Thursday, September 29, 2011

FFOZ | The Weekly eDrash : Never Will I Leave You

I loved this so much that I just had to share it.  Then I discovered that in order for you all to read it in it's entirety, you would have to sign up to receive an eNewletter so I've included the text below. All credit goes to those at First Fruits of Zion who wrote and published these thoughts. 

FFOZ The Weekly eDrash : Never Will I Leave You

Nitzavim/Vayelech - נצבים/וילך

Torah : Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30

Haftarah : Isaiah 61:10-63:9

Gospel : Luke 24:1-12/Luke 24:13-43

Thought for the Week:

"Be strong and courageous. ... He will not fail you or forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6). The High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are primarily about our relationship with God as individuals and as a common people. These are appointed times for reconciling with one another and with our Father in Heaven. If we take the opportunity to turn to God in sincere repentance in the name of His Son, He will receive us.


Moses encouraged the Israelites not to falter on the edge of the Promised Land, as the previous generation had done. He told them to "be strong and courageous," and he comforted them by telling them that God would not fail or forsake them.

Jewish tradition teaches that a person's income for the year is predetermined at Rosh Hashanah. The writer to the book of Hebrews quotes Deuteronomy 31:6 to encourage His readers to rely on God to provide for all their needs. He tells them to avoid greed and avarice because God has already promised not to forsake us:

"Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said [in Deuteronomy 31:6], 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,' so that we confidently say [what is written in Psalm 118:6], 'The LORD is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?'" (Hebrews 13:5-6)

People who have been abandoned or abused by a parent or spouse sometimes suffer with anxiety about their relationship with God. They might project their hurts and fears from human relationships onto their relationship with God. They fear that He will withdraw His love from them. Such a view of God makes a true faith relationship almost impossible. God wants His people to know that He will not fail us, nor will He abandon us.

Even in times when God punished Israel for disobedience, it was not as if He had abandoned them or cast them off. He punishes Israel as a father disciplines a beloved son. God is faithful to His people. Even when He sent the children of Israel into exile, He did not send them out alone. The rabbis teach that God's Dwelling Presence went with the people of Israel when they were driven from their land, and that He will return with them when they are gathered back into the land.

We can trust our Father in Heaven. He travels with us even in the lonely places of pain and exile. He will not fail us or forsake us.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Potato Starch and Pedialyte

Intrigued?  You should be.  Since I no longer have to dedicate my brain cells to school work I have been dedicating them to things like napping, reading, and organizing drawers and shelves that have gotten away with being messy for four years.  Annnnnd when that eventually gets boring, I do things like learn how to make my own Pedialyte and attempt to make gluten free cookies from scratch. Yummy, right? 

I hear gluten free cookies can be yummy.  I like gluten free bread, crackers, and muffins so why not cookies?  Why?  Well, maybe I had a bad recipe, but my cookies basically tasted like poop and that's an understatement.  All I did was substitute flour with potato starch.  My only advice to you is don't do it!  Don't put potato starch in your cookies!

The finished product was weird and crumbly.  In fact, if I had written the recipe I would have stated, place tablespoon blobs of dough on the cookie sheet, with some kind of equal spacing, and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until weird and crumbly.  Instead the instructions said something like, place rounded spoonfuls of cookie dough, two inches apart, on cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until light golden brown and Martha Stewart-y.  Okay, so I added the Martha Stewart-y part for added snark value, but you get the point. 

I bake.  I love to bake and have been good at it since I was very young.  I spent summer vacations and winter breaks from school baking cakes and cookies and pies and feeding my masterpieces to my brothers and the neighborhood boys.  I loved creating new recipes and altering my favorite recipes from my mom's cookbooks.  As an adult, I eat super healthy and try to limit, if not completely do away with, my intake of sugars, preservatives, fats, etc. so I thought I could combine my love of baking with my love of healthy ingredients.  This is what I learned this week:

Only eat "healthy" desserts if someone smarter than me can use healthy ingredients and actually make them taste good OR just eat the sugar, butter, shortening and gluten loaded goodies as is.  It's dessert for goodness sake!

I am now also making my own Pedialyte.  Since I am plagued with frequent episodes of migraine induced vomiting (I hope you aren't eating any desserts right now, gluten free or otherwise) I keep Pedialyte on hand, always, so that I don't die from dehydration and so that I can find enough strength the morning after to crawl around and get ready for work.  $5.00 a liter plus a girl who pukes at least bi-weekly = lots o'money.  I googled "homemade pedialyte" and I now have pre-made baggies full of dry Pedialyte which I can add to water, when needed, and remain hydrated and alive. Each baggie of dry contents costs around $.60 cents versus $5.00.  Boo-yah!

There are tons of homemade pedialyte recipes out there, but I prefer the recipes found on this site:

I am going to have to channel my extra time toward something besides baking experiments and electrolyte remedies soon, but for now, this is fun!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Nothing to avoid

It turns out that I am at my most creative and/or inspired when I am trying to procrastinate or avoid another task altogether.  How did I discover this?  After four, long, horrifyingly inconvenient years of college I am finally finished with my Bachelor's degree. (I don't have my grades back yet and I'm surprisingly superstitious so don't get excited). 

This past year, especially, I've been burning out quickly and procrastinating like it's an Olympic sport and I'm trying to get on the team!  The fact that I produce better results under pressure only justified the procrastination, which is unfortunate, and I'm convinced, very bad for my heart.  In the middle of writing a research paper I would suddenly have to STOP, minimize my Word doc and start typing a blog post, usually at midnight.  Then, afterward I could focus on my paper again.  It was a terrible way to complete school but it made for some good posts, I hope.

This past week, I have been free.  I go out with friends spontaneously, I hang out with my nieces and nephews, I go to bed at a normal time,  all the while never having to say to anyone, "I can't; I have a paper to write."

I thought that having all this extra time on my hands and a clear mind would inspire me to blog like crazy, but instead I have 19 unfinished drafts just sitting there, taunting me.  I hate them and their smug unfinishedness.  Blah.  Since I have nothing that I want to avoid right now, I can't seem to focus on blogging. 

But maybe it's a good thing?  It's kind of fantastic that there's nothing in my life that I want to avoid.  Well, nothing besides dating.  I'm avoiding that like the plague, but that's a whole other blog post that is currently in draft form. Until I'm inspired to polish my drafts or to write about anything new at all, I am just going to live.  That is the most freeing thing I've said or felt in a long time. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Other Mama

My niece, Little E, is a very bright, witty, and matter-of-fact two year old who never ceases to amaze me.  A few months ago, I was visiting with Little E and her brothers and parents.  During dinner, Little E pointed across the room at her parents and said, "That's my daddy." 

I nodded.  "I know.  I love your daddy." 

She pointed at her mommy, "That's my mommy." 

Again, I nodded.  "I love your mommy too." 

Then Little E cocked her head and looked at me very seriously before asking, "Are you my mother?" 

Taken back a bit I said, "No, Little E, I'm your Jessica!" 

She insisted that I'm her mother and that her mommy is her mommy.  Where she came up with this, I will never know but I'm sure it's going to cause confusion when I am out in public with Little E and her mommy!

Little E has since been openly and consistenly referring to me as her Mother, Mom or Other Mama.  It is the weirdest thing.  She defintely knows the difference between me and her mommy and she still calls me Jessica and sometimes calls me Aunt Jessica too.  She just decided one day to include me in the mom category.  We (her parents and I) all laugh about it. We have no idea what sparked this little phase in Little E. 

Today, I was telling a friend about this phase, exclaiming about how cute it is and then I was reminded of a doctor's appointment that took place about a year ago. At the appointment, I was told I would probably never be able to carry a child to term, or would at least require a lot of medical assistance to do so.  I wasn't crushed, mainly because I'm not even sure I want kids.  I mean, I love children and anyone who knows me even a little bit can vouch for that, but if I never have my own I'll be okay.  However, there is that natural maternal part of me that caused me to be a little sad that I don't even have the option.  With all that said, the fact that Little E thinks enough of me to consider me her "Other Mama" is kind of awesome.

Me, Little E, and her brothers Sky-bye, and T-Rex

Sunday, September 11, 2011

55 Minutes

Ten years ago today I was 17 and a senior in high school.  I, like so many others, remember the tragedy and turmoil of the terrorist attacks like it was yesterday.  And, like so many others, I cannot fully explain what that day felt like, what it did to me, how it changed me and that's unfortunate.  It's unfortunate because those who are transitioning into adulthood in the next few years were in their early elementary years, or younger, when the first plane hit the World Trade Center September 11, 2001 and may not fully understand how significant those events were.

This is not a "I remember where I was" post, although I have one of those drafted.  Sitting on my patio this morning, everything is silent.  Even the geese that normally honk incessantly are waddling around, silently.  There is a peaceful stillness so unlike what was felt in 2001 at this time that it caused me to scrap my original draft and type this instead:

We watched television all day at school after hearing about the attacks.  We saw, over and over and over and over, the planes hit the World Trade Center towers.  We saw people suffocating in the streets of New York, trying to escape the dust and smoke.  We heard the cries, watched news anchors break down as they reported the events, and we talked about it in shock.  We cried.  The day was raw and terrifying.  Class after class, we tuned in to what we knew was going to be a major part of our history and our teachers justified the viewing as such.

Toward the end of the day, I walked into my French 4 class and sat down, emotionally exhausted.  My classmates joined me, quietly, and the bell rang.  I don't think I can watch anymore, I thought.  Then again, I felt like I would be a terrible American if I wasn't able to watch and mourn with the nation. 

After taking attendance, my teacher turned the television off and said, "Today is important.  Today is significant and you have been watching history in the making.  You will catch yourself in the future, telling others where you were when--,"  her voice cracked and she waited a few moments to compose herself before speaking again.  "Don't forget this day.  But I hope you will forgive me if I can't watch anymore today.  We will be watching this and keeping track of it for the next weeks and months and even years to come.  I want 55 minutes; I want to give you 55 minutes of normalcy."

We spent the next 55 minutes going through French vocab drills and constructing sentences, and reading portions of a French novel aloud.  In the backs of our minds I am sure we were all still thinking about the events of the day, but the distraction was nice.  The use of some other part of my brain, was nice. 

To this day, obviously, I appreciate what Ms. Schneider did for us.  She gave us a break and a chance to process.  Sitting here on this beautiful morning, this anniversary of a terrible day, I am peacefully reflecting.  I am using 55 minutes to focus on remembering that day, how thankful I am for my life and the freedoms I enjoy, and praying for all of the people who lost so much that morning and for those who put their lives in danger, every day, to protect us.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

For the Times They Are A-Changin'

Bob Dylan is helping me sort out some things today; isn't that nice of him?  He probably didn't realize that his song, Times They Are A-Changing, would be stuck in some girl's head on a pre-Autumn morning in 2011.  I woke up humming the song, my brain set on 'repeat'. 

I rushed around my apartment this morning.  I lost the companion to my favorite black heels and crawled around, one-shoed, searching under my bed and couch for it.  It was in the kitchen.  I lost my iPhone, which has yet to be located, my keys (again this week) and had all kinds of thoughts running through my head mainly the two extremes of joyful and fearful.  Finally, I found my shoe, grabbed my purse, laptop, water bottle, sunglasses. . .and stepped out the door.

After quickly turning the key to lock the door, I paused.  To my right, through the breezeway of the apartment complex, I saw the parking lot.  There's nothing significant about it, it's just a parking lot, but it's part of my daily routine.  To my left, the yard and sidewalks leading to other apartments.  It struck me how very happy I have been for the past few years.  Early morning sunlight spilled in and touched me where I was standing, warming up my face.  I felt the cool air of a newly approaching season and smiled.  It was then that I acknowledged the lyrics to the tune that I had been humming and realized that they eerily fit into what I have been experiencing lately. For the times, they are a changin'.

Things are changing for me and many others around me.  It's part of life.  We change in little ways everyday but there seems to be seasons in our lives where significant change happens and if we don't take notice soon enough, it can become overwhelming.  Not only am I realizing that my life is heading in a new direction, but so are the people in my life who are closest to me.  The changes that they are experiencing will ultimately change my life and vice versa.  Standing there in the breezeway, with my world paused, I took notice of everything.  My apartment, my surroundings, how I felt rushing to work, my routine, my lifestyle and the constants in my life.  It's all about to change, in most ways for the better, but change nonetheless.  Notice this for a reason.  Appreciate it.

The changes I'm referring to are seemingly positive.  People are moving on and headed on to new places, new relationships, adding little ones to their lives, new jobs.  Our relationships with one another will change a bit and that brings some sadness with it.  So, with all of this positive change comes a feeling of mourning too.

The first verse of Bob Dylan's song seems almost like a reminder, or even a warning to me, that I need to recognize what is going on around me and be prepared for what's coming.  I know he wrote this song in a different context but I feel like if I refuse to accept exciting changes that are approaching and try to preserve everything 'as is', I will be hit in the face with it later and will have given up the opportunity to rejoice for myself and others. 

Come gather 'round people

Wherever you roam

And admit that the waters

Around you have grown

And accept it that soon

You'll be drenched to the bone.

If your time to you

Is worth savin'

Then you better start swimmin'

Or you'll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin'

Friday, September 2, 2011

San Diego Morning

This is me at 6:30 AM, in the hallway of the Catamaran Resort and Spa in San Diego, California.
I felt like what I assume a child feels on Christmas morning:  giddy and excited, impatient and hopeful.  It was Sunday morning, the morning of our last day in San Diego before returning back to normal life.  The trip, thus far, had been perfect and amazingly fun.  It gave me quality time with two of my best friends and refreshed my overworked brain.

I woke up that morning to illuminated palm trees framing the balcony of our room.  My friends were still asleep and I contemplated getting some extra rest.  As I layed back and gazed outside, I reflected on how awesome it was that I was sitting in such a place, waking up to palm trees, with the ocean just a few steps away.  It was then, that I felt the ocean pulling at me.  Dramatic, right?  It's true though.  The entire time in San Diego, as soon as I could hear or feel or smell the beach I had this weird inner NEED to be in the sand, in the water immediately.

In a sense of quiet urgency, I slid out of bed, rummaged around for a room key and crept out into the hallway, pajama clad, and then proceeded to jog to the stairwell, down three flights of stairs, and out into the perfect San Diego morning.

I walked quickly, yet purposefully, along the winding paths that led from our hotel to the private beach.  I wanted to get to the ocean quickly, but I also wanted to enjoy the sites along the way knowing I wouldn't see them for a very long time.  I stopped to visit the coy pond, took a few pictures of the ducks, the trees, the fountains.  It was a nice, quiet, refreshing stroll. 

Finally, I could see the bamboo gate which would lead me out of the resort area and to the beach.  I could barely see a glimpse of the water as I approached, the fog blurring the line between water and sky.   As  I approached the gate, the scene took my breath away:

The only other people on the beach that morning was a man and his son.  They were quietly swimming and paddling out into the bay on a surfboard.  The main called out to me, "there are plenty of seashells at the edge of the water!"

He was right.  I searched for the prettiest shells and found mainly broken pieces.  My intention was to find some shells and make one of them into a necklace for my friend back home who wanted to come along on the trip but wasn't able too.  I prayed silently that I would find something she would like, feeling even in mid-prayer, that it was a silly thing to pray about.  I walked a few feet more and saw a shell, completely intact, and picked it up.  The water had worn a small hole in it, in the perfect spot to hang from a necklace!  This is what the finished product looks like:

I appreciated my alone time on the beach that morning.  It was really a spiritual experience.  The calm and quiet was like nothing I've ever experienced, the rhythm of the waves gently lapping up against the sand, the pier and against my legs seemed to remove every stress from the past year, every newly forming line in my face, every insecurity. 

We finished out our trip by visiting the beach at Coronado Island; it was truly majestic.  I couldn't have asked for a better vacation with friends and will never forget the peace of that final morning, basking in the intricacies and wonder of creation and leaving, knowing that something as insignificant as a seashell was given to me because I asked for it.