Jesus, the True Vine

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“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” John 15:1-4

I’ve been doing a lot of gardening lately – and by that I mean, I’ve been pruning and cutting and pruning and cutting… Because I have a two year old – my gardening is often haphazard and never really complete. I often have to abandon my landscaping tasks with pulled weeds, cut branches, bush trimmings and pruned flower stems strewn all over my yard. The next day I will venture out to clean up the previous day’s trimmings and will find them browning and wilted. 

prune
[proon]
verb (used with object), pruned, pruning.

  1. to cut or lop off (twigs, branches, or roots).
  2. to cut or lop superfluous or undesired twigs, branches, or roots from;trim.

In the same way, when we remain close to Christ, He will prune down the unnecessary parts of our lives. The word prune literally means to cut off things that are undesired.

It brings to mind my beautiful crabapple tree in my front yard. The blooms on this tree initially drew me to our condo and were always the signal that spring was here – new life was on its way. This year, the blooms came and fell almost immediately. The leaves that were left wilted and bore brown spots that signaled the tree was sick. I’ve had to find as many dead and infected branches as possible and cut them off. I have to gather all the fallen leaves this autumn and burn them and then treat my beloved tree in the spring with a special fungicide. This process is long and painstaking. But the tree will die without it. Similarly, without Christ cutting the undesired parts of my life away from me, I would die. Im learning that I’d much rather look back and see parts of my flesh wilting away without connection to the vine, than to remain apart of who I am and weaken my soul.

Book Review: Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman

Salt…small, opaque granules….

Too little can leave a meal lacking and too much can ruin a dish’s intended flavor.

It’s amazing how something so small can have such a big impact on a person’s palate.

Emily P. Freeman draws a similar parallel in her newly released book, Simply Tuesday (Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World). She writes about accepting and relishing being small in a world in which so many are searching for bigness. Freeman states,

I’m paying attention to the small ways that Jesus- and his kingdom- shows up in the daily ordinary, in the actual places where I live.

Freeman seamlessly weaves together personal life experiences – expressing emotions and concerns which are usually difficult to articulate. She calls to attention, through realistic applications, ways in which the human condition has become overcome with taking on the world instead of accepting responsibility for what God has given us to accomplish.



Simply Tuesday reminds me that ordinary is beautiful. That, like a grain of salt, the most profound and flavorful, if you will, things are often found in small moments.

Emily’s Prayer for the Ordinary Aunties

We confess our disrespect for ordinary time. We recognize all the ways we despise it. But we long to see with kingdom-eyes the small ways you [Lord] move in our Tuesdays. Mary we be people who see home right where we are, refusing to run into the future or pine over the past. Gently poke our sleepy souls awake.

As if reading this book isn’t amazing enough, a book club was just announced on (in)courage’s site. Be sure to get your copy and join the club!

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Additional Reviews:

Note: I was sent a complimentary advanced reader copy of Simply Tuesday  in which I, in return, am reviewing.

Book Review: Downside Up by Tracey Mitchell

“Rejection reveals, alerts, exposes, defines, confirms, and is one of the greatest motivators in life.”

This is one of the opening points Tracey Mitchell makes in her book, Downside Up: Transform Rejection Into Your Golden Opportunity. This out-of-the-box view on rejection is an example of how Mitchell takes an alternative look at the role adversity can play in life.

Mitchell relates to the reader from personal experiences in her own life and those she’s encountered. More importantly, she draws relative stories from Scripture to show that rejection is an emotional wound Christ can heal.

The end of each chapter offers a list of “Chapter Principles” to not only serve as reinforcements for Mitchell’s main points, but also as references the reader can easily access in the future. Following the chapter principles are “Words of Wisdom” which consist of Scriptures and famous quotes that relate to each chapter’s main points. Finally, building on her principles and Scripture, Mitchell offers a “Plan of Action” for the reader to directly apply to their personal life in tangible ways that will last long after this book has been read.

Downside Up, by Tracey Mitchell, is not like any other self-help book I’ve read. My pen went dry from all the notations and underlining I did throughout this book. The amount of ah-ha moments made me take this read a bit slower so I could ingest all the extraordinary points being offered.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through the BookLook Bloggers. program. I was not required to give a positive review.

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You can purchase Downside Up: Transform Rejection Into Your Golden Opportunity by Tracey Mitchell here.

Pure Spiritual Milk

“Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for the nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.” 1 Peter 2: 3

My son loves to eat!

LJ EatingHe knows when he sees me holding a fresh bottle that something wonderful is about to happen. He will cry for that bottle – and, until I get it into his mouth, he is unsatisfied.

It’s amazing to me the overwhelming amount of peace and contentment that comes over his body as he begins to drink. He literally goes from a state of total meltdown to sleep the moment a bottle is put into his mouth. He relishes in getting his craving for nourishment fulfilled.

And so, I read this verse from 1 Peter with new meaning this morning…

I read it with a stark visual representation in my head of what it means to crave pure spiritual milk…

To cry for the Lord’s kindness and interaction with a fierceness that isn’t calmed until the craving has been met…

To experience instantaneous peace and contentment upon entering God’s presence.

This is what my days should be centered around. Much like my son’s daily mission is to get nourishment – mine is to find that pure spiritual milk and to not accept any substitutions.

To My Under-Appreciated Husband

Dear Husband,

I want so badly to be the wife you deserve…

A wife that greets you at the door, when you come home for work, emotionally stable with a smile on my face.

A wife who could manage our son’s doctors appointments on her own.

A wife that could spend time pouring over recipes to make you the perfect dinner each night.

A wife that didn’t nag or snap at you.

A wife who didn’t need you to immediately take our son after a long day of work.

I yearn to be a wife that is nurturing, selfless and thoughtful.

I’m humbled each day when…

You come home from work greeting me with a smile and asking about MY day as you take our son into your arms to give me a break.

You take time in the middle of your busy day to attend EVERY doctors appointment you can for our son (usually having to work extra to make up for the time.)

You make your own lunch each day and pick us up dinner every night.

You support every weight loss program I try, wake up early so I can sleep in…

…change poopy diapers while getting ready for work, don’t criticize me for wearing cut off pants, crocs and a puke stained shirt in public with you (yes it really happens), and listen patiently as I rant and rave that you aren’t being attentive to my needs (clearly not the case).

Thank you for your unconditional love.

Thank you for providing each day for our family above and beyond what we need.

Thank you for making our son laugh so hard.

Thank you for being an incredible man of God…

…and for giving me a family I never dreamed possible!

Love your incredibly grateful wife.

The Journey for My Son’s GI System

It’s a very early February morning. The temperature outside is too low to mention and the sun is shining on about 12″ of snow that surrounds my home. I’m sitting at the kitchen table listening to the sound of a heartbeat generated by the Graco swing next to me as my two month old son, Joshua, struggles to find peaceful sleep and work on today’s bowel movement. That’s right…bowel movement. I must also point out the word “movement” is singular and not plural. With frustration dripping from my typing fingertips – let me tell you the journey we have been on so far…

IMG_3659 12-6-14Born November 28, 2014 after 14 hours of labor, 3 hours of pushing and one very welcomed c-section – Joshua Henry Lupu entered this world at 8lbs and 19.4″ long. He was perfect! Every part of his little body was beautiful and wonderful. The first few nights he barely made a sound – we couldn’t believe how peaceful he was. And then it started…his inability to sleep without waking from attempts to pass gas, his arched back and screams as he tried to eat, and his total unhappiness every other part of the day from GI pain we didn’t know he was having.

The first pediatrician said his GI struggles were normal. He stated that newborns passing gas can look like an ordeal but is really not as bad as it seems. I mentioned that the milk protein allergy runs in both mine and my husband’s families. He stated there was no visible blood in Joshua’s stool – so the allergy wasn’t present. So, I took him home and reluctantly accepted that his excessive crying was normal. Before you mentally chastise my complacent acceptance of this doctor’s diagnosis – I only let Joshua continue on in this manner about 24 hours before I found a new pediatrician 🙂

At this point, we had tried Similac Organic formula, switched to Similac Sensitive and landed on Nutramigen which seemed to make a significant difference.  All of a sudden Joshua was able to poop – in fact he was pooping 3-4 times a day! Additionally, the new pediatrician diagnosed him with acid reflux and prescribed Zantac.

Three weeks later, I was surprised to be holding a baby who still arched his back in pain while eating, never seemed to smile and couldn’t sleep peacefully in my arms. I called the pediatrician…Prevacid was added to his prescription line-up (note this is not a medication you can have called in same day – it has to be specially compounded by the pharmacist). Apparently, it’s common for infants to need both medications to treat reflux and GERD, but they like to start with one first. Just in case the list got longer than you could keep up with, Joshua was now taking:

  • Nutramigen formula
  • Zantac every 8 hours
  • Prevacid once a day
  • Oh yeah – he had thrush so we can throw Nystatin in there too!

Still no improvement…in fact, late one night while changing his diaper, I noticed a small trace of blood in his stool. I called the pediatrician…he was referred to a pediatric gastroenterologist at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, MI (note the hospital couldn’t get him in for two weeks – I had the pediatrician call and he got a next day appointment). While there, Joshua happened to have a bowel movement so a stool culture was able to be taken which showed hidden blood. This was an indication of infant ulcerative colitis due to a milk (also sometimes soy and egg) protein allergy (reminder! – I had previously mentioned this to the first pediatrician). Joshua was switched from Nutramigen to a hypoallergenic formula called EleCare which uses amino acids as its protein source instead of the milk-derived whey protein found in other formulas.

IMG_4915*Almost immediately we noticed a difference!

He began to smile!!!!!!!!

He began to laugh!!!!!

His moments awake were no longer filled with tears – and he actually began to let me put him down (he would only stay calm in my arms prior to EleCare). I finally felt we had reached a resolution and my baby boy would begin to spend his days pain-free.

We were told to give EleCare a good two weeks before his bowel movements would regulate and his temperament would calm down (note the milk protein can stay in the GI system for up to a month before the body is totally rid of it). Unfortunately, he reached his three week mark yesterday and has begun a downward turn…

…his bowel movements never regulated – in fact he went from 3-4 poops a day to one every other day. He has to push very hard for a small amount to come out (liquid in texture) and still struggles with painful gas.

I called the pediatrician…I am waiting for what happens next.

As of today, Joshua is thriving – he continues to gain weight and to grow in length. He smiles more and coo’s often. But he doesn’t have a day without some pain. His medication list is as follows:

Prescribed medications:

  • EleCare for Infants formula (you don’t have to get a prescription for this, you can have your pharmacist order it for you or buy direct from the manufacturer)
  • Zantac twice a day
  • Prevacid once a day
  • Nystain (he still has that stubborn thrush)

Natural/Homeopathic Medications:

2/19/2015 Update on

We took Joshua back to C.S. Mott’s Children’s Hospital for a follow up visit. We learned that his intestines have healed and are no longer bleeding. We were so glad to hear this we almost jumped at the doctor’s office. We also learned he is dealing with infant dyschezia, which basically means he strains and cries before he has a bowel movement or passes gas. Basically, he needs to learn how to coordinate bearing down to push out gas or stool while relaxing his pelvic muscles to allow them to exit his body. This seems to be a normal developmental issue with infants and we are looking forward to him growing out of it:-)

Learning to Cook…at 31!

I’ll be turning 32 next week – and as I look back over the last year, I’m amazed at the things I have learned through this year’s changes. Each day has brought its wins and losses that have helped to mold my “evergreen” self, but nothing could have prepared me for the following lessons I’ve learned through these major changes:

We bought a condo! – Having lived in apartments since college, the adjustment from renter to owner was large. From the moment we closed on this home, we watched the dollars in our bank account get smaller and smaller as we took on the necessary renovations to make this place our “home.” It felt like, for the first time, I was putting on my big-girl pants and taking a step into the real world of responsibility. There was no longer a handyman to call about holes in the wall or broken ceiling fans – these had to be fixed by our own two hands (with the aid of  my father-in-law and a lot of YouTube videos). I learned that it’s okay to pull carpet off the floor and not to be afraid of a large bucket of paint (despite the fact that I still can’t paint a straight line).

Grow, Grow, GrowingWe got pregnant! – Well, I think this one speaks for itself. Except for the fact that Josh and I weren’t planning on kids. At most, I was working towards convincing him we needed a dog! But along came our little guy – growing so fast inside me. This life change has created a domino effect of subsequent changes both physical and emotional. And while the lessons I am learning every day during this pregnancy continue to grow in number, the most important one is that life is ever-changing. Concrete is not an adjective that can realistically describe any person’s life. This may seem like an easy concept that everyone is fairly aware of – but it still shakes you when the solid foundation you thought you were building is torn up to create a new (and often better) one. Needless to say, we are ecstatic about our son’s arrival this December!

I quit my job! – Work was, well…my life. My days and nights revolved around it. If I wasn’t busy in the office, I was traveling for business. Both my husband and I shared our work-a-holic lifestyles. I found my identity in meeting the daily challenges I faced at work. I defined success in my professional accomplishments. I honestly thought nothing would take the devotion I had towards my vocation until I became pregnant. Immediately, I became territorial of the time others would have with my son and knew I wanted to be the one to raise him. While I feel fairly new towards caring for a newborn, I know that no one can love or care for him like I can. This major life change has taught me that we can’t tie our identities to the things of this world. I learned that  jobs will come and go, but Christ is forever and He is who my identity must be tied to. I am most grateful for this lesson because it wouldn’t have been fair to shift my identity from work to my son – he needs to be his own person and both of us will find who we are in Christ!

I learned to cook…at 31! – Don’t judge me for this. When you work as much as I did – domestic responsibilities tend to go out the window. Cooking never appealed to me – why would I work all day to come home and work more? My husband and I found many restaurants we liked and were happy with that lifestyle. But, going from two incomes to one changes how you spend your money. Additionally, with the recent change of me not working, I now have time to prepare meals that are both cheaper and healthier than eating out. I can’t say I’ve mastered this art yet – but I am working on it (again with help from family and YouTube videos). I’ve learned that you can’t have enough cooking spoons and to only make what you will eat (as opposed to cooking enough to feed an army).

I had to say “good-bye”! – I am fortunate enough to say that I’ve never lost a person close to me. However, amongst the changes of buying a new home, becoming pregnant and quitting my job – I had to say good-bye to my kitty, my buddy of 9 years who never left my side. This loss was both unexpected and massive. Losing Miracle left such a hole in my heart. Watching life seep out of an animal you have loved and cherished changes you forever. I learned that making large decisions, like when to put your animal down, are hard and mucky.

I’m not sure what this next year will bring – but I know that I will take it head on knowing it’s important to roll with the punches, trust in God and just take a deep breath from time-to-time.