fruit? If not, you may want to let them go and pursue healthier people who do.

Don’t neglect your soul and what you are feeding it with via the relationships you have!


Jesus’ says in Mathew 7: 15-20 about knowing a person by their fruits.

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

The fruit of a person is life building or soul crushing. Let’s be wise and as much we pursue bodily health, let’s take care of our souls by what and who we are feeding them with.

Held Back By Money… or Not?

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I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time. For two years now, I’ve pondered the words my older brother said to me when I was considering grad school, but concerned about the cost, he said, “Don’t ever let money be the reason to do, or not do something.”

It was a statement of freedom. Of empowerment. That money doesn’t have to dictate my choices. He followed the comment with, “There is so much money in the world, and if God really wants you to do something, He’ll provide the money to make it happen.”

I did end up going to grad school, and just five months out of student life, back at work, it seems I’ve settled back into a mindset of “well I don’t have money, so I can’t” and “I’m living a poor person life right now, sorry” and “I wish I could take trips like them.”

Money is important, and we need to live within our means. The repercussion of spending what we do not have could wind us up in a position of vulnerability, debt, and destitution.

That said, living like a “poor person” is a mentality and lifestyle that goes beyond mere frugality. It’s the opposite of empowering and is a self-inflicted state of being that gets rid of choices, and puts you at the disposal of others.

I feel the crunch of getting out of debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and wanting to save up in order to move on to a new market where I can make a decent wage for my degrees and experience. But, I’m not going to get there by living as a victim to my circumstances and with the mentality that I’m poor.

I’ve yet to see a paycheck for my work, yet I’ve published a book that a whole slew of people have bought. I’ve gotten engaged, and used mileage built up via credit, to make the flights possible on my most recent trip to see my fiancé in his country. I can buy groceries every week, put gas in my car, and pay all the car bills that make it possible for me to get to work each week.

I’m not poor.

Nothing about what I do in my daily life depends on other’s charity.

And after paying another round of payments off with my last piddly squat paycheck, I know that as long as I continue to dream big, and however slow or fast make moves of living my best life, money has no authority over what I can and cannot do with my life.

God knows the plans He has for me. And I will continue to prosper under His hand, knowing full well He has all authority to give me more or take it all away, like Job, the wealthiest man of his day from the Bible, who at God’s allowance, lost EVERYTHING including his children. Imagine losing your home, money, job, and children, and health all in the same week. Job lived through it and came out more blessed on the other side as he trusted God during the process.

God’s perspective is higher than mine, and He sees what I need and how he’ll provide, before I do. So far, He’s been gracious to give me a job to at least be making something during this transition period after grad school, but I know this is not the end. It can’t be. I need more and I ask him every day to show me the jobs I should be applying for that pay in a way that I can be a blessing to people, instead of a burden.

On the flipside, when a high paying job presents itself to me, I don’t want money to be the sole purpose of taking it. As my brother said, “Don’t ever let money be the reason to do, or not do something.” I want to be passionate about my work, not just take a higher paying one for the paychecks.

Money shouldn’t be the reason (a reason, yes, but not the ultimate reason) for making any life changing decisions. DO YOUR LIFE. Think about what you want, then go for it!

Live the life you want, now.

Be happy, now.

Be debt free, now.

Give generously, now.

Set goals, and then achieve them, now.

Money isn’t the mindset and lifestyle that will allow you or I to live your best life. It is a part of it, but money never needs to hold us back.

The Cost of Money and The Blessing of Less

 

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Photo Cred: Katie Harp

Everything comes at a price they say. The water we drink, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the education we get, the entertainment we buy, the technology we use, who we put ourselves around because of how we spend our money. And the more money we have, the more we can eat, watch, consume, buy, waste…

I’m a lucky one. And to be honest it doesn’t matter what living conditions you had in the United States, if you were born and raised in the USA you are a lucky one too. With the highest GDP in the world, the US is one of the strongest leaders in technology, business, investment, and “getting rich” in the world. And think about the 1,000s of people trying to enter the US right now. No. It isn’t perfect. But, yes, if you grew up there your life was ‘better’ than most of the rest of the world and this is how I know:

I moved to Spain a few months ago now and started classes at an international business school in Madrid. Here, I’ve met people from all over the world, and it has been wonderful. But while in school, I’ve realized that though everyone comes from different places, I’m meeting a certain “type” and “class” of people from all over the world. The wealthy 1%. Columbians, Indians, Venezuelans, Spaniards, Australians, Scandinavians, South Africans, and people from so many other countries across the world, I’m meeting the type and class of people who can afford a top-notch master’s program in Europe and all of the costs that come with it.

And that’s how I know that coming from a middle class family in the States, the USA is rich.

When I hear on Facebook people in the US complaining about their quality of life I ask why? Because you have freedom to choose a profession? Because you GET to go to school, and work without force, and have freedom to worship whatever deity you so choose? Because you get to buy a new TV and phone every year? And can afford Netflix, internet, data plans, and food? Because you have a place to live that you can afford, even if you don’t like the price?

You see, it’s EASY to want more. It’s easy to play the “if only” game and then feel sorry for ourselves. I know this because I just caught myself doing it a few weeks ago.

“If only I earned more…” “If only the government didn’t take so much tax out…” “If only my car insurance didn’t cost so much…” “If only I had more money so I could…” What? So, you could… what? Truly what would more get you?

Probably a lot. More money could get you a lot more. But a lot more of what?

Where are you putting your money? What are you spending your time doing because of your money? Investing? Giving? Entertainment? A new couch, because the old one is dated? A bigger house because each kid deserves their own room? Do you ever just buy someone a little gift at work, like a cup of coffee or lunch just because? Do you ever say, no don’t worry about Venmo-ing me this time, I know you’re going through stuff?

The reason I ask these questions is because of my current Spain situation. I don’t have “extra” I have enough.

I have enough for rent, for groceries on a budget, minutes for my phone, and enough to take a few trips while I am in Spain to other countries… I believe that to not take extra trips would be a waste while I am on this side of the pond.

But here is the thing, a few weeks ago I was PISSED. I was jealous of people around me who are planning weekend trips every weekend, shopping for fun, and can afford better apartments closer to the school. I was angry at my tight, gotta watch every penny budget. Until I realized something.

My tight, gotta watch every penny budget is actually freeing. It has freed up my time and energy to now focus and be choosy with my life.

I deleted Netflix because that is an extra that I can’t afford right now, but now, my time is more free and I’m not wrapped spending HOURS watching shows or movies each week. I deleted Spotify for the same reason, and now at the gym I’m not engrossed in my own music, but I listen to little conversations in Spanish around me. I can’t afford to jet off every long weekend like most students around me at school can do, so that means I get to know Madrid better and I get to be super picky about my “special” trips this year while I’m in Europe. And lastly, I don’t spend my time shopping the 100s of beautiful shoe and clothing stores here (when I already have way too many shoes and clothes in the USA). THANK GOD I can’t afford more on that end, I don’t have the space for it in my life back home!

I’m honing in on what actually makes me happy, what is actually important to me and ultimately God, as far as money, how I spend my time due to money, and who I let influence me due to where I spend my money. (Right now, my money is being spent and invested into my education and because of that I’m letting a school and master degree students from around the world influence me).

Money comes at a cost. Not for the money itself, but for what you do with the money, and the people you let influence your life because of money.

Money is good. And I want more of it, someday soon. But right now, I’m experiencing the blessing of having less.

Think about your own money habits, is there anything you can change, get rid of, or do that would free up your time in a new way or bless others by?

Can you jot down any good uses for and how you can be more purposeful with your time and money?

Olympics Inspired

Have you seen this ad?

 

Relentless. Strong. Fierce. Driven. Self- controlled.

Many words come to mind when thinking of the men and women who compete in the Olympics every 4 years. The night is a battleground for many who fight for their dreams of making it to the top. And for all that they put in, they deserve their 15 minutes in the light with hundreds of cameras and billions of eyes on them.

To fight and to risk blood and sweat for the honor and glory that comes with being number one in the world requires a dedication that some might say comes from within, but there has to be depth to a person who doesn’t quit, and doesn’t quit, and doesn’t quit, each and every time their body and mind scream “Stop!”

A piece of me is jealous of those who compete. And a piece of me wants to want anything as much as the athletes that go for the gold.

Then I pause and think. Wait. Don’t I have a reason to be like them??

I’m not the strongest, fastest, skinniest, or most athletic person out there. But don’t I have a reason to want to be the best that I can for Him? To give more, serve more, love when it hurts, and stand for what’s right? To take care of my body with fitness and nutrition? To work for my dreams, even if it means waking up early to write that next paragraph for my writing projects? To help with a film project that isn’t my own, so that I can begin stepping toward the goals He’s placed within me?

He sacrificed EVERYTHING for the sake that I might live, but I waste away half my days and nights in front of Netflix and Facebook. I sit in front of a screen that doesn’t see me. Doesn’t care for me. Doesn’t help me with anything except in becoming a cliché, inorganic daughter of the world.

Why am I not fighting tooth and nail for anything bigger than myself? Be it a gold medal in the spotlight at the Olympics or learning a new piano song in my living room, there is life to be lived and had, but sometimes I struggle to care.

It’s easier to eat food that comes from a box, rather than something I cook on my own. It’s easier to spend my money on clothes that will sit in the back of my closet, instead of giving back to the community around me. It’s easier to love this sacred screen, over volunteering at church or helping my Mom with the dishes that pile up behind me. And I’m so sick of doing what’s easy.

Do you know how counter cultural it is to act on being healthy? To act on giving more from my pocket than I keep? To act on wanting to glorify Him with my mind by picking up a book and reading, rather than passively listening the to buzz around me of new hit songs and the latest Hollywood (or political) scandal? I learned from the Bible that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and living God. Then why do I so easily give into the whims of the world around me with boxed food, Band-Aid medicine, consumer shopping, and couch potato entertainment?

I think in my conviction of my blasé attitude to the depth of passivity I see in my life, I wonder at the authenticity of others around me who claim Jesus, joy, and freedom all the while turning to the worlds doctors, psychologists, next form of entertainment, or giving into our seductive stores and “Quick Fix” “Feed Me” mentality of our consumer culture.

Back to the ad at the beginning. There is power in story and the athletes who compete in the Olympics have stories of defeat, wearing down, and tripping up. But they keep going no matter what because of the depth and passion within, that relentless pull to be the best version of themselves. So their stories are also stories of passion, driveness, working through the night, and fighting in the morning. They see the worth in continuing to grow themselves, not accepting defeat or a trip up at face value. And every 4 years, when all eyes and cameras are on the athletes at the Olympics, the world sees the fruit of the fight and stands inspired.

I am far from perfect. But as I stumble through life, I’m learning that if there is anything I can control- it is to not give up on this journey that God has me on, but instead to become the best version of me for His glory.

I want to “go for the gold” so to speak, not just on Sunday morning, but in the daily decisions of pursing dreams, pursuing relationships and friendships, making my physical and mental health a priority like my spiritual health, and living a life beyond the screens that I can’t seem to escape (which is ironic because I work in TV, but I don’t want TV to become my life).

Though I will fall hard sometimes, flat on my face imperfect as I am, I don’t intend to stay there. I owe my life to the One who bought it with His blood. He gives me an option of either being a passive, inorganic daughter of the world, or fighting to be the best as His daughter, living authentic in the world around me. When I fall, I have no excuse not to get up again, obey, and live, as He would have me. I’m letting go of passivity and choosing instead to go for the gold in all areas of my life, in order to best live in the Light.

A John 4 Encounter

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PC: Julia Ceasar

I know this story of a woman that stood out to me this week, the nuances of the story giving it life in a new way.

This woman was poor. A widow maybe. Divorced perhaps. No friends to speak of. She lived with a man and gave him sex, so she wouldn’t become a beggar on the street. Other women didn’t want to associate with her- they had enough problems without explaining why they were befriending the town prostitute (though I hate that word and all of its connotations). And men… Did she even exist to them at all except as a plaything when she was trying to find love? An object to be used one day in a legal marriage and disposed of the next?

She followed a false religion. And lived in a part of the world where no one went. Seriously, if you knew about it, you would go out of your way to avoid those people. Think of the most run down, scary area you can… and this woman was the butt of it. These rejected people used this woman to feel a little bit better about themselves by shutting her out, so she was forced to go out in the middle of the day, the hottest, driest time when the sandy air parched your throat the worst. Any sane person would stay inside, not melt away in the sun just to get a little bit of water. But she had no choice for water was precious in the desert.

And yet, there is one Man that I know of who went to this town willingly, straight to the beating heart of that “horrible” place, rejected and spat upon by polite society. He sat at the town well, perched on the crumbling brick that needed to be replaced. He was tired and wearied, had been traveling for days with His friends… Walking and backpacking with a mission and goal. This time it involved water.

The woman, covered in brown fabric from head to toe that matched the crusty, desert setting around her noticed Him as she walked to the well with her clay jug and water bucket. But she knew her place in society and didn’t say a word as tied a rope to her bucket and then to the post above the well. She let the bucket drop then lifted it heavy and splashing with water. Up and down, up and down, it was a slow process to fill up the large, earthen jug at her feet with water. Sweat dripped down her back and legs. And her arms began to ache a little. The traveling Man watched her, but she continued to work ignoring His presence. Her mind wandered to the meal she would have to prepare when she got back home soon.

When the jug was almost full, the Man sitting on the well wall next to her spoke up. He seemed tired and asked her for a bit of water for Himself.

In the moment, she didn’t say “Yes” or “No” but shock and an ounce of fear crept over her. Men didn’t talk to women like her. Nobody talked to women like her. And this Man was a foreigner, traveling through… His clothes made him stand out. He was a Jew. Jews hated her people group. Her religion.

The shock over fear won as she considered His request for water and finally said to Him, “Why do you talk to me? Don’t you know who I am? What I am?”

“Dear woman,” He responded politely a faint smile bringing up His lips, “do you know who I am?”

“Well you don’t have anything to draw water with. Where is your water bottle? Or even a cup?” she noted His lack of belongings.

Then the conversation got real.

He smiled at her saying, “Let me tell you a little something. You drink water, you get thirsty again. That’s why you come here every day, in the heat of the day, for water. You can’t live without it. But,” He leaned in closer and she couldn’t help but to lean in herself to hear His whisper; it had been so long since anyone started a conversation with her and it felt good to talk to someone outside of the man she lived with.

As she leaned in He continued, “I have water for you that will keep you satisfied for life. You will never get thirsty again.” He smiled, as her face got bright.

“Where?” she looked around Him again, glancing from His pack to His smiling face. Was she missing something? Maybe He did have a water bottle hanging from His pack.

Suddenly she felt desperate, “I want this! Tell me where I can get this water!” Oh, how she was sick of coming to the well alone- men and women staring at her through their little windows, while she was forced to look on and pretend that their whispers didn’t sting. All the while in the cool morning, young mothers gathered together, talking and laughing, but her past made her an outcast to them. If only she never grew thirsty again, she wouldn’t have to come out in the middle of the day alone like this!

Instead of telling her where to get this magic water, the Man smiled at her fondly saying, “Better yet, why don’t you call your husband? We’ll get him over here as well.”

As if she couldn’t get hotter, she felt her face turn red and she turned away from the Man, busying herself with her water pot and rope. “I don’t have a husband,” she said softly.

The Man pressed her gently- He wanted her to know what He did about her life that her past didn’t matter. “You’re right. You don’t have a husband now. Though you were married 5 times, and now live with someone.”

Shock filled her and she whipped her head toward Him, all the while her thoughts raced. How does He know? Do I have “Abandoned” written across my forehead?

She stammered, “Are… are you… a prophet?” She paused a moment and locked eyes with Him then continued noting his attire once more, “You’re a Jew and you Jews think you know everything like where and how to worship. While we,” she waved her hand pointing to the town around her, “sit here, where our ancestors come from, and worship on this mountain. Why? Why do you insist on Jerusalem being the only holy place?”

She knew she was crossing lines with this Jewish Man, but He started the conversation. All she wanted was to draw water in peace and He prodded her about her personal life. So she took it personal with Him too.

He glanced toward the town she pointed to, her city on a hill where she got her religious beliefs from her ancestors. “Dear woman, you talk about worshiping on a mountain, or in a city, but you don’t even know Who you worship. We Jews do know Who we worship, however,” His voice grew soft again and she stopped fussing with the water pots to hear what came next, taking a step toward Him. She hesitated to sit with Him on the wall, until He motioned a hand next him and made room for her to sit too. It felt good to sit, hot and dry as the air was.

He continued, “There is a time coming when it doesn’t even matter where you worship. You see, even now, people will worship the Father in Spirit, with their hearts. Location?” He glanced in the direction of town again before turning His attention back to the woman beside Him who had grown quiet. “None of that matters now. The Father is looking for those who will worship in Spirit and Truth.”

The woman tried to be discreet as she took Him in, staring at His dirty feet, crossed languidly on the ground, resting on a stone that had crumbled from the wall of the well. His hair was a bit disheveled and dust clung to His clothing. He looked normal enough for a dirty traveler. But He spoke of things she had never heard before. In Spirit and Truth? What was He talking about? But she didn’t want this Jew to think she was ignorant of all things religious.

“Well I know the Messiah is coming,” she said to the Man, “And when He does, He will explain everything.” She stood up and moved toward her water pots, as she saw a group of men making their way to the well where the two were conversing. It was bad enough to be talking to a Man so closely in the middle of the day. Didn’t need an audience.

“Dear woman,” His voice was so gentle she couldn’t help but give Him one last glance before lifting the heavy, clay pot on her head to hurry home with.

“Yes?” Their eyes met again.

“I am the Messiah.” He said it steady and looked into her soul, light pouring from His eyes. The light cut deep and she felt a piercing open up a dark, empty well within that she didn’t know existed. She suddenly felt thirsty from a place within and longed for what this Man carried- a life within His Spirit.

In that moment her eyes opened to Whom it was she was talking and she burst into laughter with joy. She felt a quickening in her heart as years of shame lifted from her shoulders. The laughter continued and the jug on her head crashed to the ground, shattering at her feet. Water seeped into the thirsty earth, but the water suddenly meant nothing to her for suddenly she felt free and loved.

Without saying anything else to the Man, she turned and ran to the city, to the people who treated her so poorly. “Come! Come quick!” she called out to anyone who would listen. “I found Him! I found the Messiah!”

Knocking on any door she could reach she called people to her. “Come see! He’s here! The Messiah!” A crowd formed and she directed them through the city streets back to the well.

People who ignored, gossiped about, and spit on that woman for years observed a sudden confidence as she called out. There was a ringing in her voice and a joy in her demeanor. She was changed. And for that they believed her. It was a glorious moment and people who were hungry for life and thirsty for the Messiah that they heard the woman calling about, they came to see for themselves.

The Man stayed with the people for two days and spread more joy than any person old or young had ever felt in their souls before in that city. It was a forever moment that lives on only in the historical document we read today in the Bible. But live on it did, so that we know that woman would be the first ever to have the glory of the Messiah revealed to humankind as He started His ministry.

 

_ _ _ _ _ _

 

When I think about this story, I am struck by the way that Man engaged people. He changed history and lived life. He met a nobody woman in a seedy town and after a brief, personal encounter, for the first time in her life, people listened to her because of Him.

He was SO counter cultural and the first feminist, if you will, bringing dignity to women who had no rights, breaking all kinds of social norms.

He had an effect on everyone who heard of Him, though not all liked Him or what He had to say.

He didn’t write out His opinions on silly blogs for people to like and read and comment on. He didn’t post pictures on Facebook, bragging about His new clothes, latest trip to a glamorous city or beach, or the fact that He ate a taco for lunch.

He didn’t take a political stance, demonizing the government or drawing lines between political parties, but instead told people to respect and give to the government what they asked for.

He sat with the sick and didn’t post about it. As a matter of fact, when people talked about Him and all the amazing, wonderful things He was doing and changing around Him, He asked people to stay quiet. He wanted His profile to stay low. He wanted to love without advertisement.

He spent time with His Father without posting about it on Instagram. And didn’t need to stay connected with 100s of friends on Snapchat throughout the day.

He fed and gave and loved.

He engaged people in real life encounters.

I am convicted to how I engage people in the real world vs. the online world that most people live. I know that if I engage in real life encounters and speak half as much life into someone today as He did with the Woman at the Well, then I’m on the right track.

I’m praying for a John 4 encounter today.