When Starbucks Means Home...

Jake and I are in the middle of our journey to Brazil, and I'm writing this in a hallway at the Mexico City Airport, waiting for Jake to return from a walk through the shops.

Many awesome things have been happening, but I just want to outline a few of my favourites so far.

1. The limo ride to the airport.  Neither Jake nor I have ridden in one, and we felt rather spoiled.  It makes sense, though, when you consider how many pieces of luggage we have and the time we had to leave.

2. The hotel room we stayed in today.  For 6 hours.  It was pretty hilarious, but we left Chicago around 1AM and got to Mexico at 5AM.  We wanted to do a little bit of touring, but honestly, we just couldn't handle it with the lack of sleep.  The airport's hotel had a rate that only charged you for 6 hours, which was just enough time for us to get rested before our excursion into the city centre.

Isn't it just gorgeous?

3. The way God provided for our needs.  In this moment it was the travel situation we encountered before we figured out how to get to the city centre.  The hotel concierge told us that there were red buses going to and from the city centre all the time, but, honestly, would you understand this?

The bus driver didn't speak English, but somehow we were able to figure out what he was saying and how to go about purchasing our tickets.  

4. The fact that we were able to get out of the airport and have the energy to walk around for 4 hours.  In Mexico City, no less!! At first, we were both really bummed to find out about the 18-hr layover, but honestly, we were so grateful to have this time and to get used to traveling together again.

5. Starbucks.  It just gives me a sense of happiness whenever I see it!  Ever since my very first time heading to Brazil, it's been my own tradition to get Starbucks whenever I travel.  I tried a Spanish take on a mango smoothie, and Jake had a delicious chocolate creation.  Happiness.

Now, we're just killing time before our flight to Sao Paulo. It's already been delayed until midnight, so we're hoping it doesn't delay too much longer.  Please pray for our safety :)

Hope you are doing well.  We're thinking of you all and missing you!



Cultural Awareness...

Some may say that Canadians and Americans have a lot in common.  That may be true.  However, some things are just not the same.  I noticed the accent right away, the way they say 'waaahter' instead of 'wawter' (water), how that a vowel is just a bit more nasally than ours.  

I also noticed how cheap the food was-the first day Jake and I arrived in Wheaton, we went out for a late lunch.  For $10, I received a huge portion of chicken marsala linguine and a massive 'side' salad.  It was incredible.  

Tonight as I was sitting around the dinner table with my fellow TEAMservers, Kayla asked if Jake and I could sing our national anthem.  She'd never heard all of "O Canada" before, and was delighted.  At that moment, I felt a small amount of national pride, and almost wanted to place my hand over my heart-our American friends thought it was weird that we weren't more patriotic. 

That's what happens when you are from a country of perpetual cultural allowance.  

Our training team consists of 6 people: Jake and I, Jenelle (from Seattle), Nathanael (Colorado), Kayla (California), and Hannah (Edmonton).  We have been getting along really well, and have attributed that fact to everyone's shared 'artsiness', if that's even a word.  It hasn't been hard to be vulnerable with them, and I can imagine that there will be at least one or two Jake and I might keep in touch with for the rest of our lives.  

One of my favourite session today was called "Sharing Christ in Every Culture".  I was reminded that evangelism isn't meant to be formulaic, but rather Spirit-led.  Every situation of conversion in the Bible is unique in both approach and response.

Praise God for these godly people who are teaching us from their own humble experiences. 



Strange Feelings...

This morning I woke up feeling a little bit out of sorts.  Traveling to other countries and experiencing new things kind of takes that toll, doesn't it?

There is a lounge with a kitchen on the third floor of our building, and the TEAM people stocked it with literally everything- breakfast-wise, that is.  Jake and I enjoyed some eggs and toast with bacon, and he also had waffles and cereal.  We met one of the other TEAMservers here for the orientation, and he plans to travel to France once he gets all of his support.  

It's been weird not having the use of our cell phones.  As Jake and I were sitting down for 'lupper' yesterday afternoon, we were a bit fidgety, feeling vulnerable because we couldn't text or check FB.  Yes, it's our technological-culture, but it does concern me a little bit that I feel the withdrawal already.  I have to fight my need to be 'connected', especially because now Jake and I are sharing my laptop, rather than having the use of his desktop at home.  

We already had a 'learning' experience this morning, because, as I mentioned before, my strange feeling this morning has got me feeling slightly insecure and a lot out of control. 

On a side note- remember that booked I dropped in the bathtub a couple of weeks ago? Ya, it's mine.  The library called me, just as we were leaving Cambridge, to let me know that they can't reshelve it because of the damage. 


Good thing I enjoyed it!



One Thing...

Jake and I saw some pretty amazing things on our trip over to Chicago by train.  At first, I was a bit bummed that we had to begin our travels when it was still dark out.  I was just so excited to take the train, I wanted to see where we were going, what was happening.

As the sun started to rise, it got warm, and we were passing this field, and there was this deer which had such glorious antlers, bounding through the grass with the sun at it's back.

I was in awe of how wonderful God's creation is, like those forest glades that looked enchanted, and the fawns that galloped away from the tracks as the train's horn startled them from restful grazing.

Thankful for moments like these...



Family and Fun...

Here's what we've been up to...

-Driving, driving and more driving
-Visiting family
-Applying for our Brazilian visas
-Eating lots of popcorn (me, anyways)
-Buying flight tickets
-Swimming at the beach
-Praying that God will provide (which He has been!)

Today Jake and I are driving up to Sudbury to go to a youth retreat ...it's gonna be a long weekend! But fun...



Dietary WHAT?!...

When does social eating change from healthy permissiveness to dietary promiscuity?*
How badly do I want to stay fit?
How does one change an unhealthy mindset?
Is one evening of greasy/fatty treats ever worth it in the long run?

These questions were running through my head today, after thinking about some of the foodie decisions from the week-end.  

I'm sure you've all been there.  You made a decision to eat a certain way (eating only plant-based foods, abstaining from alcohol,etc), but were influenced by the friends you were around at the time or the social situation in which you found yourself(AKA Christmas parties, etc). 

I've discovered that sticking to my guns is the hardest thing to do when I'm surrounded by other people.  But do you want to know my biggest pet peeve? It's when someone comments or points out something about me.

"Oh, Ashleigh, you're such a healthy eater now.  I bet you won't want any of this."
"Stick with me long enough, and you'll eat all the unhealthy things."

I can't even remember all the comments that I've heard.  It's just so discouraging, because, yes, I've made that decision, but I also don't want to offend people and make them feel bad.  For a good chunk of the time, I will keep to my word and eat the way I had planned.  On occasion, I want to prove that I'm normal, if you will, and that I can eat whatever I want and don't have to be so legalistic.  

Therein lies the problem.  I start eating unhealthy so that I can fit in. 

What is up with THAT?!

This isn't highschool anymore, but A.) I get teased for my clean-eating efforts, or B.) inadvertently, I make people feel bad about the food choices they're making. 

Yes, I've lost an amazing amount of weight, and yes, I've gained some discipline pertaining to areas of exercise and eating  and yes, I now understand the meaning of 'healthy'.  But I'm no expert.

Thankfully, I have this space to hash out ideas, to share with you the things I'm learning, and to learn from you, since I know some are struggling with similar things. Thanks for reading all these blogs that seem to carry the same thread, for sticking with me.

The best realization is that we can never go back to where we started.  We have too much knowledge, and we've changed in such a way that to do anything different would mean reverting to our old self.

Scary how similarly our physical struggles resemble our spiritual ones, no?


*Terminology credited to my wordy husband

And Stuff...

We had a chance to go to Sarnia yesterday to visit my first year roommate from Heritage and her husband.  Natalie and Bruce live in this cute, Asian-style bungalow with an amazing view of the St. Clair River.  It was so nice to have more than a few moments to catch up with them, which is what has been happening over the past couple of years.  We even went cross the border to see some sights and eat dinner at Applebee's.  I'm glad we were able to go.

As some of you may have seen on FB already, Jake and I are getting a bit antsy about our trip.  We only have two more weeks (today!) until we go, and yet we still don't have our flights booked or our Brazilian visas (due to both minor and major complications).  It's been so hard to focus on Christ, and let Him lead like He's been doing.  

We were saying that it will be a miracle if we get on that plane on September 29, but when we do, we'll be leaning back (after the plane is completely at flying altitude, of course), reminiscing on these moments of anxiety and lack of faith.  

In other news, I haven't been reading many books lately, which saddens me.  I think books are a great way to expand imagination and broaden the mind.  I have been contemplating on how I'm going to do the whole 'book-reading' thing while I'm away.  Obviously I won't be able to borrow any from the library for that amount of time, and we won't have that much room if I were to bring books borrowed from friends. 

Any ideas?



Bigger and Better...

Yes, this rainy, cloudy day is Jake's last day as meat packager.  After this we will be traveling, visiting, and doing last minute prep for our trip.  

I woke up to raindrops hitting my face.  While I was still in bed.  Personally, I don't think that should ever be allowed.  But I as I got out of bed to close all the windows, to my dismay I discovered that the rain had been coming inside for quite a while before I noticed.  Everything on the ledge was wet, the edge of my bed, the night stand, everything

Water and I just haven't seemed to be mixing these days.

I'm off to eat some clean-eating brownie waffles.



Mmm Mmm Good...

This is what I like to see when I wake up in the morning.  For only $12.97(sweet sale price!), I can have my coffee and drink it, too...

Enjoy your day!



I'm Making Muffins Up in Here...

Last night I had a bad dream.  It wasn't a nightmare, or anything explicitly evil, but it made me uncomfortable and I remember crying when I woke up.

Thankfully, we have an app for that.

Just kidding.

To distract myself, I went for a run, and then decided to bake muffins.  I had a TON of bananas in the freezer, so I made banana oatmeal muffins for Jake, as well as a loaf for, well, some other unknown occasion.

Since I'm still trying to avoid gluten, I found a muffin recipe and substituted a few things for what I had on hand.  To all my gluten-avoiding friends out there, enjoy!

Don't judge a muffin by its exterior.  Jake said they tasted even better than his!

Come on over to the Gluten Free Goddess and check it out!

I substituted:

  • Coconut Oil for the Olive/safflower oil 
  • Brown Rice Flour for the Sorghum Flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar for 1 cup 

What I forgot to add:

  • Some sort of nut
  • Chocolate Chips ( I ran out...is that even allowed?!)


Don't Throw It Out with the Bathwater...

Sometimes a girl's gotta relax.  For some, it means getting a foot rub. For others it means sipping a little wine and savouring a piece of dark chocolate.

For me, and many others, it means running a warm bath and settling in among the soft-scented bubbles.

This is a surprising fact, since my only form of washing was just an old, claw-foot tub when growing up.  Showers were much more desirable.  However, I've come to relish the feeling of warmth and relaxation I've come to associate with a bubble bath, and being alone with a good book is one of the purest forms of delight at the end of the day.

Well, can you guess what happened last night?  That's right...

I dropped my book in the water.

I was shocked and more than a little bit perturbed, as my relaxed state was immediately undone.  I tried drying it with a hairdryer (which I've seen people do in more than one movie), and it actually worked.  However, to turn it one page at a time would have been a nightmare, so Jake suggested I hang it up like so...

The poor library book...
Hopefully it will recover and I won't have to pay for too much damage when I return it.



Foodie Things...

It seems ironic that, despite all the bigger things Jake and I are preparing for at this time in our lives, today's post is about something so seemingly meaningless as food.

However, I've been struggling lately, and it's been taking up so much of my thoughts. My attempts to eat healthy have been foiled for about a week and a half, and it's been completely due to the choices that I've made.  About a month and a half ago, I decided to stop eating typical "sweet" things (i.e. cookies, desserts, etc) because I wasn't noticing a change in my belly even though I have been working out.  I have seen other areas of my body change; muscles have appeared where they've never been before, yet my lower belly doesn't want to flatten.  This area of my body has always been weak, so I know I have to work harder at it.

After telling my naturopath about my decision to stop eating sweets, she suggested that I try going off gluten for a while, since gluten likes to store itself in the lower abdomen.  I weighed the pros and cons of this, and Jake helped me to realize that I wouldn't lose anything by trying it.  If it helped, then my belly would get flatter, and if not, then at least I could say I tried something different.

Something snapped in my brain, however, and I completely overcompensated for the gluten by eating GF sweet things, ordering French fries at restaurants (since they are, after all, gluten free), and compromising my healthy eating habits in general.

After months of eating clean and enjoying the benefits of a holistically healthy lifestyle, I dropped the ball.

My brain cleverly concocted some of these excuses:
"It's a girl's night..go ahead and have seconds of ice cream. Celebrate a little.  After all, it's gluten free."
"You've been eating so well for so long. You can afford to deviate this once."

 Not only have my eating habits suffered, but also my exercise regime.  As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Jake and I have started exercising together.   Traditionally, my best time for exercise has been in the morning.  Jake works in the mornings, so the time we usually work out has shifted to the evening.  If we leave it to the last minute, sometimes we don't end up working out at all.

Because I was feeling guilty for my eating habits, I began to blame Jake for our lack of exercise.  I dared to tell him that if I didn't have to wait for him, I would be the epitome of exercisable discipline.  God quickly convicted me of that line of thought, thankfully, and Jake and I decided to do better at encouraging one another to keep in shape.

Disgusted with where my mental attitude had been going lately, I decided to attack my dietary habits and go back to the meal plan that started me on this journey all those months ago.  I wasn't going to be stringent about it, but I wanted to be holistic, making sure that I was getting nutrition from every possible place.

I typed up a chart, intending to put it up on my fridge to keep track of what I was eating every day.  I also wanted to stop making excuses for the sugary sweets that I've been indulgent with, and start eating clean again.

That was 2 days ago.

Since then, I've eaten a sliver of pumpkin pie (which has gluten in it), made and digested a massive bowl of caramel popcorn (read about that here), and inhaled two peanut butter chocolate squares (which I had transferred to the freezer earlier last week hoping to squelch any attempt to binge).

I can now safely say that I am more determined than ever to turn this around before it controls my life again.

There are a few things I like to do when I need advice on how to manage dietary motivation and struggles.
a. Pray
b. Look up inspiring people/blogs online
c. Make a plan
d. Find more healthy recipes
e. Talk to Jake

I must admit, it's hard for me to start with prayer.  I know that God cares about me, but sometimes I forget that He also cares for the trivial things in my life.  Jesus also struggled with temptation, so He knows exactly what I'm going through.  The worst thing I can do is try to overcome this without His help.

As far as the Internet goes, I don't often find encouragement online.  Most of what I find/read about is all happy-happy-joy-joy, think-about-positive-thoughts, have a goal outfit, etc.  None of that works for me.

Out of the blue, I found this blog, and was inspired by the last part of her About Me section:

I fully acknowledge that...the buck stops with God. He holds the trump card and everything turns on the hinge of his will. We can eat clean, plant-based foods with perfection, juice ourselves till we’re tinted orange, and run a marathon on the weekly and still get smote by a truck or some other chronic illness that claims our lives if that’s what God’s written into the score.
And yet, God’s sovereignty doesn’t obviate our stewardship. We have a crucial role to play in the care and maintenance of everything we’ve been given: our cars, our houses, our families, our jobs. When something goes awry with one such possession due to negligence, our share of the blame is clear. We never (or at least shouldn't!) shake our fists at God for letting our car break down because we failed to fill the gas tank (this actually happened to me twice in a month… and it was definitely my fault). Our bodies fall under the same category of assigned stewardship, even though it seems like personal health should be God’s deal. We’ve been given a temple, God loves the body (we aren’t dualists, after all!) and He made it to do incredible things! In His thoughtful providence, He filled His creation with powerful foods to promote the health and longevity of those bodies. We just need to bring our responsibility and His resources together and allow Him do the rest!
It's an encouraging reminder for me as a Christian: the responsibility I have about caring for my body in a God-honouring way.

You may not have resonated with anything I've just shared, but my heart has been uplifted by being able to share this struggle with you.  God has given me the capablities and faculties to take care of my body, and I have been convicted to eat clean and exercise.  Even when it gets hard.

But I'm not intending on giving up.

For His glory I intend on overcoming this hurdle with a lot of prayer, Bible-reading, and healthier recipes.


Clean-eating Caramel Popcorn...

I bought an air popper at Value Village a few months ago.  Not having tested it at the store, I was pleasantly surprised that it worked.

I pulled it out last night, only to find the motor had burned out and it wasn't working.  It was only my second time using it.

Not to be outsmarted by technological delays, I went traditional and made popcorn on the stove.  I found this recipe for caramel popcorn, but made my own change.  

Don't be deceived by the ingredients.  It tastes exactly like caramel popcorn, without all the added sugar!

  1. Make 8-10 cups popcorn (air-popped or over the stove)
  2. Sprinkle some sea salt (to taste) over the popcorn when it's still hot 
  3. Over a stove or in the microwave, heat a 1/2 cup of brown rice syrup (the recipe called for honey)
  4. Add 1/4 cup peanut butter and heat just enough to make the mixture runny
  5. Pour over the popcorn and stir until combined
I haven't tried it with honey, but I like the mellow flavour of brown rice syrup.  It tastes similar to corn syrup, but much healthier.  You can find brown rice syrup in the health food section at Zehrs, or at your local health food store.

This popcorn tastes good both hot or cool, but it's much easier to eat once it's cooled.  I would have added a picture, but I happened to eat it all before the thought even crossed my mind.

It's just that good.