Saturday, February 25, 2017

Living well is....well, a lot of fun!

This photo represents some of my favorite things: a table, coffee, good company, and sharing tips and information.

Although this happens fairly frequently in my home, yesterday was the first time I have had an "official" gathering to discuss wellness. And it happened courtesty of wellness cheerleader, Katie Wells, of the popular blogsite, Wellness Mama.

Like Katie, I have been on my own journey to wellness for my family for many years, and have been following her blogsite for the last several.

We have been making gradual changes to limit our usage of chemicals in our cleaning and personal products, our use of plastics and make changes to more natural eating habits.

Moving out of the city to a few acres has allowed us to eat fresh eggs from our own chickens, consume goat milk from our own goats and harvest our own fruit from our orchard.

However, we are not where I would like to be in terms of our eating practices so when I saw that Katie was publishing a cookbook promoting wellness in family-friendly, easy to put together recipes, I was instantly sold. When I read that they would be choosing several "wellness mama cookbook ambassadors" to help spread the word of the cookbook, I immediately applied.

A month later, a box showed up on my porch that contained a smorgasbord of Nutiva brand goodies. To be honest, there were things I had never heard of before but the two hazelnut spreads were an instant attraction to my four children.

Shortly after, I received an email letting me know that I had been chosen to be one of the ambassadors and to be on the lookout for my Wellness Mama cookbooks -- one for me to keep and one to give away at the gathering I would be hosting.

After making an event date adjustment due to illnesses and other scheduling conflicts that could not be avoided, the majority of the invitees chose a Friday afternoon for the gathering date. Since we are a homeschooling family, it made the most sense to have it on a day that works for other homeschooling families, so that while we moms hung out, our kids could galavant around our farmhouse and acreage.

In preparation, I chose a couple of the recipes in the cookbook to make and sample at the gathering, as well as suggesting that the intendees bring any wellness products to put together DIY personal beauty product.

Before my fellow moms arrived, I got the Ham & Egg Breakfast Cups (courtesy of a our hens' farm fresh eggs) prepped and into the oven (pg. 65).

(By the way, the feta and green onions on these takes them to the next level!)

Sarah was the first to arrive and as always, she was game to jump in and chop. She took over making the salsa and when Maribel arrived, they went to work on making the Bacon-Guacamole Bites on Sweet Potato Chips on page 223.

Erin arrived soon after and was game to jump in and start the Chocolate-Cherry Bark (pg. 264). However, we did need to make a substitution on this one. Since I could not get my hands on dried cherries, we ended up using dried apricots. We all proclaimed them delicious, nonetheless.

Once we got everything finished, we put it on the table and I introduced them to the cookbook and Nutiva products. And, I got to tell them that they all would receive a three-month trial membership and 15% off their first order from Thrive Market -- which I am especially excited about living a solid 40 minutes away from the nearest health food store.

After we looked at and sampled the Nutiva products (that dark hazelnut spread....mmmmm), we took our plates into the dining area so that we could eat and talk about other ways we are trying to implement wellness into our family life.

But first, we did a quick drawing to see who would take home the Wellness Mama cookbook, and it was......Maribel! She was so excited.

As we ate (and Maribel looked through her new cookbook), I showed the gals some of the products that I have started making, including: hand soap, body wash, foaming face wash, eye makeup remover, walnut shell face scrub, sugar body scrub, whipped body butter, foaming bath salts, bath bombs, and goat milk face soap.

And some of the products that I have switched over to using for making them (castile soap, raw honey, various oils, clays and powders):

We decided since I had all of the items handy, that we would make a sugar cookie lip scrub found from Wellness Mama's blogsite, a coffee sugar lip scrub, and lip balm. (Also the fact that I had woken up that morning with dry chapped lips might have had something to do with it as well.)

We used the coconut oil from the Nutiva goodie box

And then the fabulous Mary shared about how a few weeks prior, she had come over and we had blended up some essential oil blends for her and her family, as well as some foaming face wash for her and a Bentonite Clay Mask off the Wellness Mama blogsite that we both tried and loved.

We had been discussing skincare and make-up solutions for rosacea (since we both are dealing with that skin issue) for awhile. I tend to gravitate towards liquid foundation, whereas Mary is more of a minimalist in terms of makeup. She was looking to replace her mineral powder with someone more natural. I showed her a blog post from Katie's site that I had seen showing how to create your own DIY mineral powder.

She went home and promptly ordered all of the ingredients and very kindly brought it all to our event. She helped us to mix up our own personalized powders for our skin tones and needs.

Mary kindly measured ingredients for my mineral powder while I refilled coffee cup and took photos

Of course we had to put it on immediately and all agreed that the natural glow and diffusion it gave us was amazing and felt great on our skin.

All too soon, we realized that almost five hours had gone by and that dinners needed to be made and husbands would soon be coming home. Sure enough, my husband arrived shortly after everyone left and polished off the Bacon-Guacamole Bites, declaring it the best thing ever.

One thing I heard echoed from my fellow mama friends was how tasty and simple the food we prepared was and how changing your entire lifestyle can be so intimidating that you can end up being paralyzed into changing nothing. But when you take a step here and another step over there, it is altogether a different story to bring change and wellness to your family life.

As we hugged each other and loaded up our bounty from our gathering we decided that we should keep this wellness thing going and get together soon to make more food together and personal products.

Who else wants to join us?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Myth of the Generational Curse

I get so excited these days when I see a blog post or article that echoes the very thing that I have been working through in my mind and heart.

One of the latest things I have been chewing on is the concept of "generational curses" and whether or not they pertain to us today.

I have grown up in the church hearing about generational curses now and then. I have heard several people talk about how their family has suffered under it, and more recently, was part of a prayer team where one member went through several generations of the prayer receipient and prayed off curses from each one.

It left me a bit perplexed because the journey I have been walking this past year has opened my eyes to some pretty radical and amazing realities.

Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we do not live under a curse.

But we can choose to live cursed.

Before we unpack that, let's talk about the verses in the Old Testament that people refer to when they speak of generational curses.

Jonathan Welton recently posted a blog about this topic (which I highly recommend that you read...go it...I'll wait right here.)

Good stuff, right?

In his post, he says this:

"The Bible mentions these so-called 'generational curses' in several places (Exodus 20:5; 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9). God warns that He is 'a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.' "

The concept of cursing someone because of something their ancestor did hundreds of years before has always felt a bit harsh to me. It's the same reaction that I have now thinking about how unfair it would be for me to be cursed with something that my great-grandfather did in the 1800's.

However, the Israelites were living under a different set of rules and circumstances. I hope we can all agree that curses were not even in existence in the Garden of Eden. The original sin of Adam and Eve created a new operating system where sins had to be atoned for before you could be forgiven (un-cursed so to speak). It all got very complicated and bloody with all those animal sacrifices.

Fast-forward to the wilderness when God laid down the law in the form of the Ten Commandments for the Israelites. At this point, they had been brought out of slavery in Egypt in a miraculous way. Every physical need had been provided for over that three months. God was leading them to their own place of rest and habitation.

There had been some grumbling along the way, but so far, the Israelites were re-learning what it meant to be free people. But God in His infinite fatherly wisdom knew that their human hearts still had a lot of Egypt in there and that the most loving thing a father can do is give healthy boundaries.

So, he gave them some. Only ten commandments, which is remarkable when you think about it. And here is what he had to say about the generational curse:

Exodus 20:1-6 (HCSB translation):

"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. Do not have other gods besides Me. Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. 
You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers' sin to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commands."

My Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) commentary talks about how covenant documents worked in that time period. God is self-identifying as the orginator of this covenant. This is not a rule set created by man to appease a god. This is God, Himself, as creator and enforcer. There are no slave masters to answer to and no holy men to prove piety.

And I'd also like to point on the last part of the above scripture, which is what I believe is ultimately God's heart for His children -- to show "faithful love to a thousand generations of those love Me and keep My commands."

I'm not great at math, but even I know that 1,000 is way more than four.

To my mind, this is the ultimate sign of God's respect and love for His creation and His deep desire to have a relationship with humanity -- not just drones. He also demonstrated this love by never giving the Israelites a form to replicate to make idols that could potentially usurp the worship due Him.

They were truly a people with a God like no other people group. And because of this, the first two commandments talk about the importance of recognizing their unique position. And then out of this comes the consequence of what will happen if they should choose to create or worship another god.

"punishing the children for the fathers' sin to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me..."

"Hate me" is such a strong and interesting word choice here. "Hate" is a word that has all sorts of different connotations in today's world, but that's another blog post. Some suggested synonyms of this Hebrew word שָׂנֵא (pronounced Saw-nay) are also, detest, enmity, and turned against.

The word enmity is used to describe what would forever be between the serpent and the woman as a result of the fall in Genesis 3:15.

This is a word that describes not only a turning away from someone, but a profound, seething dislike or loathing. So this isn't just a simple forgetting to put God in the place He deserves, but a pointed and intentional turning from Him.

I think we could also point out that the punctuation in this passage matters. It clearly says, "fathers' sin," which refers to the specific sin of the patriarchs of Israel choosing to turn to other gods and lead their families down that path.

Now bear with me as we go on an apostrophe journey here. Note that it does not say, fathers' sins (which would be all the sins of all of the patriarchs) or even father's sins (your own dad's many sins) and lastly, father's sin (your own dad's specific sin of worshipping another god).

Rather, I believe in this context it is refering to an entire people group following the example of their patriarchs and intentionally walking into idolatry.

So I think that we can glean that this verse is not only talking about about a specific group of people (a generation of men who are entrusted with leading their families), it is also talking about a specific sin (idolatry).

I don't pretend to be a Bible scholar and I admit that my study skills are not up to par of many professionals out there. I am sure that there are other interpretations and others who think this is a model of how God punished back then. Brutal and lasting.

Even if that were true, the Good News is that Jesus came to abolish that system and that old covenant. We can see this in Hebrews 8:6-13, which directly quotes Jeremiah 31, and which my Bible entitles as "A Superior Covenant."

"For God said, Be careful that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown to you on the mountain. But Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry, and to that degree He is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been legally enacted on better promises. 

For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second one. But finding fault with His people, He says [quoting out of Jeremiah 31]: 

‘Look, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by their hands to lead them out of the land of Egypt. I disregarded them, says the Lord, because they did not continue in My covenant.

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. And each person will not teach his fellow citizen, and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their wrongdoing, and I will never again remember their sins.'

By saying a new covenant, He has declared that the first is old. And what is old and aging is about to disappear."

Those coming days Jeremiah spoke of happened when Jesus answered the old covenant with His blood and made it null and void.

Therefore, that old covenant with its blood rituals, atonement, and heavy burden of impossible laws to keep straight and to keep was done away with and a new covenant took its place.

And in my opinion, that includes this generational curse. No longer would God punish future generations for their father or fathers' turning away from the covenant to worship other idols. Each generation gets to choose whom he or she will serve and I believe each generation gets to bear the results of that choice. I also believe that God is big enough to make himself known to each generation whether our parents pointed us to Him or not. He loves us that much.

There are others (Jonathan Welton for one) who do a great job of sorting through generational issues or sins and I do believe that we often see a similar root issue or addiction that may run down (or back up) a family line. However, are we as believers cursed to live that lifestyle or accept that mantle of brokenness?

Absolutely not.

"Therefore if the Son sets you free, you really will be free." (John 8:36)

Jesus has set us free. And His coming and death broke the old covenant that would leave us cursed because of another generations' mistake.

And so we are back to my original statement:

Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we do not live under a curse. 

But we can choose to live cursed.

We can be totally free, but live a life that is caged and bound. We can also be free from generational curses, yet live as though we are cursed.

The choice is mine. And the choice is yours.

How will you choose to live?


**For more reading on the subject, this is as interesting blog post with lots of scripture to back it up. I don't really love the naming of names of people they disagree with theologically. But if you can look past that, I feel like it's pretty spiritually sound. But judge for yourself.