Taste and see …

Letting go… November 18, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — F. Penner @ 10:58 PM

No, I’m not going to start singing ‘Let it go’… Although that song has, unfortunately, ruined that phrase for at least the next decade…

I didn’t really plan on this happening, but 2015 has been a year of letting go for me. I know it’s not quite over yet, but it’s already December… At the beginning of the year, I had a full-time job, I was volunteering after work, and I was serving once a month in each of 3 different ministries at my church – our cafe, our 2nd-5th grade large group worship time, and adult worship. Somehow I managed to also have a social life in there…

Towards the end of 2014, I had started thinking about how full my life was, and decided that the easiest thing for me to let go of was my one Sunday a month in cafe. The schedule was finally full, and it seemed like an opportune time to take a break. So I did! Not because I had any issues with anyone or anything there, but because I was feeling a little overwhelmed with everything I was doing and needed to give myself some breathing space. I continued helping in the other ministries, though, because I enjoyed them and felt that my talents were being put to good use in each.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago, and I found myself praying about whether or not I was still going to be involved in the kids’ worship ministry. Changes were being made and implemented, and I was going to have to be more involved than I had been previously. They were looking for people not just to lead worship once a month, but also to be more involved in the kids’ ministry community by going to planning meetings once a month, or maybe leading a small team of teenagers on your Sunday… Good things, definitely, but I wasn’t really looking to become any more involved than I currently was with that ministry. After praying and thinking about it for a little while, I felt like I needed to take a break because I really didn’t want to up my involvement, and because when I was honest with myself, my heart hadn’t been in it for most of the year, and I’m not a fan of half-hearted anything, really. (It happens, obviously, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay 🙂 )

The last hurdle I had to get over was letting go of my involvement in our adult worship ministry. Since I was in high school, I’ve sought out opportunities (or occasionally been pushed into them… 😛 ) for using what little musical talent I feel I’ve been given. I know when I was younger, there were times I was positive that God was calling me to be a worship leader. I’m still not quite sure how I drew that conclusion, since I’ve done my best to avoid having to talk in front of people since elementary school… (I decided several years ago that He’s not actually calling me to be a worship leader – although I’m still not sure what He is calling me to!) There were also changes being made within this ministry – again, good changes, but ones that were going to require more of my time & energy. I was, however, willing to continue in the worship ministry, see how I could rework my schedule, etc., even while I was praying for direction and stressing myself out about it all. And then I was driving home one night, thinking about something unrelated, and I suddenly had a very clear impression that I was going to take a break from worship ministry as well. I’m reluctant to say that God spoke to me because I didn’t hear anything audibly, but it was God nonetheless – I just had an overwhelming sense of ‘this is what you’re going to do.’

As I’ve been talking some of this out with a few friends, I keep saying how weird it all is to me – in so many ways, my life hasn’t turned out how I anticipated. But Philippians 4 talks about ‘the peace of God that transcends all understanding’ – and this year has been full of that. I have a note in my phone from a podcast I listened to over a year ago about God’s peace: We receive peace not because we understand the situation, but because God gives us peace regardless of the situation. And I have that peace – it’s strange to me, and I don’t understand it – but I know I made the right decisions.

It was a long road for me to get to the point of letting go of these few things, and I stressed myself out needlessly over the right decisions in each instance. However, as this year comes to a close, I find myself strangely okay with wrapping up the last of my commitments and then starting off 2016 with no foreseeable involvement within my church. I do volunteer outside my church at an after-school program with some amazing kids and some equally amazing volunteers, and I wouldn’t give that up for anything… I’m not opposed to other opportunities within my church, but having spent the last several months deciding to divest myself of various commitments, I think I’m good for now with work, volunteering, time with friends, and relaxing Sunday mornings enjoying some good Bible teaching!


An intentional life? February 19, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — F. Penner @ 10:53 PM

I’m going to be honest – I had the hardest time writing this post. Not because I’m about to expound on some deeply personal aspect of my life or anything (well, I guess I kind of am), but because I wanted it to be just whoa. I wanted it to be deep, insightful, intelligent – and I kind of wanted to blow some socks off people. So I picked a topic and started researching and writing some stuff, but the words weren’t really flowing. I deleted that draft … After thinking about it for a little, I decided that I really don’t want to force anything. I did that enough in college, and it’s just not fun. Granted, I did well on all my papers, so I’d have that going for me, but still … Anyhow, I decided to just share something that’s kind of always on my mind, that’s affected my life and how I want to live it out.

As I’m writing this, a team from my church of 13 people are heading to Kisumu, Kenya, to minister there for a week. I really struggled with the decision to not go on this trip, because I’ve gone twice and loved every minute of it. I know there are plenty of people out there who look at missions trips and think, ‘I’d never ever in a million years want to do that!’ Or there’s the whole idea that if you actually give your life to God and let Him take charge, He’s going to send you to Africa. I’ve heard pastors I respect say that He’s not going to send you to Africa if you don’t want to go to the Africa (or any other geographic location that’s not part of the ‘first world’), and I agree with that to a certain extent – God’s not going to force you to do something you don’t want to do. It’s called free will. On the other hand, though, I think that if you do submit yourself to God and let Him work in you, your desires will change. It doesn’t happen overnight, and I’ve found that for me, at least, the change is kind of subtle but I tend to fight against it every chance I get even when I don’t want to fight it (Romans 7:15-20 – true story). I will be the first to admit that I had no desire ever to go to any third-world country, or really do anything missions-related aside from wholeheartedly supporting all my friends who wanted to do missions. I’m pretty sure I probably said at some point that I wanted to be rich so I could support them all as they fulfilled the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) in various parts of the world and I lived the American Dream in my McMansion feeling good about my contribution to global missions.

I still remember the Sunday that I decided I was going to maybe think about possibly applying for the trip to Kenya they had talked about that morning. I was sitting in church listening to our missions pastor talk about the upcoming trip and one of the long-term projects they hoped to accomplish in Kenya over the next several years, and just thought, ‘I want to be part of that!’ So I went to the interest meeting for the trip, listened, grabbed an application, and drove home trying to figure out what had just happened to me.

I went to a missions-oriented college, and after college, I had toyed around with the idea of doing a short-term missions trip to France, because I’m a bit of a Francophile (and Anglophile, for that matter) and just wanted to go live in France, eat the food, enjoy the scenery, and perfect my French. Unfortunately, I really didn’t want to be a missionary, so that went nowhere. Fast forward about 10 years, and I was suddenly contemplating a 2 week missions trip to Kenya, a place I knew nothing about, and a place I had frankly never had any desire to visit. I liked my comfortable life, and I always got sad and teary when they’d show heart-wrenching videos of poor children at church, but I didn’t want to go see the children. In his book ‘Radical,’ David Platt tells the story of a pastor who actually told him (David) that this particular church would continue to support him in his ministry as long as they (the church) didn’t have to go there themselves. And that’s kind of where I was at before that Sunday in February of 2012. I didn’t want to get pulled out of my little Christian bubble into caring about strangers who were less fortunate than me. It sounded potentially depressing and definitely uncomfortable, plus that’s what missionaries are for! (I could go off on a tangent about my thoughts on that now, but I won’t). Occasionally I’d email or call one of my best friends and vent to her about how dissatisfied I was with my career, how I wanted to do something more meaningful, but then I’d fall back into complacency and continue on my merry way.

I applied for and made it onto the team for that trip, and spent the next year getting to know the group of people I’d be going with, sending out a bunch of support letters, selling jam to raise more support, and getting inoculated against everything. I tried to assure my parents that I’d be safe, that the trip leader would take good care of us all, and that everything would be perfectly fine. From the second I saw Kenyan soil, I was hooked. I’m pretty sure by the end of the end of our first day, I was ready to give it all up and move myself to Kenya. Doing what, I still have no idea – I don’t think librarians are in high demand on the mission field! I know part of that was just the emotional high or whatever of being on the trip, but the joy of the people I met, the smiles and hugs of the children, the excitement of people when they saw wazungu (wanderers, aka white people), the incredible faith of some of the people we met or ministered with, even the poverty … I have a hard time putting it all into words, honestly. I just know that it changed me. It turned me from being a passive supporter to being someone who wants to live more of an intentional life, to do more with the time and resources I’ve been given. It took several months after we returned for me to process everything, but I eventually came to realize that if I wanted to be doing more, I didn’t have to wait for the next trip to Kenya. Unless God calls me to move to Kenya, that’s a ‘once every couple of years’ kind of trip, which leaves a whole lot of days in between trips to do … something. (Thank you, Matthew West, for writing a song that expresses my thoughts so much better than I can!) So I poked around a little into some local ministries outside of church, got a little more involved in different areas in church, went back to Kenya a second time, and frankly, I’ve been having a great time with it all! And just in case anyone thinks that all this ‘doing’ has been easy for me, it has not. It’s become easier, but I still get nervous when I’m the only person in front of a group of children. Or when I’ve decided to try out a new ministry (especially then). I think this little picture says it perfectly, though:

I have no idea what my future holds – I’ve got a few things on my wish list – but I do know that I can’t live my life the way I did before. I used to think that the American dream was IT, the thing to work toward, to attain at some point in my life. Now I’m not so convinced. It still sounds nice, sure, but for me at least, I just want more than that.


The end – and some changes February 12, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — F. Penner @ 8:36 PM

I’m officially done with the Whole30 and the reintroduction today. Actually, I think I was mentally done last week at some point, but wouldn’t admit it. I’ve finished off the remaining Biscoff spread (seriously – so good!), had some brownies, had some tortilla chips and sour cream with my chili (I forgot to buy cheese, though – go figure!), and probably a few other things I’ve forgotten about. Since nothing bothers me to the point of feeling ill, I’ve just decided simply minimize how much I eat of the things that make me feel less good. And so my Whole30 is done, and I’m moving on with my life. I have a feeling I’ll end up doing another one sometime in the summer, but for now I’m going to shop and eat more consciously, and I’m not going to feel guilty for having pasta or ice cream occasionally. On the plus side, I have found that I actually like Brussels sprouts. My mom will be so proud …

So I’ve been thinking about broadening the scope of this blog a little. I went to a simulcast of the IF:Gathering this past weekend and it was pretty awesome. It got me thinking about a few things, one of which was my blog. I started it as a food blog because I like food – making it, eating it, sharing it – and I don’t think that part of it will go away … But I chose the name from Psalm 34:8 – ‘Oh taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!’ – because I like the double meaning, and even back then I kind of had the idea that at some point maybe I’d branch out. And then back at the beginning of January, after I’d resurrected this blog for the Whole30, it crossed my mind again that I could do more with it, but I don’t necessarily think that highly of my thoughts, so I ignored that. And I also feel a little pretentious or something saying, ‘I have a blog’ – as though it’s actually really good. I mean, I suppose it’s not bad per se, but basically any given post is just me rambling. Not exactly quality writing … 😛

Anyhow – the main point of this year’s IF:Gathering was stepping out in faith – even when it seems crazy, which this does (at least to me). The ‘take-aways’ that I, well, took away were that we don’t need to have full confidence in ourselves, just in God, and to ‘be strong and very courageous’ (Joshua 1). I’ve never really had much of a desire to write and to put my thoughts out there for anyone to read, so this idea of writing posts that are maybe a little more personal is a tad scary for me. I really can’t explain the ‘why’ of this beyond that I simply think God wants me to do this. (I know there are probably people who just read that sentence and went, ‘huh???’ That’s okay … 🙂 ) I have no idea what I’ll write about – I don’t really have an agenda or specific plans for this blog, and I never did. I actually kind of figured that once I was done with the Whole30, I’d just let it go for another 4 years or so. I guess that might still happen … But I want to widen the scope of my little blog and maybe occasionally write about things that matter to me a little more. Or something.

I’ve rewritten all of this multiple times, trying to pare it down to something readable and not convoluted. I’m still not sure my words make complete sense, but hopefully the gist of what I’m trying to say at least got through. And because I once again have a song stuck in my head that’s not at all related to anything aside from the title of this post, I’m going to share …


Oops! February 6, 2015

Filed under: Whole30 — F. Penner @ 12:59 PM

I’m not yet officially done with the Whole30 reintroduction, but I kind of fell off the wagon just a tad the other night. By the time Thursdays hit, I’m usually tired of whatever meals I cooked earlier in the week. Normally I’ll just have eggs or pasta – something quick and simple – but I’m rather tired of eggs, and technically I’m not supposed to be eating pasta on a regular basis until I’m done reintroducing everything. Granted, gluten didn’t seem to cause any major problems, and neither did dairy – but still! I feel like I did pretty well for the 30 days, and I wanted to try and keep up the good work through the final 12 days and see if anything actually bothers me. Anyhow, so I had some approved meatballs & spaghetti squash, but with cheese (because it’s just better with cheese), a blueberry muffin, and then I realized that I had some cookie butter cookies in my freezer left over from the 2nd baby shower, so I thawed those out and had them. And then … I realized I still had some cookie butter in my cabinet, so I grabbed a spoon … It was soo! good, but I kind of felt a little crappy for the rest of the night – mostly mentally. But I would just like to say – if you’ve never had cookie butter/Biscoff spread – you should head to Trader Joe’s (cookie butter) or a grocery store (Biscoff) and get yourself a jar. It’s wicked good – all you need is a spoon and some self-control. I intentionally try to avoid buying cookie butter because I’m clearly lacking in the self-control area when it comes to that, at least. Possibly other things, but I’m not about to confess all my sins to the world :D. Although, in full non-Whole30-approved disclosure, I also had some Cincinnati chili provided by one of my co-workers for lunch today. It was worth every non-compliant bite! (and one of these days I’ll be able to stop thinking in Whole30 terms …).

But the reintroduction … I’ve had pizza, pasta, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, cookies, a sandwich (I think the sandwich was actually my favorite, followed by the yogurt) … Nothing seems to bother me to the point where I can’t deal. Mainly I think I just have less energy eating all this stuff. I know – I’ve been brainwashed by the Whole30 people into thinking that gluten and dairy are bad for me, etc., etc., etc. Not entirely … I’ve actually gotten enough sleep for a couple nights in a row (!!) but I still kind of feel like I could take a nap. Maybe it’s the glacial temperature in our staff room at work – isn’t there something about extreme cold that ultimately makes you sleepy? – but yeah … Nothing has bothered me so much that I want to cut it out of my diet completely, but I will probably reexamine my cooking and menu planning and try to keep more veggies & fruit in there for snacks and stuff.

I want to leave you all with this lovely music video because the song got stuck in my head and I wanted to share ❤


Day 30!!! (and some reflections) January 31, 2015

Filed under: Whole30 — F. Penner @ 6:35 PM

I’m done!!!!! Well, I suppose technically I’m done at 11:59 tonight, but whatever… Granted, I still have the reintroduction to go, and after looking into the reintroduction of foods, I’ve decided that this would be more aptly named the Whole42 … I guess that doesn’t flow as well … For at least the first time through the Whole30, you’re supposed to add each group of foods back in, one at a time, and for one day only, while continuing to eat Whole30-compliant meals. I know I don’t have to do their reintroduction, but I’m curious to see what effect everything I’ve been avoiding has on me. Although … I’m already planning on having a piece of pizza (and a cupcake from the baby shower last week) tomorrow, but I figure that’s allowed since it’s the Superbowl and the Pats are playing. (Go New England!!) Anyway – I think I’m going with grains containing gluten first, so I’ll add something with wheat, rye or barley in to each meal tomorrow. Then I’ll take the next two days to eat Whole30 approved meals and evaluate how I react to the gluten (if I do at all – I have a back-up plan if I do). The fourth day, I’ll add in dairy, then take two more days to evaluate. I think I’m going to add the non-gluten grains in next (so corn, oats, rice, quinoa), and legumes & peanut butter last.

Since this is my last official day of the Whole30, it’s probably a good time to collect my thoughts on the entire experience. It was ultimately easier than I thought, and I’ve already given some thought to doing another one, maybe during the summer when local produce is more readily available and I can paw through the CSA leftovers at work :-D. (I know people will probably think I’m crazy to have already thought about another one, but I’m curious to compare my blood work from my last annual to blood work while doing a Whole30. I’m just not willing to make another trip to the doctor for more blood work if I don’t have to). There are definitely things I’ve missed (I’m pretty sure they’ve come up in every post I’ve written …) like cereal and milk, cheese, popcorn, bread in general, and of course, sugar. The only thing I’m wary about adding back in is sugar. Not so much sugar in my coffee, but I want to be more aware of the snacks I’m eating or the amount of cookies I consume, and just generally make healthier choices. I’ve already pinned a bunch of recipes for desserts that use date paste instead of sugar – it’s still sugar, but I think dates are about as natural and unprocessed a sweetener as you can get! I’m curious to try the recipes, at any rate, as I’m always a little suspicious of recipes that sub out regular baking ingredients and claim that they taste ‘just like the regular version!’ One of my friends made black bean brownies once – we all decided they were straight up not good. And tasted nothing like regular brownies.

I have to say, I didn’t notice any immediate physiological changes – every time someone would ask me if I felt any different, I’d say I didn’t. But having thought about it a little more, I guess I do actually have more energy, feel better, etc. I’m terrible at making sure I get enough sleep – there aren’t enough hours in a day, so I’m usually up too late reading something. I used to have trouble staying awake during some days at work, but I realized the other morning (having gotten about 4 1/2-5 hours of sleep) that I haven’t actually had that problem lately. And according to one of my volunteers, my face looks ‘brighter.’ I may have LOL’d at that … And I think maybe my jeans fit better? It’s hard to tell … But I weighed myself before I started this, and I’ll weigh myself tomorrow and see if I lost anything! I will not be posting that info – if you want to know, you’ll have to ask :P.

I think the most important take-away from this experience for me has been simply that I have more self-control than I think I do, and it’s not really that hard to stay away from all the goodies that end up in our kitchen at work. Or in my house. I love baking, always have and probably always will, but there are better options if I want something sweet on a regular basis, like mangoes & cinnamon & coconut cream. Or an apple crisp with apples, cinnamon and some almond meal mixed with ghee sprinkled on top. And honestly, I don’t think I’ve felt the need to end every dinner with something sweet for a week or two. Granted, I’ve also walked by the candy jar at work multiple times a day salivating for this entire month, but I’d rather focus on the positive! 🙂 I made coconut date ‘mousse’ last night for dinner with some friends, 2 of whom did the Whole30 with me, and it was pretty good. Coconut milk in everything takes some getting used to, and I haven’t. But as something dessert-ish, it’s reasonably healthy. I assume it’s probably better for you than chocolate chip cookies, at any rate. Regardless, I’m happy that I’m pretty much done, and I’m happy that I did this. Now if it would just get a little warmer and less windy, I can start walking and work my way up to running again!