A Strange Hobby


I’ve been called a lot of things, but something I’ve never been accused of is being a procrastinator. Well, maybe when I was in junior high and battled my mom tooth and nail over hanging up my clothes and making my bed. But for most my adult life I’ve been a “get the hard thing done first” kind of gal. In college I literally never pulled an all-nighter. My friends would always make fun of me because I’d get a paper done three weeks ahead of time and be in bed by 10:00 without fail. I was the annoying girl who’d pop out of my room and ask my wing mates to “please keep it down, I’m sleeping.”

I like getting things done. Crossing things off to do lists is one of my favorite past times. I don’t like unfinished business. It keeps me up at night while I review my day over and over making sure I spent my time well. Waiting? The in-between? Not having a plan? Saying they are not my favorite is the understatement of the year. Got the picture? Put a pin in that thought for a minute. 


Being a seamstress means inevitably someone wants to give you old stashes of unused fabric. Someone’s mother died or they’ve given up sewing or it’s just time to clean the old stash out. I do it too, from time to time, when I can bear to part with the tiniest scraps of my beloved fabric. I invariably say “yes” to ofher’s fabric because, well, let’s face it: I have a fabric problem. As I wade through bags or cardboard boxes and unbury layers of fabric I get a peak into the seamstress’s life. I see leftovers from curtains and pillows, portions of dresses and dress shirts — and my all time favorite — scraps of quilts. You’d be surprised how many people start a quilt and don’t ever finish it. Maybe life got busy or the project was more challenging than expected, but one way or another once loved and cared for quilts-in-progress get abandoned. Enter my inability to leave things unfinished. 


I am obsessed with finishing quilts. I’ve made a hobby of making sense of someone’s leftovers and turning it into something beautiful. I hardly ever like the fabric choices, and often I despise the patterns, but I’m driven to finish these quilts. It almost feels like a way of honoring the person who started them. Even though most of those people we’ll never know about it, it feels right that these useless assortments of fabric become what they should — something useful, beautiful, and cared for. 


There’s about a million analogies in there, I’m sure. The idea that God doesn’t leave us unfinished. That even when others have discarded us he continues the work of knitting, sewing, and weaving. Or the idea that there is beauty and value in follow-thru. Keeping ones word and being committed to the end matters. Or the thought that we are handed bits and pieces of brokenness in each of our lives and it’s up to us to make something beautiful come from it. Or that we need each other and stepping in when someone else cannot go on is worthwhile. 


But mostly, I just find comfort in this little hobby. In the ritual of discovery and organization, which is followed by  hours pinning, sewing, ironing, and quilting. The handiwork that marks each of my quilts and the feeling of accomplishment that I took ownership of a project and gave of myself for it. I think that’s the lesson in all of life — the process can bring as much joy as a finished project. And who we become, the sort of person we choose to be along the journey is where we find value. 

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Identity

I’ve been spending a great deal of time thinking about identity. About mine, mostly, now that a great deal of what made me ‘me’ has been taken away. I’ve been floundering wondering who I was before my other half and who I will be now that he has left. I’ve often found myself at a loss, evaluating what remains and wondering if it is truly me or mere remnants of him. I don’t know all the answers. Not by a long shot.

But tonight as I put my sweet toddler girl to bed, a thought hit me. There she was so tiny in her big girl pajamas and underwear, hair still damp from her bath. Lying on her huge full-size bed, next to her oversized stuffed animal bear (her reward for potty-training). She pushes her adorable whale quilt down and prefers to snuggle into her worn out, much-loved blankie. Then she asks me to cuddle. I, of course, oblige and we sing a few songs before I say goodnight. She has five requests these days, which she asks for in her precious toddler way — twinkle, Jesus loves me, abcdef, avery jean (a song I made up when she was a baby), and all my dreams (i.e. love me tender by Elvis).

The first few songs she sings by herself. She misses at least half the lyrics and is hopelessly tone deaf. But I lay next to her and my heart is nearly breaking from her beauty. I tear up as I see her and I’m just so proud of who she is and anything she accomplishes, even though it falls so short of ‘perfection.’ And it hits me that this is how God views me right now. As I flail and toddle through my days, barely able to make coherent sense out of who I am — he is watching me, knowing me, and is just so incredibly in awe of who I am. Not because I am anything special or I offer anything wonderful, but because I am his child.

I’ve spent most my life finding value in what others thought of me. I’m a perfectionist at heart and every time I got an A or won an award I felt like — aha! This is me! This is why I’m worth something! Post-school I turned my value towards my friends, family, husband — I see now! Because these people think I’m something special, this is why I’m worth something! But now as my accomplishments seem unremarkable and my most trusted love has left my side, it’s easy to get stuck and think — oh no! All along it was a lie. I have no value and am not worth anything after all.

So to dwell on what God thinks of me is new to me. Not a new concept, of course, but a new practice. And it does take practice. It takes effort and failing and perseverance and trying again. Just like my sweet Avery sings her song with many errors and important parts missing. And yet she is beautiful and loved simply because she is mine. And so am I. Beautiful and Loved and Worth Something — because I belong to Him.

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Separated

Not long ago my worship pastor invited us to consider that NOTHING can separate us from the love of Christ. Taken from Romans 8, this phrase is often quoted and memorized, but we rarely live like it is true. Sure, we believe God is strong enough to save us in an eternal sense, but we allow a lot of things to separate us from his love here on earth. “Surely, I don’t do that!” Really? Do you recall the whole Romans 8 passage?

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39

Did you catch the highlighted words? Our fear and our worries cannot separate us from God’s love. Why is it so much harder for me to believe that than the part about angels and demons? I think because in my experience my fears and worries do put a roadblock between me and God. They create distrust and doubt in God’s goodness and they prevent me from really experiencing freedom and joy in Christ. But that separation that I feel? It isn’t on God’s side. It’s on mine. God promises that we will never be separated from his love. What a comfort.

So how do we get around that feeling of distance from God when fear seeps into our hearts? I think we have to go back to the first part of the passage — that “overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” My circumstances are not a barometer of Jesus’ love for me. Rather, Jesus love for me is the context in which I should view my entire life. Whoa. Let that sink in. I will experience hardship. I will endure unimaginable suffering and pain. I will be hurt and knocked down and even destroyed. And yet, “overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us.” Victory over what? Not over avoiding pain, but over my fears and worries. Over anything that would threaten to separate me from him. 

I need this reminder every hour. As my life looks very different than I ever wanted and all of my worst fears and worries have become reality. As I exist in a marriage where I am separated from someone who made many promises to me. As I live each day fearing the worst, the end of that marriage, and fearing what that will do to me and my kids. Yet Jesus’ promise to me is “I will never leave you or forsake you.” As I feel forsaken and abandoned and crushed, He says “you are mine, you were bought with a price.” As my worries echo in my mind in the dead of night, He comforts with these words: “nothing can separate you from my love.”

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Shaklee

I’m so excited by the response I’ve had so far in my Shaklee endeavor — I love sharing these products because they really work and they really help change people’s lives. To make it even easier to order, I now have a Shaklee website and you can get whatever you need directly from monicagee.myshaklee.com

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Shaklee has just launched a new tool to help everyone assess their health needs. Go to my website and take the free HealthPrint assessment quiz and I’ll enter your name into a drawing to win some Basic H (the best all-purpose cleaner you’ll ever use). You’ll learn more about your health needs and could potentially win a great Shaklee product — nothing to lose here!

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If you’d like to become a member (one time fee of $20 and 15-25% off all products for life!), please contact me and I’d love to help you out. Or truly, any question, no matter how big or small I’d love to answer. Let’s create healthier lives together!

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A Turn of Events

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Life has had some pretty unexpected turns for me this past year. The trials that have come this year have served to reveal what is truly important to me. As I’m walking this new path and learning to catch my breath, I’ve learned some new things about myself. I may have a lot of unknowns, but here is what I do know: I love being a stay at home mom. I am passionate about helping other people. I need a sustainable income to take care of my family. This new foundation for my life is also empowering me to step out of my comfort zone into a new adventure. My desire to stay home with my kids, while earning an income helping people, converges in a beautiful way with Shaklee. A company I have trusted and been a member of for many years. A company that has a long history of caring for people, creating trustworthy products, and changing lives.

Shaklee entered my life 6 years ago. I immediately fell in love with their green, effective, and affordable cleaning products. It took a few years for me to take advantage of their amazing nutrition. Three years ago I found myself housebound for almost the entire winter with sickness being passed back and forth between me and my kids. At the same time I noticed my oldest son struggling with focus in school. I started my kids on Incredivites and Mighty Smart Chews. Within months our lives were changed. My kids have been much healthier, rarely coming down with minor bouts of sickness. And the change in my oldest son was even more remarkable. He was once considered hyperactive by teachers but now he’s able to focus and has succeeded in the school environment.

More than the products, from the very start I’ve been sold on the Shaklee culture. My friend who introduced me to Shaklee has always been available to answer questions and troubleshoot health issues. She doesn’t just sell products –- she’s passionate about helping people have better health. When my kids had eczema she was a text away with an answer. When friend’s have had health issues I’ve been able to troubleshoot with her and her team to help provide them with solutions. Since I’ve had a passion for natural products that improve quality of life, Shaklee seems like a natural choice for me. I’ve used my personal blog as a platform to share with people how to improve health through nutrition and removing harsh chemicals from their lives. Now, partnering with Shaklee I hope to help in a more practical way while building a business doing what I love.

If you would be interested in hearing why Shaklee is so exciting to me or supporting me in my journey please contact me. I would love to talk to you about your health and wellness needs and assist you in anyway I can. The Shaklee network is amazing and I have access to nutritionists and a wealth of resources that address any health issue. Thanks for taking the time to read and share with any friends you think might be interested.

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Darkness

Light and dark are constant themes in the Bible. Most notably — Genesis 1 and John 1 paint the picture of the very words of God creating darkness and light and separating the two. I think as humans we are naturally drawn to light. To summer days at the beach versus gloomy winter ones. To bright happy music rather than dissonance. To happiness at any expense, always avoiding sadness and mourning. God himself is almost always described as indescribable light and consuming fire. His followers are described as those who walk in light and are themselves the light of the world.

But as a friend recently pointed out to me, God is also described as darkness. Before the world began as we know it, God’s presence hovering over the waters existed only in darkness, until he commanded light to exist. When God spoke to Abram it was in the night accompanied by “terrifying darkness” (Gen 15:12). When Moses comes face to face with God and Israel witnesses his presence descend onto the mountaintop, the description is of deep darkness (Ex 20:21, Dt 5:23, Heb 12: 18). When David recalls God’s miraculous rescue from Saul’s army, he says that God “shrouded himself in darkness, veiling his approach with dark rain clouds” (Ps 18:11). When God’s presence filled the temple, it isn’t with indescribable light or beauty, but “a thick cloud of darkness” (1 Kgs 8:12). He uses shadows, darkness, and destruction again and again as a means of bringing about mourning and repentance to wandering souls (Isa 47:5, Jer 13:16, Eze 32:8, Joel 2:2).

Not only is God covered by darkness, he also uses darkness to cover his people. He used a cloud to guide his people in the desert (Ex 14:20). And he often uses darkness in our lives to teach and guide us. “And I will give you treasure in the darkness–secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name” (Isa 45:3). His ways are often described as mysterious or inexplicable — shrouded or dimmed to our human eyes. The word “darkness” is most used in the book of Job. If ever the purposes of God were shrouded in mystery and suffering, it would be in Job’s life. He often used sickness and even death (like with Lazarus), the darkest of human experiences, to bring greater glory to himself and teach his people about faith (Jn 11:4).

Yet time and time again we are told that this darkness cannot overtake us. Dark is not dark to the God who’s very being is Light. He can see in the dark. There are no secrets or hidden places that are too far gone for him to reach in to (Job 12:22, 1 Cor 4:5). “He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness” (Dan 2:22). Even if we ask the darkness to cover us, the night will shine as bright as day to Him (Ps 139:11-12). He is the light of the world — death and darkness hold no power over him (Jn 8:12). We are commanded not to dread anything evil that could come from the darkness (Ps 91:6).

I find so much comfort in knowing there is no competing god of darkness that is at war with our souls. God is a god of both darkness and light. When we find our lives filled with more sorrow than joy, more confusion than certainty, and more darkness than light — we can be sure he is in that too. He has not halted on the border of light, waiting for our return. He is with us even in the valley of the shadow of death; he hold us in the night and sings to our souls from dusk to dawn. He sends both darkness and light (Ps 104:20, 22), for he created both. “I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the Lord, am the one who does these things” (Isa. 45:7). And he promises to lead us from the “darkness and deepest gloom” (Ps 107:14) and to use our time in the darkness to mold us and shape us into his likeness.

So, today, if you find yourself to be in darkness, be encouraged. Sickness, death, mourning, depression, confusion, and pain are not the end of your story. God is still in the darkness and has not left your side. And he promises that “the people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine” (Isa 9:2). So what should you do while you wait for the darkness to lift? “If you are walking darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God” (Isa 50:10).

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Prayer

“But as for me I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress. O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love.” Psalm 59:16

Sometimes prayers are answered in the most unappealing ways. This season of intense reliance on God has birthed a prayerfulness that I didn’t know was possible. I’ve never been much of a pray-er. I’ve struggled mightily with how my prayers accomplish anything if Jesus is sovereign over all. I’ve fought it because it seems like God only wants to change my attitude and not really answer my needs. But this season? It’s forced all the argument right out of my heart. All I have is Jesus and I turn to him constantly.

I never realized how much access we have to God. He is constantly available. When I’m in the shower blanketed with my own tears — Jesus is listening. At 2 am when my mind is running like a hamster wheel — he’s bending down to hear and comfort. When I have to do more and be more and I have nothing left to give — he’s by my side, strengthening me. So last week when I found myself unable to pick myself up after a discouraging day, I wept openly and called out to God before driving to my baking class.

And he answered. With a car crash. The last possible thing I needed in my day. It was a minor fender bender at 3 mph. But you know what? Jesus was there. The other person involved in the crash was highly over-reactive. In a situation with literally two small dents in the back of her BMW, she asked for an ambulance and was carted off on a stretcher. All the firefighters and police officers involved rolled their eyers with knowing looks, “Ah, one of those types. She’s looking for a pay day here.”

So how did Jesus show up for me? A cop was right behind me when the accident happened. He got right out and spoke with me and the other driver. I never had to interact with her. Being on my own and already in a fragile state, I probably would’ve made matters so much worse if I had dealt with this irrational driver. Any crash is unsettling, but her response was so over the top. But Jesus protected me with a police office for a witness and as a mediator in a high stress situation. And I tell you what, having a car accident immediately shook me from my sadness and forced me into action. I’ve hated feeling helpless over the last months and like I have been unable to do anything to make things better. But at least for that night I had a real to do list that occupied my mind. Even that was grace.

I’m flooded with thanksgiving at how he answers our prayers. He often does not remove suffering or prevent it from coming — but he is with us in it. Tangibly so. He is there to calm, guide, and to give hope. And he also provides a way through the darkness. Sometimes by the physical presence of someone who can help. Jesus is so kind to us. And prayer matters. I may never reconcile all the discrepancies my brain has with prayer. But my soul knows full well its benefits and its effectiveness. Jesus, my rock and refuge in the storm.

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Weeds


Growing up in Southern California, I didn’t really know anything about Spring. We lived in one continual season of sun/fog — either one occurring at any point during the year. Watching everything die and completely go dormant during the winter was a completely new experience for me. But even more shocking? Before the tiniest leaf bud starts forming on a hardy Oak, even before the grass has fully transitioned back from brown to bright green, the weeds come back in full force.

Our first year here I was amazed to see the multitude of dandelions that sprouted up out of nowhere. The creeping charlie vines that would appear in the strangest places. The clover that would dominate the newly revived lawn. It was an amazing sight to behold, but I didn’t give too much thought to all those weeds until we became homeowners. I am a yellow thumb at best when it comes to gardening — I don’t kill everything like a brown thumb, but things don’t exactly prosper under my watch. And that’s primarily due to weeds. They are everywhere. They are constant. They are fast-growing and undeterred by bad weather or poison. These weeds are an eye-sore, and they also prevent my garden plants from being completely healthy. They steal nutrients and life from the soil that was meant for my vegetable plants.
I recently spent a good two hours in my yard attacking the weeds that have already appeared in the two weeks since it stopped snowing around these parts. We have a large garden covered in gravel, and boy do those weeds just LOOOOVE my gravel. The crabgrass has one thick, deep, white root that shoots straight into the ground. And if you don’t eradicate it before the yellow flower turns into a white, fluffy, seed monster — it spreads its seeds everywhere and propagates with the vigor of bunnies. Creeping charlie is much easier to pull out, but it spreads in a shallow layer — shooting out into all directions making it impossible to determine whether you’ve removed it all. Our gravel area even has a few patches of grass that pop up — normally I’d be happy to see grass, but in this context even it is a weed.

I’m guessing you can see where this is going. As I crouched over my gravel garden with my sharp gardening tools, minute by minute stabbing at those weeds and pulling them up by their roots a thought came to me. This gravel pit is so much like my heart. Before I know it, my heart is dominated by sin that winds its way around like a resilient weed. It happens quickly and unexpectedly and constantly. Even when we’ve taken every precaution, laying down weed covering underneath the rocks, the weeds still make their way through. The only thing we can do is pay close attention to our hearts and work on getting those weeds out before they can spread their disease.


Oddly enough, weeds can even be beautiful. My kids keep getting mad at me for pulling up all these beautiful yellow flowers. But what they don’t know is that those flowers are not good for my garden. Even things that look pretty can become detrimental to our souls. Even good things like family, hard work, or feeling loved can choke out our hearts when they are allowed to take over.

Pulling up weeds is a labor intensive business. It is slow and painful and tedious work. The second you are done, you’ll have to start over again. There will always be new weeds. While I am in charge of getting those darn weeds out of my garden, I am so thankful that I am not alone when it comes to my heart. Jesus is our ever patient Gardener, guiding our shovels to just the right spots. He gives wisdom, strength, grace, and forgiveness in this process with our hearts. But he refuses to leave us as we are — covered in weeds and choked out plants. That process can be painful, but he wants us to bear fruit and to be freed from weeds. That’s what wants for us. Freedom. What a beautiful and gracious thing.

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Capricious Spring

  There’s something about spring. There are the lovely little bursts of life, for sure. The longer days. The beautiful newness of the blossoming trees. But, it’s also uncomfortable. While the dead of winter is downright despondent, it is reliable. You know what to expect of winter. It is cold and relentless, but it is predictable. Spring? It’s 60 one day, snowing the next. Days of sun and green and white puffy clouds are followed by days of grey and gloom. And that inconsistency can be terrifying.

I never know if I’ll wake up to chirping birds and warmth or to a dreary frigid day that keeps even the bravest of squirrels nestled in their burrows. I don’t know if yesterday’s bright yellow daffodils will survive tonight’s frost. Will today’s earthy, slushy, life-giving mud be icy and dangerous tomorrow? Will the fruit trees with their early spring blossoms survive an unexpected deep freeze in the middle of April?

These days are testy. They are unexpected. Some days are beautiful and full of hope and life. Others smash all those hopes and dreams and throw you back into the dead of winter with a vengeance. These have been my days. The days we are living in this season of our marriage. The predictable deadness of winter may be over, in fact, some days seem downright pleasant. But the frosty chill of spring can be devastating to a tender new bloom, just emerging from a long dormant season. As we learn new patterns and create new fledgling intimacies, the slightest misstep or argument can seem to demolish any progress made. The raw pain of our winter is still so present. It feels like spring brings forth life only to squash it. We don’t quite have the strong established roots of summer to weather the strongest thunderstorms.

But spring is nothing if it is not new. It may be the smallest inkling of what is to come, but it is real. It is hope. And gosh darn it, it is beautiful. We just have to weather the potential snowstorms of mid-May and trust that our plants will once again grow and blossom and one day withstand the heat of summer.

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Finding a New Voice

So it’s been a few months, hasn’t it? I’ve missed this space. This little world that I created to give myself a voice when I felt lost in the early months of motherhood. But as much as I live, breathe, and exist in motherhood, it is not the main focus of my thoughts these days. Over the years my blog has evolved from motherhood musings, to natural living tips, to cooking advice, to spiritual thoughts. It’s now time for them to take another detour. A detour I never wanted in my own life. A detour that has been kept close to my heart as I have walked a road I never expected.

I’m not sure how much to share or where to start, but it feels like writing about this season of my life is important. Essential, even. I have had to find strength and power in myself and in my faith that I didn’t know existed. And part of that strength comes from connecting with other people. Being real about the hard things in life.

The last five months have been a crucible for our marriage. There have been countless tears, a lot of sleepless nights, ceaseless prayers, hurt, clinging to one another, losing all hope, finding new ways of being, and we aren’t close to being done yet. Many of you know some of our story. Whether you know me in real life or have read our interview from a year ago, we’ve been public and out there about the real challenges of our marriage. But no days could have prepared us for this recent storm. We are battered and bruised and are not sure when the calm will return.

I haven’t known what to say or how to say it, but it feels like it had to be said. I never hoped to have a voice for people enduring unspeakable pain, but here I am. I’ve found a lot of hope and life from reading other’s stories (especially Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery blog) and from walking through this season with my closest friends bound to my side. Despite the pain and the challenges and the not knowing what the future holds, we are trying to go through this season well. Trying to grow healthy as individuals and as a family — and as people who are a part of God’s family.

So sharing this new voice of mine is important. And so are your prayers, friends. They are my lifeline every minute of the day.

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